Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Cowboys Need the Bye Week

After finally finding a way to win a game on Sunday you would think the Cowboys would need to get back on the field as soon as possible to keep the momentum going. And as much as I would have liked to have seen the Cowboys in action this weekend I think they are overdue for a break. It has been a long grind for the team from the start of training camp up to this point.

I think it will be good for the players to get a real chance to get their bodies back to as close to 100% as they can right now. Kyle Kosier and Jason Witten clearly need the break considering they are both nursing knee injuries. I'm sure Witten would have played either way this week but now he can rest his knee for a week so his minor knee injury doesn't linger all season long. And hopefully Kosier can get back in time for the Titans game since he gets basically two weeks to recover.

And it isn't just injuries that make me happy for the bye week. The Cowboys need a break mentally and physically. They started training camp before anyone else. Only the Cowboys and the Bengals had five preseason games. And the Cowboys play under a media spotlight that few teams can match.

Not every team has people like Ed Werder and the rest of the ESPN "writers" hounding them every day trying to stir up a controversy. And losing the first two games had to make things very tense around Valley Ranch. Wade Phillips snapped at the media several times last week which almost never happens. When Wade is stressed out you know the team has to be under tremendous pressure.

I think it will be good for the Cowboys to have the weight of the world lifted off their shoulders for a few days. And winning decisively against the Texans allowed that to happen. The Cowboys were reminded how hard they have to work to win against any team in the NFL. And now they can watch the other teams and spend more time thinking about the fact that they are sitting at 1-2 in last place but also only 1 game out of first place in the NFC East.

The players, the coaches, and the owner all said immediately after the Texans game that winning was great but they have only started digging out of their 0-2 hole. The team needs to get itself healthy and mentally prepared for the grind ahead. It is going to take 4 or 5 more wins in a row before anyone will be able to feel like the Cowboys are really back on track.

And recent history suggest the Cowboys will come out of the bye on a high note. They have won every game after the bye since 2006. With extra time to prepare for the Titans the Cowboys have a great chance to get themselves back to .500. They have a big hole to dig out of but the bye lets them recharge their batteries to hopefully allow for a streak of wins that will last for a long time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Real Cowboys Finally Show Up

We have spent all offseason and the first two weeks wondering what in the world happened to the Dallas Cowboys. Things finally changed on Sunday in Houston as the Cowboys went into a frenzied stadium in Houston's version of the Super Bowl. All the Cowboys did was shut down the league's #1 offense and put up 27 points of their own on the way to a dominant victory.

So what was different this week? The most noticeable change to me was the offensive scheme. The Cowboys seemed to have simplified their game plan and also made a concerted effort to make the running game a big part of the attack. The offense started out slow and looked the same as they did in the first two weeks but then finally found their rhythm and moved the ball with ease from the second quarter on.

The defense got back to pressuring the quarterback and the secondary did a great job stifling the Houston passing attack. Arian Foster did break off several nice runs but the Cowboys made some adjustments to the defense at the half that really seemed to slow Foster down in the second half. Demarcus Ware posted three sacks and the defense had four overall. They also forced three turnovers.

The special teams even looked better. They limited Jacoby Jones on his punt returns and did a great job covering on kickoffs. David Buehler was 2 for 2 on field goals and hit a big 49 yard field goal going into the half that really seemed to put a charge into the team.

Tony Romo had a drive in the third quarter that may have been the best of his career. He hit Sam Hurd on a perfect pass to convert a third down early in the drive. Then he hit Dez Bryant for a big gain down the left sideline on another perfect pass. And the drive ended on a touchdown to Roy Williams on another beautiful pass into the endzone that Roy snagged for a touchdown. In short, Romo was the exact opposite of what he was last week. His accuracy was nearly perfect all day long.

The Cowboys do still have some work to do. They are committing way too many penalties and they need to improve. But the difference this week is that the penalties weren't negating every big play the offense made. There were a few big plays that came back for the offense as a result of penalties, but they didn't have the big red zone penalties that cost the team points.

As nice as the win was the Cowboys have only started the process of digging out of the hole they created in the first two weeks of the season. The Cowboys have a bye next week so they can savor this one for a few days before getting back to work on the Titans. Hopefully this win will be the start of a winning streak because the Cowboys need to reel off a few wins.

