The first half of the season has wound up a disappointing 3-5 for the Dallas Cowboys. As they start the second half of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles, we should find out what this team is really made of.
If you live and die by the won-lost record of the Dallas Cowboys, I hope the life support is going well. If, however, you appreciate drama and watching a team fight for their life against adversity, then this season still has the potential for a very exciting finish.
The midpoint of the season sets a clear defining line for the Cowboys. So far this season, Dallas has had the hardest schedule, based on the records of their opponents. That now changes, radically.
RT @espn_nfcwest: Easiest remaining schedules: DEN (.354), DAL (.373), OAK (.400), PHI (.403), PIT (.409)— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) November 7, 2012
There is still a real chance for the Cowboys to make a run. It may not be a very good chance. It would certainly take getting a lot of things right that have been wrong so far. And the margin for error is getting very, very thin. It will likely come down to just what this team is really made of, and how it responds over the next eight weeks. Jason Hatcher laid out the task ahead, and he shows the attitude that the entire team is going to need.
"What you can do is you can look yourself in the mirror and check yourself, check your character to see what kind of man you is. Yeah, you're dug in a hole. Now what are you going to do about it? Are you going to get out of it or are you going to tuck your tail and run like a punk? That's what you've got to do. Right now, I'm checking myself. I'm not giving up."
The indications are that the entire team is frustrated by the wasted opportunities and near-misses. Now they have a golden opportunity to take the first step towards salvaging the season, or at least preserving some chance of making a run, as they face the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles come into the game with the same 3-5 record, and possibly even more disappointment than the Cowboys, since they were a preseason favorite to win the NFC East or at least contend for a playoff spot. Andy Reid is definitely on the hot seat with his team on a four game losing streak. The quarterback situation is unsettled as PETA favorite Michael Vick struggles with both turnovers and incomplete passes. Their offensive line is in worse shape than the Cowboys'.
The Philadelphia Eagles made it official Wednesday, putting right tackle Todd Herremans on season-ending injured reserve with the ankle injury he suffered in Monday night's loss to the Saints in New Orleans. That means the Eagles right now are without four of the five players they planned to use this year as starting offensive linemen.
The team gave up seven sacks against the New Orleans Saints. That's against Michael Vick, still one of the more elusive quarterbacks in the league.
Things are not much better on the defensive side. Reid fired Juan Castillo, offensive assistant turned offensive coordinator, due to a variety of issues.
One area that the Eagles have really struggled this season where they had not before is in putting pressure on the passer. Defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole haven't had the type of years that we have seen before.
And the Eagles' secondary seems to have been studying at the Terrence Newman School of Tackling, as this film breakdown illustrates.
This has all the ingredients for a great game for the Cowboys to get well. But...
Andy Reid is always a worry. He has quite frankly had the Cowboys' number the past couple of years, although at least this time he does not have a bye week to prepare. But the man has one of the more devious and cunning minds in the NFL, and I say that purely as a compliment. Just as the Eagles have multiple issues for Dallas to exploit, there are certainly troublesome areas in the Cowboys that Reid is going to lock on to try and take advantage.
And he still has some respectable weapons in his arsenal, particularly LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. McCoy still managed to rush for 119 yards against the Saints, despite the patchwork line. And in between the Vick sacks, Jackson had 100 yards receiving. In that game, the Eagles managed 447 yards. Even playing catchup, that is a pretty impressive figure. Had it not been for a 99 yard interception return they gave up, the game might have had a very different complexion.
Or maybe not. There is no question that the Eagles are in disarray. But they have just as much pride as the next NFL team, and they are in just as desperate a situation as the Cowboys, despite Jason Garrett's reluctance to use that particular word. The key for the Cowboys to making some lemonade out of this season is to focus on each game and take care of business. They have to have a couple of runs to get anything out of this season. But there is some hope with the matchup this week, and if they can emerge from Lincoln Financial Field (which has been a little hostile to the home team this year, something none of us would ever guess could happen with Philadelphia fans) with a win, this year could actually get to be a little bit fun to watch.