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Looking Beyond Dez Bryant vs. Calvin Johnson

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Lions fans hope Calvin Johnson won't need to beat triple coverage to pull out a win against Dallas. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.
Lions fans hope Calvin Johnson won't need to beat triple coverage to pull out a win against Dallas. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

Depending on the outcomes of Sunday’s games, the Lions could enter their bye week solely atop the NFC North, or sit as low as third place. It all rests on how well the Lions can play a team eerily similar to themselves.

Most looks into the Cowboys-Lions game have highlighted the matchup of Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant against Calvin Johnson—and for good reason. Bryant and Johnson both sit in the top 20 in receiving yards and yards per game, are both tied for third in touchdowns (six), and both have the potential to change a game with one play. However, these two teams are so much more even than their top receiving threats suggest. Take a look at these numbers from the key players on each offense:

Tony Romo: 2,010 yards, 15 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 101.6 rating.

Matthew Stafford: 2,129 yards, 15 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 95.3 rating.

DeMarco Murray: 91 carries, 428 yards, 4.7 yards per rush, 3 touchdowns.

Reggie Bush: 98 carries, 426 yards, 4.3 yards per rush, 1 touchdown (2 receiving).

Dez Bryant: 42 receptions, 569 yards, 6 touchdowns.

Calvin Johnson: 33 receptions, 492 yards, 6 touchdowns.

That’s not all the similarities, either. Both teams have at least four players with more than 20 receptions, and boast at least two players with over 300 receiving yards through seven games.

Oh, and both teams enter play on Sunday at 4-3, and in the playoff hunt. Of course, that will surely change on Sunday—one team will likely win—the question is, how?

The biggest differences between the Cowboys and Lions rest on two players: Joique Bell and DeMarcus Ware. While DeMarco Murray is the only Dallas running back with over 100 yards on the ground, Bell has accumulated 204, along with three touchdowns. What this means for the Lions is that they have the ability to switch up their ground game and change the pace of the offense. Bell also ranks second on the Lions team with 26 receptions, and third in yards—Dallas has no match for a second running back like Bell.

Not only will the Cowboys be unable to match the depth of the Lions offense, but also their defense may not be able to stop Stafford & Co. altogether. The aforementioned Ware, who in nine seasons has the most sacks in Cowboys franchise history, will likely miss his second consecutive game due to a torn quadriceps. The Lions will still have their hands full containing George Selvie and Jason Hatcher, but not having to deal with Ware is a huge plus for an offensive line that has allowed just one sack at home all season.

If the A.J. Green-Megatron matchup was any indication for this week, it should be fun watching Bryant and Johnson do their things. Chris Houston and Brandon Carr will certainly have their hands full on Sunday stopping two of the best receivers in the league. Just be sure to pay attention to the rest of the game—one play could be the difference between these two similar offenses.

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And let us not forget the most important development of the week—Louis Delmas’ pet alligator. Unfortunately for Delmas, five-year-old Mojo was removed from his home to go to a more alligator-friendly environment, per the request of new roommate Kevin Ogletree. Losing pets is always difficult, so I offer all the best in replacing the love that Mojo surely offered.