But beating a talented Houston team decisively was a great start to a turnaround. And it sure was nice to go give the Texans and their fans a reality check. The Cowboys are still the #1 team in Texas. And one game may not make up for the last two years, but Roy Williams looked like the guy the Cowboys thought they were getting when they traded for him. Isn't it amazing how everything falls into place when the team wins?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How the Cowboys Can Win the "Superbowl" in Houston

Doesn't this game have the same feeling as the Saints game late last season? The Texans are riding high and their offense seems unstoppable. The Cowboys are in disarray and don't seem to stand much of a chance based on their performance in the first two weeks of the season. And you know the Houston crowd is going to be in a complete frenzy from the opening kickoff until the clock hits triple zero at the end of the game.

Let's be honest. The Cowboys really do have the odds stacked against them this week. They are on the road. Their offense can't score points. The kicker can't make field goals. And the defense hasn't forced a turnover all season.

But somehow I find myself convinced the Cowboys are going to win. And it has nothing to do with the Houston Texans. I really don't care who the opponent is this week. The Cowboys are too talented to be 0-3.

They have made a fool of me in the first two games. I really thought they would find a way to beat the Redskins despite the injuries on the offensive line. And I couldn't picture the Bears flat out beating the Cowboys in every phase of the game like they did last week.

I hope I'm not fooling myself again. I just think there is too much on the line for the Cowboys to lay another egg this week. The Texans might feel like they have a big game on their hands. But the Cowboys in a lot of ways have their season on the line. Can you imagine what the bye week is going to be like if the Cowboys can't find a way to win this game?

The Texans have an explosive offense. The Cowboys will have to come out firing on offense if they expect to win the game. But on the flip side, the Texans defense will let you move the ball. So I expect the game to be fairly high scoring.

Again, think of the Saints game last season. The Cowboys knew they needed to put points on the board and they came out firing on offense instead of easing into the game like usual. I think we'll see the same thing this week. The Cowboys have to come out fast or the crowd will get so loud it might be a rerun of the Metrodome last season.

I think the Cowboys will come out fast. And I think the defense is good enough to keep the scoring of the Texans down to a reasonable level. By no means to I think the Cowboys are going to dominate this game. The Texans are a very good team this year. But the Cowboys are desperate and they play better when their backs are against the wall. I know it sounds a little crazy but I think the Cowboys will win this game 31-27.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Cowboys Are Backed Into a Corner

I've been searching for something positive to say about the Cowboys for a couple of days. Positive news is hard to come by right now and when you are 0-2 there really shouldn't be much to say that is positive.

"Fans" are breaking both legs jumping off the bandwagon. That is absolutely fine with me. Isn't it amazing that the "fans" of the Cowboys who are loud and obnoxious and give all the real fans a bad reputation are the same ones who give up on the team at the drop of a hat? The only thing I have to say to those people is don't try to act like you've been faithful all along when the Cowboys break out of this funk.

Yes, I said it. The Cowboys will break out of this funk. They are a talented team. They have looked awful for the last two games but I just cannot believe that they are really this bad. A team doesn't go from what they were last season to absolutely awful in one offseason. The Cowboys are too talented to keep losing. They will start winning and I expect them to start performing up to their potential on Sunday.

You can criticize the coaching. It has been bad. You can criticize the players. Most of them have been inconsistent. But, again, did the Cowboys really go from one of the top teams in the NFL last season to one of the worst so fast? They way they have played says yes, but watching them you can see they are capable of so much more. The Cowboys just need to get out of their own way.

The turnovers need to stop. The penalties need to stop coming at key moments. The inconsistent playcalling on offense needs to be simplified. And the defense needs to play more aggressively. And the kicker...he just needs to make his field goals.

By digging an 0-2 hole the Cowboys have been forced to take a hard look in the mirror. It is obvious that Jason Garrett is trying to do too much offensively. Jason Garrett needs to stop trying to run every play in the playbook every game. Get rid of the stupid wildcat if you are only going to run one play out of it. Run what is working and throw out the plays that aren't no matter how good they look on paper.

