Game Preview: Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys

As the Seahawks seem to be taking that next step toward being one of the elite teams in the NFC, they face another up-and-coming team this weekend in the Dallas Cowboys who travel to Seattle this weekend in a possible playoff preview at Qwest Field.

What: NFC inter-division battle
When: Sunday, October 23rd, 1:00 p.m. (PST)
Where: Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Weather: 59 degrees, rain showers


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Cowboys Key Players:

QB Drew Bledsoe: After getting run out of Buffalo unceremoniously, Bledsoe was re-united with his former coach in Dallas this past offseason. So far, the switch has been an unqualified success. Bledsoe has completed 63.3% of his passes for 1,663 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has Dan Marino-like mobility, meaning he has none, and that is one of the reasons why his skills seemed to decline the past few seasons. This season, he isn't holding the ball as long as he once did, trusting his underrated wideout corps to get open and to read defenses properly. He's only been sacked 13 times and has been an excellent leader for the young offense.

WR Terry Glenn: Glenn has also resurrected his career and with the head coach and quarterback that saw him become a receiving sensation in New England. Glenn leads the team and the league with a 20.9 yard per catch average. His 29 receptions for 520 and three touchdowns also lead the team. He runs crisp routes, has very good speed and excellent hands. What he lacks is bulk and he can be pushed around by defensive backs. He was kidded as a younger player for not being tough and it remains to be seen whether he can stay healthy for a whole season.

DE DeMarcus Ware: Ware really made a name for himself in the preseason when he recorded a sack, an interception and a fumble caused and recovered in the same quarter of a preseason game against the Hawks this past August. He is a super athlete, very quick and very strong. He leads the Cowboys with four sacks and consistently gets pressure on the quarterback. He plays with a lot of intensity and fires up his teammates with his play.

S Roy Williams: Williams is like a linebacker playing safety. He is huge, runs very well and hits like a ton of bricks when he arrives at the ball-carrier. His only struggles come when he is asked to cover backs and tight ends in space. He lacks good hip-turn and a fluid-backpedal and that can result in big plays. He has 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three passes defensed to go along with his team-leading 33 tackles.

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Key Matchups:

Ware vs. Seahawks RT Sean Locklear: Locklear has improved every week, so much so that the Seahawks have gone away from keeping tight ends and backs in to help him pass-block. He struggles sometimes with speed rushers and Ware is the definition of just that, but he's improved in that area as well. Look for the Hawks to initially "chip" Ware with a back while QB Matt Hasselbeck drops back. If Locklear can hold his own with minimal help, the Seahawks passing offense should be able to have a field day against the weakest part of the Cowboys defense – the secondary.

Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander vs. Cowboys MLB Dat Nguyen: Alexander is playing his best football right now. Aside from San Diego's LaDanian Tomlinson, Alexander is clearly the best running back in the entire NFL. He's running hard, blocking well and scoring at will when the team gets anywhere close to the goal line. Nguyen has been limited by a neck injury, causing him to miss the past two games. When healthy, Nguyen is a quick inside linebacker who runs well, but has trouble when taking on blockers. He will be responsible for not allowing Alexander to get to the second level or get any sort of a rhythm going.

Seahawks secondary vs. Cowboys wide receivers: Wide receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Patrick Crayton, along with Glenn and TE Jason Witten form a talented group that can exploit soft coverages. Witten is an excellent target for Bledsoe and with Johnson working the short zones and Crayton and Glenn running the deep and intermediate routes, the Cowboys can hurt teams in a number of ways. Seahawks cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon, along with FS Marquand Manual, who is replacing the injured Ken Hamlin, and SS Michael Boulware are all talented and are beginning to play better. Trufant and Herndon will likely be the starters as Dyson continues to recover from a hamstring injury, but Dyson will likely be the third corner when the Cowboys go to three and four wide receivers. Boulware will have his hands full against Witten, but he continues to improve in his play in the deep third.

Seahawks DE Bryce Fisher vs. Cowboys LT Torrin Tucker: Pro Bowl LT Flozell Adams was lost for the season last week to a knee injury so the job now falls to Tucker a third-year player. Fisher, who has been solid this season for the Hawks, should be able to get pressure off the edge against the athletically-challenged Tucker. If he struggles, the Hawks could be in trouble. Bledsoe picked the Seahawks apart last year when Buffalo manhandled Seattle at home and he has the weapons to do it again if they don't get some semblance of a pass-rush. If Fisher can wreak havoc early and change the Dallas protection, that could play into the suddenly blitz-happy Seahawks' hands.

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News and Notes: Bledsoe ranks third in the league with 1,663 yards; Cowboy offense ranks seventh overall in the league with 373.2 yards per game; Bledsoe has 232 touchdown passes and needs one to pass Steve Young for 17th on the all-time list; Ware leads all rookies with four sacks and has recorded one in four straight games; Seahawks are number one in the NFL in offensive yards per game (407.2), first downs per game (25.2) and yards per play (6.2); Alexander needs just 55 yards to pass Chris Warren (6,706) for the franchise-record in career rushing-yardage; DT Rocky Bernard's 4.5 sacks ranks second in the league for defensive tackles; Cowboys lead series 6-3, but Seahawks have won 2 of last 3.

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Injuries:

Seattle:
OUT: WR Bobby Engram (ribs); S Ken Hamlin (head); WR Darrell Jackson (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Andre Dyson (hamstring); T Wayne Hunter (hamstring); LB D.D. Lewis (knee)


Dallas:
OUT: T Flozell Adams (knee); WR Patrick Crayton (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Julius Jones (ankle)
PROBABLE: LB Dat Nguyen (neck)


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Prediction: Cowboys 27 – Seahawks 24

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.


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