33 points per game? Pffft. Reigning MVP who hasn't lost a home game in 30 tries? Pishaw.
This week, the Dallas Cowboys will go into Foxboro and slay the dragon.
About once a year the Cowboys play a team that, on paper, should be better than they are, yet I just know Dallas is going to win the game for matchup reasons. Every time I predict it, I get called a homer...even by other Cowboys fans who don't believe. So let the name calling begin...
2006 9-0 Indy was one of those games. Manning just can't handle a good 3-4 defense
2007 it was Brett Favres last hurrah, last chance to fail in big D in a big game again. He didn't disappoint
2008 it was those same Packers with the new kid, this time in cheeseland
2009 13-0 Saints, seeking perfection, in New Orleans led by an ex-Cowboys coach
2010 it was that Manning boy again. Still can't handle a good 3-4
So here it is the 2011 season, and the team that fits the criteria is this weeks opponent. A perennial Super Bowl favorite led by a perennial MVP candidate. And this years version looks just as good as all the others.
But a funny thing is going to happen to the Pats on Sunday. It only happened to them once last year, and against the unlikeliest of foes.
A season ago, it was the hapless Cleveland Browns. Statistically the leagues worst defense with a roster of nobodies and has-beens to match. It was this toothless defense that made Tom Brady appear to be mortal that day. Even worse, they made him look below average. It was embarrasing, really. This defense most anticipated Brady would shred like tissue paper, instead left him dazed and confused. The Patriots only scored 14 points that day, and 7 of those came in garbage time with Cleveland well ahead. The last time New England was held under 30 points...and it was less than half that many.
So how did it happen? The Browns, as talentless as they were, had a couple of advantages that day. They were coming off a bye week giving them an extra 7 days to prepare, and they had a defensive coordinator who knows Belichick, Brady, and the Pats offense inside out. It was a thing of beauty to watch the Browns defense work that day. Their crazy schemes, sometimes even one down lineman, five linebackers, and five defensive backs, drove Tom Terrific batty. The two time MVP who's biggest attribute is his ability to read what a defense is doing pre-snap, was completely confused. He didn't know what hit him or how to counter it.
So what the heck does this have to do with Dallas winning in Foxboro this week? Simple. That same man will be coaching the Cowboys defense this Sunday, only with far more talented players running those crazy formations. Oh, and coming off the bye, Rob Ryan has the same two week window to prepare his team for the challenge that he had a year ago. No to mention that Rob's twin brother coached against the Pats just a week ago and, while the Jets lost that game, don't think Rex won't have some very good information to share with his bro on what worked, what didn't, and why.
Sure, the Cowboys offense will have plenty to say in the outcome of this game as well. Let's not sell the #6 Offense in the NFL short, here. They will have all of their skill position players healthy and on the field together for the first time since the first half of the first game of the year. Couple that with the Patriots pedestrian, to put it kindly, defense and I fully expect Tony Romo and company to put up more than 30 points of their own in this one.
But this game is going to be about shutting down Tom Brady and that offensive machine they run up there in Foxboro. This Cowboys defense, ranked 4th in the NFL and itself healthy for the first time all season, led by Rob Ryan, on this day will be up to the task of returning that confused look to the eyes of #12. Tom himself has expressed concern about having to face Demarcus Ware and whether the Patriots would be able to slow him down. A couple of early hits, and Brady will be reliving Cleveland circa 2010 all over again, but with a bigger headache.
This is a statement game for the Cowboys, their defense, and Rob Ryan. They will be ready to make that statement and as such are my lock upset of the year for the 2011 season.