Friday, October 30, 2009

Game 8 Keys to Victory

This is another one of those games that can easily become a dogfight if the Cowboys allow it to happen. On the flip side, if the Cowboys play up to the level of their ability it should be a blowout. There is really no telling at this point which version of the 2009 Dallas Cowboys will show up this week. We've seen the impressive, dominant version in one game and a pretty disorganized, sloppy team in the rest of the games. If the Cowboys really expect to be a team who can make a run deep into the playoffs then games like the one on Sunday should be no trouble. It would be nice to see them dominate a clearly inferior team from start to finish for once. Here is what I think the Cowboys need to do to win the game:

1. Show up. I mean that literally and figuratively. Just stepping on the field gives them the edge in this game. But the Cowboys need to be there mentally as well. If they can come out focused and energized they should be able to jump out early and extend the lead from that point on.

2. Improve this week. In games like this it is important to come out with a purpose. Although the Seahawks do have enough talent to pull off the upset I think everyone realizes that the Cowboys will win if they play decent football. So the goals need to be higher than just winning. The team should be focusing on playing better football every week. This game should be no exception.

3. Take advantage of the weak offensive line of the Seahawks. The Cowboys should have a field day getting after Matt Hasslebeck, but they will have to force the Seahawks into obvious passing situations to expose the weakness. That means that they need to keep Julius Jones and the rest of the backs for Seattle bottled up. We have all seen first hand that Julius is capable of a big day, so they need to stop him early before he gets into a rhythm. If the Cowboys shut down the run they should put up an impressive sack total for the game.

4. Get the lead early and then grind it out. I would like to see the Dallas offense come out firing and establish a big lead before settling down to grind out the clock with the running game. It has been a few games since the running game has looked dominant and this is just the type of game they need to work out the kinks.

I have a great feeling going into this game. The players seem focused and I haven't heard mention from any coach or player about anything beyond the game Sunday. That is a good sign. The Cowboys should dominate and get the crowd heading home early. I predict a 34-13 victory for the Cowboys.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cowboys Need to Keep the Ball Rolling

Now that the Cowboys seem to be finally getting a little bit of momentum it is imperative that they continue to win games against inferior opponents. A couple of weeks ago the Cowboys were staring disaster in the face as they tried to overcome the Kansas City Chiefs. The dramatic overtime victory may have finally given the Cowboys the shot in the arm they needed. After winning back to back games they Cowboys have a real shot to re-establish themselves as a real contender in the NFC.

The last thing any of us want to see is the Cowboys playing down to the level of the competition. It has been a long time since they went out and completely dominated an opponent from start to finish. The game Sunday against the Seahawks is a golden opportunity for the Cowboys to show that they can impose their will. I don't want to see the Cowboys bumbling around turning the ball over and making dumb penalties.

The Cowboys can't look past Seattle or they will find themselves in a dogfight. I'm not sure what the vibe is in the locker room this week but I hope they are going to keep "grinding" as Tony Romo keeps saying this year. Maybe the Falcons game was the start of something special, but time will tell. The only way the Cowboys are going to establish some real momentum heading into the tough part of the schedule is by dominating the Seahawks.

I'm a little worried because everything heading into the game seems to favor the Cowboys. The Cowboys have home field advantage. The Seahawks offensive line is a mess thanks to injuries. The Seahawks #1 cornerback is iffy heading into the game. The Cowboys are essentially at full health. All of those advantages don't mean anything if the Cowboys don't come out with the fire they did in the Falcons game. I hope they keep themselves motivated because I don't have any faith that Wade Phillips will force them to keep grinding during practice. Keith Brooking, Jason Witten, Tony Romo and the rest of the leaders need to make sure the team is working hard heading into the game. If they focus this week then I have no doubt that the Cowboys will win handily on Sunday.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Over Two Weeks of Good Vibes Continue

As if the game yesterday wasn't enough to get you feeling really good about the Dallas Cowboys for the first time all year, Demarcus Ware's deal today capped off what has been an enjoyable 15 days. I know I have to remind myself once in a while to enjoy the good moments because there will be bad times down the road and I take the losses harder than I enjoy the wins. I'm sure a lot of the fans have the same problem that I do. Don't forget to relish the big victories like the one yesterday. Those are the moments that make it fun to be a fan. Here is a brief recap of what has transpired over the last 15 days.

