When the New England Patriots' schedule was released in the spring, the matchup against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5 was expected to be one of their toughest tests of the season. But now, it looks like a cakewalk.
The Cowboys have been decimated by injuries this season, losing Tony Romo and Dez Bryant in consecutive weeks. Dallas has also lost cornerback Orlando Scandrick, defensive end Randy Gregory and running back Lance Dunbar. Star linebacker Sean Lee is also recovering from a concussion.
Brandon Weeden has played solid first halves over the last two weeks, but his production has largely skidded to a halt once the third quarter begins. He was able to deliver a game-tying fourth quarter touchdown pass to Terrance Williams last Sunday, but the New Orleans Saints quickly ousted Dallas in overtime when Drew Brees found C.J. Spiller for an 80-yard score.
With the Cowboys battling as many injuries as they are, it's difficult to pinpoint any of their strengths. Perhaps the one area Weeden could attack the Patriots is down the field -- New England's patchwork secondary remains its weakness. But if the Patriots' pass rush can get Weeden out of the pocket consistently, he'll likely struggle to find open receivers.
Tom Brady's revenge tour was idle last week, but he seems poised to feast on a depleted Cowboys secondary Sunday afternoon. Brady, 38, is playing some of the best football of his career. He's completed 72.2 percent of his passes for 1,112 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. The only quarterbacks whose numbers are comparable are Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton.
And if Brady wasn't already motivated enough after the DeflateGate saga, defensive lineman Greg Hardy may have given him additional bulletin board material with some of his comments this week. Hardy -- who will return Sunday after being suspended for a total of 19 regular season games over the last year due to domestic violence -- said Tuesday he "loves seeing Brady's wife," supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Hardy added he hopes Bundchen and her sister attend the game.
If they do, they'll probably see a Patriots blowout. Given how poorly manned the Cowboys are, it's unlikely they'll be able to stop the Patriots or keep up with their offensive attack. Dallas will have to figure out a way to stop Rob Gronkowski, who has 16 catches for 308 yards and four touchdowns in three games. That's difficult for healthy defenses, and seemingly impossible for beat-up ones.
The Cowboys will get linebacker Rolando McClain back this week, who was suspended for the first four games of the season. At 6'4, he could be matched up with Gronkowski at certain points throughout the game. That's a nice way to come back, huh?
The Patriots are fresh off a bye week and playing at full strength, whereas the Cowboys are limping along, just hoping to tread water until they get healthier. On paper, this matchup had all of the makings of a classic shootout between two titans. But now, it's more like David vs. Goliath.
How to Watch:
When: 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Commentators: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Online: NFL Game Pass
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