The good news is that Dez Bryant will return this week for the Dallas Cowboys. The bad news is it's against a hostile, desperate Seattle Seahawks team that badly needs a win.
The Dallas Cowboys (2-4) are sliding right now and need a bolt of energy. Enter Bryant. However, he does not re-enter at 100 percent, and that could be the difference between Dallas' fifth consecutive loss or its first victory in five games. The Cowboys' wide receiver has been missing since Week 1, and the offense has struggled to replace him. The Cowboys' offense has been pedestrian at best, first under the direction of I-am-just-happy-to-be-here Brandon Weeden, and now under the leadership of I-play-for-WHO-now Matt Cassel. Neither quarterback has done much holding the reins of the Cowboys' offense.
Weeden averaged only 169 yards passing over three ;games. Cassel came in and played slightly better, throwing for 227 yards, but unlike Weeden, Cassel threw three interceptions in his lone start so far. There is tremendous and growing concerns that neither of these quarterbacks can get the job done until Tony Romo returns, regardless of Bryant's presence and playmaking ability. In addition, the Cowboys have now lost Joseph Randle to "personal problems" and injury, leaving Darren McFadden, Christine Michael and Lucky Whitehead to carry the load in the backfield.
The Seattle Seahawks (3-4) have been "About That Life Boss" through three quarters. Now if they could just not surrender late touchdowns and field goals in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks, in all four losses this season, walked into the final 15 minutes with a lead and left the game with a loss. The vaunted defense headlined by the Legion of Boom secondary has& surrendered an average of nearly 29 points per game in the four losses. The challenge for the defense may not be as much about its own breakdowns as much as it is offensive ineptness. The Seattle offense is simply not consistently clicking. When it does, when everything is rolling, Seattle is still Seattle.
Seattle at Dallas
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Spread: Seattle -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Dez Bryant, X-Factor
Dez Bryant's return is more than just bringing back Dallas' No. 1 wide receiver. There is a real x-factor to his return. If Bryant is 100 percent healthy, which no one thinks that he is, his presence on the field can open up opportunities for other receivers, as well as the running backs. Bryant does not actually have to be the All-Pro receiver he has been. He just has to make Seattle BELIEVE he is a healthy All-Pro wide receiver. If he's nothing more than a possession pass catcher instead of a big-play threat, that could still be enough to open up the running game late, which could seal the deal for the Cowboys.
2. The Legion Must Go Boom!
The Legion of Boom has not been booming very much this season. In each of the four losses, the Seahawks have surrendered big play after big play in the fourth quarter. It is these late-game collapses that have everyone in Seattle concerned. The focus of the problem has bee on the oppositions success throwing the ball, but that may not be the real story.The real story may be the execution of the Seattle offense and its inability to control the clock. The real story also may be that Marshawn Lynch has not been able to truly get going as of yet, which has greatly impacted the ball control aspect of the Seahawks' offense that has been such a staple the past two seasons, as Seattle is used to running the football down its opponents' throats. Russell Wilson has seen more than share of carries, but the Seahawks need to get Lynch going to get back their offensive AND defensive confidence.
3. Jimmy Want Mo!
The way to open up the Seahawks' offense is very simple: get the ball to Jimmy Graham. Graham dominated in New Orleans, and Seattle was so impressed that they traded away Pro Bowl center Max Unger. It stands to reason, that if you are going to make a major organizational move like that, then you would utilize the weapon you have invested so much in. Graham is one of the hardest pass catchers to cover in the league and one that defenses must respect and pay attention to. If offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell can find a way to get Graham more involved, the attention he will draw from the defense should only help make things easier on Lynch, Fred Jackson, Thomas Rawls and even Wilson in the running game.
The Cowboys are getting Dez Bryant back. That will help this offense, especially if Bryant is truly healthy. However, with no Tony Romo, the Cowboys may still struggle with the big plays that Bryant contributes best. If the Cowboys cannot take advantage of Bryant's big-play ability, then they have zero shot to win this game. And against a big-play defense like Seattle, that window is very small. Look for Seattle to make an example out of the Cowboys, especially with last season's loss at CenturyLink Field ;still fresh on the Seahawks' minds.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Cowboys 13
— 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. Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.