1. It started with a breakout performance by Miles Austin in a dramatic overtime victory that may have saved the season. Miles Austin only got the start because Roy Williams couldn't play with his rib injury. All Austin did was put up 10 receptions for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns including the dramatic game winner in overtime.

2. The Cowboys played an awful game but managed to pull out a victory against the hapless Chiefs thanks to great play by Miles Austin, a good performance by Tony Romo, and a timely special teams play (blocked field goal).

3. During the bye week the Cowboys got to watch the entire NFC East come back to them as the Giants, Eagles and Redskins all lost.

4. During practice in the week leading up to the Falcons game, the Cowboys got Roy Williams, Felix Jones, and Gerald Sensabaugh all back on the practice field.

5. Leading up to the game most of the "experts" believed that the Cowboys wouldn't be able to defeat a team of the caliber of the Falcons. We got to hear how good the Falcons were and what a mess the Cowboys were. That seemed to just add fuel to the fire of the Cowboys.

6. The Cowboys started slow but overwhelmed the Falcons in every phase of the game from the second quarter until the end of the game. Miles Austin put up another great performance and Tony Romo played very good for the second game in a row. The defense was flat out dominating for the majority of the game. They sacked Matt Ryan 4 times after he had only been sacked 2 times all year coming into the game. The defense tackled very well and put some tremendous hits on the Falcons receivers and even forced three turnovers. Tony Romo had all day to survey the field thanks to great play by the offensive line. I loved how Patrick Crayton redeemed himself with a touchdown reception and a punt return for a score.

7. In what may have been the play of the year so far, Tony Romo pulled a Houdini act and escaped two defenders to throw a touchdown pass just before the half to give the Cowboys some separation from the Falcons. It was the type of play that makes you love Romo. Not many guys in the NFL could have made that play.

8. Last night the Arizona Cardinals pulled off an upset of the Giants to put the Cowboys right back in the thick of the NFC East race. It is probably going to be a tough fight between the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys down the stretch for the NFC East title.

9. And now we get the news today that Demarcus Ware finally got his long term deal ironed out with Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. He is signed through 2015 so we are guaranteed to have one of the top defensive players in the NFL for many years to come. Ware is the type of guy who deserves to make big money because he is a not only a great player, but an even better person. It makes me happy to see guys like that on my team.

Isn't it crazy that the Cowboys have possibly discovered a franchise receiver in Miles Austin after unearthing Tony Romo as an undrafted free agent? Say what you want about Jerry Jones and his meddling, but the Cowboys are continuing to discover and develop talent through the draft and rookie free agency.

So where do the Cowboys go from here? We have to hope the team stays focused and doesn't take the Seahawks lightly. A good outing could give the Cowboys a three game winning streak and some real momentum heading into a big Sunday night matchup with the Eagles. The penalties still need to be reduced. But if the Cowboys can play good offense, defense and special teams then they can beat any team in the league.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Game 7 Keys to Victory

After a bye week to prepare it looks like the Cowboys have reached a crossroads. Beat the Atlanta Falcons and they will appear to be a playoff contender. Lose to another winning team and it would seem that the Cowboys will be toiling in mediocrity all season long. I still believe the Cowboys have the talent to play with anyone in the league. They just need to get out of their own way so they can start winning against the top teams. Here is what I think they need to do to beat the Falcons.

