1. Can the Ravens offense rebound after two weeks of inconsistent play?
The Ravens have faced two lesser opponents the last two weeks in the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. Both times the Ravens came away victorious and the game against the Browns featured a Ravens team that was playing its fourth game in 18 days. However, in both first halves of play, the offense looked to be lost and hasn’t replicated the success they’ve had this season against the Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots. It isn’t the involvement of Ray Rice either. Rice went over the 100-yard plateau last week with 102 yards on 17 carries. Joe Flacco passed for a season-worst 187 yards and only completed 48.1 percent of his passes. If the Ravens can establish Ray Rice early and utilize the middle of the field as the safeties and linebacker group of the Cowboys, other than Sean Lee, is lacking in terms of pass coverage, expect big days from Dennis Pitta, and Torrey Smith as they utilize the seam and post routes in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s offensive attack.
2. How will the Ravens corral DeMarcus Ware?
There is no way to necessarily stop DeMarcus Ware. He is probably the most well-rounded defensive player in the league in that he can do it all. Michael Oher will probably have a hell of a time in one on one match-ups with Ware this week. Expect the Ravens to have either Ray Rice, Dennis Pitta or Vonta Leach in the backfield to either give Oher some backup or to chip off Ware and escape out of the backfield with a screen. Not only that, the one way to wear down a workhorse like Ware is to run directly at him. Look for the Ravens to establish the run early at the left side if they want to keep Ware out of the backfield in the fourth quarter.
3. Will the Ravens receivers gain separation against the tough group of corners on the Cowboys?
With Darrelle Revis out for the rest of this season, the Dallas Cowboys can make an argument for having one of the best corner back tandems in the league in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Based on the last two weeks, the Ravens have had trouble with route spacing, separation in the secondary and defeating press coverage. Carr and Claiborne will be in the faces of Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin this week, looking to jam them off the line and further complicating their timing with Flacco. It will be interesting to see how a physical receiver like Boldin handles this coverage. However, the dark-horse in this game is Jacoby Jones. If Carr and Claiborne are having success with Smith and Boldin, look for Flacco to rely heavily on Jacoby Jones as the Cowboys don’t have anyone that can match his speed in the slot.
4. How will the Ravens front seven perform against DeMarco Murray?
Last week’s first half against Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was brutal to say the least as he ran for 120 yards in the first half. However, the Ravens made adjustments and stymied the speedy back, holding him to only 20 yards rushing the rest of the game. The main problem the Ravens had with Charles last week was over pursuing the plays. Staying behind the ball and slow-playing the run is one of the hardest things to do in the NFL, especially with a back like Charles. This week, DeMarco Murray provides a different challenge as he possesses both good size and speed, not that of Charles, but he still hits the whole with quickness and agility. The initial push off the defensive line will be key in stopping the run, as well as, the linebacker group staying behind the ball, closing off DeMarco Murray’s cutback lanes. If there are no cutback lanes for Murray to escape the Ravens front seven, it will force Tony Romo to defeat the Ravens. However, if the Ravens can’t plug all of the holes off the line of scrimmage and Murray gets into the second level, expect the Ravens to have some difficulty in trying to stop the 227-pound runner.
5. Will the Ravens continue this home success and win their 14th straight regular season game at M&T Bank Stadium?
With all things considered, there are just enough holes in the Cowboys for the Ravens to continue their hot streak at home. If the Ravens can eliminate DeMarcus Ware’s impact on the game, expect a bounce-back game from the offense, especially Ray Rice. As far as the defense goes, limiting DeMarco Murray will be crucial as the Ravens’ pass defense has bailed them out of tough situations earlier this season. The Ravens are tied for eighth in the league in interceptions, with six, and are looking to add to the total with the erratic Tony Romo coming into town. If the Ravens can put pressure on Romo, similarly to how the Bears dominated that suspect offensive line two weeks ago, expect the Ravens to win the turnover battle and turn those turnovers into points.
Ravens – 27
Cowboys – 21
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