Matchup: Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys
Date/Time: August 16, 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Spread: Baltimore -1
The Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys couldn’t have had more different results in their preseason openers. The Ravens held the 49ers to three points in a 23-3 victory, while the Cowboys offense struggled mightily in a 27-7 loss to the Chargers. Tony Romo is expected to make his preseason debut for the Cowboys on Saturday following offseason back surgery. Joe Flacco led a touchdown drive for the Ravens in their opener, but he should play more than just one series on Saturday.
The Ravens could also give Keith Wenning his first shot to throw the ball around on Saturday after Tyrod Taylor played the majority of Week 1. Wenning entered for the final series and handed the ball off once before kneeling three times to end the game. Despite his offseason arrest, Ray Rice was welcomed warmly by the home crowd and that won’t be the case in Dallas on Saturday. The 49ers ran only 46 plays, so the Ravens defense should get more of a workout in Week 2. All in all, it was a pretty perfect opener for the Ravens. Kicker Justin Tucker was 3-for-3 on field goals, the defense was in midseason form, and there were no major injuries.
The Cowboys are going to be extremely careful with Tony Romo throughout the preseason. His reps in camp have been limited and most of the throwing has been done by Brandon Weeden. Romo skipped the first preseason game last season and played two series in the second game. There is a bit of concern, however, as the Cowboys have a new offensive coordinator in Scott Linehan and he and Romo need some reps together in game situations. The suspension of Orlando Scandrick may change how the reps go for the defense, since the Cowboys will have to prepare for life without Scandrick for four weeks.
The season is off to a rather inauspicious start for the Cowboys. The defense has the potential to be historically awful, owner Jerry Jones has some off-field distractions, Jason Garrett is firmly on the hot seat, and Romo seems to be progressing rather slowly. Defensive tackle Henry Melton will not play for the Cowboys with a groin injury. The Cowboys are obviously crossing their fingers that it doesn’t linger.
This game will be particularly interesting for the Ravens. They ran for 237 yards on 48 carries against the 49ers and new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak could open things up a little bit more in the passing game for Week 2, especially if Keith Wenning gets some of the playing time that Tyrod Taylor got.
As for the coaches, Jason Garrett is now 7-7 in the preseason. Garrett is 0-3 in Week 2 of the preseason during his tenure with the Cowboys. John Harbaugh continued his trend of winning in the preseason by pushing his record to 16-9. Harbaugh, who improved to 6-1 in Week 1 of the preseason, is 4-2 in Week 2. Four of his nine preseason losses have come in Week 4.
Free NFL Pick: Dallas
Despite the Cowboys’ concerns and the likelihood of Brandon Weeden playing a lot, home teams were 14-2 straight up in Week 1 of the preseason. With opinions pretty sour on the Cowboys for this season, whatever home fans are in attendance should be treated to a show by the coaching staff and it’s certainly a point of emphasis from the front office to look good at home in the preseason. Weeden looked comfortable in this offense in Week 1 and the Cowboys certainly have some talent around him at the skill positions.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.