1. Slow down Tony Gonzales. I didn't say stop Gonzales because I don't think that is possible. But the defense can focus on him to force Matt Ryan to beat the defense with his wide receivers. That doesn't spell success since the pass defense hasn't been the best, but at least Matt Ryan would be forced to hold the ball longer to allow his receivers to work down the field on deeper routes. That could help the pass rush get to Matt Ryan. He has only been sacked twice all year because he doesn't hold the ball. the coverage will have to force him to second and third reads on pass plays.

2. Don't give up any big plays to Michael Turner. If you can keep Turner contained he won't hurt you. But let him get past the first line of defense and he is likely to take the ball all the way to the endzone. The front seven can't make any mistakes playing the run.

3. Give Tony Romo time to run the offense. Romo looked good against the Chiefs throwing the ball and may be back on track in terms of accuracy and confidence. He'll need time to get the ball to Roy Williams and Miles Austin since the defenses will be focusing on stopping Jason Witten.

4. Keep the defense honest with Felix Jones. Defenses have to play the Cowboys differently when Felix Jones is on the field. He may not be 100% but no one really knows what he can do until he gets out there during the game. I think he needs to be on the field as much as possible even if the play doesn't go to him just to keep the defense worrying about the threat of his speed.

5. Play a clean game. We are entering game 6 and we still haven't seen the Cowboys put together a complete game. They'll need to cut down on dumb penalties, turnovers, and bad play calls to win this game.

I really feel like the Cowboys are going to break out in this game. They have a tendency to play to the level of the competition so we can probably expect a close game. The difference is going to be whether the Cowboys can score in the red zone and stop the Falcons in their two minute offense. I believe the Cowboys will put together their best game of the season and win 30-21.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time for a Quality Win

I'd like to believe the Cowboys have figured a few things out over the last few weeks. They have had two weeks to prepare for a team that is young but very talented. The Cowboys have three wins but they have all come against teams that aren't exactly spectacular. They had a real chance to beat the Giants and the Broncos but they didn't get the job done down the stretch. If the Cowboys really want to be a playoff contender then they are going to have to beat some quality teams this year. They need to start this week.

Winning would not only prove that the Cowboys are capable of beating playoff-caliber teams, but it would also establish the first winning streak of the season. So far they have alternated wins and losses over the first five games. I mentioned before the Chiefs game that this stretch of games would give them a great opportunity to rip off three or four wins in a row. That can only happen with a quality win in the game on Sunday.

Tony Romo tends to play well in these types of regular season games. The Cowboys are over due for a good game across the board. I mean good play on offense, defense and special teams all in one game. They should have basically their full complement of players for the Atlanta game. Felix Jones should be back with a knee brace, Gerald Sensabaugh will play with a cast, Marion Barber will have a cast on his newly discovered broken thumb, and Roy Williams should be close to 100%. A lot of these guys are playing injured but having the starters at 80-90% is better than some of the backups getting steamrolled.

I don't think any of us know what to expect any more from this year's team. But if they are ever going to make a legitimate run into the playoffs then they are going to have to start putting together some quality wins. This week is as good as any for them to put everything together.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Can the Cowboys Say "Bye" to Stupid Mistakes?

That is the million dollar question at this point in the season. If the Dallas Cowboys can stop doing things to kill themselves it would appear that they have the talent on both sides of the ball to compete with any team in the NFL. I'm not entirely certain that they can correct all of their problems but I have to believe that they can improve. The glaring problems to me right now are penalties, turnovers, bad tackling, and questionable coaching decisions. That is a long list to have only 5 games into the season.

Penalties are correctable to a certain extent. Last week the offsides penalties were pretty ridiculous. I mentioned early in the game that the Cowboys appeared to be lining up offside, but apparently the coaches didn't see the problem or at least did nothing to correct it. For some reason the coaches for the Cowboys don't seem to react quickly during the game to problems like this one. I'm starting to be convinced that the other penalties are becoming a reputation thing. I think some officials go into the games thinking the Cowboys are a highly penalized team and are quick on the draw with the penalty flags. The only way to change the reputation is to start playing clean. That is only going to change if the players and coaches make it a priority.

