The undefeated Broncos and their first-year coach, led by a relentless running game and a ball-control offense, host a Cowboys team that could be without Marion Barber and Felix Jones on Sunday.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made the Cowboys -3 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 66% of bets for this game have been placed on the Cowboys -3 (View NFL bet percentages).
McDaniels' tenure with Denver (3-0) got off to a rough start after he alienated Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler and eventually traded him to Chicago for Kyle Orton. He then suspended Brandon Marshall in the preseason after the Pro Bowl receiver acted out because his trade demand wasn't granted.
With Orton, though, McDaniels has the perfect quarterback to run an offense that is loaded with talent at running back after signing Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan as free agents and drafting Knowshon Moreno in the first round.
The Broncos are fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 484, helping them become perhaps the most surprising of the seven remaining undefeated teams.
Orton threw a touchdown pass to Marshall, Buckhalter ran for 108 yards and Moreno added 90 and a touchdown in a 23-3 win over Oakland last Sunday.
"What we have, how we've practiced, what we've assembled here and the way we go about our business has never changed. And we feel good about that," McDaniels said. "We've always had confidence regardless of anybody else's opinion."
Orton has done an excellent job of managing games, throwing away passes when he's under pressure and checking into running plays when the defense's alignment dictates. He has not thrown an interception in three games, while Cutler made more big plays last season but was picked off 18 times.
Most importantly, Orton has a strong defense and running game to take the pressure off.
Dallas (2-1) has an NFL-best 581 yards rushing, but it enters this contest with uncertainty in the backfield.
Barber missed the Cowboys' 21-7 win over Carolina on Monday night due to a strained left thigh and Jones suffered a sprained ligament in his left knee in that contest.
Tashard Choice, who had 82 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries versus the Panthers, will start if both Barber and Jones sit out.
Barber was close to being ready to play Monday, but the medical staff decided to give him another week of rest.
Jones played well in his place, gaining 94 yards on eight attempts. That performance included a 40-yarder on his final carry when he likely was hurt already.
Jones is talented but injury-prone. He hurt a thigh in the season opener and was limited to six games in 2008 as a rookie due to hamstring and to problems.
"It's yet to be determined how long or if he will be out very long," Dallas coach Wade Phillips said. "It could get well quickly."
The Cowboys will be facing a Broncos defense that is allowing a league-low 5.3 points per game, coming together with eight new starters faster than McDaniels expected.
"I don't think you anticipate only giving up one touchdown in 180 minutes of football," he said. "But we thought we had a chance to be a pretty good defense, physical up front, good secondary, tackled fairly well here in the first three weeks of the season."
Denver held Oakland to 42 yards passing and has not given up 100 yards on the ground in any of its three games.
Dallas, meanwhile, had a strong effort defensively against Carolina after giving up a total of 54 points while failing to register a sack or force a turnover in its first two contests.
"You know, we do have five new starters on defense," Phillips said. "I really do think they're starting to be comfortable with where everybody is. We have the coverages, we have the fronts, we have all those things, but I think everyone is getting a better feel for what we're doing and where we are."
Dallas had three sacks against Carolina and Terence Newman returned an interception 27 yards for a TD for one of the Cowboys' three takeaways. Dallas' low sack totals had been particularly puzzling because it led the NFL in that category last season.
Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware doesn't have a sack after leading the NFL with 20 in 2008.
This will be Ware's first matchup against the Broncos since 2005, his rookie season. Denver won that contest 24-21 on the road on Nov. 24.
Posted: 9/30/09 10:27PM ET