Free NFL Pick: Detroit at Dallas 11-21-2010

November 17, 2010

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Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys

Sunday November 21st, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Dallas -7

Overview:

It appears as though the Cowboys have responded to Jason Garrett, at least for the time being. After losing five in a row, the Cowboys moved to 2-7 by knocking off the Giants, who were perceived to be the best team in their conference, if not the entire league before the loss. The win was a huge step in the right direction and Cowboys fans have to be excited about the big win, especially in the absence of Tony Romo.

The 2-7 Lions were on the other end of the stick last week, losing to the lowly, winless Bills. To their credit, their young franchise quarterback in the making has been injury prone and the Bills have been playing well recently. Nonetheless, being the lone victory on a team’s schedule at week 11 does not do anything for a team’s self esteem.

Keys to the Game:

  • The Cowboys have weapons all over the field and they were impossible to cover last week. They will likely see mismatches in coverage again this week, as the Lions don’t have the secondary to compete with the Cowboys. Having Dez Bryant as a third receiver makes it impossible for defenses to key on all three big time receivers and Jason Witten. Bryant has five touchdowns in his last five games. We always knew the Cowboys had a number of playmakers, but their performance needs to start matching their talent consistently.
  • Calvin Johnson continues to impress, regardless of who is at quarterback. Johnson has accumulated eight touchdowns in six weeks, posting three 100 yard games during that span. At 6-5 235, Johnson has the height and build to live up to the name “Megatron”. He can flat out fly and jump out of the building, making him uncoverable by just about anyone in the league, with the exception of Darrelle Revis. He is a fantastic outlet for Shaun Hill in situations where Hill is in a bind. Nobody has more receiving touchdowns this season than Calvin Johnson. There isn’t a Cowboy on the roster that can hang with Johnson and the Cowboys could be in trouble if they don’t overcompensate for him.
  • Of all the Cowboys who declined from years past, it seemed Felix Jones showed the most regression. Jones has been a home run threat for the Cowboys since he was brought in with the 22nd overall pick in the draft. He can flat out fly, but aside from one great game against Tennessee, Jones has been a huge disappointment. Jones showed some life last week, when he took a screen pass 71 yards to the house, running past the entire defense. As Jones improves, so will the Cowboys. The run game has been sorely missed in Dallas and if the Cowboys have a threat out of the backfield, they can become dangerous, regardless of where they end up in the standings.
  • Ndamukong Suh can’t do everything for the Lions. Suh has had one of the most impressive rookie campaigns for a defender in recent memory. Teams have taken note and in the last two games, Suh has not reached the quarterback. During those two games, the Lions only tallied one sack in each game. Suh has two or three offensive players make contact with him before he reaches the quarterback. There are a number of instances around the league where less talented players excel when a dominant player is being game planned against (Bears defensive end Israel Idonije comes to mind). The Cowboys are going to come after Suh and if nobody wins the one on one battles they are presented, Jon Kitna is going to carve up the Lions.

Key Matchup:

The Dallas Cowboys Vs. themselves

  • This might sound corny and cliche, but the Dallas Cowboys have been self destructing this season. Even last week during a victory, Gerald Senabaugh and Terrence Newman both had to be restrained after engaging in an on the field conflict. Jason Garrett is a no nonsense football coach. He will be taking note of who is putting out 100 percent effort and who is caught up in the glamorous Dallas Cowboys lifestyle. When the Cowboys fire on all cylinders, they are unstoppable. I’m not ready to make that leap yet after one game. It’s clear there are still issues within the locker room and until they can make a habit out of trying, they won’t earn confidence from their fans or anyone else for that matter.

Wrap Up:

The last time I took the Cowboys to win in blowout fashion, it was against Jacksonville and they lost in epic fashion. I’m not going to be so naive as to think the Cowboys playing at home will have any effect on their effort level. The Cowboys laid down and gave their season ticket holders a giant slap in the face in their last home outing. They haven’t won a game at home all season. Will the new coaching regime be enough to make the Cowboys want to win at Texas Stadium.

The Lions are better than people give them credit for, but not good enough to really be confident in. They have a lot of talent to build around, but it is a shame that Matthew Stafford has been so injury prone thus far in his career. While I don’t think the Lions are going to come away with a victory, the Cowboys still don’t impress me. The Lions have been competitive since their bye week and I don’t think they will slow down this week.

Free NFL Pick: Detroit +7



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