DALLAS vs. DENVER
Kickoff: 3:25 p.m., AT&T Stadium
TV: 3:25 p.m., CBS
Radio: Noon, 105.3 FM
Records: Dallas 2-2, Denver 4-0
Series: Denver leads, 6-5
Last meeting: Denver, 17-10 (2009, in Denver)
Betting line: Dallas +8.5
Weather: 79 degrees, 40% chance of rain
After facing the second-highest rated QB in the NFL last Sunday (Rivers), the Cowboys face the best QB on the planet this week in Peyton Manning. The Broncos have made mincemeat of their opponents each week including the Giants in Week 2 (41-23) and Philadelphia last week (52-20). The Cowboys are coming off a loss win which they controlled the game in the first half, but the wheels fell off after halftime. Can anybody stop the Broncos' locomotive? Let's see how these two teams match up:
Dallas offense vs. Denver defense
Last week, I gave out the following stat: Cowboys are 21-4 and have won nine straight when Romo attempts 30 passes or less. Well, Romo aired out the ball 37 times while there were only 16 carries in the loss against the Chargers. DeMarco Murray only ran the ball 14 times, but did gain 70 yards (five yards a carry). Against a Broncos team that averages 44.8 points per game, Dallas must establish a running game where they can play keep-away with the ball. This will be difficult against the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL (74 yards allowed per game). While Denver is successful at stopping the run, they are terrible against the pass where they allow more than 316 yards per game (30th in league). Dallas could see this and want to air it out against a depleted Broncos secondary, but that could play into Denver's trap where they can play shootout and expose Romo to mistakes.
Dallas defense vs. Denver offense
At 37, Manning is proving to everyone that he is the best QB of his generation. His QB rating of 138.0 this season would easily shatter the record of 122.5 set by Aaron Rodgers in 2011. While their passing game is the best in the league, the running game has been more than adequate with Knowshon Moreno receiving the bulk of the carries. The Broncos lowest scoring output this season was 37 against Oakland, and this week they will be facing a passing defense ranked 27th in the league. In Week 4, Philip Rivers threw for more than 400 yards and three touchdowns against the Dallas secondary. The Chargers' offense was able to gain more than 500 yards of offense, so Denver has to like their chances this week.
Peyton Manning vs. Tampa 2: 'I can't really say I'm that familiar with it,' Denver quarterback Manning said Wednesday via conference call. 'Playing a team that's tough at home that is capable of creating a lot of turnovers. They're good at getting you off the field on third down. They're good at creating sacks, so it's going to be a tough bunch and it's gonna be a real challenge in my opinion.' I know it's been four years since Manning has played against the Tampa 2, but he faced it every day in practice as a member of Tony Dungy's Colts team. He's had success against Monte Kiffin before and it is not like this Dallas team is stopping anybody this season. The Cowboys need to find a way to get pressure on Manning which will be more difficult this week with the likely absence of George Selvie on the defensive line.
Trindon Holliday is a weapon on special teams for Denver as he already has two touchdowns this season. The former LSU Tiger has returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown and an 81-yard punt return for touchdown. Broncos' Matt Prater is a perfect 6-6 on field goals with each of them being at least from 40 yards. Dwayne Harris was able to return a punt for 38 yards last week against the Chargers and continues to be a solid threat when given the chance to return a kick. Dan Bailey missed on his only attempt last week and already has as many misses (two) this season as he had all of last season (29-31).
Both of these franchises have legendary quarterbacks in John Elway, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. From a talent standpoint, Elway stands above the other two, but at the end of the day it is all about Super Bowls and the Cowboys win that battle, 5-2.
The Cowboys are 2-0 at home this season and played very well two weeks ago against the Rams, but this Broncos team is head and shoulders above St. Louis. This game will be a daunting challenge for the 'Boys, but they tend to play to the level of their competition. Either way, this game will be the toughest test this season and it is always great to judge yourself against the best. The Broncos have only played one road game, but they had no problem with the Giants in Week 2 and have every aspect of the game working in their favor.
Prediction: Denver 35, Dallas 24