It certainly doesn't get any easier for Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys. Coming out of their bye week, the Cowboys face their toughest challenge of 2011 as they head to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Week 6.
Dallas will bring a 2-2 record into Sunday's contest. Both of Dallas' losses have been heartbreaking: a Week 1 loss in New Jersey to the Jets and a Week 4 collapse at home to the Detroit Lions. New England, meanwhile, is sitting relatively pretty atop the AFC East at 4-1, tied for first with the surprising Buffalo Bills.
Offensively, the Cowboys are going to need to play a full game in order to hang with the Patriots. Romo, who is usually a strong fourth quarter passer, has faltered in the second half this season. So far in 2011, Romo has thrown for 577 yards and four touchdowns without throwing an interception in the first half of games, good for a 110.7 quarterback rating. The second half, however, has not been as kind. Romo has thrown for 619 yards, three touchdown and five interceptions in the second half of games, which equates to a 72.7 quarterback rating.
Luckily for Romo and Dallas' offense, New England owns the worst pass defense in the NFL, giving up 326.6 yards per game in the air. It is worth noting, though, that New England has only had their top three starting corners, Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling and Leigh Bodden, healthy for just two of their five contests this season. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth also has missed two games for the Patriots, before returning to action on Sunday against the Jets.
Rob Ryan and Dallas' defense will be faced with the tough, if not impossible, task of slowing down Brady and New England's high powered offense. New England's offense has scored 30 or more points in thirteen consecutive games, which is one shy of the St. Louis Rams' NFL record set in 1999-2000, when the Greatest Show on Turf was playing.
There will be no Terrell Owens or Randy Moss in this game, as there was in 2007 when these two teams last met. Dallas, though, will have to shut down a key member of that 2007 Patriots team: Wes Welker. Welker has a league leading 45 receptions so far this year, and averages a staggering 148 yards per game.
It is possible, though, to slow down New England's offense. Each of New England's losses last year came to the Ryan family, as the Jets beat the Patriots twice, and the other loss coming to the Cleveland Browns -- where current Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was last season.
Dallas should have a relatively healthy secondary for the first time this season as well, as Orlando Scandrick declared himself ready to play last week.
The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for Dallas, either. It gave the Cowboys an extra week to prepare for New England, as well as let their banged up team heal and get some much needed rest. Dallas has suffered injuries to basically each skill player on offense, with Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Felix Jones all being hurt to varying degrees.
Dallas will need to play, essentially, a perfect game in Foxboro on Sunday if they want to avoid falling to 2-3 on the season. Brady's regular season home winning streak is up to 30 with New England's latest win, so there is little margin for error when playing in Foxboro.