Turnovers were a focus all offseason. Tony Romo worked to eliminate the boneheaded turnovers that have become a regular part of his game over the last few years. For the most part he has been better with the exception of the Giants game. The bigger problem to me is the fact that the Cowboys still have a negative turnover ratio. The Cowboys need to take away more turnovers than they give away. The defense just doesn't force a lot of turnovers. I think the secondary just doesn't have the type of playmakers to get a lot of interceptions. The pass rush will have to force more bad throws or the turnovers aren't going to improve.

Tackling has been a problem for the Cowboys for several years now. I don't know what the problem is but it seems to be nearly everyone in the secondary. Somewhere along the line the players in the secondary have decided that throwing a shoulder into the ball carrier is better than wrapping up. It is a correctable problem, but I'm not sure that the coaches are making it a priority. The only guys who seem to tackle well in the secondary are Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh. I'm not sure if tackling is ever going to get better.

The questionable coaching decisions are the easiest to fix. I'm mostly talking about the play calls by Jason Garrett in critical situations. The Cowboys started the season with a good red zone offense but it has been bad lately. I'd like to see Jason Garrett stop making the cute play calls in critical situations and get back to fundamentals in the big moments. I'd like to believe that the bye week will allow Garrett to take a step back to look at the bigger picture and realize what has gone wrong. I think the Cowboys will improve in this regard in the upcoming weeks.

Overall, there are certainly a lot of problems. Can they all be fixed? That remains to be seen. There is enough talent to overcome some bad plays, but the Cowboys can't constantly put themselves in bad situations or they are going to be sitting at home watching the playoffs. I think they know that and they are working to fix it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Food for Thought

Quick, name the team you think has the #1 offense in football. Is it the Saints? Nope. The Giants? No. Then it has to be the Colts, right? No again. Believe it or not, the Cowboys have the #1 offense in the NFL. The Cowboys are currently leading the entire NFL with 420.4 total yards of offense per game. I heard mention of the stat yesterday and I still can't believe my eyes.

We've seen the Cowboys trip all over themselves while trying to move the ball down the field. And at times they have almost seemed inept. But amazingly they are at the top of the list in total yardage. And they managed to pull it off while playing the NFL's #1 and #2 defense over the course of the first five weeks of the season. Ok, so Carolina is mediocre (#15) and Kansas City and Tampa Bay are flat out terrible. They are ranked 28th and 32nd, respectively. But don't be fooled. The Cowboys put up 462 yards against the Giants, the league's #1 defense. And they managed 315 yards against the Broncos, the league's #2 defense. Denver's average yards allowed is 253 per game.

So what does that really mean? Well, a lot of things. First and foremost, it tells me that maybe the negativity surrounding the Cowboys is a little over the top. But it also means that they could be an amazing offensive group if they could quit committing dumb penalties and Jason Garrett could stop outsmarting himself at crucial moments. The offense obviously has the talent and ability to put up big yardage and point totals if they can clean up their act. But so far we have no indications that things will change any time soon.

But at least there is something to hang your hat on if you are looking for hope. We all know the offense can move the ball against anyone. The defense has improved week to week, but they still can't close the door at the end of games. Special teams play has gone from horrible last season to probably slightly above average this year.

So all of the Romo haters need to take note of the fact that as average as he has seemed so far this season, he is leading the top offense in the NFL. So that must mean he is doing something right. Sure, he still needs to improve his ball protection and accuracy, but things are not even close to as bad as ESPN and other media outlets would have you believe. Isn't it interesting that we don't hear the fact that the Cowboys are the #1 offense in the NFL anywhere in the media?

