Colts Key Matchup: McFarland vs Rivera

Colts DT Anthony McFarland will play a major role in how successful the Cowboys tandem of Julius Jones and Marion Barber are against Indianapolis' rush defense. Greg Talmage breaks down his matchup with right guard Marco Rivera.

A very important trench battle will occur right in the middle of the line on Sunday. That battle is all about Colts DT Anthony "Booger" McFarland and the blocking schemes Dallas throws at him.

Does Cowboys right guard Marco Rivera have the strength to single-handedly move McFarland out of running lanes or will Rivera need help from center Andre Gurode? And on passing downs, does Rivera's lower-body strength and leverage allow him to handle McFarland's bull rush without help from Gurode?

To double-team or not to double-team…that is the question.

Injuries to DTs Darrell Reid and Montae Reagor have forced McFarland to play more snaps, especially on passing downs, then probably originally expected. McFarland is very effective as a one-gap interior lineman, who creates havoc in the backfield off the snap with his explosiveness and quick first step.

He also knows how to use his hands to get separation and plays with solid recognition skills. And while he isn't equally effective as a two-gap player (because he struggles taking on double-teams), the very fact that McFarland's size and first step requires extra attention frees his line mates and linebackers to make plays.

It will be the job of Cowboys right guard Marco Rivera to keep "Booger" out of running lanes and from getting too good of a push off the snap. Rivera isn't the most athletic, but plays with toughness and physicality. Back and neck injuries have slowed him each of the past few seasons. Last season, chronic back troubles sapped his strength and negated his ability to get a good push at the line. He played too stiff too often.

So far this season the reports on Rivera's play indicate that he has been "spotty" at best. He doesn't get a great push when blocking in-line. However, he can still frustrate a DT when pass blocking, because he is quick out of his stance. In the end, this battle comes down to Rivera and his strength/abilities.

If Rivera's strength is good enough to permit him to get a good leg push and into McFarland before McFarland's first step can cause problems, then he shouldn't require help from Andre Gurode. Keeping "Booger" out of those running lanes, though, is usually a two-man job.

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