Monday, January 25, 2010

AFC/NFC Championship Games

Watching the championship games this past weekend was painful. Even though the Cowboys were manhandled by the Vikings it was tough to watch the Saints advance to the Super Bowl when only a month ago the Cowboys beat them on the same field. Both the AFC and NFC championships brought a lot of thoughts to my mind about the Cowboys.

1. Peyton Manning and the Colts made great in-game adjustments after having trouble early in the game. I know Peyton may be the best quarterback of all time but it was amazing to see the Colts adjust during the game and then proceed to dominate the best defense in the NFL. It really made me wonder why Jason Garrett and Tony Romo can't seem to make the same adjustments in the middle of the game.

2. Brett Favre and the Vikings paid the price for running up the score and celebrating like they won the Super Bowl against the Cowboys. I have to say I enjoyed watching Brett Favre get pummeled after what he did against the Cowboys. He may not have called the plays that resulted in touchdown passes late in the game against Dallas but he sure acted like it was the greatest moment in his career. He and Brad Childress got what they deserved. Some of the calls in overtime that went against the Vikings were highly questionable but I felt like it was payback for their bad sportsmanship against Dallas.

3. The Saints ran a lot of the plays against the Vikings that I expected Jason Garrett to run when the Vikings were generating a great pass rush. Screens and quick passes will beat a team overcommitting to rushing the passer, but Jason Garrett didn't call many of those plays when Romo was getting eaten alive by the pass rush.

4. The Vikings are a different team at home. Their pass rush was a lot less effective when they didn't have the advantage at the snap from the crowd noise. I really wonder if things would have been different if the Cowboys had been playing them at home.

5. Kickers are terrible this season. I don't know what is going on this year but the majority of the playoff teams are having trouble making field goals. I'm concerned that there will be a lot of teams in the market for a new kicker and not a lot of good kickers available. The Cowboys are aggressively pursuing kickers now and that is probably a smart move.

6. The Brett Favre interception at the end of the Vikings game scared me. He and Romo play a similar game and when the moment got big Favre reverted to his instincts. I hope were aren't watching a similar play from Romo in a big game in the future. Romo can play smarter football throughout the regular season but I hope he forms a habit that will continue when the moment gets big and he has to be smart.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who Was the MVP this Season?

Looking back on the season I am trying to focus on the positives to get the bad taste of the season ending loss to the Vikings out of my system. One of the things I want to do is look at the individual and the team successes for the season. I'm also going to address what I see as the major concerns heading into the offseason as well but I'll save the negatives for future posts. Today I want to focus on the team MVP.

At first glance it would be easy to name Tony Romo as the MVP but there are some other viable candidates I want to celebrate as well. I've identified three players I believe could be considered the MVP.

Tony Romo: This was easily Tony Romo's best season. He threw for 4483 yards and had 26 touchdown passes with only 9 interceptions. And with just 4 lost fumbles this season you could obviously see that Tony made a real commitment to protecting the ball this season. Watching the Cowboys lose to the Vikings only reminded me what a difference #9 makes for the offense. With the line blocking like bullfighters I think most quarterbacks would have be sacked 10-15 times against the constant pressure that Tony faced. He did what he could be he managed to make a few plays even without any protection. It scares me to think where this team would be without a mobile playmaker at quarterback like Tony Romo. We saw what the offense looks like last season when Tony is is not a pretty sight.

Demarcus Ware: He is clearly the defensive MVP and you can make a strong case that he is also the team MVP. He forces the defense to account for him with 2 to 3 blockers on the majority of plays which frees up other defenders to make plays. And the performance he had against the Saints just 6 days after being carted off the field will be talked about forever. His performance in that game may have saved the season and definitely sparked the strong finish for the Cowboys. Without Demarcus Ware I don't think the Cowboys could have beaten the Saints, won the NFC East or won their first playoff game in 13 years. While the stats say that Demarcus had a down year with 11 sacks it was easy to see his impact even in the games where he didn't record a sack.

Miles Austin: The Cowboys were struggling early in the season as they kept alternating wins and losses. An injury to Roy Williams opened up a starting spot for Miles Austin. He broke out against the Chiefs with 10 catches for 250 yards and the game winning touchdown in overtime. From that point forward he was the unquestioned #1 receiver that had been missing from the offense early in the year. His emergence as a top receiver changed the offense from a struggling unit to a dynamic, big play offense. You have to wonder how the season would have gone without the play of Miles Austin. He ended the season with 81 catches for 1320 yards and 11 touchdowns. Imagine the numbers he might have put up had he started the first four games of the season.

