Want an upset special this week? Here’s your “Shock your friends, pound your fist, act confident and look like the man” pick. I’m taking the Cowboys over the Pats in New England and I urge you to, as well.
Sure, the last time we saw the Cowboys, they haplessly gave away a 24-point lead vs. the Lions. And yes, the Patriots have won 19 consecutive regular-season home games. And, of course, Wes Welker is on pace to shatter the single-season receiving yards and receptions records. I recognize all of that. I grasp that Dallas is a 7.5-point underdog in Vegas at the moment. I know it’s ridiculous to see that beaten-down Cowboys defensive backfield stopping the Brady passing attack.
And, yet, I still like the ‘Boys. Heck, I love ‘em.
Why? Because this has “Romo Redemption Game” written all over it. In the “expect the unexpected” script that tells the 2011 season, the Cowboys beating the Patriots makes sense. If we’ve learned anything from watching Romo this year, it’s that he’s capable of the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. Those two pick-six’s two weeks ago vs. Detroit? That was his valley. Hobbling off of Gillette as a victor on Sunday? It’ll put him right back atop the mountain.
This is all wonderful prose and a sweet-sounding Texas melody, but I know what you’re wondering: “How is this even possible?”
Because backing up Romo’s heroics will be a pounding defensive attack, a healthy crop of receivers and a team that’s had 13 days to rest and prepare. The last defensive coordinator to hold Brady’s offense under 30 points in a regular-season game? That would be Rob Ryan, whose Cleveland Browns D confused and beat up Brady in an upset victory last winter. Ryan’s been scheming. He’s been concocting exotic blitzes. He’s been licking his chops for another opportunity to shock the world. Ryan worked on Bill Belichick’s staff from 2000-2003 and has a direct line to a guy who prepared for and played against the mighty Patriots last week.
The Pats offense is on fire and the defense had its best effort of the year last week, but the Cowboys are fresh. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick is back from a high ankle sprain, giving Dallas a fully healthy defensive backfield for the first time since August. Both Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are good to go, Felix Jones is 100 percent, and Jason Witten and Romo seem to be all healed.
And for as hot as that Patriots offense has been, the offensive line showed it wasn’t unbeatable last weekend. The Jets defense got to Tom Brady more than any team has this season, and there’s no DeMarcus Ware lining up for Gang Green. Ware’s having the monster year everyone has come to expect from him, pacing the Cowboys with five sacks in four games. He saves his best for nationally televised stages like the one he’ll be performing on Sunday.
Expect Romo heroics. Expect Ware brilliance. Expect Scandrick, Ball, Jenkins and Newman to find a way to contain Welker.