I noticed something while I was checking out the Detroit Lions blog Pride of Detroit for my weekly article on what the opponents fans are saying about our Cowboys. The two fan bases have a lot in common in the way they see their teams. I think that reflects some of the things that the two groups and their teams have in common.
This is not a game that has a lot of hatred going in. There is no twin brother coaches story, no memories of past playoff clashes, no long standing division rivalry. It's just two teams that are hoping to keep a good start to the season going. It is just interesting, to me at least, how many things seem to apply to both.
I'm not looking for keys to the game here. Just making some observations as we draw close to kickoff.
Both teams have been doing badly.
Dallas had a bad season last year, and the past couple of decades have been largely disappointing. Detroit has been suffering through failure the past 20 years. Both of the fan bases are sick of the crushed hopes and ready to get them behind them.
Other similarities after the jump.
Jim Schwartz is in his third year as the Lions head coach, and the new spirit he has brought to the team is making the Lions faithful (and to be a Lions fan over the past few years takes a lot of faith) believe good things are going to happen for seasons to come. Jason Garrett is reviving the spirits of Cowboys fans, with a lot of help from Rob Ryan. In both cases, the fans of the teams think they see something special happening, something that could last for years.
Hopes are still fragile.
Things are looking good right now, but on both the SBN websites you get a sense that the fans are very aware that they are not quite there yet. There is a lot yet to prove, and there are voices of caution that sound very similar in both cases. The teams are both doing better than many expected, and both still have their doubters.
Weaknesses in common.
Both teams have questions in the secondary, which is where each will likely hope to attack the other. Both teams are having trouble getting a consistent running game going, and their are questions about whether Jahvid Best and Felix Jones are going to be able to carry the load for their teams. Closely related to this, both have issues with the performance of the offensive line. Detroit's is aging, and having some of the issues Dallas had last year. The Cowboys of course are dealing with youth and inexperience, but it is a weakness both share. And because of these two elements, both pretty much have to rely on a bit of a gunslinger at quarterback to move the ball.
And some strengths too.
Both have a monster on defense. DeMarcus Ware is generally considered the best pass rushing OLB in football. Ndamukong Suh is generally considered the best pass rushing DT in football. Both have a receiver that is at times unstoppable in Jason Witten and Calvin Johnson. And those gunslingers, Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo, can be very effective if they can stay on their feet.
There have been some really bad drafts in the recent past for both teams. But lately things have gotten a lot better. Dallas of course had the 2009 draft, which was preceded by some other pretty lackluster efforts. But Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, and Tyron Smith are starting to make the last two drafts look pretty good. Detroit had a long stretch where all they seemed to draft were wide receivers, but since 2009 they have gotten Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Suh, and Best, all key players. Of course, they were able to profit from some of their wide receiver choices. Megatron is one. And then they were able to con someone into offering them a bunch of draft choices for . . . oh, I don't want to talk about it any more.
Both teams are tied for the lead in their division.
Again, it's early. But the Lions are tied with the Packers, and the Cowboys are tied with the Redskins and Giants. Both want to maintain frontrunner status.
The importance of the game.
It seems a bit odd to talk about the fourth game of the season being important, but of course every game is important in one way or another. This game is important for both teams, but the ways here are one thing that is different.
For the Detroit Lions, a win against the Cowboys would be a validation that they are now one of the power players in the NFL. 4-0 would make them look good, and despite the recent years, there is always a cachet to beating the Cowboys. The feeling is pretty common that the Cowboys are likely the best test so far for the Lions. A loss is not going to ruin their season, but it will not help that fragile nature of the hope surrounding the team.
The Cowboys are even less likely to have the season ruined by a loss, because the team is struggling with its well publicized injury situation. But a win would be an incredible validation of the Cowboy Way of Jason Garrett. It would show that this team can win even with so many of its stars limited or not able to take the field. And it would make the prospects after the bye week, when some of the injuries will be hopefully healed, look very good indeed.
There is one thing unique to the Cowboys this season. The team has yet to play an opponent that has been defeated at the time of the game this season. That of course is largely a function of it just being week 4, but the two week old trend of handing teams their first L would be nice to continue.
So two teams meet with some interesting parallels, but significant differences as well. Hopefully the Cowboys will prevail.