And the defense needs to force a turnover already. The defense had the exact same problem at the start of the season last year. I know the forced turnovers are limited by Wade Phillips' bend but don't break defensive philosophy. This team needs momentum changing plays from the defense and they needs them now. Wade got scared off by the Bears last week because they burned the defense on a few blitzes. The defense is built to blitz. Bring the heat on the quarterback!

The Cowboys are like a wounded dog backed into a corner. I don't think you want to play a team with their talent level when they have their backs against the wall. The last time the Cowboys were in a situation like this all they did was go out and end the Saints undefeated season last year. I think you will see that team this week.

And if we don't see that team...well, I can't let myself go there right now. My mind and my heart are in agreement this week. The Cowboys are too talented and experienced to let the season slip away already. The Texans better be ready for the real Dallas Cowboys this week.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another Loss

I'm shocked that the Cowboys now find themselves in an 0-2 hole. I had no doubt in my mind that the Cowboys would come out and dominate the Bears. But the didn't and they found news ways to lose a game this week. Turnovers and missed field goals destroyed any chance at winning the game.

Tony Romo had decent stats for the game but he was a little off all day long. The offensive line did a great job giving him time to throw but several of his passes were just a little off target. He didn't play horribly but his passes that were a little off came in big moments. Both passes that were tipped for interceptions came on balls where Romo missed his target by a few feet. And the ball on the play right before the missed Buehler field goal missed Tashard Choice down the sideline for a probable first down.

But Tony Romo didn't lose the game all by himself. The defense was not very good. They started out on fire and were hitting Cutler so hard and so often I didn't think he would finish the game. But then everything changed and they suddenly couldn't get pressure any more. Part of it was the fact that Cutler beat the defense on a few blitzes in a row and Wade Phillips backed off on the blitz calls from that point forward.

And David Buehler had a shot to tie the game up in the 4th quarter with a 44 yard field goal but he pulled it left. I think it is fair to question whether the Cowboys need to find a new kicker. If the coaches have to change the way they call the game because they don't trust the kicker then a change needs to be made. I think we have reached that point.

0-2 is horrible but I'm not jumping ship. I know this is a talented team. The Cowboys just don't seem to have any continuity on either side of the ball right now. The offense can't get the ball into the end zone nearly enough and the defense still has not forced a turnover this season. And obviously the special teams needs work despite the great return by Dez Bryant.

Next week is a pivotal moment for this team. If they win heading into the bye I can see the team regrouping and getting back into position to win their division and make a playoff run. If they lose I think they might dig a hole so deep they can't get out of it without an unprecedented turnaround. The Cowboys have to beat the Texans. They have the talent but they have to put it all together before it is too late.

**On a side note, I know Jason Witten probably did have a concussion in the 4th quarter. But I love how badly he wanted to get back in the game to help his team. If more players on the team had his desire the Cowboys wouldn't be 0-2 right now.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What the Cowboys Must Do Against the Bears

I know you can't necessarily call the second game of the season a must win game, but this one feels pretty close. Lose and the Cowboys would drop to 0-2 heading to Houston next week. Win and they can even their record and give themselves a shot at heading into the bye week at 2-1. And I don't even want to start talking about how rare it is for a team to start 0-2 and then make the playoffs. So the Cowboys have to find a way to win this game. Here is what I think needs to happen.

1. Run the ball. The Cowboys were pretty successful running the ball last week but they never fully committed to the run. The easiest way to work offensive linemen back into the flow of the game is to let them run block. By running the ball you allow your linemen to initiate contact and control the action as opposed to reacting to pass rushers. Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier are sure to be rusty coming off of injuries. And the passing game becomes simple when you can get the defense to bite on run fakes for play action passes.

2. Force some turnovers. This feels like the same problem as last year all over again for the defense. They do a great job preventing the opposition from scoring but they rarely create game changing plays. Cutler will undoubtedly throw some balls into coverage and give the Cowboys a chance at interceptions. I want to see three or more turnovers from the defense.

3. Get the ball in the end zone. David Buehler looked a lot like Nick Folk last year. The offense drove the ball all the way down the field only to be disappointed as they came away empty on a missed field goal last week. The easiest remedy for a shaky kicker is to take the game out of his hands. The offense needs to find the end zone early and often.

