It is hard to quit talking about the Rams game. That felt good, and the more you look at what was going on, the better you feel. For example, rabblerousr's outstanding analysis of Tony Fiammetta's play at fullback shows that positive things are happening at several positions, and they are combining to make for a more successful team.
One word of caution about my forecast this week for what areas might be trouble for the Cowboys: It is very hard to find much negative in what happened against St Louis, but there is no question that the Rams are a team in very serious trouble. I am trying to be objective, but it is very difficult to separate those areas that went well due to the performance of the Cowboys, and those that went well due to the failings of the Rams. Nonetheless, in trying to predict potential problem areas for Dallas, I have to admit that things are mostly clear and sunny this week.
Remember, the lower the percentages, the better I think the team will perform in each area.
Forecast after the jump
Quarterback There is nothing better for a passing game than a good running game. I have alluded to this elsewhere, but I will put it a little more clearly: Perhaps the most important thing about the ground-pounding explosion against St Louis is that it has lifted a lot of the weight off of Tony Romo's shoulders. In two of the three losses so far this year, Tony had mental lapses that led to crucial interceptions. If he can get and keep his head straight, this team may make Dez Bryant look a little less foolish. I am a huge believer that mental attitude is a major part of success and failure in the NFL, and the eruption of the Dallas running attack is the best thing that could happen to lessen the pressure on Tony. He should realize that it is not all on him. For that matter, everyone else should realize it is not all on him. Now just get that rib healed all the way up.
CHANCE OF QB BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 50%
Running Back Heh. Heh heh. BWAHAHAHAH!
I'm sorry. Yes, it was epic. It was record setting. It was also laugh out loud fun. Not funny, just so enjoyable you have to throw your head back and belly laugh. We were worried about Felix Jones being out. Ha!
There is one sort of sad thing about DeMarco Murray's ridiculously dominant performance. It is probable that he will never have a day to match that. Oh, well, 253 yards does leave him a lot of room to have some very good performances. And as if that wasn't enough, Phillip Tanner made it on the field at last and was exactly what I thought he would be, a very good straight ahead power runner. It was too small a sample size to be certain he will continue to impress, but the early returns on Tanner are very good.
And I don't think we have heard the last of Felix, either. I think if he gets healthy, he will also have a lot of success. Murray did not run without help. There were some great holes opened for him, and if you give the Cat the same blocking and play calling, he can get well into triple digits himself.
Now if we can just make sure that everyone understands that Tashard Choice is now the number four back . .
CHANCE OF RB BEING A PROBLEM: 10% Last time: 40%
Tight End/Fullback Tony Fiammetta was back. As rabble explained, that was likely a major factor in what happened when DeMarco got the ball. And Jason Witten is still Jason By God Witten. (On a side note, was I the only one getting irritated at the TV announcers for the Falcons game gushing over how Tony Gonzalez is the greatest tight end of all time? The man is a really big wide receiver lining up sometimes in the tight end position. Jason Witten is a pure tight end and could beat Gonzales in MMA, poker, and Final Jeopardy any day of the week.)
Now if someone could do for Martellus Bennett's mental attitude what DeMarco is doing for Tony's . . .
CHANCE OF TE/FB BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 20%
Wide Receiver Maybe you are getting tired of this, but here is yet another area where the new all time single game rushing record holder for the Dallas Cowboys is going to help. Teams will now have to decide whether to put extra help in the box defensively to stop the run, or focus on containing the still dangerous wide receivers. In one game, almost in one carry, the entire nature of the Cowboys offense changed, from a pass dependent one to a very balanced attack. This will almost certainly mean less double coverage on Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Just imagine the results of single coverage when they go up against a team whose secondary has a reputation for poor tackling to boot . . .
Heh. Heh heh.
CHANCE OF WR BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 20%
Offensive Line Again, I have to apologize to Montrae Holland. Last week, I was unhappy about him returning to the team. Now I have a big lump in my throat thinking about his contributions in the Rams game.
Doug Free is still having some issues, but I think having Montrae back is going to shore things up considerably. But on offense, this is the one area that I still am a little nervous about. The Eagles are not the Rams by a long shot, even if they have struggled. This is a long standing rivalry where the two teams often play closer than you would think - and it is a 3-3 team playing a 2-4 team. If there is any area the Cowboys need to avoid being too cocky, it is here.
CHANCE OF OL BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 60%
Defensive Line Jay Ratliff and Marcus Spears had a good game. But three offsides penalties, one of which gave the other side a new set of downs? That really bothers me. I think getting that many flags is a failure of discipline and trying to rely too much on anticipating the snap count. I hope Rob Ryan is making judicious application of his boot to some butts this week.
CHANCE OF DL BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 20%
Linebacker I love seeing good, all over the field inside linebacker play. This week, I loved it even more that I was seeing it from Bradie James and Keith Brooking. It is good that Sean Lee does not have to be Superman every week. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Ware was still DeMarcus Freaking Ware. This unit is still the strong heart of the defense. And Bruce Carter is still waiting in the wings.
CHANCE OF LB BEING A PROBLEM: 10% Last time: 10%
Defensive Backs Abram Elam had an excellent game, leading the team in tackles. On his forced fumble and recovery, he just looked like a very smart football player, which was the idea when Rob Ryan brought him in. Mike Jenkins had an interception, and the other players, including Alan Ball, had a good game.
Against A. J. Feeley. You may not like Michael Vick as a person, but you have to respect his ability as a football player and a playmaker. His ability to escape the rush and make yards with his legs presents an entirely different set of problems. Somebody is going to have to really dog him to make sure he doesn't get loose, and the much more dangerous receivers like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek will have to be covered. I think this unit can do a good job after how they handled Tom Brady, Wes Welker and company, but the danger factor is definitely up this week.
CHANCE OF DB BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 20%
Special Teams Dan Bailey just keeps hitting field goals. On kick returns, the Cowboys have not shown much, although having Dez Bryant back on punt returns does offer some hope. This week, the kick coverage is more likely to be an issue. However, Jackson has not had much success so far, and I have been rather impressed with the coverage units this year. Just a minor bit of concern over the fact that the Eagles often play us better than they should.
CHANCE OF ST BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 10%
Coaching I envision Jason Garrett sitting, working on his offensive game plan for the Eagles, and laughing evilly as he considers how the whole playbook has now opened up. And isn't it amazing how his situational play calling suddenly improved with one little 91-yard touchdown jaunt? I almost took this all the way down to 10%, but held off. After all, this is the Iggles, who can really get up for the Cowboys. Nothing to take for granted here.
Rob Ryan has to figure a way to collar Michael Vick, who can be called a positively outstanding signal-caller. I suspect he is up to the challenge, but this is a real greyhound of a quarterback who can beat you up with his arm as well. Still, I am hoping he lets loose his hounds to get on Michael.
CHANCE OF COACHING BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 30%
Jerry Jones Tashard Choice. David Buehler. They are on the roster because?
Oh, yeah. Jerry, it is OK to admit you are wrong and move on. Really.
CHANCE OF JJ BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 30%