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Cowboys vs. Chiefs: Matchups to Watch for Dallas

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I posted a couple articles on some matchups I’ll be watching this week, one at NBC and the other at Bleacher Report. Here’s one matchup from each article. At NBC:

CB Brandon Carr vs WR Dwayne Bowe
Who on the Chiefs’ offense can repeatedly beat the Cowboys? It isn’t going to be Donnie Avery or Anthony Fasano, and Dexter McCluster shouldn’t scare you unless they start giving points for catches behind the line-of-scrimmage and yards run horizontally across the field. The two Chiefs who can beat Dallas are running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.

Luckily, I don’t think the Cowboys need to bring an extra safety into the box to stop Charles; he thrives on long runs, so you actually want to keep defenders back. That could help Carr and Morris Claiborne in the event that they can’t handle Bowe alone. Either way, Carr on Bowe is a matchup I’m excited to watch.

And at Bleacher Report:

Cowboys RT Doug Free vs. Chiefs OLB Justin Houston

I’ve talked about this matchup on numerous occasions this week, but that’s because I think it’s the most important one for Dallas.

They’ve absolutely got to figure out how they’re going to stop Justin Houston. He’s a truly dominant pass-rusher with age (24), explosiveness (10’5″ broad jump), arm length (34.5 inches), and production (three sacks last week and 10 in 2012) on his side.

Houston rushed from the right side of the Chiefs’ defense on just 6.3 percent of snaps last season, so he’s usually going to be lined up over Free. I think Houston can give Free trouble because he can use his long arms to control Free and his athleticism to beat him around the edge.

So what are the Cowboys to do? One option is to just double-team Houston with a tight end. That can be effective, but Dallas will probably need to use “12” personnel—one running back, two tight ends, and two receivers—since they’ll want Jason Witten to be a big part of the passing game.

Another option—the one I suggested last week against the Giants—is to spread the field so Romo can throw quickly, getting the ball out before Houston can be a factor. Dallas did indeed employ that tactic last week, as No. 3 receiver Terrance Williams played 37 snaps and Romo got the ball out in an average of 2.49 seconds—a number that would have been the second-lowest in the NFL last year.

However, the Chiefs aren’t the Giants. With Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith, and Dunta Robinson, Kansas City is much stronger than New York is at the cornerback position. Whereas the net effect was positive when Dallas brought Williams on the field against the Giants, I’m not sure that will be the case this week. Therefore, I think using two-tight sets to double Houston is probably the way to go for Dallas.

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