He said / she said: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

The Hit Job editors Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath preview the week eight matchup between the Seattle Seahawks (3–4) and the Dallas Cowboys (2–4).

When: 1:25 p.m. PT Sunday, Nov. 1 Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Rogers: The Seahawks have managed to cobble together three wins against losing teams. Having recently throttled the hapless San Francisco 49ers a week ago in Santa Clara, they now get their second road game in a row against another befuddled opponent. After losing quarterback Tony Romo (clavicle) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (foot) in week two, the Cowboys have dropped four straight games, with markedly poor quarterback play largely at fault.

Jess, are the Cowboys just another patsy, destined to help the Seahawks improve their record, or do they represent a stiffer test than the other sub .500 teams the Seahawks already dispatched?

Ridpath: Before I answer your question, let’s talk about the word “patsy.” I don’t think I’ve heard anyone use it since the “Happy Days” episodes I watched as a kid. Fortunately, I trust our younger readers will simply ask Google — or their grandparents — if they need a definition.

Moving on: In their current state, the Cowboys are vulnerable, sure. But I see them as marginally better equipped than the three lackluster teams who’ve fallen to the Seahawks this year. Plus, unlike two of those three teams, Dallas will be playing at home — which gives them a distinct advantage over a Seattle team that has only managed one on-the-road victory since December 21, 2014. (And, really, we can hardly count last week as a true victory because the 49ers were just so … bad.)

For Dallas to snap their losing streak this week, three things would have to happen:

1. They’d have to win the turnover battle. With the exception of their 30–6 defeat at the hands of the Patriots, the Cowboys’ losses have been relatively close games — and turnovers have been a key differentiator (12 lost to 3 gained overall … and all 3 of those came in one game). That means Matt Cassel will have to quickly bounce back from the three interceptions he gifted the Giants last week.

2. Running back Darren McFadden would have to have another 100+ yard game — something he’s only done once since the 2013 season (152 yards on 29 carries last week).

3. Their rush defense, currently ranked 20th in the league, would have to ramp it up a notch (or several) to slow down Seattle’s high-powered run game. The Cowboys’ best hope may be outside linebacker and monster tackler Sean Lee, who earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week accolades in week two by logging 14 tackles and an interception.

Facing a still-inconsistent-but-improving Seattle team, I think the likelihood of the Cowboys achieving each feat individually is about 50/50. Taken collectively, the chances of success are far slimmer.

Okay, Julian, your turn. Since I know how much you love playing the Seahawks optimist, tell me the three things Seattle would have to achieve to secure their second road win of the season. And please try to use more modern vernacular in your response.

Rogers: What does “vernacular” mean? Is there an herbal treatment for that or do you need a prescription? Or perhaps you heard that at your moss-covered co-op — it does smell a little Olympian. I didn’t know the Greeners still dipped $2 words in patchouli.

But since you asked, I’m going to be totes trill and give you three ways the Seahawks can come back to Seattle with a .500 record.

1. Make sure Michael Bennett gets on the team plane. As the reigning NFC defensive player of the week, having nabbed 3.5 sacks against the sad sacks of the Bay Area, Bennett is the Seahawks’ most disruptive force. Getting him in the game against the Cowboys’ struggling quarterbacks is a matchup advantage the blue birds must exploit. He now is tied for the league lead in sacks (6.5) and faces off against a team featuring its third quarterback in six games. If he does not add to his sack total, the Seahawks will be in trouble. Someone should also check on Cliff Avril too (1.5 sacks last week), to make sure he’s resting comfortably on the flight down.

2. Stay lucky. The blue birds need to take advantage of the wounded duck that is the Cowboys. The 2015 version is currently nothing like the team that beat the Seahawks at home just one year ago. The Cowboys may be getting Dez back, but their home record of 1 –2 (including the week one gift win from the New York Giants) reveals a team in a death spiral. They say it’s not who you play but when you play them. The Seahawks could not have come across the Cowboys at a better time than while they’re in a four-game, quarterbackless losing streak. They profess confidence. They’re lying.

