The VRR: Cowboys Hope to Tell the Saints it Ain't Happening

Dome, dome, dome, dome...

When the Cowboys travel to the Superdome to face those undefeated Saints, who have the number one offense in the league with the number one QB in the conference, they must go in thinking two words: "UP" and "SET".

The home loss against San Diego last week was a heartbreaker, but Dallas now has this one last chance to play up to the level of one of the league's top teams - the elite team in the NFC, in fact. A win can do wonders, but it won't be easy. The dome teams are doing quite well this season.

This year, three indoor teams have either secured homefield advantage for at least one game or are on the verge of doing so. The Colts, Saints and Vikings should soon consume both two No. 1 seeds and the NFC's No. 2, respectively.

Times may have changed but it remains to be seen if these teams aren't haunted by their indoors postseason history. The Colts are 4-3 in home playoff games, the Saints are 2-3 in the Superdome in the postseason, and the Vikings are just over .500 (5-4) in the Metrodome come playoff time.

This season, the three teams are a combined 37-2 overall and own a perfect 20-0 inside their domes.

More VRR after the jump.

Sure, they face an undeated team. But the Cowboys are also trying to prevent a three-game losing streak. Just win, baby!

Snapping out of this skid will be tough. Dallas is headed to New Orleans for a Saturday night game against the undefeated Saints and a Superdome crowd that's sure to be, uh, boisterous. The Cowboys could lose that game and still get in the playoffs. But a third straight defeat would clinch a 13th straight December without a winning record and would leave them ripe for a knockout.

"We're not down, we're not out,'' receiver Roy Williams said Tuesday. "We're still going to play. Got a tough week this week and a bunch of naysayers around the country, but in this room, we know what we can do.''

A victory could be the springboard they need. A 3-0 finish is the only way the Cowboys are guaranteed to salvage the division title.

Like the great competitor he is, DeMarcus Ware wants to play despite soreness in his neck.

"Just taking it day-by-day and go from there," Ware said before practice on Tuesday morning. "Neck is a little sore right now so you have to be cautious with that. But at the end of the day, treating it and trying to get ready for this week."

[snip]

Ware said the injury scared him, but will do whatever the doctors say before getting back on the field. "It's really important," he said about listening to the doctors.

"Since not only are you talking about the team standpoint of being able to go out there and make plays and try to win a game this week. But also you got to think about the player's health. He can go out there and he might get paralyzed, hurt himself even more. Which one is more important: longevity or right now."

If DWare can't go, it will be interesting to see how well rookie Victor Butler handles his first starting gig in the pros.

"With D-Ware, you lose a leader," said the 22-year-old linebacker. "Not only a verbal leader, but he leads by example. With a guy like that out, you just have to step up everywhere. Special teams have to step up, individual guys have to step up to make the team better — myself, Steve Octavien. Guys have to step up and elevate your level of play."

While Martellus Bennett (concussion) will miss another game, Ken Hamlin has returned to practice and should get the start in New Orlearns.

Phillips said he believes Hamlin, who calls the defensive signals, will help the Cowboys make adjustments against the Saints' complicated offense. However, Phillips acknowledged that it could be difficult for a safety missing a month to return against the NFL's top-ranked offense.

"I don't think he'll make any mental mistakes back there," Phillips said. "Physically, how quickly he'll react to things and get back in the swing of it, I don't know for sure. I think he will, but he may be a little rusty."

The Saints' RB/PR/WR, Reggie Bush, could give the Cowboys headaches if they're not ready for his unique skill set.

The Saints may be targeting the nickel linebacker or the nickel cornerback. So Bobby Carpenter and Orlando Scandrick must be ready to chase the former Heisman Trophy winner in pass coverage. On first downs, when the Cowboys are in their conventional 3-4 defense, the Saints may decide it's a safety's turn to cover Bush. So Ken Hamlin or Alan Ball may wear the bull's-eye.

If the Cowboys go light Saturday night and lean on their nickel and dime packages out of respect for the NFL's third-ranked passing attack, the Saints may opt to hand the ball to Bush. Few are better in the open spaces a spread formation creates. Bush rushed for 83 yards on six carries against the Rams.

