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Scouting the Matchups: Patriots are peaking offensively

Patriots Football Weekly's Paul Perillo shares his matchup predictions heading into Week 5 vs. the Dallas Cowboys.


As helpless as Dallas has looked defensively at times this season, the front seven has been fairly stout against the run, allowing an average of 91.8 rushing yards per game. A lot of that has to do with the score in some of those games. The Falcons, for example, ditched the run in order to rally from behind to beat Dallas in Week 3. The Patriots aren't likely to trail by multiple touchdowns in this game, not with Brandon Weeden at the helm for Dallas, so chances are they'll be able to mix in the run with the pass the way they did so effortlessly against Jacksonville. With Dion Lewis weaving his way through traffic and LeGarrette Blount as the finisher at the goal line, the Patriots are suddenly peaking offensively. advantage: PATRIOTS



At some point, Joseph Randle will have his share of big games as the lead back Dallas anticipated he'd be when it let DeMarco Murray walk during the offseason. Most of the Cowboys production in the run game will hinge on the performance of their offensive line, led by studs Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, plus the production of backup Darren McFadden. As great as they've been through three weeks, the Patriots have been surprisingly mediocre against the run, which wasn't expected with the return of Jerod Mayo, who has since been relegated to a situational role. Weeden's presence should help the Patriots efforts to stack the front to stop the run, but this is almost a pick-'em matchup pitting the dominant Dallas offensive line against New England's stout front seven. Go with Dallas by a nose. advantage: COWBOYS



There's no one hotter than Tom Brady, who led the league in passing yards through three weeks before he enjoyed his bye week and has thrown nine touchdown passes without an interception. The dependability of Julian Edelman in the slot and the explosiveness of tight end Rob Gronkowski present matchup problems for every defense, especially erratic defenses with question marks in the secondary. Dallas may also be missing versatile athletic linebacker Sean Lee, who left last week's game with a concussion. The Cowboys have been picked apart at times, most notably in Week 3 when Matt Ryan tore them to shreds in the second half of a come-from-behind win. The Patriots have too many weapons for Dallas to cover, and it's difficult to fathom what kind of game plan they'll come up with after the bye week. Expect another big game for Brady. advantage: PATRIOTS



New England's embattled secondary still has some questions to answer. We still don't know who will stick as the full-time starter opposite Malcolm Butler, nor do we even know if Butler will hold up for an entire season. The Cowboys, however, don't have the horses (no pun intended) to put stress on this defensive backfield. They lost Tony Romo to a broken clavicle in Week 2 and have been without deep threat Dez Bryant all season. Weeden is now the starting quarterback, and his most reliable weapon is tight end Jason Witten. He's capable of shredding any defense, but it'll be difficult if the Patriots try to take him out of the game early, which only makes sense considering Dallas has no one else to throw to. advantage: PATRIOTS



These are two teams with reliable kickers, Stephen Gostkowski for New England and Dan Bailey for Dallas. Gostkowski now owns the NFL record with 425 consecutive extra points without a miss and has been perfect on field goals, same for Bailey, who has only attempted one field goal longer than 30 yards. The battle-tested Gostkowski might be the most dependable kicker in the league, a quiet weapon who has gone unnoticed at times due to the production of the offense. The return game is always up for grabs but the presence of special teams ace Matthew Slater for New England can be a game-changer, as it was against Jacksonville when he sniffed out a fake punt. advantage: PATRIOTS



This was supposed to be a marquee matchup when schedules were announced earlier this year, but few could anticipate both wide receiver Bryant and quarterback Romo out of the lineup with injuries. The banged-up Cowboys have home-field advantage on their side, but they'll be limited offensively with Weeden. The Patriots have won in Dallas before, most notably during their perfect season in 2007 in another highly anticipated showdown aganst the Cowboys, who were also unbeaten at the time. New England will be refreshed coming off the bye, even if it seems a bit early, and head coach Bill Belichick will have had nearly two full weeks to prepare for what Dallas is doing without Romo in the lineup. advantage: PATRIOTS

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