I think you can easily make a case for any of these three players as the team MVP. But, for me, I can't look past the difference that Tony Romo makes. Romo's ability to escape trouble and elude the rush to make big plays makes him a unique talent in the NFL. Take him out of the lineup and the Cowboys would immediately become a below average team. You might be able to cover up the loss of Miles Austin or Demarcus Ware with the right scheme, but if you lose Romo then you have to redesign the entire offense. I would have a hard time arguing against Romo, Ware or Austin as the team MVP, but I can't get past his ability to make the pass blocking of the offensive line look better than it really is.

Tony Romo is my team MVP. Feel free to leave your comments with your MVP. Make sure to tell us why you think that player is the most valuable player on the team.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where Was the Pass Blocking?

Heading into the game I believed the Cowboys held the advantage in most of the key matchups. One that I took for granted was the ability of the offensive line to protect Tony Romo. I guess I overestimated the quality of the offensive line. On nearly every play Tony Romo was under duress.

Some people who either didn't watch the same game I watched or don't understand football want to put the blame on Romo. It was pretty obvious that the passing game had no chance against the Vikings. Receivers were able to get open but Tony Romo was constantly ducking and dodging pass rushers. He was sacked a career high six times and probably avoided 10 more with Houdini-like escapes. The one interception that Romo did throw was horrible but that was the one bad play I thought was on him (and Columbo completely whiffed on his man on that play too).

The biggest culprit was Marc Columbo. And, unfortunately, just when I was thinking they might want to put Doug Free in for Columbo, Flozell Adams went down with a calf injury. The line play was a disaster nearly all game long. The Cowboys were able to move the ball when they ran it and when Romo managed to get a few passes off but then the problem at kicker reared its ugly head.

Dallas had a chance at an early lead. Then they had another chance to pull closer in the second half but Sean Suisham missed two nearly identical kicks. If those two kicks had been made it would have been a very different game. Kicker is going to be a major need this offseason.

I know a lot of people are excusing the Vikings and Brett Favre for the late touchdown pass but I believe it was extremely poor sportsmanship. I don't know if Brad Childress made the call or if Favre changed the play but it was unneccessary and classless. I'm glad Keith Brooking said something because I know I was feeling just like he was.

I said before the game and I still believe now that the Cowboys had a good season. They exceeded the expectations of nearly every preseason prediction from the so-called experts. And they won their first playoff game in 13 years. There was progress made and there is hope for the future. Now the Cowboys will have to set their sights higher next season because the Super Bowl talk will start cranking up this summer.

No matter how bad you feel right now, and trust me I feel it too, try to remember to appreciate the progress the team made this season. The loss leaves a bad taste in my mouth and it is going to take some time to get over. But I also appreciate that I can expect the Cowboys to be just as good if not better next season. I'm really not looking forward to waiting 8 months for the next game. One of these days the Cowboys are going to win the Super Bowl again and make us all happy. I guess I have to resign myself to another offseason of frustration. This offseason will be a little less painful knowing that there is real hope for next season.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How to Beat the Vikings

The Cowboys and Vikings appear to be two evenly matched teams on paper heading into the game on Sunday. With that said, you would think that the game will be a tough battle that will be won in the fourth quarter. I'm not so sure that is how things are going to play out. Let me explain why. A closer look at the matchups appears to give the Cowboys advantages in most areas.

The Vikings have a tough run defense primarily because they have massive defensive linemen in the middle of the line. But the Cowboys have Felix Jones to counter that strength. He can run effectively in the middle of the field but his real strength is his speed. He can run outside as well as any back in the league. When he is on the field the Vikings will be forced to respect the outside run which will help open up the inside of the field as well. I don't think the Cowboys will have a consistent running attack but they will be able to break off a big play here and there against the Viking defense.

The pass defense for the Vikings is completely reliant on Jared Allen applying pressure to the quarterback. With the fans going crazy it is going to force the Cowboys into a silent snap count. That works to Allen's advantage because he will get a step on Flozell Adams at the snap. The Cowboys may have to give Flozell some help to keep Allen from having a big day. The good news for Dallas is that the secondary is below average. If the Cowboys can protect Tony Romo then he will have time to find open receivers. The Vikings run a cover 2 scheme which usually results in high catch games for Jason Witten. After a five or six throws underneath to Witten the safeties may get tempted to cheat up and that is when the big plays will come.