I guess when Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Roy Williams all talk about how good the offense could be if they could stop killing themselves they aren't just fooling themselves. So, can Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett find a way to stop the brutal, drive killing/extending penalties? I don't know but if they do the Cowboys could be a good team. Can the Cowboys improve their turnover ratio (it is currently -4)? That stat says a lot to me. The top teams all have a positive turnover ratio while the Cowboys are terrible in the category.

The story here is that there is actually hope even though it might seem that the Cowboys are a complete mess. They are, there is no denying that fact. But the offense is good enough to keep the Cowboys in any game. The fact that both losses came on the last play of the game is proof of that. We all need to hope that the bye week allows the Cowboys to reassess their play and eliminate the ridiculous play calls, careless mistakes and penalties that are killing them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Season Saved...At Least for Now

Wow! It sure was nice to be on the winning end of one of those last second finishes for a change. I know the Cowboys played terrible for most of the game with penalties and turnovers, but a loss would have been devastating. Imagine how bad the next two weeks would have been sitting on a loss to the Chiefs. Instead we get to replay the finish over and over and over. Sure, it was only the Chiefs but like I've been saying recently, winning is a habit. Winning close games is mandatory if you are going to be a good NFL team. Maybe this win can help the Cowboys regain their belief that they'll win the close games down the stretch.

What went right: Tony Romo played an excellent game no matter how you slice it. He was accurate all day long after playing horribly last week. Miles Austin was a freak. I was actually thinking that the Cowboys should consider benching Austin after his miscues last week, but he bounced back in a way that no one could have predicted. Jay Ratliff blocked a field goal late in the game that would have given the Chiefs a three point lead. Demarcus Ware finally got going in the sack department with two sacks of Matt Cassell. Keith Brooking has emerged as the vocal leader of the defense.

What went wrong: Were do I start? How about the penalties? Four offsides penalties on one drive. That is just ridiculous. And does Wade get fired up as things are crumbling around him? Of course not. He just stands there and mutters to himself instead of taking control of the situation. Wade is going to have to be gone after this season. Patrick Crayton should be moved to the #3 receiver after the play of Austin and his own terrible play. Crayton is a better slot receiver anyway. Crayton has been driving me crazy for years with the way he casually fields punts. It finally bit him today. The defense could have ended the game in regulation but allowed another late game drive. Newman could have ended it if he had been able to hold on to a near interception early in the drive.

The good news is that Roy Williams, Felix Jones, and probably Gerald Sensabaugh will be back after the bye week. But the Cowboys better clean up their act over the next few weeks or they aren't going anywhere this season. The win gives them a chance to regain some confidence and start to build a winning streak that could get them rolling. I know this was ugly but you have to take any win you can get. The only difference between this game and the Rams game last year was the fact that Tony Romo was there to save the day this time. Criticize him if you want, but the Cowboys will only go as far as he takes them.

One last thing. What if the Chiefs had gone for two at the end of the game? Do the Cowboys stop them? I don't even want to think about that scenario.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Week 5 Keys to Victory

This a must win game. You can try to justify that a loss doesn't end the season, and maybe it doesn't. But it will prove that the 2009 Dallas Cowboys just aren't good enough to compete with the best teams in the league. The Cowboys need to win and win big. Injuries are going to play a role in the game since the Cowboys are probably down at least two starters. Injuries are starting to mount but the Cowboys have still dodged any major season enders so far.


Marion Barber (quad) - will play this week and is close to 100%. Andre Gurode (knee) - practiced the last two days and it looks like he'll be ready to go. Gerald Sensabaugh (thumb) -had surgery this week and is most likely out for the game so Patrick Watkins probably starts in his spot. Felix Jones (knee) - tested his knee out this week but is doubtful for this game. Roy Williams - has not practiced all week but still could play if Wade Phillips decides to let him travel with the team, Austin will start if he is out.

Keys to winning

1. Don't let Larry Johnson get going. Larry Johnson has been a shell of his former self so far this season. The only way the Chiefs are going to win is if he gets back on track. I don't think the Cowboys will forget about him since Johnson is one of Kansas City's only offensive weapons.

