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New England Patriots vs. Dallas Cowboys Preview and Prediction

Jason Garrett

Jason Garrett

It was the worst of times and... yeah that's about it. The Dallas Cowboys (2-2) are having serious personnel issues coming out of their tough defeat Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints. Linebacker Sean Lee went down with a concussion that may keep him out for Sunday's game, and running back Lance Dunbar is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL.

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The Cowboys are dropping like flies and it is affecting their play on the field. Their running game can't seem to get going and they keep losing the game on the CRUCIAL play. Many are wondering if it's the offense that can't seem to make that crucial play, or the defense that can't seem to get a crucial stop. Either way, things are getting... crucial.

The New England Patriots are experiencing no such problems. New England is off to its typical and usual fast start, clicking in all facets of the game. Tom Brady, who seems to be playing as though he must avenge the loss of his master (a kung-fu reference), is once again having an MVP-like season.

The only bright spot for the Cowboys is that they will get their All-Pro defensive end Greg Hardy and linebacker Rolondo McClain back to a team who is need of a spark. Not that any of that will matter to Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who are clearly in the "Touchdown Zone." Tom Brady has thrown nine touchdown passes, four of which have gone to Gronk. They are a lethal pair, and they are poised to take their killer mentality into AT&T Stadium this Sunday.

New England at Dallas

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: New England  -7

Three Things to Watch

1. Tom Brady

The New England Field Chief is smiling on the outside and is congenial and pleasant to the media and fans alike.

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On the inside, he is an angry terror and all defenses should run and hide.

Brady is off to another fast start, torching opponents and leaving nothing but bad defensive schemes in his wake. Brady is averaging 359 yards passing per game, completing nearly 72 of his attempts, and already has nine touchdown tosses in just three games. The only thing the Cowboys can truly hope is that the bye week maybe cooled him off and the timing of the routes may be off just a little because of rust.

One can dream though.

2.  The Cowboys' Defense Might Be Better Now

Greg Hardy and Rolondo McClain are absolutely an upgrade to the Cowboys' defense. The question is are they the answer to the Cowboys' defensive problems. The Cowboys have given up 25 points per game on the season, but that numbers has grown to 32.5 since Tony Romo's injury. Now to be fair, part of the problem is unsustainable offensive drives on a team that is built to keep the defense off the field for a while. But the defense must get key stops and McClain and Hardy can help shore up the front seven. 

3. Brandon Weeden Must MAKE a play.

To be fair, Weeden has been incredibly efficient. He has a 76 percent completion rate, just one interception and a 108.8 QBR. The problem is that the Cowboys' offense is not created to have its quarterback run plays efficiently. The offense is built to have its quarterback make plays in critical moments. Weeden has been working off of an abbreviated playbook, which is not allowing him to truly attack downfield and MAKE a play. The one opportunity he had Sunday to make a play, he did. Weeden threw what looked to be a game-tying touchdown to Terrance Williams late last week against the Saints, which says that he IS capable. The Cowboys have to trust Weeden, or they will continue to fall short on offense.

Final Analysis

The Cowboys are trying to stay afloat in the NFC East until they get their stars back. This game is not going to help them do that. The Patriots are clicking on all cylinders, and show no signs of slowing down. The Cowboys may be able to get some stops, but unless Brandon Weeden is allowed to take a few risks, the Cowboys' offense will continue to be flat. And with another player now out of the lineup, the playmakers for the Cowboys are thinning out quickly. If the Cowboys can somehow get any production out of their running game, they might be able slow down New England's momentum. Everything has to fall into place for the Cowboys to win this game: great blocking, playmaking and tenacious defense. 

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It won't... but you can dream though.

Prediction: Patriots 38, Cowboys 17

— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s Rivals.com, and ESPN Louisville. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.