Dallas Cowboys Countdown to Denver Broncos

WHEN: 3:25 p.m. Central Time

WATCH: FOX (Joe Buck & Troy Aikman)

LISTEN: Dallas Cowboys Radio Network; Sirius 82, XM 82; Cowboys app

FOLLOW: @BobbyBeltTX, @CamiAnnG, @JonahTulsNFL, @therealmarklane

02-FOX-L-V2

Red — Dallas at Denver

Blue — Washington at LA Rams

Green — San Francisco at Seattle

 

10: The Cowboys’ rank as a red zone offense on the road in 2016 — Dallas converted on 62.5 percent of their red zone trips as the away team last season. Denver was tied for the middle of the pack with Arizona for 14th-worst in the league as a red zone defense at home by keeping the opposition out of the end zone 55.6 percent of the time. The Cowboys went 1/3 in the red zone last week, converted just one trip for a touchdown, settling for field goals on the rest. Denver was 0/2 in keeping the Chargers out of the red zone last week. Did the Broncos defense have an outlier performance, or did the Cowboys have an irregular effort? Whichever unit plays to their 2016 identity will win Sunday.

9: Sacks Von Miller has on third down since 2015 — He finds a way to rush the passer. The whole Denver defense does. In that span, the Broncos are tied for third-most sacks on third down with 39. Miller’s contribution with his nine sacks have also included a forced fumble. Tyron Smith and La’el Collins will have a tough day, but the challenge will be a preview of what will await the Cowboys should they make it to January and the playoffs.

8: Wins the NFC has earned at Sports Authority Field since 2002 — Why 2002? Because that is when NFL teams started seeing the other conference’s divisions once every four years, which means NFC teams travel to Denver once every eight years. Wins don’t happen often in Denver for NFC teams: once every two years. Since 2002, 8/30 times has an NFC team defeated the Broncos at home. The thin air, a true home-field advantage, is real in Denver. 5/22 of Denver’s wins against the NFC have been fourth quarter comebacks and 6/22 of the wins have included game-winning drives. NFC teams just get tired near the end. The Cowboys must be ready to play a full four quarters against the Broncos.

7: Denver’s rank in takeaways in 2016 — Taking away the football is what the Denver defense does very well as they wrested away 27 possessions from opponents last year. However, protecting the football is what the Cowboys offense did very well, ranking fifth in the NFL last season in terms of fewest giveaways with 15. The Cowboys did not commit a turnover against the Giants last week while the Broncos stole one from the Chargers. Denver was 7-0 when winning the turnover battle in 2016 compared to 2-7 when they did not. Comparatively, Dallas was 8-2 when they were even or lost the turnover battle compared to 5-1 when they won it. But the Broncos aren’t Baltimore or Washington; they will make teams pay. The Cowboys can’t afford to give away any free possessions.

6: 100-yard receivers allowed by Denver since 2015 — They call it the “No Fly Zone” for a reason. The last player to go past the century mark receiving against Denver was Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce in 2016, and he did it twice. Atlanta running back Tevin Coleman also had a 100-yard receiving game in 2016. The last receiver to do it was Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown at home when he caught 16 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns on Dec. 20, 2015 in a 34-27 victory. The last Cowboy to have a 100-yard receiving game was Dez Bryant against Pittsburgh on Nov. 13, 2016 when he grabbed six balls for 116 yards and a touchdown.

5: Wins and losses when Trevor Siemian is sacked twice or more — The seventh round pick from 2015 is much like every other quarterback. When he gets pressured and driven into the ground, his win-loss record is .500 or worse. Siemian’s career passer rating is 94.2, which means it is good enough to win .781 games since 2010. He is not a shabby field general, but he can be if he is pushed off center the entire game.

4: Jersey number of Derek Carr — What does that have to do with anything? Carr was the last quarterback younger than 25 years old to earn a win in Denver. He was 24 years old at the time, the same age as Dak Prescott. Since 2015, the Broncos have gone 1-4 at home against quarterbacks younger than 25. Carr did it on Dec. 13, 2015 going 12-of-29 for 135 yards and two touchdowns, which was rather pedestrian when factoring in the 79.0 passer rating. However, the most important aspect of Carr’s game was he did not turn the ball over, even when Von Miller strip-sacked him for a 9-yard loss. Prescott, whose weakness last year was blindside sack-fumbles, will need to get a feel for the backside pressure if he is to succeed in protecting the football en route to victory.

3: 100-yard rushers the Broncos defense has allowed since 2015 — Why does 2015 matter? Because that is when Denver switched to the 3-4 defense. Known as the “No Fly Zone,” the Broncos defense also bans ground transportation. The last 100-yard rusher against the Denver defense was Oakland’s Latavius Murray 114 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries on Nov. 6, 2016. The Cowboys offensive line is ostensibly better than the Raiders offensive line, and Elliott is no doubt better than Murray. Nevertheless, it is a tall order for the Cowboys offense to pull off, but it must be done to get a win in Denver.

2: Number of rookie cornerbacks Dallas will play against Denver — Second round pick Chidobe Awuzie and third round selection Jourdan Lewis will play for the Cowboys as 10-year cornerback Orlando Scandrick will sit out with a fractured left hand. Interestingly, Awuzie and Lewis will have to grow up quickly, much the same way Scandrick and first round cornerback Mike Jenkins had to “grow up” against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 26, 2008. Cornerback Terence Newman and safety Roy Williams did not suit up due to injury, and replacements Anthony Henry and Alan Ball exited the contest with their own ailments. Scandrick and Jenkins combined for nine tackles as no Bucs receiver eclipsed 50 yards receiving. Awuzie and Lewis will have to repeat that performance.

1: Jason Witten’s spot for most games played as a Dallas Cowboy — The 15-year veteran will surpass Super Bowl champion Ed “Too Tall” Jones for the most games played for America’s Team with 225. Witten owns the franchise receptions, receiving yards, single-game receptions, consecutive games played, and consecutive seasons with a reception and touchdown. Bob Lilly will always be “Mr. Cowboy,” but if he weren’t the title would certainly go the 2003 third-rounder from Tennessee.

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