4. Get Felix Jones involved in the offense. Although I did like the way the Cowboys involved Dez Bryant last week I think they didn't take advantage of the explosiveness of Felix Jones as much as they should have. A few of the forced throws to Dez could have been more plays for Felix Jones. Felix should have around 15 touches on offense. Every time he gets the ball in his hands the Cowboys have a shot at a touchdown.

5. Don't forget about Jason Witten. I know Witten had to stay in and help block on more passing plays than usual last week due to the problems on the offensive line. Tony Romo needs his most trusted receiver out in patterns more often this week. That should help the Cowboys convert more 3rd downs to extend drives.

6. Hit Jay Cutler. One thing that the Mike Martz offense allows for is pressure on the quarterback. Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer should see a lot of one on one matchup this week and they need to put pressure on Jay Cutler. Like I mentioned earlier, Cutler turns the ball over a lot. The chances of that happening increase exponentially when he has pressure in his face.

I will be shocked if the Cowboys don't win this game. I just can't picture a team that is so talented dropping to 0-2. I think the Cowboys will win this game pretty easily. I predict a 31-17 victory for the Cowboys.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Can Colombo and Kosier Produce Instant Offense?

The results from the offense in week 1 seemed all to familiar. The Cowboys seemed to move the ball at ease between the 20's but every time they approached scoring position something went wrong. Whether it was penalties, mental errors, bad play calls or missed field goals the result was only 7 points for the entire day. I think we can all agree that the total probably should have been 14 points except for the fact that the Cowboys started the worst right tackle for the Cowboys since Rob Pettiti. For those of you who don't remember Pettiti from the 2005 season consider yourselves lucky.

The news this week appears to be that Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo should both be returning to the starting lineup for the game on Sunday against the Bears. But the question is whether we should expect different results from the offense. I have mixed emotions about what to expect early in the game from both players.

Obviously we can expect a huge improvement in pass protection on the right side of the line. Colombo isn't the greatest player of all time but he is light years better than the protection that Barron provides. Montrae Holland actually did a pretty good job filling in for Kosier at left guard so I don't expect to see much of a difference in pass protection on the left side.

The run blocking was actually one of the bright spots from the game last week. My concern is that both Kosier and Colombo are going to be expected to step into the lineup and be in sync with the rest of the offensive line immediately. Neither player has practiced in over four weeks and they will only get a few days of practice with the offense before the game on Sunday. So is it realistic to think they will come out and dominate? A lot of the blocking in the running game revolves around timing and it is unrealistic to expect Colombo and Kosier to have their timing down early in the game.

I think we'll see both Colombo and Kosier knocking off some rust early in the game. Don't be shocked if Julius Peppers beats Colombo around the corner early in the game to sack Romo. And don't be shocked if Kosier gets an early holding penalty. But I think by the end of the first half we'll see both players find their rhythm and the offense will start to click.

As long as the defense can keep the Bears under control for the first few series of the game I think the Cowboys can fight through a slow start from the offense to come out on top in the game. The Bears have the #1 offense in the NFL after week 1 so they can definitely move the ball. The defense needs to come into the game with the mentality that they need to dominate from the first play. And a few turnovers sure would make points a lot easier to come by for the offense.

Wouldn't it be nice if the defense could give the offense the ball on the Bears end of the field early in the game. A quick score might get Colombo and Kosier going early and allow the Cowboys to dominate the game from start to finish.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoughts on the Redskins Debacle

My reaction to last night's game is probably coming a little late. But I don't like to post my comments on my blog when my blood is boiling like it was last night. I don't want to come off as someone who turns on his team at this first sign of trouble. So I've waited for about 24 hours to allow myself to gain a little perspective.

Don't mistake what I am saying. I am furious over the way the game went last night. It was embarrassing as a die hard fan to have to face the mockery today from the seemingly endless Cowboy haters. And there was no defending what happened last night. There were two plays in that game that were so ridiculous I wouldn't believe they happened if I didn't see them myself. The last play in each half basically determined the outcome of the game. And Alex Barron had a hand in both of them.