2. Get the passing game rolling. It is becoming obvious that teams are respecting the passing offense of the Cowboys less and less every week. Tony Romo needs to be more accurate and make the Chiefs pay if they decide to crowd the line to stop the run. Romo missed a few opportunities for big plays last week when Denver began to overcommit to the run. Romo needs to start building some momentum and start playing like a top notch quarterback again. He'll need better protection from the offensive line to do that.

3. Don't let Kansas City hang around. How do you let a bad team beat you? You let them hang around for a while and they start to believe they can beat you. Score early and often and then continue scoring. Beat them into submission. Last week the Cowboys jumped out early and then the offense shut down. They need to play well for four quarters.

4. Make the Chiefs earn their points. This means many things. Limit turnovers. Tackle the Chief's ball carriers! Don't allow any big pass plays. And cut down on the penalties. Especially the ones that come at the worst possible times.

5. Score touchdowns in the red zone. The first two games this year were great for the offense in the red zone. The last two games they have been terrible. Jason Garrett needs to run the ball with Barber and Choice when the Cowboys get close. Let the offensive line use their size to dominate in the trenches. I'm sick of the cute, "creative" plays at crucial moments in the game. Line up and run over the Chiefs in short yardage situations. Run the ball!

We know and the Chiefs know that the Cowboys should win the game. But the Cowboys still have to go out and earn the victory. The Chiefs aren't going to mail it in at home in front of their fans. I want to see the Cowboys go into the bye week playing their first complete game of the season. They need to show they can be the team that we are still hoping they can be. This week won't convince me, but it can be the start of a winning streak.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Cowboys Need a Winning Streak

When is the last time you really felt that the Dallas Cowboys were on a roll? For me it was probably when they jumped out to a 3-0 start at the beginning of last season. That was actually the last time that the Cowboys won three games in a row. I think the Cowboys need to build some momentum to recreate the winning atmosphere that was around the team in 2007 when they went 13-3.

Winning is a habit just like losing games in the 4th quarter can become a habit. With the games coming up on the schedule a winning streak is no guarantee, but it is certainly possible. The only way to start a winning streak is to win them one game at a time. Kansas City provides possibly the best opponent in the NFL right now if you are looking to start a winning streak. The Cowboys usually beat the bad teams and struggle against the good teams. That should mean a win going into the bye.

If you look ahead on the schedule the Cowboys then have Atlanta at home and then Seattle at home. Atlanta will be a tough game but they are certainly beatable. Seattle is another one of those games that the Cowboys win since they are the better team going in. After that the schedule gets much tougher. At Philadelphia and at Green Bay are not easy games. If the Cowboys can't fix whatever is ailing them right now in the close games then they will struggle to beat Philly or Green Bay. So the winning streak needs to get going now so they can go into those games with a renewed confidence.

The task at hand is simple. Win one game. The Cowboys aren't good enough to look past any team right now. But winning one game could spark a streak that finally gets this year's team over the hump and gets them going again in all phases of the game. They have got to win this week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Looking Ahead

I know the season is only a quarter of the way through, but it is pretty obvious that the Cowboys have reached an early season crossroads. I don't know what needs to change, but something needs to happen to give the Cowboys their confidence back. A win this week against the Chiefs is not the answer but at least it would be a start. I was looking at the remaining twelve games today to see if I could envision a realistic scenario where the Cowboys still end up in the playoff picture. Here is what I am thinking. I am going to play out the season using two will be my optimistic view of things if they can get rolling again. The other one being the same level of play from the team continuing for the rest of the season.

