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Jets vs. Cowboys Game Preview

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Any given Saturday

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

So apparently Thursday Night Football is being declared "a thing" by the NFL. So much is the NFL's drive to make Thursday Night Football an age old tradition that they now have the audacity to say "it's Thursday Night Football on Saturday night!" Seriously? No, it's Saturday Night Football. It's football on Saturday night. Why don't we just call Thursday Night Football "Monday Night Football on Thursday night!" then? Or for that matter "Sunday Night Football on Monday night!" as well? Look, you don't have to make excuses. Football on more days of the week is good for just about everyone. You get more viewership (a.k.a. money) and fans get to watch more games. You don't have to pretend this is a tradition to win them over. It's football; they'll watch. Okay, rant over. Jets vs. Cowboys on Saturday night, let's do it!

Where We Are

The Jets are cruising on a 3 game win streak which has revitalized their playoff aspirations. This winning streak correlates to the devastating loss of Fitzpatrick's beard perfectly; almost eerily so. In fact, without the beard, Fitzpatrick has put up astonishing numbers (9 TDs to 0 INTs and a passer rating of 107.9 or better over that span.) The Jets have outscored their opponents by 43 points over the last 3 games and have already doubled their wins from last season. If it weren't for an incredibly strong AFC wild card race, the Jets would likely assume a playoff seed at this rate. However, the Jets are on the outside looking in at the moment and will likely need to win out to make the playoffs.

Where They Are

It's been a rough year for the Cowboys. I can't say that it bothers me much. Despite rarely playing against the Cowboys, I have long harbored a strong dislike for the team. It could be because I was raised in a family of Giants fans. It could be because people refer to them as "America's team." It could be because of Jerry Jones. It could be all of those reasons. It is. They are just not very likable. That said, I've never understood all of the vitriol sent Tony Romo's way. He should probably be in the MVP discussion for this year considering what the Cowboys are without him. The Cowboys have gone from 7th in yards per game to 29th. They've gone from 29.2 points per game to 17.7. Frankly put, the Cowboys stink on offense without Romo. They lost 7 consecutive games without their star QB and I wouldn't be shocked if they don't win another game this season.

Injuries

Jets

Bailey, Dion S Ankle FP FP FP probable
Davis, Kellen TE Wrist FP FP FP probable
Decker, Eric WR Knee FP FP FP probable
Douzable, Leger DT Ankle FP FP FP probable
Fitzpatrick, Ryan QB Left Thumb FP FP FP probable
Giacomini, Breno T Hip/Ankle LP LP LP probable
Kerley, Jeremy WR Calf DNP LP LP probable
Mangold, Nick C Hand LP LP LP probable
Marshall, Brandon WR Ankle FP FP FP probable
Martin, Ronald S Groin FP FP FP probable
Miles, Rontez S Achilles FP FP FP probable
Milliner, Dee CB Ankle FP FP FP probable
Pace, Calvin LB Abdomen/Knee LP LP LP probable
Wilkerson, Muhammad DL Wrist FP FP FP probable
Williams, Marcus CB Knee FP FP FP probable

Cowboys

Romo, Tony QB Left Shoulder Out Out Out Out
Claiborne, Morris CB Hamstring DNP DNP DNP Doubtful
Lawrence, DeMarcus DE Chest DNP LP FP Probable
McClain, Rolando LB Concussion DNP DNP DNP Out
Heath, Jeff S Shoulder LP FP FP Probable
Irving, David DT Back LP FP FP Probable
Wilbur, Kyle LB Shoulder LP FP FP Probable
Bryant, Dez WR Foot FP FP FP Probable

X-Factors

Jets

My X-Factor for this week has to be Darrelle Revis. While he played in last week's game against the Titans, there really wasn't anyone he needed to shut down. The last time he played an elite receiver, he gave up a long touchdown and went down with a concussion. This week, Revis will be going up against one of the NFL's best in Dez Bryant. That said, Bryant has been a shell of his former self this season. After holding out in camp and dealing with a broken foot early in the year, Bryant has had trouble getting back into the swing of things. Nevertheless, the Cowboys offense is rather devoid of quality skill players outside of Bryant. Terrance Williams, Darren McFadden, and Cole Beasley don't worry me much. Witten is a future Hall of Fame player, but he's not really a threat to go for 200+ yards in a game. He does the dirty work. Dez is the only game wrecker on the Cowboys offense and shutting him down devastates them. Revis has gotten the better of Dez in the past, with their last match up taking place in the 2011 season opener. Revis won that match up and the Jets won the game. I expect the same to be true tomorrow night.

Cowboys

The Cowboys have one of my favorite players to watch on defense. Frankly, the guy doesn't get the respect he deserves. His name is Sean Lee and he's easily one of the best linebackers in the game today. Lee has never made a Pro Bowl or an All Pro team. Heck, he hasn't even really played in a couple of years. But anyone who watches him play healthy sees that he's an elite player. He's a MLB who can do it all, excelling when asked to cover, stuff the run, or blitz. When you watch Cowboys defensive film, he jumps off the tape, appearing in essentially every play. If I'm the Jets, I avoid Lee whenever possible. All things being equal, don't throw/run anywhere near this guy. If the Cowboys want to win, they need Lee to be the type of gamechanger that carries an otherwise flat defense.

Keys To Victory

Offense: The Cowboys are about average against both the run and the pass. They rank 15th in both yards allowed per pass attempt and yards allowed per run attempt. Stay balanced and take advantage of your skill players.

Defense: Use Bowles' nickel scheme with Skrine and don't worry about the power run. While the Cowboys have an excellent offensive line, there's no running back to take advantage of it. While they've averaged 4.4 yards per rush, it's almost entirely on the offensive line. Use Skrine to negate Cole Beasley (who is very shifty and dangerous on third downs) and don't allow big plays. It is extremely difficult to get pressure with just 4 against this OL, so bring a lot of exotic blitzes (more Skrine, anyone?) and don't make it easy on them.

The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line is that the Cowboys are not a good team right now. Without Tony Romo, the Cowboys are probably a 4 or 5 win team despite playing in arguably the worst division in football. They're probably the worst team in the worst division in the NFC. With 3 games remaining on the schedule, this is the only game that the Jets should absolutely win with ease. It's also the only game that doesn't really matter considering the way the playoff race is shaping up. A loss probably wouldn't impact the Jets' playoff hopes all that much, but it would definitely affect the players. That's why I want to see the Jets come out and dominate a weak team for 4 quarters. They did it for 2 quarters last week and put the game on ice. That was nice. But I want to see a complete game from this team for once.