I'll start with the last play of the first half. I was shocked the Cowboys decided to run a play to finish out the half once they were moved back by a penalty. But I figured that they would just let Romo throw the ball as far as he could and hope for a pass interference call or a miracle catch for a score to end the half. The play was such a mess it was hard to determine if it was supposed to be a screen pass to Choice or a Hail Mary play that was defended by quick pressure on Romo. Either way I don't fault Romo for the dump off to Choice. Sure, it would have been nice if he had just slid down for a sack or just run for a short gain. But the dump off seemed safe until Tashard decided he would fight against three defenders for a meaningless extra half yard on the play. It was a horrible call by Jason Garrett/Wade Phillips and an even worse play by Choice. And the missed block by Barron caused the rushed throw from Romo that started the disaster.

The last play of the game was just ridiculous. I can't remember a game where I actually celebrated an apparent victory for a few seconds only to have the moment snatched away by a penalty flag. Alex Barron flat out stinks. And the holding penalty he committed was ridiculous. I can understand trying to slow the guy up when you are beaten, but wrapping him up with both arms and begging for a holding call was too much. The officials probably would have let a little bit go on the play and Romo probably still would have escaped the pressure to make the winning play. But Barron made the penalty so obvious that the officials had no choice but to throw a flag.

And what was worse about Barron was his post game reaction. He was shown on the field just a few seconds after single-handedly costing the Cowboys a win smiling and fist bumping friends from the Redskins. He clearly didn't care one bit that he was the goat. He has a big salary for this season and that appears to be enough for him. I wish the Cowboys would just cut him loose but they will probably at least have to wait until they know Colombo is ready to go and Sam Young is healthy as well. Even without Colombo next week I don't see how Brewster doesn't get the start. Barron is a complete joke as an NFL player.

But, on the positive side, the last time the Cowboys played a disaster of a game like this one the outcome was far worse than a loss. I'm referring to the Arizona Cardinals game that ended with a blocked punt for a score in overtime in the 2008 season. Not only did the Cowboys lose the game due to horrible play on the offensive line and countless mental errors, but they also suffered multiple injuries that ended up ruining the season. As bad as the loss Sunday night was, the Cowboys did escape without any major injuries. There was a big scare when Demarcus Ware went down late in the game but he appears to be good to go for next week.

So the end result is this. It was an embarrassing and potentially costly loss down the road in the playoff picture. But it isn't a season ender. The Cowboys will be much better next week with the starting offensive line back together. And I think the last of the preseason kinks were worked out during the Redskins game. It is very early in the season and I'd much rather see the Cowboys take a loss now than late in the season when it is too late to make up for it. I still believe this is a team that can go deep into the postseason but they need to get it going now.

The sky is not falling. The season is a lost cause. But things need to get better right now. The real Dallas Cowboys better show up against the Bears next week or there will be major cause for concern. The team should be ashamed of their performance and that should provide motivation for next week.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Week 1 Preview - Cowboys @ Redskins

It has finally arrived. The start of the regular season is actually here after months upon months of waiting. We can finally end all of the over analyzing and conjecture. Sunday will reveal what the 2010 Dallas Cowboys are really all about. Here is a list of a few things I expect to see during the game.

1. The Cowboys playing conservatively on offense. While we would all love to see the Cowboys light up the scoreboard on Sunday I don't think this is the week for that to happen. The Cowboys are down two starters on the offensive line so they will have to scale back the game plan to insure that Tony Romo is protected. Expect to see a lot of max protection blocking schemes which means a scaled back passing attack. The success of the running game is vitally important to the offense this week.

2. Dez Bryant to make an impact. I don't think Dez is going to get many touches offensively due to the offensive line issues. But I still expect him to make a couple of big plays during the game. I'm expecting to see a dynamic return or two by Dez and maybe a circus catch to wow the viewers. While his touches will be limited I think the plays that Dez make are going to be momentum changers.

3. The defense to dominate. We've heard endless talk about the impact that Mike Shanahan is going to have on the Redskins offense. While that might be true it really appears that the offense lacks the talent to dominate a good defense. Donovan McNabb was able to make plays with his legs earlier in his career but now he has slowed down a little. That means his passing accuracy becomes a bigger factor. McNabb is almost guaranteed to give the defense 3 or 4 opportunities at turnovers during the game. The key will be whether the defense can take advantage of those chances.

