(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- Everything is right for the Detroit Lions to come up with their finest performance of the season when the team hosts the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Detroit put up a strong road effort before falling to the AFC East leading Buffalo Bills last week, 24-17. Despite the loss, Detroit is doing the things it needs to do to eventually win close games on the road; run the football and stay away from turnovers.
Coming home to Ford Field, where the team has won two of three, Detroit should roll over a Cowboys' team that is divided and has nothing else to play for.
The Cowboys got their season goal last week at home when super durable running back Emmitt Smith eclipsed Walter Payton's all-time rushing mark. Several Cowboys were unwilling to celebrate the accomplishment because Dallas lost the game 17-14 to the Seattle Seahawks. Linebacker Kevin Hardy and safety Darren Woodson (fined by the NFL $75,000 for an illegal hit) were outspoken in their displeasure with the celebration going on in Texas Stadium while they were left to deal with the effects of another loss.
Adding to the problem is the continuing quarterback controversy in Dallas. Former second round pick Quincy Carter has been relegated and rookie Chad Hutchinson has been inserted as the starter. The 6' 5, 237 lb former baseball player was just 12 of 24 for 145 yards and one touchdown against Seattle.
He will be making his first ever road start this Sunday. Hutchinson knows that history is not on his side. "It's just something I have to experience for myself (playing on the road), make the mistakes and learn from it," Hutchinson said.
Doesn't exude much confidence, does it?
Meanwhile, his adversary, Lions' starter Joey Harrington, who is 2-3 in his five starts, has struggled recently against zone blitzing schemes and knows he will have to make quicker, smarter decisions with the football against a tough Dallas defense.
"Their defense is excellent. Every defense has their strengths and it comes down to execution," said Harrington. "Quite frankly we have not executed well throughout the game, we have done it in spurts and it is driving me crazy. Yet, you have to step back and look at where we are and how can we execute through out a whole game with less practice time?"
Harrington is happy to get all of his receivers back this week for the first time all season. "This week of practice, Germane (Crowell) practiced, Bill (Schroeder) practiced for the most part. Mikhael Ricks and John Owens both practiced. I would expect us to execute well. The key against a defense like this, you have to execute. They are fundamentally sound, they are pretty simple, but they just do enough to keep you off balance. They have been blitzing quite a little more as well. You have to execute against this type of defense."
A healthy receiving corps will also make Detroit's running game that much more effective. James Stewart is coming off 172 and 86 performances. Detroit has made a commitment to giving Stewart the ball more in the last few weeks and it has paid off. Stewart and the run game have kept opposing offenses off the field and taken the pressure off Harrington.
ANALYSIS: Detroit should be able to run the ball effectively against Dallas' front seven (8th in NFC against the run allowing 111.8 per game) allowing Joey Harrington to pass in favorable situations. Detroit does not want to have Harrington throwing in 3rd and long against one of the best pass defenses in the league led by safeties Woodson and rookie standout Roy Williams
With a divided Cowboys locker room, many want to see young running back Troy Hambrick become the starter now that Smith has the record; questionable coaching by Dave Campo and a untested rookie making his first road start in an environment as raucous as Ford Field can be, this one has the makings of a rout.
Pick: Detroit 31 - Dallas 14