@ Kansas City - This game is a win no matter how I look at it. The Chiefs are flat out terrible.
Glass half full - win (3-2)
Glass half empty - win (3-2)

ATLANTA - This is not going to be an easy game. Atlanta plays solid fundamental football so the Cowboys have to go out and win the game playing good football. They have to play better to beat a team like Atlanta.
Glass half full - win (4-2), the Cowboys come out of the bye week with a renewed intensity
Glass half emtpy - loss (3-3), the Cowboys continue losing close games to good teams

SEATTLE - This is the type of game the Cowboys can win even if they continue playing ugly football. But Matt Hasslebeck can beat you if you aren't careful.
Glass half full - win (5-2), the Cowboys start to get on a roll with their 3rd win in a row
Glass half empty - win (4-3), the Cowboys eek out an ugly win at home

@ Philadelphia - The Eagles are always a tough matchup regardless of the circumstances. On the road things will not be easy. I don't envision a victory for the Cowboys here...not that it can't be done.
Glass half full - loss (5-3), the Eagles take advantage of a few Dallas miscues to win a close game
Glass half empty - loss (4-4), the Eagles destroy the Cowboys as their season begins to collapse

@ Green Bay - It is never easy to go to a place like Green Bay and win. But the Cowboys have always played good football against the Packers.
Glass half full - win (6-3), Tony Romo lights up the Packers in Green Bay to make a triumphant return to Wisconsin
Glass half empty - loss (4-5), the Cowboys battle to the end but lose another 4th quarter lead as the season slips away

WASHINGTON - I don't care if the Redskins are still horrible and have fired their coach by this point, they always play the Cowboys tough. The Cowboys win this game if they have found their mojo.
Glass half full - win (7-3), the postseason hopes look bright as the Cowboys have won five of their last six games, the bandwagon fans begin piling back on the wagon
Glass half empty - win (5-5), the Cowboys usually split with the Redskins and I don't see that trend changing here

OAKLAND - The Raiders are just flat out horrible. I don't see the Cowboys losing this game unless Romo and Kitna are both injured at this point in the season.
Glass half full - win (8-3), the Cowboys are really beginning to play with confidence but the national media still questions whether they can win in December
Glass half empty - win (6-5), even with the Cowboys playing mediocre football they are still keeping their fans hanging on to playoff hopes...barely

@ New York Giants - We saw in week two that the Cowboys can play with the Giants. They only win if they are playing good football.
Glass half full - win (9-3), revenge is a big motivating factor and the Giants gave the Cowboys motivation by trashing the visitor's locker room and spitting all over Cowboys Stadium
Glass half empty - loss (6-6), the Cowboys get steamrolled by a superior team, playoff hopes are on life support

SAN DIEGO - This is a tough matchup but the game can be won. If the Cowboys play a solid game they can beat the Chargers
Glass half full - win (10-3), not only are the Cowboys right in the playoff picture, but a division title is still possible
Glass half empty - loss (6-7), yet another heartbreaking loss as the Cowboys let a 4th quarter lead slip away

@ New Orleans - The Saints are a tough matchup for any team. I don't see the Cowboys going into the Superdome and winning this one.
Glass half full - loss (10-4), the doubters are predicting another December collapse
Glass half empty - loss (6-8), the season is officially down the toilet as the Cowboys get thrashed

@ Washington - I predicted a split in the series based on history. The Cowboys won the first game.
Glass half full - loss (10-5), the December swoon is in full gear as the Cowboys lose on some sort of whacky play
Glass half empty - loss (6-9), fans are hoping the Cowboys lose to get a higher pick in the draft

PHILADELPHIA - This game all depends on the situation. If the Eagles are already a lock for the playoffs they might give this game away.
Glass half full - win (11-5), the Cowboys vindicate themselves by erasing the memory of last season's finale to clinch a playoff birth
Glass half empty - win (7-9), the Cowboys beat an Eagles team who rests their starters to keep them fresh for their wildcard playoff game

Now obviously there are so many factors at play with this prediction I am just throwing darts. But the point is that there are a lot of winnable games on the schedule. Those tough games will only be won if the Cowboys clean up their act. There is no way to tell which way things are going this season but I pray something changes to renew my hope in this year's team.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Another Letdown

I'm really worried about this team. I have reached the point that the losses are starting to hurt less. When I truly believe the Cowboys are going to win, it breaks my heart to see them lose. As usual with the Cowboys, this loss came in a heartbreaking fashion but I am almost numb to the loss. The close fourth quarter losses have happened so much in the last two seasons that this is almost the expected outcome in a tight game down the stretch.