4. David Buehler is going to be an important factor in the game. How many times last season did the Cowboys move the ball down the field early in the game only to have Nick Folk miss a field goal and totally deflate the offense? Buehler needs to become automatic from inside 40 yards and this game would be a good place to start. The Cowboys are shorthanded on the offensive line and the Redskins have a good defense so I expect Buehler to have several field goal attempts in the game.

5. Felix Jones breaking off a long touchdown run. I think the Cowboys are going to struggle to move the ball consistently, but Felix Jones only needs a small crease to break off a big run. I think he'll be bottled up most of the day but I expect at least one big run from him due to his gamebreaking speed.

It is hard to know exactly what to expect from the Cowboys this season. Especially since they haven't shown anything offensively in the preseason. But I just don't see the Cowboys losing this game even with the problems on the offensive line. The Cowboys are simply a better team across the board than the Redskins. I predict a 19-10 victory for the Cowboys.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Predictions for the 2010 Cowboys

I've waited as long as possible to make my picks for this season. It helps to know the final makeup of the team heading into the regular season when deciding how the season might go down. I'm going to go through the schedule game by game and then make my overall prediction.

Week 1: Cowboys @ Redskins - I expect the Cowboys to come out slowly as they still need to find their rhythm offensively. But, in the end, I believe the Cowboys win this game. Prediction: Win. Record: 1-0.

Week 2: Cowboys vs. Bears - The Bears are an unknown at this point. But they have major problems along the offensive line and that spells doom against Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Prediction: Win. Record: 2-0.

Week 3: Cowboys @ Texans. I can't wait for this game. The Houston fans thought the Super Bowl took place during the preseason this year. It will be a tough game and probably a shootout, but I expect the Cowboys to get their revenge. Prediction: Win. Record: 3-0.

Week 4: Bye.

Week 5: Cowboys vs. Titans. The running game of the Titans will pose a challenge for the defense. But the Cowboys will score plenty of points to pull out the victory. Prediction: Win. Record: 4-0.

Week 6: Cowboys @ Vikings. I don't like the thought of a return visit to Minnesota. I think the game will be closer than the playoff game last year but I think the crowd still makes the difference. Prediction: Loss. Record: 4-1.

Week 7: Cowboys vs. Giants. The Giants are going to be a better team than most people realize. I'm giving the Cowboys the edge in a close game based on home field advantage. Prediction: Win. Record: 5-1.

Week 8: Cowboys vs. Jaguars. The Jaguars simply do not have enough talent to hang with the Cowboys. Prediction: Win. Record: 6-1.

Week 9: Cowboys @ Packers. The Cowboys will be rolling at this point but a visit to Green Bay is a tall order. I don't think the Cowboys will be able to overcome the Packers and their crowd in this one. Prediction: Loss. Record: 6-2.

Week 10: Cowboys @ Giants. The loss to Green Bay isn't a shocker but the media will start writing the obituary for the 2010 Cowboys after they lose a hard fought game against the Giants. Prediction: Loss. Record: 6-3.

Week 11: Cowboys vs. Lions. This game comes at the perfect time on the schedule for the Cowboys. Although the Lions will be dramatically improved compared to recent years I still think the Cowboys will win easily. Prediction: Win. Record: 7-3.

Week 12: Cowboys vs. Saints. This will be a colossal matchup. The Saints will surely be one of the NFC's best but the Cowboys match up extremely well with the Saints high powered attack. Prediction: Win. Record: 8-3.
Week 13: Cowboys @ Colts. The schedule does the Cowboys no favors here. The Colts aren't unbeatable but winning against the Saints and Colts in back to back weeks is too much to ask. Prediction: Loss. Record: 8-4.

Week 14: Cowboys vs. Eagles. The Cowboys proved last season that they have the perfect defense to stop the potent Eagle offense. Kevin Kolb doesn't change that fact. Prediction: Win. Record: 9-4.

