Entering Week 6 of the 2014 NFL season, no team is undefeated and just seven have one loss on the year. Two of those one-loss teams will square off on Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys visit the Seattle Seahawks.
As the defending Super Bowl champs, the Seahawks were expected to be among the league’s elite teams, beginning Week 1 as the favorites in the NFC. The Cowboys, though, have been one of the NFL’s most pleasant surprises, tied with the Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East, after being given the worst odds in the division.
Even though Dallas has won four straight games, they find themselves as one of the biggest underdogs of Week 6. The betting odds at Las Vegas casinos have the Cowboys getting eight points in Seattle. The over/under is 47 total points.
The Cowboys haven’t had any trouble on the road, going 2-0 away from Dallas, but the Seahawks have been dominant at home. They beat both the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field, and have just one home loss since 2012.
Despite holding a share of first place, it’s still unknown if Dallas is good enough to be a contender in the NFC. Their wins have come against inferior competition, and their only loss was a blowout to the San Francisco 49ers.
Before beating the Houston Texans last week, the Cowboys topped the St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints, who have combined for just four wins in 2014. A win against the Seahawks, or even a close defeat, could make a believer out of some of the team’s critics.
Many NFL fans won’t be convinced that the Cowboys can compete for a title, as long as Tony Romo is at quarterback. The much-maligned veteran continues to put up strong regular-season numbers. After throwing three interceptions in the first game, Romo has thrown eight touchdowns and just two picks.
While Romo will be forced to deal with Seattle’s vaunted “Legion of Boom,” Russell Wilson will face a Dallas secondary that has been better than many had predicted, though it hasn’t been tested much. Other than allowing Drew Brees to register a 100.6 passer rating, the Cowboys have beaten the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Austin Davis and Jake Locker.
Wilson continues to improve after leading his team to a Super Bowl title last season. Only Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers have posted a better passer rating than his 112.9 rating.
The spotlight will be on the two quarterbacks, but a key reason for the success of both teams has been the running game. Seattle ranks No.1 in rushing, while Dallas is second in the league.
Seattle has used a few rushers to total its 669 yards on the ground. Running back Marshawn Lynch has 306 rushing yards, good for 11th in the NFL, but the Seahawks have relied on other players, as well. Wilson has 209 rushing yards and wide receiver Percy Harvin has totaled 93 yards on the ground.
Dallas has relied largely on one player for its ground game. DeMarco Murray leads the NFL with 670 rushing yards, giving him 210 more yards than Le’Veon Bell, who ranks No.2 in all of football. Murray accounts for nearly 84 percent of the Cowboys’ rushing yards.
He’s been the league’s best playmaker in 2014, but Murray will face his greatest challenge of the season on Sunday. Not only do the Seahawks have the No.1 running offense, but they also stop the run better than anybody else.
Seattle allows just 62.3 rushing yards per game, and has kept some of the league’s best running backs in check. The Seahawks limited Eddie Lacy to 34 yards on 12 carries, while Alfred Morris and Ryan Matthews combined to rush for just 60 yards on 24 attempts.
Prediction: Even with their one loss, the Seahawks remain the best team in the NFL. They are almost unbeatable at home, and it should be no different when they face the Cowboys. Seattle has the formula to stop Dallas’s running game, and “America’s Team” has yet to prove that they can hang with the best that the league has to offer.
Predicted Score: Seattle 30, Dallas 16