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Analyzing Tendencies: Stopping the Cowboys

Earlier this week I discussed how the Jaguars should go about scoring on the Cowboys defense. Well, that was the easy part. Stopping the 5th ranked Dallas offense with the 30th ranked Jacksonville defense is the real challenge and I'm not sure there's any game plan in particular that the Jaguars can put together to slow them down. Quite simply, the Jaguars need to stop playing like they did in the first 7 weeks.

Despite the fact that Football Outsiders tells us that the Cowboys are the 12th best rushing team in the league, it is not something they do often. Through 6 games they have 133 rush attempts and 247 pass attempts. Why they lean on the pass is clear when looking through stats on FO. Tony Romo is the 6th most effective quarterback in the league, throwing behind the 4th best pass blocking line to receiving threats such as Jason Witten, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Roy Williams. 

The big question, that is obviously hard to answer, is how much of a difference we will see having Jon Kitna at the helm of the Dallas offense. The last time he started a game was October 5, 2008 for the Detroit Lions. A game in which he sustained 3 sacks and fumbled bringing his season sack total to 15 before he was placed on injured reserve. The Lions went 0-16 that year and Kitna was traded to the Cowboys shortly after the season was over.

Another potential scoring threat is return man and 1st round draft pick, Dez Bryant. The rookie punt returner is making a push to be the NFC representative in the Pro Bowl at the punt return spot. His 16.9 yards/return average is at the top of the league among those that have taken 8 or more returns. His 186 punt return yards are 3rd behind Devin Hester and Danny Amendola who have 6 and 7 returns more than him, respectively. His 2 returns for touchdowns ties him with Hester for the league's best. Keeping the ball away from Bryant on punts will be a high priority for Adam Podlesh, Kassim Osgood and Montell Owens.

Barring a Kitna collapse, the Cowboys wouldn't appear to have much of a problem ahead of them in terms of scoring points. A top notch performance from David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew and company will be very important as this game could very quickly turn into an offensive shootout.