Week 15: Cowboys vs. Redskins. The rivalry between these two teams makes a sweep hard to predict, but I don't think the Redskins have the offense to hang with the Cowboys. Prediction: Win. Record: 10-4.

Week 16: Cowboys @ Cardinals. The Cardinals are not the team they have been over the last few years. Despite the distractions of playing on Christmas I believe the advantage goes to the road team because they can easily block out the holiday distractions staying in a hotel. Prediction: Win. Record: 11-4.

Week 17: Cowboys @ Eagles. The schedule makers tried to recreate the drama of last season. But the Cowboys will already have the NFC East and the #2 seed in the playoffs wrapped up at this point. With the starters resting the Cowboys lose. Prediction: Loss. Record: 11-5.

Divisional Playoffs: The Cowboys will be playing this game at home by virtue of the #2 seed. That makes the difference this season as the Cowboys advance. Prediction: Cowboys advance to the NFC Championship. And there will be no repeat of the 2007 bye week Cabo trip. You can be sure of that.

NFC Championship: This is where things get difficult. With the tough regular season schedule the Cowboys face I believe they won't be able to lock up the #1 seed in the NFC. If they end up playing at home for the NFC championship game I think they can win. But I believe they will end up on the road in New Orleans or Minnesota. With that said, I think this is where the season ends for the Cowboys. Prediction: Loss.

I made these picks with my mind and not my heart. In my heart I know the Cowboys can win it all this season. And I know in my mind that they can do it too. But the uncertainty along the offensive line prevents me from making a Super Bowl prediction with any conviction. I have no doubt that the Cowboys can and will advance to the NFC championship this season provided there are no injuries to any key players.

So there you have it. 11-5 and a trip to the NFC championship game. I'm hoping for more, but I'll be disappointed if the Cowboys don't at least advance to the NFC championship game. I really hope I'm wrong and the Cowboys surprise me by winning it all this season.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thoughts on the Final Roster

The Cowboys only kept three full time cornerbacks on the final roster. Wow! That seems like a dangerous move when you consider what would happen with just one minor injury to Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick or Mike Jenkins. I know Alan Ball, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Danny McCray can all fill in at cornerback but it seems like a dangerous move to count on those guys if a long term injury happens to any of the top three cornerbacks. I have a feeling the Cowboys might be scouring the roster cuts around the league for a better 4th cornerback option.

Junior Siavii didn't make the final roster either. This move isn't shocking but I didn't think the coaches had seen enough from Josh Brent or Sean Lissemore to justify cutting Siavii. I like the fact that the coaches are going younger where they can on the roster but, just like with the cornerback situation, it makes me a little nervous to think where the team will be if Ratliff goes down with a long term injury.

Sam Hurd made it through the cuts. I like the fact that the team kept him around. His play on special teams is obviously why he stayed over Patrick Crayton. I don't think Hurd is the same player at receiver that Crayton was but I do think Hurd brings a lot more to the table on special teams.

Kevin Ogletree managed to stick on the final roster as well. I was not impressed with him at all early in the preseason but the last two games probably saved him. He started playing more like the guy who made several big plays late in the season last year as the preseason drew to a close. I think the potential of Ogletree at receiver played a big part in Patrick Crayton being traded to San Diego.

The Patrick Crayton trade was a little surprising but certainly not shocking. With Crayton set to be stuck on the bench on offense and probably even losing his punt return role it didn't make a lot of sense to keep him around. Although some of Crayton's complaints were legitimate, the Cowboys didn't need a guy around who wasn't happy to be there and was vocal about it.

Seeing that Bobby Carpenter was cut by the Rams made me sad and happy at the same time. It is sad because he always seemed like a good guy who worked hard and really wanted to get better. But, at the same time, it really justified the move the Cowboys made to trade him. The Cowboys are often criticized for the trades they make but I think Jerry Jones and the rest of the front office deserve a big pat on the back for essentially stealing a valuable backup swing tackle from the Rams. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Carpenter ends up with the Dolphins to be reunited with Bill Parcells.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Cowboys Have Found Their Kicker!

