After a four-game losing streak, the Cowboys are on the verge of a completely lost season unless they find some way to get back into the win column. Well, it's the defending NFC champions that are next on the schedule and they offer up a bevy of obstacles for the Cowboys to overcome. However, these aren't the same Seahawks that we've seen in back-to-back Super Bowls, they are having their own set of struggles that could favor the Cowboys and allow them to escape with a victory.
When The Cowboys Have The Ball
Offensively, the Cowboys are going to have some trouble moving the ball against this defense that is in the top of the league in many categories. The one positive for the Cowboys is that they seem to have found some rhythm in the running game and their offensive line has really improved with the addition of La'el Collins to the starting lineup. The Seattle defensive line is a very strong unit but they struggled against the Cowboys last season due to the physical nature of their offensive line. It's roughly the same lineup for Seattle defensively but the addition of Frank Clark has given the Seahawks the same luxury as the Cowboys have with Randy Gregory. The Cowboys will have to continue their stat-busting style of running. The Giants came into last week's contest as the seventh-best rushing defense, they walked away as the 21st ranked rushing defense.
For Dallas, they must get this running game going against the sixth-best rushing defense. Bryan Broaddus and others have expressed their belief in the offensive line being skilled enough to run against any opponent and with Dez Bryant back in the fold, that should bode well for their chances at success. Dallas' offensive line found their groove last week by running Darren McFadden and getting him help with reverses. Bobby Wagner has been a very good player for the Seahawks but getting an extra guy to chip him could create rushing lanes for McFadden to take advantage. Dallas also has PFF's second-rated pass protecting unit behind Cleveland and quick slants to Dez could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
It can't be said enough how much having Dez back will help this offense. Even if Dez is not 100%, the thought is that his presence can still mean a lot for this team both mentally and physically. Bryant can influence this game even if he doesn't lead the receivers. He's their juice and he makes the other receivers around him better and as much as they have struggled in his absence, having Dez back could be the spark that ignites the entire offense.
That being said, the Seattle Seahawks are a tough defense to move the ball on only allowing 294 yards per game which ranks them third in the league. The Cowboys are really going to have to earn it on the field which means they will need to get quarterback Matt Cassel in a comfortable rhythm. One of the best ways to do that is to have success running the football.
When The Cowboys Are On Defense
As good as the Cowboys have been in pass protection, the Seahawks are the exact opposite and rank dead last in PFF's protection ratings with a -44.2. Russell Wilson has also been sacked 31 times which is six more sacks than Colin Kaepernick who is right behind him at 25. As a team Seattle ranks 28th in the league at a measly 214 yards passing per outing. The Cowboys should have plenty of opportunities to get Wilson to the ground and Greg Hardy could be a true force in this game.
The one place where the Seahawks have found success on offense is running the rock with Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks are averaging 143 yards per game on the ground even though PFF states their in the negative in run blocking. With 'Beast Mode' it doesn't take too much blocking up front with all the power he has in his legs to truck defenders. Last season, the Cowboys found success by bottling up Seattle's running game and spying Wilson. Dallas must follow in the same gameplan as before if they want to stifle Seattle's offense. This is another game that they need for Rolando McClain to be a difference maker. Sometimes you have to match beast with beast and McClain is one mean dude when he puts his mind into it.
If they are able to get adequate pressure on Wilson and bottle up the running game they should finally have the opportunity to get a turnover or two. Wilson has thrown eight touchdowns this season but has also thrown five interceptions. With the lack of protection he's accumulated a 2.5% interception ratio which places him in the top 10 in the category. For all the rushing Seattle has been doing it's only amounted to three rushing touchdowns. The Cowboys have to keep this rushing game in check and make Russell Wilson beat them. Rod Marinelli is going to take his chances that his pass rush can get there before Wilson can make the play. If this season is any indication, he just may be correct in his assessment.
Though this game doesn't look as winnable without Tony Romo, having Dez Bryant back could help boost their chances. The offense looked a lot better at times last week even though they turned the ball over three times. If they can settle Cassel down and continue to dominate in the run game, they have a good chance to be leading this game on offense. Marinelli must turn the dogs loose against the struggling offensive line of the Seahawks and hope that it can create more opportunities for Dallas' offense. The Cowboys are luckily getting this game in the comfort of their own stadium where the Seahawks have already lost three on the road this season. Dallas desperate for a win will have their hands full with Seattle's opportunistic defense. Yet, this has all the feel of a defensive showdown. The offense that can find the most success against juggernaut fronts will get the victory, give me the Cowboys offensive line over Seattle's any day.