Detroit Tries to Shut Dallas Down: 5 Things to Know
If we had a discussion or an informal poll about 12 playoff teams for the 2014 season, it is very likely the names Dallas and Detroit would never have been spoken by anyone.
The Dallas offense was in place, the line looked stronger, the running game was solid and the Dez Bryant is a highlight show waiting to happen. But issues with an ailing quarterback and a defensive questions remained. Losing Sean Lee to injury, releasing DeMarcus Ware and seeing the secondary crumble before the franchise’s eyes did not provide a ringing endorsement for a playoff run or even winning five games.
Dallas shocked the football world with its NFC East Title and a home game in the first round of these playoffs.
In Detroit, the team ushered in a new season with a new coach, questions over a starter at running back, and the time for Matthew Stafford to take a leap forward.
Jim Caldwell did exactly what he knows how to do – he produced a winner and a 10-win season for these Lions despite injuries to Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush and a shuffling defense that became one of the best in the NFL.
These two teams may have surprised us all, but now the slate is wiped clean and the playing field is even. Anyone, including both these teams, can win everything. Here are five things to know about this contest.
TWO TEAMS WITH MOMENTUM
The Cowboys are coming off a dominating 44-17 win against the Washington Redskins. Nearly everything that could go right did go right for the Cowboys, who they carry a considerable amount of momentum into the playoffs.
The Lions are coming off a 30-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers, where they missed their chance to get a bye week in the playoffs.
The Cowboys have lost their last two meetings against the Lions in devastating fashion. They hope to reverse that trend on Sunday.
Despite the fact they are hosting this Wild Card game, the Cowboys were more impressive on the road than at home. Dallas was perfect, 8-0, on the road and that includes a trip to London.
Along with the Seattle Seahawks, the Cowboys are playing as well as anyone else.
Tony Romo put together another great performance, which should further cement his status as a contender for the MVP Award.
Dez Bryant has really come on as of late and has cemented himself as one of the top two receivers in the NFL. He is a physical freak who brings a dynamic playmaking ability on every play.
The defense continued its solid play as of late, as it stymied the Redskins for most of the game.
DETROIT COMPLETE WITH SUH
Ndamukong Suh was initially suspended for this game; however, he won his appeal and only has to pay a fine, per ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer.
It would have been great for the Cowboys if the Lions were without their most dominant defender; however, Suh shouldn't alter the game plan.
The Cowboys establish the run and use the passing game to take advantage of when defenses load the box to stop the rushing attack. This shouldn't change, as the Cowboys look to impose their will on others.
SUH IS HE MAJOR MATCH UP
Ndamukong Suh will be the interior offensive line's second toughest assignment of the year; the first was J.J. Watt back in Week 5. The Cowboys desperately need a similar performance from Ronald Leary and Zack Martin this week.
Suh is such a disruptive force because he combines impressive quickness with incredible strength, which allows him to dominate and take over games at times.
Zack Martin has been one of the best guards in the NFL this year; therefore, the Cowboys shouldn't be worried about how he will hold up against Suh.
STAFFORD IS THE WILDCARD
The Lions win if Stafford is on his game. That is a tall task given that the Dallas defense is better than it was eight weeks ago.
He is capable of playing at an All-Pro level, but in the same token he can play like someone who doesn't belong in the league. This game's outcome will have a lot to do with which Stafford shows up in Dallas.
Like any other game, the Cowboys defense needs to get pressure on the quarterback, but especially so this week. Stafford has awful tendencies when he is faced with pressure, and the Cowboys will have multiple turnover opportunities if they can get in his face.
PREDICTION: DALLAS 27 DETROIT 23