Jason Witten calls Patriots matchup a 'defining' game

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The 2019 Dallas Cowboys have attracted attention and respect as a possible top 10 team in the NFL.

Technically, they're on the edge of the top 10, tied with four other teams at 6-4. And after games like their most recent outing against Detroit, it's hard to deny that they're contenders to some degree.

But Week 12 will bring us a true litmus test, because Week 12 brings the Cowboys to Foxborough for a meeting with the 9-1 New England Patriots.

"There are defining games that happen," veteran Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said, via the Dallas Morning News' Michael Gehlken. "You look at last year's season ... and you beat a good New Orleans team. This is one of those games. There's still a lot of games out there, so I don't think it's make or break. But at the same time, to be able to go on the road and play against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and their team -- they're 9-1 like they are. A great opportunity for us."

The Cowboys are one of the league's most curious cases because they've won the games they're supposed to win, going 5-1 against teams with records below .500. But Dallas has won just one of four meetings with teams at or above .500, a 37-10 victory over NFC East rival Philadelphia, which is 5-5 entering Week 12.

These Patriots just defeated those Eagles 17-10 Sunday in a game that was uglier than it was impressive. This is Dallas' greatest challenge so far.

"They're going to pounce on any mistake you make," Witten said. "They're prepared. They're fundamentally sound. Their in-game adjustments are just at a higher level than anybody else in the league. [Belichick has] done it at that level for so long. And specifically as an offense going [against] him, I think his defense right now, when I watch them on tape, if it's not the best defense he's ever had, it's got to be up there in the top. It's a big challenge for us. So much respect for him. Greatest coach to ever coach in the NFL."

Witten is correct about the Patriots pouncing on any mistake made by the opposition. New England owns a plus-18 turnover differential through 11 weeks, a mark that's twice as good as the next nearest teams (Green Bay and Pittsburgh are tied at plus-nine). The Cowboys, meanwhile, own a minus-one differential.

Dallas has found its way to victory in recent weeks through the air, with quarterback Dak Prescott breaking 390 passing yards in each of the Cowboys' last two games (posting a 1-1 mark in that span). Nineteen of New England's 28 forced turnovers came via interception.

Again, it's a great test. This is Denali for a climber whose greatest conquest was Rainier. We'll see if the Cowboys can make it to the regular-season summit.

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