This is a tough one. When I look at video of the last game for the Cowboys' next opponent, I am trying to find things that may be key to the game.
But you don't see a lot that is totally useful when you see a team that is just clearly overmatched. Coming in at 0-5, the St Louis Rams are struggling in all phases. And when they are playing the defending Super Bowl champions, with a quarterback that is establishing himself as one of the best in the league, you get pretty much what you would expect, a 24-3 loss that may not have been as close as the score looks.
I see three possible outcomes for the Cowboys. They could win this game easily, which would be very good and could start Dallas on a strong run with a part of the schedule coming up that is likely easier than the first five games. They could have another meltdown and lose, which would probably mean that the season is going to be a long, sad one. Or they could have a narrow victory, leaving us still wondering just what kind of a team the Cowboys really are.
My reasoning after the jump.
The numbers from the game show some contradictory things. Sam Bradford had a lot of yards passing, but the team was unable to get into the end zone and only managed one field goal on two attempts, although they were going for it on fourth down - and failing - to try and get some touchdowns. The yards also came inefficiently, with Bradford only averaging 7.3 yards per attempt. Steven Jackson, coming back from injury, had a good game, but with the Packers taking a big lead, the Rams got away from the run to try and score. Defensively, the Rams held the Packers scoreless in the second half, but with a three touchdown lead and facing an impotent offense, Green Bay did not need to press for more points.
Watching the game also is a little problematical because some of the things from the game are not totally applicable for the game coming up. The quarterback play on both sides will show what I mean.
When Green Bay had the ball, Aaron Rodgers was able to take what the Rams gave him. When they stayed deep, he carved them up underneath. When they tried to take away the shorter stuff, receivers would get past the safeties, leading to two of the touchdowns, including a 93 yard pass to Jordy Nelson where he just split the two defenders and streaked into the end zone. And Rodgers was able to move around and scramble for yards several times. The Packers only gave up one sack.
Tony Romo is still nursing a broken rib, and it is highly doubtful he will have the mobility that Rodgers was able to use. And the recent problems on the offensive line mean that he will likely have to stick with the quick releases and shorter passes, giving the Cowboys perhaps half the offensive options in the passing game that the Packers used.
When the Rams were on offense, Bradford was at his most effective moving around and when the team played no huddle. But he suffered a high ankle sprain in the game, and it is uncertain who will start at quarterback for St Louis. If they stick with Bradford, he will certainly be less mobile, which could mean that the Dallas defense will be all over him. If they go with A. J. Feeley, who knows? Is he going to be able to go no huddle? It might be even worse with him than with Bradford, or it could turn into another case where a normally ineffective backup comes out and has a career day against Dallas. Given the way the season has gone for the Cowboys, I get a stomachache just thinking about that.
Even more puzzling is the fact that one of the best receivers on the field for the Rams is probably going to be Brandon Lloyd, who just came over from the Denver Broncos. He is essentially an X factor. Will he be as effective as the Rams hope, or will he not be on the same page with his quarterback? Who knows?
The St Louis run game is at least something that Dallas should be able to counter, based on the history of the season so far. But with Jackson having missed time due to injury, that is not certain. Dallas has been very effective stopping the run but Jackson cannot be discounted. He put up 96 yards against Green Bay, a team that ranks fifth in the league defending the run. And when Dallas has the ball, it would seem like an opportunity for them to get their running attack on track, going up against the 29th ranked rush defense in the NFL. But again, it comes back to the offensive line, which has not done very well opening up the holes this year, and Felix Jones is hurt again.
Maybe Dallas has an advantage in special teams, with Josh Brown missing one of his two FG attempts. But they were solid in kick coverage, so that is not definitive.
I don't really know that I learned much from the video this week. I hope we learn something good about the Cowboys Sunday.