Bill Parcells always said that you are what your record says you are. 2-2 tells me that the Cowboys are a mediocre team. And that is exactly what they feel like right now. The offense continues to kills themselves with badly timed penalties, the defense folds in the big moments, and the special teams doesn't make game changing plays.

I'm not saying this is a terrible team. We've seen over the last few years that teams can get off to a slow start and get hot down the stretch. The Cowboys do have the talent to follow that plan, but, so far, we haven't seen the signs that a hot streak is coming soon. Romo hasn't found his grove yet, and the defense is still a work in progress.

Maybe 5 games from now we'll look back on this game as the turning point in the season...I hope we are looking at a turning point in the winning direction. The season could go either way right now. The Cowboys are missing that certain something that winning teams always possess. I'm not sure what exactly is missing but you can feel that they don't have "it" right now. Back when the Cowboys went 13-3 in 2007 I always knew they would make a play to win. Now I hope they will but I expect the worst.

All is not lost. But things have got to improve. Is it the coaching? Has Tony Romo lost his edge? I don't know what it is but right now it feels like 2008 all over again.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Week 4 Keys to Victory

All week long the national media has been playing up the Denver Broncos as the early season surprise team. I think most of us can see that the Broncos are not as good as their record says that they are. The problem is that the Broncos have won just enough games to start to believe that they really are a good team. The Cowboys are going to have to knock the confidence out of the Broncos early in the game or they will be in for a dogfight. Get the Broncos down big early and I think you will see them fall apart at the seams. Give them a reason to believe they can compete and they will be right there all game long. Here is what I think the Cowboys need to do to win the game:

1. Make Kyle Orton beat you. It is highly unlikely that Kyle Orton can will the Broncos to victory if the Cowboys force the Broncos to pass. He has 33 career passing TD's and 27 INT's. So he is a very mediocre quarterback at best. Shut down the run and wait for Orton to make a mistake. The Broncos throw a lot of quick passes so the defensive backs need to be ready to jump the short routes like Terance Newman did last week.

2. Take what the defense gives you. It is obvious at this point that most teams are willing to take their chances against the Cowboys running game. Teams are playing their safeties very deep and allowing the Cowboys to run all game long. At some point a team is going to decide to stop the run. I don't think that the Broncos have the size to handle the Cowboys size along the line so the run will probably be there again this week. But if the Broncos decide to stack the line then Romo will have to find the open man. The Broncos secondary has some talented players so the receivers need to bring their A game this week. I fear the playmaking abilities of Champ Bailey even if he is getting a little older. And Brian Dawkins has been great for what seems like forever now.

3. No cheap points for the Broncos. This falls in line with my belief that a fast start will collapse the Broncos like a house of cards. The Cowboys need to start fast in all phases of the game and overwhelm the Broncos. If the Cowboys force the Broncos to drive the length of the field then I don't think they can score with the Cowboys.

4. Keep the defense fresh. This falls on the coaches and the offense. As usual with a visiting team in Denver the Cowboys will probably struggle with the altitude. The coaches need to rotate the defensive players as much as they can to keep everyone fresh. And the offense needs to control the ball to let the defensive players recover. It takes more energy to play defense than offense so ball control is important.

The Cowboys are the more talented team. As usual, limiting turnovers and penalties will allow the Cowboys to win. We saw last week how an inferior team can hang around if the Cowboys shoot themselves in the foot with badly timed penalties and poor execution in the red zone. Everyone just needs to play decent football and the Cowboys will come out on top. I predict a 28-10 win for the Cowboys.