Sunday, November 20 | 1:00 pm EST
If you believe in the law of averages, the Cowboys are due to lose a close game at home…and the Ravens are due to win a close game on the road.
Does that probability (if valid) have any effect at all on how the game will be played in Texas on Sunday? No, not really—unless you count game plans and preparation by both teams going into it. To a man the Ravens believe they are capable of playing a complete game against the Cowboys, and if they can avoid big chunk plays by Dallas and stay away from costly turnovers, they match up very nicely against what the Cowboys do best.
On offense the Cowboys like to pound the rock and if their rookie QB Dak Prescott is to have any sustained success with his intermediate passing game based off play-action, much of the game will boil down to Baltimore’s getting beaten in the trenches…or not.
That ain’t happening, says the Ravens’ Front Seven on defense.
“Baltimore’s run defense is great, you say? Here come the Dallas Cowboys. Prove it,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Chris Simms.
“It’s the most explosive offense versus the best defense in the National Football League,” former Ravens linebacker Brad Jackson says at CSNMidAtlantic.com . “I think it could come down, and I’m going to predict, it’s coming down to a field goal. …”
The Ravens also got good news this week when four players returned to practice after the mini-bye, which came as a result of playing Thursday Night Football. Guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), cornerbackShareece Wright (thigh) and rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa (thigh) were all full participants in Wednesday’s practice session.
“Yanda’s potential return to Sunday’s game against the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys would be significant for an offensive line that knows it will not have starting rookie left guard Alex Lewis because of a high right ankle sprain,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Edward Lee.
Meanwhile, Ravens’ top cornerback Jimmy Smith missed practice with a back injury, but HC John Harbaugh expects him to return this week and play in Sunday’s game.
If Smith is indeed out there, The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec thinks he should shadow Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. The idea of shadowing has come up a lot recently and the Ravens don’t always do it, but this time it might be helpful. “I think we’ll probably see Smith on [Bryant] more often than not Sunday,” wrote Zrebiec. “As good as Ravens cornerback Tavon Young has been, the rookie would be giving up about five inches and 40 pounds to the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bryant. That’s pretty unfair. Smith, on the other hand, is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds and prefers matching up with bigger receivers rather than the small quick guys. Young will have his hands full with Dallas’ diminutive slot receiver Cole Beasley.”
As for limiting the Cowboys’ league-leading rushing attack?—
“They could be the best [offensive line] front that we’ve played,” defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us, but at the same time, I don’t think they’ve seen a front like ours either. It’s going to be on.”
This year’s Ravens run defense may be the best since back in 2000. Their 71.3 rushing yards allowed per game is the team’s best mark since 2000, and 3.3 rushing yards allowed per carry is tied for second best. The Ravens said the unit is having success this year because they’ve all bought in on the team’s core principle that stopping the run comes first.
“Instead of coaches telling us to do it, we want to do it,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “It’s kind of embedded that stopping the run is what we’re going to do. We hang our hat on that.”
To that end, undrafted rookie defensive tackle Michael Pierce has been a big, pleasant surprise. Jernigan is having a breakout season and defensive end Lawrence Guy is one of the team’s blue-collar standouts.
“Our defensive line is the most underrated position group in the NFL,” LB Zachary Orr said. “Those guys up front are monsters. They do a great job of dominating the line of scrimmage, and they make our job easy.”
“They are No. 1 running the ball. We are No. 1 against the run,” OLB Terrell Suggs said. “This is NFL football. I think this is very good for our league and our sport. Everybody is going to tune in to watch. To be the best, you have to play the best. It is a challenge for our defense, but we accept it. I think we are just the men for the job.”