3. Block for the Beast. Believe it or not, but the Seahawks’ much-maligned offensive line (I’m looking at you, Jess. And me. And everyone with eyes.) actually improved its run-blocking last week against Santa Clara Junior College. According to ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia, Lynch averaged 3.07 yards before contact against the 49ers, compared to the first six weeks when he averaged just 1.18 yards before contact. That’s a huge swing.

It’s easy to look at the quarterback comparison alone and conclude the Cowboys are at a huge disadvantage, but they did generate an impressive run game last week and they may just have their ace back. Jess, if you’ve finished picking the kale out of your teeth, can you tell me how much of a factor Dez Bryant will be? I wonder how effective he can be coming off the injury and without his preferred quarterback.

Ridpath: “Totes trill”? Did you have to put on your skinny jeans to come up with that one? (And if so, I want to see the photo.)

Even if Bryant is eager for action at game time, I don’t expect he’ll be a big factor this week. As a mom (and a human being), I feel strongly that he shouldn’t be put in that position. This talented player deserves a long, illustrious career. Pushing him into action too early not only jeopardizes his livelihood and his dreams, it also threatens the Cowboys’ long-term prospects. I absolutely agree with Michael Irvin when he says it’s too great a risk to hurry Bryant’s return.

Speaking of injuries, upstart running back Thomas Rawls is questionable due to a calf injury he sustained against the 49ers. Julian, what do you make of Pete Carroll activating four-year veteran Bryce Brown earlier this week? It seems the running-back-by-committee idea may really be catching on in Seattle.

Rogers: It’s funny how only the running backs that have previously spent time in Buffalo (Lynch, Fred Jackson, Brown) are getting the nod these days over the never-been-a-Bill Rawls. Conspiracy? I’ll let you be the judge.

Seriously, activating Brown isn’t a good sign. It means Rawls will likely be on the shelf. They wouldn’t rush Brown in like they did if they thought Rawls had a good chance of suiting up. It is curious, however. Jackson is not performing like “just a guy” at this stage of his career (ninth season). He’s presently averaging an impressive 4.9 yards per carry as a Seahawk.

Still, it’s Rawls is who the Seahawks expect to actually tote the rock in relief of Lynch, who has been more than a little unreliable in his availability this season. With Jackson resurgent, it’s a big move to cut utility player B.J. Daniels for a fourth running back. Unless … Rawls could be out for an extended time.

Jess, I’m going with the chalk on this one, which favors Seattle as six-point favorites on the road in Dallas. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of the Seahawks yet. I also disagree with you about Bryant. I think if he’s healthy enough to play, he’ll be a big factor, but not enough to win. The Seahawks will need to take another step forward in order to beat the Cowboys, but I think they will. Prediction: Seahawks 23, Cowboys 17.

Ridpath: I agree that Seattle is primed to continue their forward progress, and that facing Dallas this week greases the skids. I hesitate to make any predictions about the Hawks rushing attack — since there are so many unknowns at play. But I do think it’s safe to say the defense will dominate the shaky Cowboys quarterback and add to their opponents’ turnover woes. Prediction: Seahawks 27, Cowboys 13.

Owning up
Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.

What he got right: I said I didn’t think Colin Kaepernick would continue his upward career trajectory against the Seahawks. I’ve never been more right in my life. I hinted that the 49ers defense was deserving of respect. They did sack Wilson five times and picked him off twice.

What he got wrong: The game winner, for starters. I’m 4–3 on the season. I believed the 49ers were a team that had turned the corner. Wrong.

What she got right: The game winner, finally bringing me even with my esteemed colleague at 4–3 on the season. I was also correct in steering well clear of the “Kaep-is-back” bandwagon.

What she got wrong: I predicted Kaepernick would have a bad game. I was wrong. He had a horrible game. I also expected we’d see another impressive week from Jimmy Graham. But the tall tight end nabbed only two catches for 31 yards.

Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath

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