COWBOYS (1-0) VS. BRONCOS (0-0)
SUNDAY, 4:25 P.M. ET, SPORTS AUTHORITY FIELD AT MILE HIGH, DENVER uTV: FOX, DIRECTV 715
Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
About the Cowboys: Dallas’ loaded offense gets the headlines, but the defense was a surprising star of last week’s season-opening 19-3 victory. The Cowboys emphatically slammed the door on the on the Odell Beckham-less Giants, holding them to a mere 233 total yards while sacking Eli Manning three times and turning him into a dink-and-dunker by making him get rid of the ball in a hurry. DE
stood out with two sacks and three tackles for loss, and MLB
was impressive in his first game since suffering a severe knee injury in January 2016.
About the Broncos: Denver is attempting to get its groove back under new coach
following an underwhelming 2016 season. The Broncos, ranked fourth in the league in total defense and No. 1 against the pass last season. The offense is very much a construction project, with QB
maintaining a tenuous hold on the starting job, but he has 1,000-yard WRs Demariyus Thomas and ers with whom to work.
Matchup to watch: Cowboys LT Tyron Smith vs. Broncos OLB Von Miller. Miller is an undeniable force on the pass rush, having rung up double-digit sacks in five of his six NFL seasons. His pressure is a huge part of a pass defense that allowed a league-low passer rating of 69.7 in 2016. Smith is a four-time Pro Bowl selection whose power and mobility led Pro Football Focus to rank him as the league’s second-best offensive lineman. Broncos coach Vance Joseph is charged with making Denver a contender again.
Elliott was suspended by the NFL for six games because of allegations of domestic abuse. Elliott got on the field last week following an injunction that will likely keep him playing for the foreseeable future, and he looked like the same guy who rushed for 1,631 yards last season, running for 104 yards and adding a 30-yard reception.
Number crunching: The Cowboys like to control the ball and the clock with Elliott, but
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
have added more of a passing element. They held the ball for 34:14 against the Giants, including a stunning 20:33-9:27 advantage in the first half. That’s a problem for the Broncos, who last season ranked and 28th in rushing defense, allowing 130.3 yards per game.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Keep Dak clean: Dallas QB Dak Prescott was named 2016’s Offensive Rookie of the Year thanks to his beyond-his-years poise, but that composure can still be rattled by strong, consistent pressure. The Cowboys’ acclaimed offensive line will have to keep the disruption of Miller and his cohorts to a minimum.
2. Secondary concerns: The Cowboys lost another key piece to their defense when top CB broke his hand in the opener. That puts backup
in the unfamiliar slot corner position and thins out the position considerably.
3. Line ‘em up: For the second consecutive season, the Broncos have rebuilt their offensive line, adding veterans like RG and RT to shore up a shaky front. But it’s a rookie — first-round draft choice — who was handed the critical left tackle spot.
4. Run the ball: Denver’s got weapons at wide receiver, but the running game has been questionable at best. Last season the Broncos averaged 3.6 yards per rush, ranking 28th in the league. Their hope is the revamped line will help RB and if former Kansas City star can stay healthy, he could be a valuable addition.