The New England Patriots will host the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday in a week 12 matchup which should result in one of the best games this season. While the 6-4 Cowboys are fighting to keep their one game divisional lead, the 9-1 Patriots are fighting to maintain their one game AFC Conference lead over the 8-2 Baltimore Ravens. The game will feature two league leaders, the number one ranked Dallas offense going up against the number one ranked Patriots defense.
Patriots Defensive Matchups
New England’s defense will have their work cut out for them as the Cowboys have the most complete offense the Patriots have faced. Not only is Dallas the league’s number one offense, but they also have the league’s number one passing attack, averaging 312.7 passing yards per game. Additionally, quarterback Dak Prescott, currently leads the league in both total passing yards, with 3,221 and passing yards per game, with 322.1. The high powered Dallas passing game also features the league’s fourth ranked wide receiver Amari Cooper, along with a veteran savvy tight end Jason Witten. Despite their passing success, the Cowboys have not become a one dimensional team and have still featured their patented rushing attack. Averaging 131.9 rushing yards per game, Dallas’ running game ranks seventh throughout the league and is highlighted by their offensive line. The unit currently features three of the NFL’s best offensive linemen with left tackle Tyron Smith, right guard Zack Martin, and center Travis Frederick. The trio of former first round picks have a combined 15 Pro Bowl selections since 2013.
However, despite the Cowboys amount of offensive talent, this Patriots defense is strong at the positions needed in order to slow down such an offense. New England will feature loaded boxes in an effort to combat the running game while playing a lot of man coverage in the secondary. The talent of this Patriots secondary has shut down opponent’s passing attacks all season and Dallas presents no true matchup issues for New England. Arguably the league’s best cornerback, Stephon Gilmore, will shadow Cooper for much of this game and will force Prescott to throw the ball elsewhere. Also, given how the 37 year old Witten is no spring chicken, New England could decide to match up either lineback, Jamie Collins, or safety Terrence Brooks on the tight end. How well the Patriots are able to cover Dallas in one on one matchups will have a huge impact on the game. If New England’s secondary is able to, for the most part, shutdown the Cowboys receiving targets in man coverage, it will allow the Patriots to play more defenders in the box. More defenders closer to the line of scrimmage will go a long way in stopping the dangerous Dallas rushing attack.
As hard as it is for Patriots fans to accept, their team’s success is no longer governed by the performance of their offense. New England has won several games this season in which their offense played poorly, but their defense played strong. Furthermore, the team’s only loss came in a game that featured their defense’s worst performance of the season. In order for the Patriots to win this Sunday, their defense must lead the way and heavily slow down Dallas’ high powered offense.
Rian Queen is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network website. Follow him @takes_boston on Twitter.