It sure does feel good to be talking about a game where the Dallas Cowboys have a chance to earn a share of the NFC East lead. If our intrepid heroes can pull off the win, they will even hold a tiebreaker advantage over the mildly disliked Washington Redskins.
And does it give you a rush of nostalgia to be playing those Redskins for the lead in the division? It's a flashback to the years when Dallas and Washington were brawling it out to be the top Beast in the East.
It's already a feel good week for Dallas fans coming out of a game where, for once, the word "heroic" is not an exaggeration. For the players, however, there are a lot of not so good feelings, as the Cowboys injury list keeps growing.
Those injuries are a big part of my Football Forecast this week. There are a lot of areas of the team with a lot of unanswered questions, and uncertainty does not make for favorable outlooks.
Just a reminder, the percents here are the likelihood of "bad weather" for each part of the team.
My take on the coming game after the jump.
Quarterback It seems almost unfair to have to worsen the forecast for quarterback after one of the most courageous performances seen in a Dallas uniform since Emmitt Smith's legendary game against the Giants. The respect I felt for Tony Romo just grew as the injury report changed from rib injury to cracked rib to punctured lung to collapsed lung. Unfortunately, so did the concerns about the position. At this point, I am not sure what Tony's status is. He and Jason Garrett were both pretty optimistic about him playing when the Redskins come to Cowboys stadium. The team is also taking a second day off to let aching bodies heal. But until the doctors clear Romo, we can't be sure. I admire Jon Kitna, and he would hopefully do a little better than he did against San Francisco, but he isn't Tony Romo. This, like several of the other numbers here, could be much better by game time if some people heal.
It would be worse if I didn't figure Tony is going to do everything he can to convince the team he is ready to go.
CHANCE OF QB BEING A PROBLEM IF TONY PLAYS: 40% IF HE DOESN"T: 60% Last time: 30%
Running back I wonder what happened with the tweets from Tashard Choice last week about "change coming"? Instead, he wound up playing, and with Felix Jones ailing from a dislocated or separated shoulder (like Tony's lung, the diagnosis seems to vary from source to source), he had a chance to step up and show why the team needed to keep him around.
5 rushes for 5 yards may have done the opposite. He did catch 2 passes for 24 yards, but Dallas needs to get a running game going, and TC is just not contributing much there. Of course, neither is anyone else, with Felix just averaging 2.8 yards per carry, and DeMarco Murray 3.5. Maybe it is time to give Phillip Tanner a chance. If Felix can't go Monday, Tanner may get it. Regardless of who winds up carrying the rock, the team needs some yardage on the ground, especially if Kitna winds up under center. I don't know if the problem is the backs, the offensive line, the playcalling, or the front sevens the team has been facing, but things need to change.
CHANCE OF RB BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 30%
Tight End/Fullback Jason Witten was his normal incredible self last week. Martellus Bennett didn't get a ball thrown at him, but was blocking again. John Phillips did catch one ball. New FB Tony Fiammetta should have the playbook down well enough to be active, which may help the issues with the running game. Still the best unit on the team - although some guys on defense are making their own case.
CHANCE OF TE/FB BEING A PROBLEM: 10%. Last time: 10%
Wide Receiver The team survived without Dez Bryant. It may have to survive this week without Miles Austin, and Dez' return is not exactly certain. Plus Kevin Ogletree rolled an ankle. The team is concerned enough to re-sign Laurent Robinson for depth. And there is always Jesse Holley. But we don't know who exactly will be lining up here either.
CHANCE OF WR BEING A PROBLEM IF DEZ PLAYS: 40% IF HE DOESN"T: 70% Last time: 30%
Offensive Line I did not expect Doug Free to be a source of concern, but something was wrong for him on Sunday. He got pushed around. Hopefully, it was a combination of having a bad day and San Francisco having a pretty good front seven on D, but he needs to get his groove back. Otherwise, Derrick Dockery seemed to do all right, and Kevin Kowalski came in for Phil Costa and didn't get his name called, which is a very good thing. Still, the injuries just keep piling up, which is not a very good thing.
CHANCE OF OL BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 30%
Defensive Line Finally, the defense. Remember how everyone thought the offense would have to carry the defense while they learned Rob Ryan's complicated scheme? How silly we were! Instead, the Lord of Chaos is doing what I think is an outstanding job in using his players, and may be helping the offense out with a blistering pace for sacks. And Sunday saw Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff get in on the sack action. Add in holding the Niners to 74 yards on the ground, and I am comfortable with these guys.
CHANCE OF DL BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 20%
Linebackers DeMarcus Ware only had two tackles. But they were both sacks, and Alex Smith knew he was around. Anthony Spencer only had two tackles. But one was for a sack, and it is getting hard to call him "Almost Anthony" any more. ean Lee didn't match his stunning first game breakout, but he came close with 9 tackles and 2 assists. The only bad note is that Keith Brooking got pushed around a lot. But this is still a heck of a linebacking group.
CHANCE OF LB BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 20%
Defensive Backs There are times when the secondary does not look so great. Alan Ball got picked on a bit early in the game, but the team seemed to adjust. Meanwhile, Mike Jenkins and the safeties just didn't get their names called much, which seems to be a good thing. Frank Walker also saw some time and contributed, so his signing seems like it is working out. And Ball did rebound with an interception. I don't know if it's a matter of them not being as bad as I expected, or maybe the Big Robowski is just that good with his scheme, but I am starting to get a little faith in these guys. And it looks like Terence Newman may finally be back.
CHANCE OF DB BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 50%
Special Teams I was worried when Ted Ginn Jr. got his hands on the ball on four punts. He only wound up averaging 11.3 yards a return. Dwayne Harris averaged 12.5. The only concern is Dan Bailey's miss on the field goal. He redeemed himself with the kicks to tie and then win the game, but that miss makes me worry. Well, at least nothing got blocked.
CHANCE OF ST BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 30%
Coaching I wrote a whole post about building depth from within. I think that is exactly what this team is doing, and I think that is all about the coaching. Last year if the injuries had happened like they did on Sunday, I don't think the next guy up would have been good enough in a couple of places. But they were this year. With the huge number of walking wounded, it is going to take good to great play from the backups to win the Monday game with the Redskins. We just might get it.
Another good sign was how the team came back and fought after the opening game meltdown. The coaches kept them positive, and it showed. The Niners hit the Cowboys with a body blow right in the ribs (sorry), and the team was staggered but came back. And there never was any sign of panic on the sidelines, just a lot of Rob being Rob and Jason calm as ever.
The only issue here is the running game. Jason has always been focused on the pass, but this team needs a ground game to take some of the load. Just 75 or 80 yards, and the ability to punch it in from short yardage. We could use that. Really.
CHANCE OF COACHING BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 30%
Jerry Jones Jerry was back to being Jerry. Talking about who would play, and who wouldn't, saying that Tony was going to start this week, then backing off. Well, at least his story didn't change any more than the reports in the news media.
I am curious. Do any of the other NFL owners have their own radio shows? I haven't found any, but my search has been cursory.
CHANCE OF JJ BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 40%
I'm more concerned about things this week. Washington is off to a great start. This game may be decided largely by who is able to suit up for the game. Here's hoping being home helps the team after four consecutive road trips.