I think everyone needs to get their expectations set to a reasonable level heading into the game against the Giants on Sunday. Obviously the Cowboys can win the game if things go their way but I don't think we should expect them to win. It is sad to say but success in this game won't be measured in my eyes by a win or loss. I'll be looking for signs that the Cowboys are turning things around.
What does that look like? I think it starts with seeing the players give everything they have for 60 minutes. While I don't think the entire team gave up last week I do think it is safe to say that the players definitely checked out early mentally when things went downhill. Jason Garrett has introduced a fresh approach to the practice week and hopefully it will show up in terms of the mental preparation that seems to have been lacking since Romo went down in the first Giants game.
Turning things around also involves the defense breaking out of its funk. It has seemed to me that a lot of the players of gotten away from the game plan and tried to make plays on their own in the last few games. Demarcus Ware has been beaten outside on runs because he has been overpursuing. Anthony Spencer has had similar problems on his side because he keeps jumping to the outside of the tackle at the snap. I think if the players just get back to playing within the system we will see a huge improvement in the performance of the defense.
I hope to see the offensive line remember how to run block. How often has the running back been hit behind the line of scrimmage over the last few games? It is completely ridiculous that the offensive line can't consistently block the run better than they have so far. The Cowboys can forget about getting the offense rolling until they get back to running the ball better.
What I'll be watching the most is how Jason Garrett runs the team from the sidelines. I was so sick of seeing Wade Phillips stand on the sidelines dumbfounded as the team crumbled around him I was literally sick to my stomach watching him. I hope Garrett is a more commanding leader out there. Little things like throwing the challenge flag with a little conviction or yelling at a guy who makes a stupid mistake set a tone for the team. I want to see him bring some excitement back to the players. He doesn't have to be a cheerleader but I think showing some emotion would help set a better tone for the players.
I think the coaching change is at least going to make the last eight games of the season watchable again. I honestly expect Jason Garrett to have the team heading in the right direction by the time the season ends. Who knows, maybe the Cowboys can win a few games late in the season to establish some momentum heading into the offseason. But, for this week at least, I think I would be happy with just seeing the team play like a professional football team again.
I'm not picking the Cowboys to win this week but I think the game will be closer than the so called experts would have you believe. It isn't easy to blow out a division opponent because the teams are so familiar with one another. I just don't think the Cowboys can score enough points to beat the Giants without Romo running the offense. I predict a 27-17 loss for the Cowboys.