The strength of the Dallas defense matches up with the biggest weakness for the Vikings. The offensive tackles for the Vikings have trouble pass blocking so the Vikings will need to run to keep Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer honest. If the Cowboys can get a big lead to eliminate the running game of the Vikings then I believe the Cowboys will hit Favre repeatedly and possibly even knock him out of the game.

The Cowboys run defense has been one of the best in the league this year. But they haven't faced a running back as dynamic as Adrian Peterson. He can take any play the distance so the Cowboys will need to wrap up and gang tackle. But they can't over-commit to the run or Favre is going to kill them with play action passing. I believe the running of Adrian Peterson is the only chance the Vikings have to control the game and win. Limiting the carries Peterson gets is going to be vital to the success of the Dallas defense.

Another strength for the Vikings is the return game of Percy Harvin. Well, the Cowboys have the antidote for that too. David Beuhler has been forcing touchbacks all year long. And kicking in the climate controlled dome should work to his advantage. Harvin may get a returnable kick or two so the coverage teams will have to be on their toes, but Harvin's chances will be limited by deep kickoffs.

One advantage I can see for the Vikings is the playmaking ability of Brett Favre. If he gets hot he can be unstoppable. He has the ability to turn a broken play into a big gain. He gets rid of the ball just when you think he is going to be sacked. And he has some big targets to make plays when he throws up a jump ball. But sometimes he makes silly mistakes under pressure. The more times the Cowboys force him into his freelance mode the higher the probability that he will turn the ball over. The pass rush has to force Favre into mistakes.

Obviously Tony Romo will need to protect the ball. He has the same tendencies as Favre so the offensive line will need to give him time. The Cowboys need to control the clock with long drives. A fast start by the offense will force the Vikings into a pass mode and that will play into the strengths of the Dallas defense while also limiting the impact of Adrian Peterson.

I believe the Cowboys will get off to a fast start. A fast start will quiet the crowd, limit Adrian Peterson's touches, and allow the Dallas pass rushers to attack Favre. I keep envisioning the game ending in a big Dallas win with an injury to Favre ending his season. Maybe I've been "drinking the kool-aid" too much this week but I see the Cowboys winning big. It just seems like the Cowboys match up well with the Vikings. I predict a 33-17 win for Dallas.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why Can't the Cowboys Win It All This Year?

Now I'm not saying that anything is guaranteed for the Dallas Cowboys this season. But what I am saying is...why not Dallas? Why not this year? Are the other playoff teams really that much better than the Cowboys?

Sure, you can say the Colts and Peyton Manning or the Cardinals and Kurt Warner have the experience edge over Tony Romo and the Cowboys. You can say the Vikings and the Saints are better than Dallas because they are the higher seeds in the NFC. You can say the Chargers beat the Cowboys late in the season. You can even argue that Brett Favre has seen it all so that gives him the edge.

But, realistically, the Cowboys are just as good as any other team remaining in the playoffs. The Cowboys have played the Saints and won. They played the Chargers and lost a close game. The majority of the core players on the team were here when the Cowboys beat the Colts and the great Peyton Manning a few years ago. There is no reason to believe that the Cowboys can't run the table.

Tony Romo is playing the best football of his career. The defense is peaking and really starting to play like the talent laden group that they are. Felix Jones is breaking out and may be on his way to star status if he keeps it up. All of the receivers are playing well...even Roy Williams looked pretty good last week. And, most importantly, the team has not lost a single player to a season ending injury this year.

That last statement is huge. What are the chances the Cowboys can go another season without a major season-ending injury to any player? Very, very slim. Every other team in the playoffs has lost not just players but starters to injuries. The Cowboys have the clear advantage on the injury front.

And the Cowboys have the confidence of a still somewhat young, but battle hardened team. Over the last few years the Dallas Cowboys have won and lost games in just about every way imaginable. But the key is that they seem to have finally put it all together and seem ready to finally take advantage of all of the talent on the roster. The Cowboys know how to win games no matter if it is a shootout, a defensive battle, or a game of evenly matched teams.

