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Cowboys vs. Chiefs; Game Preview

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NFL football in December, two teams desperate for a victory, both clinging to playoff dreams, this is what the Football Gods were thinking about when they invented the game. Tomorrow's game is the reason we watch, year after year, hoping our team makes the tournament, hoping a win turns us into contenders. Man, I love the NFL, and the Dallas/Kansas City matchup sure fits the bill for a great December game, so I love this game, too.

Kansas City has all the momentum coming in, after a dud up in Buffalo they are now on a three game win streak. Last week they put away Denver at home, something Dallas couldn't do on Thanksgiving. RB Larry Johnson has been a revelation this season, rendering the loss of Priest Holmes to a footnote. At 8-4, they would be looking good in the NFC, but in the AFC it means you're on the same level as the 7-5 Cowboys, and that's squarely on the bubble.

Dallas has a defense that could win a championship, and an offense that could miss the playoffs. Mix them together and you're one step from the dream and one step from the abyss. It's impossible to predict how Dallas will play, week to week they range from marvelous to maddening. To root for them this year is to court heart disease and mental illness, simultaneously.

Click the link below to read the offense vs. defense breakdown and the score prediction.

Dallas Offense vs. Chiefs Defense

Running Game
Dallas Rushing Offense - 113 YPG (15th)
Chiefs Rushing Defense - 92 YPG (5th)

One of the most interesting items this week was Bill Parcells telling the press about what he said to RB Julius Jones on Thursday. To paraphrase, he told Jones that great backs have to make things happen even when they aren't getting the blocking, you have to "be your own blocker". In a very subtle way, he's calling Julius out, saying prove to me you're an elite back. That's a tall order for a back running behind the Dallas line. Across the board they've been a disappointment except for LG Larry Allen, who remains a very good NFL guard, (rookie RT Rob Petitti gets a partial pass for being a rookie). To make matters worse FB Lousaka Polite has been non-existent and TE Jason Witten isn't known for his blocking skills.

Kansas City has played well against the run this year, and will probably hold the running game down early. But true to form Parcells will continue to run, only this time the second half will prove more bountiful for Julius Jones. The Dallas line will begin wearing down the Chiefs front four, providing enough of a running game to keep the Chiefs from teeing off on QB Drew Bledsoe.

Passing Game
Dallas Passing Offense - 210 YPG (15th)
Kansas City Passing Defense - 242 YPG (30th)

For the second straight week Dallas faces a porous secondary. The Cowboys should be able to attack through the air were it not for their chronic pass protection problems since LT Flozell Adams went down. Fortunately, they aren't facing Osi and Strahan this week. That's not to say DE's Jared Allen and Eric Hicks can't give the Cowboys trouble. LT Torrin Tucker will need help against Allen, but Petitti might be asked to handle Hicks on his own for parts of the game. If Petitti succeeds, that should give Drew enough time to have one of his better games. What Dallas really needs is a long completion early, preferably for a TD. Bledsoe seems to be a confidence QB, if he gets rattled early, he never seems to regain his composure.

Dallas knows they've got to score this week, the KC offense is very good. The running game will help control the clock and do most of the work, but the passing game will provide the points. Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson should be more active after sub-par performances last week, but Bledsoe would be wise to rely on TE Jason Witten more often. Look for a couple of passing TD's and big 3rd down pickups through the air. One to watch; Patrick Crayton, will he contribute this week?

Dallas Defense vs. Kansas City Offense

Running Game
Dallas Rushing Defense - 103 YPG (10th)
Kansas City Rushing Offense - 141 YPG (4th)

What more needs to be said. Larry Johnson has been tearing up the league since he took over for Priest Holmes. Johnson is a bruising back with good feet. The 3-4 defense doesn't like bruising backs with good feet. DT's Jason Ferguson and La'Roi Glover need to play their best games of the year. They have to occupy two men and stand their ground for any chance of success. The Kansas City line is what the Dallas line aspires to be, and will test a Dallas run defense that has shown cracks lately. The loss of LB Dat Nguyen is hurting the Cowboys, but also overlooked was the absence of CB Anthony Henry, who is a fantastic tackler. He's broken double digits in tackles a couple of times this year. Dallas will be forced to move SS Roy Williams up to the line, the game will turn on Dallas stopping the run. What to look for; Dallas has to avoid broken tackles, if Johnson is getting good yardage after initial contact, the Dallas offense will have to save the day and that's not a pretty picture.

Passing Game
Dallas Pass Defense - 183 YPG (8th)
Kansas City Pass Offense - 231 YPG (9th)

The return of Anthony Henry and the likelihood of CB Aaron Glenn playing means the Dallas secondary is at full strength again. CB Terence Newman and Henry are two excellent cover corners and Aaron Glenn has shown he's still starter material. WR Eddie Kennison is the Chiefs best wide receiver, and while he's having a good year, the Cowboys cornerbacks should win this battle. Where Dallas is weak is up the middle, with Nguyen out, Roy having to cheat up, and FS Keith Davis isn't exactly known for his coverage skills. TE Tony Gonzalez should see the bulk of the activity from the Chiefs passing attack.

The Cowboys have a good pass rush, enough to get 30 sacks so far, but they really haven't dominated games. LB DeMarcus Ware has a brutal assignment this week, for him to have any success he's got use his speed on LT Willie Roaf. DE Greg Ellis may have to provide the pressure from the other side. With a healthy secondary, Dallas may choose to blitz more often than usual, and try to pressure speed-challenged QB Trent Green.

Special Teams

Two words: Dante Hall. I'll take the Chiefs in the special teams department. Dallas could use Terence Newman on some punt returns to help neutralize the Chiefs advantage.

Sub-plots

  • Bill Parcells and Dick Vermeil are best buddies and stuff.
  • Three Cowboys are former Chiefs; LB Scott Fujita, FS Willie Pile, and LB Quentin Caver.
Keys To The Game
  • Limit yards after contact for Larry Johnson. Dallas has to make solid tackles once they come in contact with the burly RB.
  • Rob Petitti singling up on Eric Hicks. If Dallas finds Petitti can do the job, the rest of the offense may fall into place.
Prediction

Dallas runs the ball just enough to help the passing game, Drew Bledsoe has a good day after getting adequate protection. Larry Johnson goes for 100+ yards but the Dallas secondary is too much for KC's passing game. In a close game, is there any other kind with Dallas this year, the Cowboys pull out a victory by making two defensive stands late in the game.

Dallas 27 - Kansas City 24