By Zach Walker
Indianapolis Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys
Sunday – December 21 – 3:25 pm
AT&T Stadium – Arlington
Who do the Cowboys need to shut down?
QB Andrew Luck – Luck is with the Colts. Both metaphorically and in the form of their starting quarterback. To go from Manning to Luck, that’s some stars, moons, and planets align style luck. He is the best young quarterback in the league. But to say that he is impervious would be a huge overstatement. I’m going to go boring, because I have Andrew Luck as my fantasy football quarterback, but that allows me to shed the light on his numbers. Luck, during every game, can throw for 300 yards. He also could throw three touchdowns, no problem. But what he often does is turn the ball over. Since week 11, Luck has nine turnovers. But in that, is where he shapes my opinion as the best young QB in the league. He just does not let those turnovers affect his game. The young man is full blown unshakeable. But his offensive line really does him no favors. I’m going to predict his stat line for his game. Luck is going to throw 18 incompletions, three touchdowns and give two turnovers to the Cowboys defense.
Who on the Cowboys, needs to step up?
RB Joseph Randle – DeMarco Murray is practicing, and he hasn’t missed any practices, so I’ll say he’s going to play. Play, but he shouldn’t start. That start should go to Jo Randle. It won’t be just Randle taking those snaps, spread them between Randle, Lance Dunbar, the screen passing game, and Murray. The Colts defense is center-mass in rush defense, ranked 16th in the league, not great, not terrible, but if D’Qwell Jackson can’t go, that’s a boost for Dallas. Randle has a 7 yards per carry average for the season and has shown to be a great soldier, taking the ball forward without much deviation. The distribution of carries is going to be key in the game.
Which group will give the Cowboys fits?
The Colts Pass Catchers – The Colts have the best passing attack in the league, not good for the, politely put, leaky pass defense of the Cowboys. Reggie Wayne is still capable of clutch catches, but has two touchdowns on the season. T.Y. Hilton is the best deep threat in football, but is coming into this game with a lingering hamstring injury, so having clinched the playoffs the Colts might rest him and his hamstring, that is a seven point swing if Hilton is held back. The threats from the tight ends position are huge. Coby Fleener is the more traditional, move the chains, multiple catch tight end. Dwayne Allen is more the sniper, getting big time red zone reps, and has 8 touchdowns on the season. Luck is good enough to make his progressions and find the open man, bad news for the Cowboys.
Which group will give the Colts fits?
The Cowboys Pass Rushers – Give props to this unit, they worked over the Eagles offensive line, and that unit is way better than the incoming Colts patchwork o-line. Jeremy Mincey and Tyrone Crawford combined for four sacks of Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is no Luck, but against the o-line of the Colts, the Cowboys pass rush can keep Luck moving around and uncomfortable. The Dallas defensive front never let Russell Wilson get comfortable, and need to get that same type of team performance against Luck to even the game out for the Cowboys. And remember, good pass rush helps mask bad coverages.
What will it take for the Cowboys to win?
Make the Colts feel unwelcome. Make Luck feel real swampy with a multi-wave defensive front, contain their running backs (fun Trent Richardson drinking game, drink for every rush over four yards), and hope that those banged up Colts don’t make the field. Vontae Davis is banged up and is slotted to face against Dez Bryant, if he’s not 100%, it’s a total green light for letting Dez off the chain against their secondary.
Prediction: Indianapolis 28 – Dallas 30
Three field goals and three touchdowns from the Cowboys, but I love the Cowboys D-Line versus Colts O-Line. Andrew Luck is going get his end done, and get his team into the endzone, but I see the Cowboys defense coming through in a big way in this game. This is the biggest home game, because it could be the last of the season, they lose here, the Cowboys need help from inside the division to win the division.