So maybe they won't win the Super Bowl this year. But maybe they will. No team left in the playoffs has a clear advantage over the Dallas Cowboys. It is just going to be a matter of which team plays the best football over the last month of the season. Who knows, it just might be the Dallas Cowboys. When was the last time you really believed that the Cowboys had a real shot to win it all? Probably not since the days of Aikman, Irvin, and Emmitt.

I'm going to sit back and enjoy the ride. Maybe, just maybe the Dallas Cowboys are going to make all of us happy and finish the year on top. It is nice to believe that could actually happen without feeling like I'm being delusional.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Time to Be Greedy

The Cowboys have met every expectation I had for them heading into the season. I promised myself all along that I would be happy with just one playoff win. But now that the Cowboys have achieved that goal I find myself wanting more. I'm not saying that I'll think the season is a failure if they go up to Minnesota and lose, but I see how close the Cowboys are to the ultimate prize.

It isn't every season that a team has everything fall into place with injuries, players peaking at the right time and excellent team chemistry. Last season is a perfect example of what injuries and distractions can do to a team.

I watched a post-game interview by Joe DeCamillis today and he mentioned that the Cowboys need to be greedy at this point. And he is exactly right. There is no guarantee that this team will be back in this spot next season. The only guarantee is that they have a shot at the NFC championship game on Sunday. So the Cowboys have to lay it all on the line against the Vikings.

Look at the Giants 2007 team. Everything fell into place and they rode the tide of momentum into an improbable Super Bowl championship. But only two years later they finished out of the playoffs and their team is a mess.

I think the 2009 Dallas Cowboys are a more talented team than the 2007 Giants. But the situation is similar. The Cowboys got on a late season roll with stellar defense and a quarterback playing the best football of his career. The Cowboys have as good a chance as any team in the NFC to make the Super Bowl.

It will be interesting to see how the Cowboys respond to their situation. They have beaten back all of the demons that have plagued them for years and suddenly the pressure is off of them. Will they respond by playing their best football now that they have nothing to lose? Or will they morph back into the inconsistent team we saw early in the season?

My gut tells me that this is a special team and we are seeing the Cowboys finally emerge as a dominant force in the NFL. Does that mean a Super Bowl? It is very possible. But they need to make it happen now because you never know what will happen next season.

Either way, it is time to sit back and enjoy the moment. The Cowboys are finally back on the big stage and they have a shot at winning it all. No matter what happens on Sunday the season has been a success. But I would love too see them come out hungry and quiet any remaining naysayers.

I would never have predicted a visit to the NFC championship game this season, but they are only one good game away from a return to elite status in the NFL. It is time for the Cowboys to be greedy and take advantage of the golden opportunity in front of them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Anyone want to talk about 44-6 now?  What a difference a year makes.  The Cowboys have finally taken the next step and look like a team that can beat anyone right now.  I don't want to get into the match up next week just yet, but I do like their chances against the Vikings.

This is about celebrating a win that the die hard fans have been wanting and needing for over 13 years.  Keith Brooking was feels like King Kong has been lifted off our backs.  We all deserved this one after enduring all of the ups and downs over the last few years.  The Seattle playoff loss a few years ago and the Giants game to end the 2007 season were probably the two worst losses I can ever remember.  This win doesn't erase those memories but it does ease the pain a little bit.

It is amazing to go on ESPN and watch those guys all fighting to get on the bandwagon first.  I guess the Cowboys will forever be the best team in the league or the worst team in the league based on their last game in the eyes of ESPN.  It sure feels good to see that so many of us who believed in this team and dealt with all of the mockery from the media, family and friends are being proven right about Tony Romo and the rest of the Cowboys.

Now, the key to everything here is the doors that have opened up for the Dallas Cowboys.  Not only do they have a legitimate shot at making a run to the Super Bowl this year, but now that they have gotten over the hump it looks like the Cowboys will be contenders for at least the next four or five years.  Expectations heading into this year were low and even the most optimistic fans like me were just hoping for one playoff win.  Now the stakes will be higher and nothing less than a Super Bowl is going make most people happy from this point going forward.

It is great to see that we can now raise our expectations and realize that this team has the talent, experience, and intangibles to be one of the top teams in the league.  

