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Scouting the enemy: Dallas Cowboys

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Can the Denver Broncos come away with a victory on Sunday against one of the NFC’s premier teams in the Dallas Cowboys? Mile High Report’s Christopher Hart gives his breakdown and prediction for the game.

New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys don't meet each other on the gridiron often, but when they do the sparks fly and it's almost always a competitive game. I expect Sunday's game to be a nail-biter and thriller that will have fans roaring at the top of their lungs. ou couldn't ask for a better opponent early on in the season, as the Cowboys will be a significant litmus test to see what kind of team the Broncos will be this season.

It will only be the thirteenth time the two have squared off in the history of the league. The Broncos lead the all-time series 7-5 and have won five consecutive games against the Cowboys, most recently in a 51-48 shootout in 2013. If you like taking a stroll down memory lane, we also can't forget the 2005 Thankgiving affair when Ron Dayne had the game of his life (and earned MVP honors), which helped spark the Broncos to a 24-21 victory in overtime.

But the Cowboys team the Broncos will face in just a few days are far different than those over the past decade. Last season, Dallas had an amazing run, but fell to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoff game 34-31. Their recipe for success is largely determined by the efficacy of their offense, which boasts a tremendous amount of talent that Denver’s players, coaches and fans should be concerned about.

Dallas's offense is spearheaded by a dominant offensive line that has multiple Pro-Bowl players, as well as young gunslinger Dak Prescott and impact running back Ezekiel Elliot. They will provide a big test for a Broncos' defense that remains one of the league's most elite units. On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys' defense isn't much to write home about, but improved over the offseason with several free agent signings and a handful of draft picks to upgrade a secondary that struggled immensely in 2016.

It's going to be one heck of a game on Sunday and a tough battle for the Broncos. If Denver can sneak out of Mile High with a victory against one of the NFC’s elite teams, we may just be witness to a team capable of making a strong run in the playoffs and perhaps one worthy of earning a fourth Lombardi Trophy. Here are my thoughts on the match ups to watch and prediction for the game.

The Match Ups to Watch

Dak Prescott vs. The No Fly Zone

After the first day of the 2016 NFL Draft, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly couldn't sleep after John Elway had outmaneuvered him to acquire Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. Dallas didn't select a quarterback to be the heir apparent to Tony Romo until the draft's third day, when they picked Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State.

A year later, I think it's safe to say Jones is more than happy with how things turned out. Prescott had a memorable rookie campaign earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, as well as a Pro-Bowl nod for his prowess on the field. Meanwhile at Dove Valley, Lynch (who the Broncos traded up for) only saw limited action when Trevor Siemian was out due to injury. With each game that passes, it seems more likely that Lynch will be a catastrophic bust, while Prescott may be one of the next great players at the position.

Dak is no stranger to adversity, but it's safe to say that Sunday's game against the Broncos may be the biggest test of his young NFL career to date. Going up against the vaunted No Fly Zone will be a daunting task for the second-year pro, and the Cowboys' ability to win on Sunday will greatly be determined by how well he does in the passing game.

It's hard to bet against a player like Prescott, but I'm willing to go all-in on the Broncos' defense limiting his game-changing ability and holding him to a modest statistical performance on Sunday.

Von Miller and Shaquil Barrett vs. La'el Collins and Tyron Smith

Though Miller and Barrett scored high grades from PFF for their efforts against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1, they were only able to sack Philip Rivers once in the game. Needless to say, they will need to do better in Week 2 in order to help propel the Broncos to victory over the Cowboys. Putting the heat on Prescott will be paramount, but the two fearsome pass rushers have two big men have a gargantuan challenge ahead of them.

It's no secret that the Cowboys boast one of, if not the best line in the league. Miller and Barrett will have their hands full going up against All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith and promising second-year right tackle La'el Collins. This will be one of the best head-to-head battles in any game going on this weekend, and Broncos Country is certainly hoping for Miller and Barrett to rattle Prescott early and often to fire up the crowd and their teammates at Mile High.

Hart's Prediction

When the 2017 schedule was released, the game against the Cowboys was one of the marquee match-ups fans were looking forward to. Denver and Dallas are two of the NFL's most historic franchises, with exceptional fan bases who are more than willing to go the extra mile to root for their beloved team. At the end of the day, I expect more of a defensive oriented game that’s relatively low scoring, as opposed to a wild shootout like the last time they met.

The Broncos (in particular the No Fly Zone) are 7-2 against quarterbacks under the age of 30. Opposing quarterbacks trying to get off the ground and assault the Broncos’ secondary have a combined passer rating of 58.4, 52.8 completion percentage and only average 153.4 yards a game. Can Dak buck the trend and lead the Cowboys to victory?

Not in my eyes. Broncos win 23-20 in the final moments of the game.