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RAVENS VS COWBOYS

DECEMBER 2008

2* Ravens +4 over Cowboys - The Ravens visit the Cowboys Saturday Night in what amounts to a regular season playoff game as both of these both of these teams are fighting to stay alive in the race. We see games every year in the NFL where teams are on the fringe and must win to get in, but we rarely see teams this good facing each other in this type of scenario. What makes this game special is that either one of these two teams is plenty capable of beating any other team in the NFL. Either one of these teams will be a major threat in the playoffs if they get in. As good as they are, one or the other may be hitting the golf course early this year.

All eyes will be on this game for more than just the playoff picture. Many will be looking on to see if the Cowboys, with all their drama, self destruct and finally implode. I wouldn't count on that happening though. As a matter of fact both of these teams are playing their best ball of the season at just the right time. In the case of the Cowboys, they struggled when Romo went down with an injury earlier in the year but since his return have won 4 of their last 5 games as they make their playoff push.

While the Cowboys offense may appear to be back on track, it's important to note that two of those wins came against the 49ers and Seahawks scoring 34 and 35 points against those two teams. Otherwise, they managed 14 against the Skins, 13 against the Steelers and had just 14 against the Giants last week until they broke a big play late in the game to make it 20-8. This is significant because they'll be facing a Ravens defense that is easily on par with any of those we just mentioned. Point being, points figure to be at a premium Saturday Night and with the Ravens getting +4 here, we'll have to bite.

This is a chance for the Ravens defense to prove they are for real. Many are going to point to the Colts and Giants hanging 30 points on these guys, both games on the road, and suggest that perhaps they are a paper tiger. We shall soon find out. But taking into account the Ravens season as a whole and taking a look at what the Cowboys have done against "good" teams recently all the evidence here points towards a close, low scoring affair Saturday Night. Some stats jump out at us here when we take a look at these two teams and what they have done lately.

Specifically, if we take a look at turnovers for these two teams, one thing stays constant whether we look at season to date or more recently, say, the last 6 games. The Ravens remain at the top in positive territory while the Cowboys remain negative. Over the last 6 games the Ravens are +10 which is #1 in the NFL while the Cowboys are -1. It gets worse if we take into account the entire season. For the Cowboys that is, where they sit at -6 and near the bottom of the league while the Ravens sit at +8 for 4th best in the NFL. Again, this shows a consistency in the turnover category from start to finish.

The Ravens are #1 in the NFL over the last 6 games in points per 100 yards on BOTH offense and defense. They have eye opening yards per point numbers of 11.6 on offense and 21.5 on defense during this 6 game stretch while the Cowboys weigh in with a very average 15 on both sides of the ball.

Romo is hurt. He couldn't walk earlier in the week. The Giants got to him a few times last week and made him pay. Don't think for a minute that this Ravens defense won't do the same. Romo has been notoriously bad in December. He has never been able to win the big game. He's banged up and the Cowboys leading rusher Marion Barber is questionable with a nagging toe injury which helped him gain all of 2 yards last week. Add in all the drama surrounding Terrell Owens and it would appear to be an uphill battle for the Cowboys.

The bright spot for the Cowboys is their defense the last few weeks. Add it all up and there's no other way to see this game than as a defensive battle similar to both teams recent games against the Steelers. In that type of a game, getting +4 is huge.

Look for the Ravens to get to Romo early and often. Look for the turnover ratio both over the last 6 games and entire season to hold true this week as the Ravens force Romo to make costly mistakes ala the Pittsburgh game while the Cowboys season goes down in flames. The feeling here is very simply that the Ravens are the better, healthier team and in much better position to win this one than the Cowboys. +4 points in this one is huge.

2* RAVENS +4

 

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