What went right:  Well, basically everything.  Felix Jones was unstoppable, Tony Romo was good, and the defense shut the Eagles down for the third time this season.  Patrick Crayton had several excellent punt returns and Sean Suisham even made two field goals.  The Cowboys forced turnovers and protected the ball.  They scored touchdowns when they got in the red zone and they made the big plays that the Eagles could not make.  DeSean Jackson was completely shut down again.  I wonder if he'll be sending our any Twitter messages?

What went wrong:  Marion Barber left the game early after aggravating his sore knee.  Mike Jenkins made a boneheaded play after his interception to give the ball right back to the Eagles.  The Cowboys committed way too many penalties.  And Jason Witten did not have a good game.  He committed several penalties and missed a few blocks during the game.  Roy Williams missed a perfectly thrown ball that nearly resulted in an interception for Romo.

Things to Work on for Next Week:  Reducing penalties has to be a priority.  Jason Garrett has figured out how to beat the Eagles defense, but I'm sure the wide receiver screens won't be so successful in every game.  Garrett will need to mix things up a bit more next week.  Has anyone else noticed that each week there is only one play in the wild cat arsenal?  It would be nice if they didn't line up and run the same play out of the wild cat all game long.  Kick returns for the Cowboys were not good at all and they need to get better.  

Make sure you stop and savor the feeling from this game for a few days.  It has been a long time coming.  Wins like this one help remind me why I get so emotionally invested in the Dallas Cowboys.  The bad times are terrible, but the good times make it all worth it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I Hope the Cowboys Aren't As Nervous As I Am

Less than 24 hours from the game and I can't take much more waiting. A lot of fans were enjoying the victory early in the week but I was already getting amped for the playoff game even before the game Sunday ended. Like I've said many times here, all of the regular season stuff was great, but the big hurdle is still remains.

The Cowboys have managed to contain DeSean Jackson twice and they will need to limit his impact a third time to keep the Eagles under control. He may break off a play or two and even score a touchdown but they can't allow him to change the game with too many big plays. And the Cowboys especially need to keep his punt returns to a minimum to force the Eagles to drive the length of the field to score.

Donovan McNabb is not a consistent passer and he rarely takes his team methodically down the field. The Eagles live and die on the big play. If the Eagles have bad field position then a big 30 or 40 yard play may not even put them in scoring position. Special teams is going to be a big key to the game.

Tony Romo has been great for over a month but he has got to deliver one more time in this game. He doesn't have to do anything spectacular, but he needs to put points on the board and limit bad plays. If he can limit his mistakes and turnovers then it will be very hard for the Eagles to score enough points to win the game.

And finally, the defense needs one more solid showing in this game. I seriously doubt they can throw a shut out for the third game in a row, but if they can keep the Eagles to 20 points or less I believe the Cowboys will win. They need to stop the run early and then force McNabb to rush his throws. They will need to stay disciplined in their pass rush so that Donovan can't start scrambling around like a mad man because that is when he becomes very dangerous. If they can pressure him from the outside and up the middle then he won't have anywhere to run when he starts to get antsy in the pocket.

I've said it all week long. We've waited long enough for a playoff win. Over 13 years and counting. I believe the streak ends tomorrow night. I predict the Cowboys win 27-17.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Defining Moment for this Group is Saturday Night

As we all listen to the praise suddenly being heaped onto our beloved Cowboys we have to keep in mind that we've seen this movie before. It was the end of the 2007 season and the Cowboys were sitting at 13-3 waiting for the winner of the wild card game. The Giants came to town, a team that the Cowboys had beaten twice in the regular season. And we all know how the story ended. That may have been the most disappointing loss I have ever endured as a Dallas Cowboys fan.

So here we are two years later and the Cowboys have finished the season strong. The local and national media are suddenly heaping praise on the team and many are picking the Cowboys to make a Super Bowl run. Sure, a few things are different. This year's team finished the season on a high note, Tony Romo is a more seasoned quarterback, and the defense is a much better unit. But a lot of this story feels the same.

The Cowboys have one more demon to exercise before we can start talking about all of the different playoff scenarios that could unfold if they win. And this one is the grand-daddy of all of the demons. This would be the first playoff victory in over 13 years. Think about that. Where were you in your life 13 years ago? How much has changed in the time span? When you start to look at technological advances, wars, and presidents you quickly get a sense of how long it has actually been since America's team has been a real contender.

