Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said he has never faced an undefeated team this late in the season. The Colts are considered the league's best team and the AFC Super Bowl favorite. They represent a litmus test of sorts for the Cowboys, who have playoff and Super Bowl aspirations of their own despite an up and down start to the season. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware said it would be a huge confidence boost if they could beat the Colts on Sunday.
"We believe we are good but if win, then we would know how good we were," Ware said. "That would do it. That would put us over the top."
It would also give the Cowboys a chance to get on a roll after beating the Cardinals last Sunday. The Cowboys face the downtrodden Buccaneers on Thanksgiving Day and would be looking at a possible three-game winning streak and a 10-day layoff before an NFC East showdown against the Giants Dec. 3. The Cowboys are currently one game behind the NFC East leading Giants.
But first things are first and the Cowboys must find a way to stop or slow down the high-flying Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning.
"I don't know if they do have a weakness," Parcells said. "They are a high-scoring team. So they've pretty much been able to do that against everybody. I'm sure they'd like to be playing a little better against the run than they do, but they put a premium on the pass rush. Their front four comes off the ball and reacts to the run. They try to be disruptive with that, and if they bat some balls and strip your runners and disrupt just enough plays to disrupt your series, they become a successful defense."
Making the task even tougher for the Cowboys is the loss of linebacker Greg Ellis (pictured, right), arguably the team's best pass rusher. The Cowboys are going to go with the committee approach to replace Ellis, although they have not firmed up their plans. Al Singleton and Bobby Carpenter will likely replace Ellis in the regular defense with Junior Glymph and Jason Hatcher filling in for him on passing situations. Kevin Burnett is also an option.
The Cowboys would like it to be Carpenter, because he was the team's first-round draft pick last April. So far, Carpenter has been somewhat of a disappointment, as he has been inactive for three games and has only two tackles on special teams. The veteran Singleton is the safe choice.
"It's not really what I want to do, but sometimes you don't have a choice," Parcells said when asked about having a by-committee approach. "You've got certain guys to fill in certain roles and (who were) involved in special teams plays that are now frontline players. To do that, you've got to get the plays from somebody else, so that's why we might do it that way. I just need to get the spot filled as best I can with what we've got."
Regardless of who plays, the Cowboys say someone has to step up.
"We can't just sit back and worry about not having Greg," inside linebacker Bradie James said. "It's a tough loss for us, but I don't think (the Colts) care about that. They're coming in here to win the game. We've all got to step up our play and get ready for them. We need a lot of different guys to step up this week."
--WR Terrell Owens has 162 catches for 2,340 yards (93.6 per game) and 21 TDs in 25 starts vs. the AFC since 2000. In two career games vs. the Colts, he has 13 catches for 182 yards with two TDs and his teams are 2-0. He has six touchdowns in his past five games. Owens said it would be wrong for the Cowboys to feature the run against the Colts in an order to play keep away from Peyton Manning and the offense instead of playing a wide open game. "I think that would be a smart thing to do," Owens said facetiously. "It's like to keep the ball out of Michael Jordan's hands or Kobe or a guy like LeBron. You want to try and limit their chances."