Against the high-scoring Saints, the Dallas offense needs to make plays to stay competitive. Other than Miles Austin, Felix Jones is a player who can score from any point on the field. But that doesn't mean the Cowboys will use him more than Marion Barber.

The Barber of September is better than the others but not the Barber who is in the midst of another three-month slide. A year ago, Barber ran for 311 yards with 4.4 yards per carry in the first four games and 574 yards with 3.4 yards per carry for the remainder of the season.

He is on the same path this season and has been at the center of costly plays in each of the last two games: a lost fumble late in the first half of the loss at the Giants and failing to score on three tries from the 1-yard line in Sunday's loss to San Diego.

Jones is going in the other direction, averaging five yards over his last 36 carries. He has the big-play capability that the pedestrian Barber lacks. The Cowboys have been reluctant to use Jones for more than about 10 carries per game out of concern he will break down.

Nah, there won't be much difference in the backfield. Look for the Cowboys to try to control the ball some with Barber. Yes, they need points, but they also need to keep Brees and the offense off the field.

Phillips was asked if he's considered reshuffling his running back rotation in an attempt to spark the team. Starter Marion Barber failed to get in the end zone against the Chargers despite three carries from the 1-yard line in the second quarter.

"Marion ran the ball really hard and really well except we didn't get him in on the goal line," said Phillips, who essentially blamed that failure on the offensive line. "Those plays down there dropped his average (to 3.4 yards per carry) or he would've had a big average... I don't know that that's really the answer."

Nick Folk's recent failures have David Buehler thinking about his long-term career goals.

"Eventually, to have longevity in this league, I need to be able to kick field goals," Buehler said. "I'm not going to be a kickoff specialist my whole career. So I need to fine-tune that and be able to be a reliable field-goal kicker."

Buehler said he's been kicking a few field goals in practice, but not many and not as seriously as he needs to now.

"Most of all, it's mental," he said. "I mean, going out there and getting back into that rhythm and doing the consistent motion every single time. ... I'm going to be there if need be. Who knows when they'll need me, if they'll need me at all."

DC.com posted an interview with K David Buehler here.

The Tony Romo of old VS the Tony Romo of today.

In four December contests last season, Romo threw five touchdowns and was intercepted six times. Through two games this month, he's thrown five touchdowns without a single interception.

Since his poor outing in Week 2 against the Giants, Romo has thrown 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions while averaging close to 280 passing yards per contest. Friends, that is flat-out elite quarterbacking.

Alex Marvez lists Miles Austin as his third biggest bargain player in the NFL.

Miami and the New York Jets should be kicking themselves. Neither franchise signed Austin to a tender offer as a restricted free agent when he could have potentially been lured away from a Cowboys team with cap challenges. He drew interest from the Jets before they backed off, while a Dolphins front office that comes largely from Dallas should have known Austin was set to blossom in his fourth NFL season. He has already posted career-highs in catches (52), receiving yardage (928) and touchdowns (9) while becoming QB Tony Romo's favorite wide receiver.

Austin is playing under a one-year, $1.545 million contract that would have required any suitor to surrender a second-round draft pick if the Cowboys didn't match a tender offer signed elsewhere. Austin will never come as cheaply again to other NFL teams or, for that matter, the Cowboys.

This is the last week to vote for the Pro Bowl. While DeMarcus Ware looks like a shoe-in, these other Cowboys could use a few more votes.

Sam Hurd is second among special teamers, while Miles Austin and Deon Anderson are third at wide receiver and fullback. Tight end Jason Witten, tackle Flozell Adams, center Andre Gurode, inside linebacker Keith Brooking, kicker Nick Folk and punter Mat McBriar are fourth at their positions. Safeties Ken Hamlin (free) and Gerald Sensabaugh (strong) are fifth.

No sign of nose tackle Jay Ratliff in the defensive tackle race, which is somewhat surprising.

Here's the link to the official Pro Bowl Ballot.

Updating the Pacquiao/Mayweather venue fight.

No definite venue has been agreed upon although reports are that, among those bidding, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is the frontrunner. Texas' Dallas Cowboys has made a strong $25 million dollar bid to steal it away, but MGM is said to be putting together a deal that will reach over $30 million.

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