This week, our LBS Week 3 Prime Time Preview takes us to Houston for a crucial match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, as they battle for bragging rights in the Lonestar State. Last week’s Game of The Week proved to be a good one, with Randy Moss making a ridiculous catch but the Jets coming out on top, 28-14, over New England. I know, I picked the Pats to win. It’s the best game of the week for a reason people so cut me some slack.
For starters, the Texans are exciting to watch if you’re like the casual fan and love to see an up-and-comer. They seem to get better and better each year and may finally make the playoffs when all is said and done in 2010. Their offense is one of the most explosive in the NFL and Andre Johnson is one of the game’s most exciting players. More importantly, the Cowboys should be playing with incredible urgency. If they fall to 0-3, their chances of making the playoffs are extremely slim. It’s a must-win for Dallas or their fans will start to crucify them, especially with this year’s Super Bowl being held at The House that Jerry Built.
1. Cowboys O-Line vs. Texans Defensive Front
Dallas’ offensive line has been a huge problem this season. They haven’t been able to keep Tony Romo off his back so far, already allowing five sacks through two games. We all remember the Alex Barron debacle against the Redskins Week 1. Staring Romo and the Cowboys offensive line in the face will be the dangerous Mario Williams with his four sacks already this year. People laughed at the Texans when they passed on Reggie Bush to take Williams with the first overall pick in 2006. Who’s laughing now?
2. Cowboys Offense vs. Texans Secondary
The Cowboys like to throw the ball — a lot. Despite their struggles to begin the year, they rank 2nd in the league in passing yardage per game. Wade Phillips has said they need to strike more of a balance on offensive and commit to running the ball more, but we’ll see on game day. On the flip side, the Texans rank dead last in passing yardage allowed per game. They’ve allowed an average opponent quarterback rating of 113.4 through two games. However, they rank 2nd in rushing yards allowed. If Dallas wants to commit to running the ball more, this isn’t the week to do it. Look for them to try to exploit Houston’s weak secondary early and often.
3. Can Owen Daniels Be Effective?
Texans tight end Owen Daniels is still recovering from off-season knee surgery on the second torn ACL of his career. He’s been on a limited snap count so far but there are indications the bar will be lifted in the very near future. Daniels was once a favorite target of Matt Schaub. The Cowboys have one of the better cornerback duos in the league in Terrence Newman and Mike Jenkins. If Schaub has trouble getting the ball to Andre Johnson, he’ll look for his tight end or check it down to his running backs. Houston’s offense is much smoother when Daniels is able to contribute.
Mike Jenkins is nursing a knee injury and was limited in practice. The Cowboys can’t afford to have him at much less than 100 percent against the potent Texans passing offense. Dez Bryant was also limited in practice with sore ribs. Both are listed as probable and expected to play on Sunday. I’d be surprised if either didn’t suit up.
Mario Williams has been limited in practice with a groin injury but is listed as probable. Houston obviously needs him to play, especially when it means exploiting one of the opponent’s biggest weaknesses. Andre Johnson’s status is pretty uncertain at this point. He’s listed as questionable with an ankle injury and hasn’t practiced much, but he’s one of those players that the team would be comfortable plugging in even if he hadn’t practiced at all during the week.
There’s a ton of fantasy monsters going for both sides in this game. For the Cowboys, Romo is obviously a must-start and could have a mammoth week against the worst secondary in the league at the moment. As I previously mentioned, the Texans are tough to run on. I don’t trust Dallas’ running backs to produce to begin with, so I wouldn’t use Marion Barber, Felix Jones, or Tashard Choice as anything more than a flex this week if you really need them. Any viable Dallas receiver is safe to roll with, granted Dez Bryant is cleared to play.
Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are must-starts every week. Arian Foster calmed down against the Redskins last week after his ridiculous performance against the Colts Week 1, but I’d still play him as he managed to put up over 100 total yards of offense against a pretty good Washington defense. Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter are iffy this week against a good Dallas secondary, but both are viable WR3s as Big Andre will draw plenty of attention per usual. Owen Daniels seems to be coming along and could be an important factor in the outcome of this game, but I still wouldn’t trust him until he can put a complete game together.
The obvious facts are that the Texans have looked really good and the Cowboys have looked really bad. However, we aren’t ready to abandon ship on Dallas just yet in Week 3. They absolutely have to win this game and they’re facing a hot team, so that should make for quite the shoot-out. Look for the Cowboys to come out and try to establish and early lead by stretching the field early against the Texans’ weak defensive backfield. The Cowboys should win, if for no other reason than they have to.