It was only a preseason game. I understand that. But when David Buehler stepped up and calmly kicked the game winning 31 yard field goal right down the middle as time expired I let out a huge sigh of relief. It was a big moment for Buehler. If he makes it you know his confidence will soar. If he misses you have to wonder if the Cowboys need to go find a new kicker. Buehler hit two big pressure kicks during the game and I think those kicks will give him the confidence to be successful in the regular season.

Buehler showed that he has improved a great deal since the first preseason game. His first field goal came at the end of the first half. It was a 51 yarder as time expired and he nailed it with 10-15 yards of distance to spare and nearly right down the middle. Buehler also hit from 45 and 40 yards. One kick barely squeaked through but he was 4 for 4 overall.

Stephen McGee looks like he has a future with the team. I'm certainly not predicting greatness for McGee but he at least finally made some throws that would make you believe he could develop into a solid backup quarterback in another year or two. He threw for 304 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. The 46 yard touchdown pass was a beautiful deep ball to Sam Hurd. And another pass that caught my eye was a 12 yard out pass that McGee fired between two defenders to Kevin Ogletree. There were also some ugly plays for McGee but I think he did enough to prove he should stick around this season.

Sean Lee looked a lot better this week. He still looks a little unsure of himself at times. But when he knows what to do he gets to the ball quickly and he makes the tackle. As soon as he gets more comfortable with the scheme he is going to be a very good player. I expect Lee to get more and more playing time as the season goes on.

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is obviously a natural returner. You can see watching him that he has the vision to find the seams in the punt and kick coverage and he has the burst to hit the hole when he finds it. He had some trouble with his footing but that was an equipment issue that is easily corrected.

Victor Butler looked like he was a starter. The Dolphins had their starting offense on the field for a large portion of the first half and Butler did a great job pressuring the quarterback.

The defense overall looked pretty good against the Dolphins' starting offense. Considering the Cowboys had second a third team defensive players matching up against the Miami starters I was very impressed by their performance. Some of the defenders later in the game were not good at all, but the primary backups looked good.

Sam Hurd certainly made a case for himself. A lot of roster predictions have left Hurd off the final 53 man roster. But Hurd showed, like he usually does in preseason, that he is a very capable receiver when given opportunities.

Kevin Ogletree appears to have made a complete 180 from his early training camp and preseason struggles. He looked quick and confident throughout the game. I realize he was matched up for much of the game against Miami backups, but he is starting to resemble the guy that showed so much promise last season. The offense may need him at some point so I'm glad he is back.

Robert Brewster still needs more time to develop before he can be counted on. His play in the San Diego game a few weeks ago was pretty good but he has been very inconsistent in the last two games.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Now Is the Time for McGee

Wade Phillips came to a decision on playing his starters in the final preseason game Thursday night against Miami. Despite the poor performances by his team in the last two preseason games the Cowboys will be resting the vast majority of their starters. No Tony Romo, no Jason Witten, no Miles Austin, no Demarcus Ware, and on and on.

So why would anyone want to watch the game tomorrow night? If you are a hardcore fan of the Cowboys like I am then you can find reasons for games without the starters to be compelling. Many of the players who take the field tomorrow night are not household names and might never be. But several of them are the future stars for the Dallas Cowboys.

The guy who is getting the biggest shot to prove himself this week is Stephen McGee. He has been unimpressive throughout his time with the Cowboys. But he is young and still has time to develop. And now he gets probably the entire Miami game to show what he can do.

Tony Romo developed himself early in his career in games just like the game Thursday night. McGee needs to show us that he can at least develop into the primary backup or the Cowboys will probably start looking for another young guy to groom after this season.

I'm not expecting McGee to light it up but I am expecting to see him show the ability to read the defense and make all the throws required at the NFL level. Every chance he has had so far since he joined the team last season McGee has seemed a little gun shy when it comes to throwing the ball down the field. He always seems to check down to the back or tight end very early in the play and he has rarely thrown the ball more than 10 yards down the field.

I would love to see some flashes of future greatness like we saw from Tony Romo early in his career. No one really knew for sure that Romo would develop into a top tier quarterback but you could sense that he definitely was a natural playmaker when he got on the field early in his career. I hope for the Cowboys' sake and for McGee's sake he can at least go out there and show the coaches that he deserves more time with the team to develop.