The core group of players on the roster are all starting to hit their prime. Tony Romo has matured into a controlled, but still playmaking quarterback. Jason Witten is in his prime and has been for years. Miles Austin is a breakout star. Demarcus Ware has become a beast. Anthony Spencer is finally playing to the level of his draft status. Mike Jenkins has become a shut down quarterback. I could go on but you get the point.

So the question now becomes whether this group of players has what it takes to win the big games in the playoffs. The December woes have been fixed for at least one season. But the last two playoff games for the Cowboys have been disasters. Tony Romo and the rest of the players need to prove not only to all of the fans and media, but more importantly to themselves that they can win the high stakes games. I believe this team has what it takes. And a playoff win is going to take this team to a new level just like the win over the undefeated Saints a few weeks ago seems to have transformed the team.

A loss could be devastating on many fronts and I don't even want to get into how bad things could get if the Cowboys lay an egg. But a win opens up possibilities not only for this season but probably for the next four or five seasons based on the ages of the key players on the team. If the Cowboys can start believing that they can and will win playoff games then I think we are seeing the start of a great run of football from them for years to come. But they have to get over this last hurdle to take the next step.

The players have earned the right to win a game like this. The fans who have stuck with the team through thick and thin have earned the right to celebrate a win in a game like this. Jerry Jones, love him or hate him, pours his heart, soul and money into the team and deserves a win like this. Wade Phillips deserves to win a playoff game after being such a great defensive coordinator and all-around nice guy for all these years.

This game is going to determine the future of the team for the next few years. I know I'm ready. I think the players are ready. I just hope that the game goes how we are all expecting so we can finally have the big celebration we've been waiting for. How good will it feel to wear your Cowboys attire around if the Cowboys win this game? How nice will it be to rub it in the faces of all the naysayers who we've been hearing from for years? I'm talking about the media, friends, family and anyone else who have been laughing at us while we wallow in misery. All of that needs to change on Saturday. It is going to feel awesome if the Cowboys can find a way to win the game!

Monday, January 4, 2010

NFC East Champions But The Cowboys Want More

A three game winning streak to end the season. A blowout victory over the Eagles to avenge the season ending disaster last season. The #2 offense in the NFL. The #2 scoring defense in the NFL. Six pro bowlers. NFC East Champions. All of this sounds good doesn't it?

The Cowboys have achieved more than many of the preseason prognosticators ever imagined. I would like to point out that I picked the Cowboys to go 11-5...but I also picked them to win the Super Bowl the year before so I can't boast too much. Now I also predicted a playoff win so there is still some work to be done. And that is what the Cowboys are thinking as well.

All of the regular season accomplishments and accolades will be greatly diminished if the Cowboys can't find a way to put on a repeat performance against the Eagles Saturday night. But if they do win on Saturday they suddenly have a very real shot at greatness this season. I'm trying to look at this one game at a time but it is hard not to let your mind start playing out the playoffs. Minnesota will be next if the Cowboys win but we'll save that talk for next week.

It is pretty obvious that Tony Romo has turned into the quarterback that we were all starting to wonder if he could be. He is a playmaker who also knows how to protect the ball. His transformation is the biggest key to the success of the team this season. The defense has been great in the second half of the season but without Tony Romo this team would be nowhere near its current level.

After the blatant late hit by the Eagles defender late in the game it became obvious how important Tony Romo is (how do the officials miss that call by the way???). As he slowly got himself off the turf everyone was holding their breath knowing that he was the key to any potential playoff run. Turns out he is fine but for a few brief seconds images of Brad Johnson flashed through my head.

So now the Cowboys face the task of stomping out what remains of their demons of last season. The Eagles clearly did not play their best game on Sunday and you can be sure they'll be ready to go Saturday night. The Cowboys need to not just match but exceed the intensity of the Eagles just like they did on Sunday. I believe the Cowboys have superior talent and coaching but they have to prove it one more time.

There are a lot of fans who seem to have quickly forgotten what can happen when you face a team in the playoffs who you are facing for the third time. The 2007 season ended in a similar situation when the Giants pulled the upset after the Cowboys had swept the regular season games. I am sure that Andy Reid is looking at the tape and drawing up plays to expose any holes in the Cowboys defense. And you can be sure that Sean McDermott will be dialing up more blitzes this week after watching his defense get manhandled by the Cowboys offense.

