A look at the matchups for Sunday's Lions-Cowboys game:
*Cowboys center and guards vs. Lions DTs Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams: There are plenty of matchups across the board in this game, but the one that I am most interested in is the one featuring Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier against Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh.
This inside three for the Cowboys played a flawless game last week against the Giants, but this is a whole different animal that they will be dealing with Sunday. Both Suh and Williams are powerful players and do a nice job of playing on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage.
Davis usually matches up well against players with power but have limited pass rush moves, but in these two players, quickness and moves are part of their game as well. That usually spells trouble for Davis. Kosier on the other side is a guy that will fight to hold his ground and plays with solid technique but doesn’t have the mass or the upper body strength of Davis. He will have to rely more on trying to play with leverage.
The Cowboys’ scheme cannot allow either of the guards to have to single block these defensive tackles on a consistent basis. Look for Suh and Williams to try to push the front of the pocket so as not to allow Kitna a place to step up because when he had that opportunity last week against the Giants, he was able to make some of his better throws down the field.
*Cowboys receivers vs. Lions CB Alphonso Smith: In going back and reviewing the Giants game last week, I was impressed with the ability of Kitna to get the ball down the field against a secondary that had not given up many big plays. Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Roy Williams were able to find space where many teams had not.
In the games against the Jets and Redskins, Smith was beaten badly on two plays down the field that resulted in touchdowns. Braylon Edwards of the Jets ran by him and Anthony Armstrong of the Redskins did as well.
We have all seen what can happen when you have a player such as Dez Bryant that you can throw the ball down the field and up to make a big play. Jason Garrett spoke of the process of getting your best players on their worst ones to try to take advantage of the situation. In watching Smith, there is no way that the Cowboys will not try and take advantage of the ability of Bryant or Austin to go get the ball once it is in the air over Smith.
*Cowboys cornerbacks vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson: Neither one of these teams runs the ball all that well, so the passing game will be the means that these teams will use to generate offense. While the Lions have had their struggles in the secondary, so have the Cowboys.
Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins were both banged up in the Giants game, with Newman managing to stay in but only in nickel situations. In watching him in practice for a bit Friday, it appears that he will once again have to tough it out and give his team all he can.
The Lions’ best player on offense is wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who leads the team with nine touchdowns this season. Johnson is an impressive player physically with his large frame and, like Miles Austin, will line up all over the formation.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will try to get him the ball from the slot -- which will be Orlando Scandrick’s responsibility -- or from either side of the formation, which will fall to Jenkins or Newman.
In the games I studied, I feel that Johnson will be handicapped by his quarterback Shaun Hill and his ability to get the ball down the field. Hill likes to throw the ball underneath to his backs, tight ends or Johnson inside. This would be a different game if Matthew Stafford was the quarterback because he can make all the throws.
Where the Cowboys in the secondary have to be alert is Hill getting the ball into Johnson’s hands on the move. Johnson has shown the ability to cover some ground, taking a short pass and turning it into something big.
A banged-up secondary did a nice job against the Giants last week playing much more zone coverage than man. Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni understands that his rush has been struggling but his secondary even more. The Lions do a decent job in protection so watch to see if Pasqualoni once again takes a more conservative approach in coverage.