The Cowboys stunk up the joint last Monday night against the Bears. We all saw it for what it was. With a bye week, they have had two long weeks to think about their performance and how they are going to try to salvage their season.
Going to Baltimore to play the Ravens is not exactly an ideal place to try to get over a habit of losing and playing poorly. Kind of like going to Vegas to over come a gambling addiction. Or a number of other addictions for that matter. Good luck with that. Similarly, getting a win at the Ravens will not be easy.
The Ravens were 8-0 at home last season and are 3-0 so far at home this season. Have to go all the way back to December 2010 when the Ravens last lost at home and that was to the Super Bowl bound Steelers by only 3 points. They definitely have a home field advantage. Now on the road, the Ravens have not been a juggernaut but unfortunately the Cowboys are getting the home field extra strength version of the Ravens.
Think of the Ravens as actually two teams where one travels and the other plays at home. You had much rather play the traveling team. Last season they were 8-0 at home and 4-4 away. So far this year, they show the same tendency.
The Ravens offense has been twice as effective at home than on the road. In road games, the Ravens are averaging 16 points a game (as low as the Dallas offense) however at home, they are scoring 32 points a game. That’s a huge difference. Overall the Ravens are ranked 10th in scoring offense in the NFL.
It has been a balanced attack with their offense averaging 281 yards passing (10th NFL) and rushing for 117 yards (13th NFL). QB Flacco has a QB rating of 89.9 which is about 15th of NFL QBs. Not bad at all. Flacco has been sacked 13 times which is more than most QBs and even more than Romo with 8 sacks.
Flacco has distributed the ball evenly between wide receivers Boldin and Smith when passing but Smith has the most TDs with 3.
RB Ray Rice is a very effective runner averaging 83 yards a game and a better than average 5.2 yards per carry.
My Take: The balanced attack of the Ravens offense will be an enormous challenge for Dallas to defend. The Cowboys defense has not been that strong so far against the run as teams like the Seahawks have had success running.
- Keeping Rice under 100 yards will be a good goal. Put the game in Flacco’s hands and then get after the QB with pressure.
- Getting NT Ratliff back in the line up will help the Cowboys defense for sure.
- Flacco and the Ravens offense seems to be in high gear when they play at home.
I refer to the Ravens defense as a “between the 20s” type defense as they have allowed plenty of yards rushing and passing but they don’t allow much scoring. Offenses have successfully moved the ball up and down the field however the Ravens defense stiffens in the red zone. The Ravens defense has allowed 261 yards passing and 118 yards rushing a game this season which ranks a not so impressive 20th in the NFL for both.
However the Ravens defense is only allowing 17 points a game which is 7th best in the NFL. Let’s face it, points allowed is the most important stat for a defense anyway and that is where the Ravens are getting ‘er done.
Pass rush– The Ravens ability to sack QBs may not be as good as one might think as they have just 9 sacks (tied with Dallas but in one less game) that puts them about in the middle of the pack in that category. The Ravens are much more effective at pressuring the QB in home games than away games as 7 of the 9 sacks have come in home games.
Rush Defense: The Ravens have not exactly shut down teams when it comes to the run. Perhaps Dallas can get Murray the ball more this game. It will be a mistake to abandon the run game as the Cowboys too often do. More on that below.
MY TAKE: The Dallas offense has been struggling however I actually think they could have success against the Ravens defense as far as yards go at least. Scoring points could continue to be the problem. If Dallas abandons the run and puts it all on Romo, the Ravens defense will have their way with the Cowboys.
Does Running the ball really matter in the NFL in 2012?
Yes it does. It is a passing era in the NFL but the facts show that teams that run the ball, win more. That’s why I keep saying Dallas needs to run the ball 15-20 times a game. Becoming one dimensional allows defenses to bring the pass rush or play lots of defensive backs.
I looked at rushing attempts of teams in the NFL so far this season.
Top 10 in rushing attempts: 7 of 10 teams have winning records that rush the ball the most.
Bottom 10 in rushing attempts (includes Dallas): No teams with a winning record among teams that rush the least.
The game with the Ravens will not necessarily make or break the Cowboys season but by winning, it offers an opportunity for them to gain some much needed confidence and momentum as they go into their most critical games. While a loss, could cause the wheels to start coming off the team as finger pointing continues.
Winning in Baltimore is a huge challenge but the benefits of winning could be just as huge.