Jason Garrett and Wade Phillips need to add some new wrinkles this week and I'm sure they know that. If they can do a few things to keep the Eagles off balance then I believe they will finally end this playoff drought talk that has been killing all of the loyal fans for 13 years. That is a long time to wait for your team to make a playoff run.

You know Donovan McNabb and the Eagles won't go quietly on Saturday. DeSean Jackson has to be contained again and Tony Romo has to keep beating the blitzes with quick passes to his wideouts and running backs. Something tells me that Roy Williams will be more involved this week because I'm guessing the Eagles will be ignoring him this week defensively after he was shut out. I like Roy's attitude but it seems like he and Martellus Bennett are the only two guys who can't find a grove with Tony Romo.

I'm trying to remember to enjoy the win and the NFC championship that the Cowboys just won, but I can't do it knowing that the game I have been waiting to see for 13 years is right around the corner. I hope the fans bring even more energy to the stadium this week because the team needs it. A playoff win is so close you can taste it. It feels like the big moment is finally here for the Dallas Cowboys but they have to go stomp the Eagles again to give everyone what they've been waiting for. I can't wait for Saturday night!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Who Wants to Win the Game the Most?

That is the big question heading into the game on Sunday. There is a chance that they game Sunday afternoon will determine the #2 seed in the NFC. But there is also a chance that they game will just determine who gets the home field advantage in the wild card game next week. There will be something on the line no matter how things play out in the other games this week. So both teams will be playing for something come game time.

In a game that is evenly matched you usually want to look at which team has more to play for to determine the advantage. Both teams know they are in the playoff picture regardless so we need to dig a little deeper. Let's look at all of the different reasons that each team has to play. I'll determine a winner based on the cumulative results from the different categories.

Home field advantage - Both teams have a home playoff game hanging in the balance. And both teams have a shot to secure the #2 seed in the NFC. The Cowboys need help to get the #2 seed, the Eagles do not need help. There is no telling if the Cowboys will get the help they need.
Edge - Eagles

Coaching - Wade Phillips knows that he probably needs to win a playoff game to insure his return as the head man next season. Andy Reid is entrenched as the head coach in Philadelphia. Wade knows that a home game will raise his odds to win his first playoff game as a head coach.
Edge - Cowboys

Players - We all saw what happened last season in the finale. The Eagles not only knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs, but they completely embarrassed them on a big stage. Tony Romo and the rest of the Cowboys who were there have not forgotten how that felt. Regardless of what the players are saying you know that the game means more to the Cowboys players than the Eagles players.
Edge - Cowboys

Crowd - The Cowboys have the home field advantage for the game. Even if the new stadium lacks the energy that Texas stadium could generate I think the crowd will be in a frenzy for this game. The fans know how important home field advantage will be for the playoffs and they haven't forgotten what happened to end the season last year. The Eagles are a hated rival even without extra motivation for the fans.
Edge - Cowboys

Pro Bowl Snubs - The two teams are pretty even on pro bowlers. Some guys who get left off the team sometimes get extra motivation to show that they should have been included. The Cowboys have 6 players on the team and the Eagles have 5 (although DeSean Jackson was named at 2 positions). So who could argue they were snubbed? Tony Romo is probably playing the best football of his career but his numbers don't match the QB's named to the team. McNabb had a good year, but not a great year especially considering the weapons around him. Brent Celek could make a case that he should have made it but he can't block like Jason Witten and he doesn't have the numbers of Vernon Davis. Mike Jenkins was borderline.
Edge - Even

History - The Eagles have a track record of performing well in high pressure games. They have made the Super Bowl with McNabb and Reid running the show. The Cowboys still haven't broken through but they are overdue for a playoff run. Whoever wins might be catapulted to a Super Bowl run. The Eagles go in knowing that recent history is on their side. The Cowboys enter the game trying to buck the recent historical trend.
Edge - Eagles

Overall - Eagles 2, Cowboys 3, Even 1

To me it appears the Cowboys have the edge based on what happened last season. The players, coaches, and the fans all still feel like redemption needs to be won with a dismantling of the Eagles. I believe the Cowboys will win the game but it won't be easy.
Final score - Cowboys 31, Eagles 27

I could have gone into more categories in terms of player matchups but I tried to look purely at the motivation heading into the game. Feel free to add your own categories and give the edge to the team you think would be favored.