Posted on November 17, 2016, by Travis Pulver
Before last week’s contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dak Prescott bandwagon became a lot lighter as many in the media jumped off and proclaimed the Steelers would be the team to end the Dallas winning streak. For a time, it appeared as if they might be right. But then Prescott engineered a beautiful drive with less than a minute on the clock to get his team the win.
As Ezekiel Elliot trotted into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of the game, the bandwagon began to fill up once again. But will it stay that way after the Baltimore Ravens come to town this week?
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If the fair-weather fans had done a little homework before jumping off the bandwagon last week, they would have realized that the Ravens are better suited to beat the Cowboys than the Steelers were. Yes, the Steelers offense is much better than the Ravens offense (even though that wasn’t the case a couple weeks ago), but beating the Cowboys will require a team to do more than just score–and Pittsburgh’s defense is not very good this season.
They must stop the Cowboys from doing it—but that is not going to be easy.
Baltimore has the No. 1 defense in the league so far this season by allowing teams an average of just 281 yards a game. They’ve got the top run defense in the NFL (71.3 yards/game) and the No.5 pass defense (210.2 yards/game). Perhaps more importantly, they are giving up just 17.8 points/game (No. 3).
By the stats, the Ravens should have the personnel can slow down Ezekiel Elliot and contain the Cowboys offense. But it is important to note who they have developed their reputation against. Five of the eight teams they have faced are among the bottom ten rushing teams in the league.
While they did contain the Buffalo running game (No. 2) it is worth noting that they didn’t have to worry about the Bills passing on them (Buffalo is second to last in passing). The most notable job they did was against Le’Veon Bell (14 carries for 32 yards), but the Steelers were forced to play catch-up in the second half and had to throw a lot.
The stats may be pretty for Baltimore’s defense, but the Ravens have yet to face a team capable of passing and running—at least not one that they’ve beaten. This year, the Cowboys have proven to be pretty good at both.
Ezekiel Elliot is leading the NFL in rushing with 1005 yards, and while the passing game is only ranked No. 19, they are one of the most efficient. Receivers have only dropped four passes this year (of 280 attempted). Prescott has had issues with throwing high from time to time, but he has only thrown two interceptions this season (and 14 touchdowns) and has completed 66.8 percent of his passes.
Many try to discredit the work that Prescott and Elliot have done this year by giving credit to the team’s massive offensive line, but as far as Dallas fans are concerned—so what? Who cares if Dak Prescott is doing as well as he is because he has only been sacked 13 times (No. 4) and teams have only recorded 34 hits on him (No. 5)?
There is a reason why football is called a team sport.
To win, the Ravens will need to score points as well as slow down the Dallas offensive machine—and that will not exactly be easy to do. Baltimore’s offense hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard this season (20.2; No. 24). Their passing game has been okay, but they can’t run the ball to save their lives.
Dallas has done a decent job against the pass (No. 21), but have been really tough against the run (No. 3). As bad as Baltimore’s running game is, there is no reason to think it will do any better against the Cowboys front seven. Joe Flacco may be able to find some gaps in a Dallas secondary dealing with injuries—but enough to win?
Baltimore has barely beaten some of the worst teams in the NFL and lost to some that aren’t very good as well. They simply aren’t in the same class as the Cowboys this season.