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Dallas Cowboys Preliminary Forecast For The Patriots Game

It sucked. There is no other way to put it. Well, there are, but Dave will not let me use that kind of language.

I have to make some references to Meltdown II in this forecast, but I am trying to look ahead as much as I can. No amount of analysis will change the last game. And we can do nothing to influence what the team does to fix the issues. (Well, unless the coaching staff reads BTB and heeds what we have to say. Which I rather seriously doubt.)

So I am looking ahead, trying to figure out what the issues are likely to be when the team plays the New England Patriots. Since this is the bye week, I may have need to update things next week before the game.

As always, I am trying to predict how likely it is that "bad weather", or problems on the field, will happen within the different units of the team. 10% is the best prediction possible, and 90% is the worst.

This week's look ahead after the jump.

Quarterback This was a case where I may have made a pretty good prediction, but it was for all the wrong reasons. I had a 50% chance of QB being a problem, but that was based on the chance of Tony getting re-injured. I did not expect the 50/50 proposition to refer to sudden brain deadness. 

The hard part is trying to figure out if this is changing for the New England game. And if so, which way does it go? Against a lesser team, I might want to lower the chances of Tony cutting our hearts out and dancing on them, but this is the Patriots. I think things will get better. After this game.

But I cannot go all pessimistic on Tony, because when he is good, he is very, very good. This is one of those areas that is going to stay close to 50% all season, just because Tony is Tony. This week, against one of the toughest opponents of the year, I think the odds are a little worse than 50/50, but just a little.

The best hope we have for "good Tony" to be with us for the entire game is for it to be close, with Dallas trailing, and to be down one or two points in the closing minutes. Then Tony will probably get the team into position for a field goal and the team wins. Just the way it seems to work.

CHANCE OF QB BEING A PROBLEM:  60%  Last time:  50%

Running Back Funny thing. Tashard Choice had his best game of the year. Felix Jones was getting decent yards. The running game looked pretty good against a very stout defensive front. I think the running game is all right with the possible exception of short yardage situations, which may actually be an issue in another facet of the team. Called coaching. More on that later.

CHANCE OF RB BEING A PROBLEM:  30%  Last time:  40%

Tight End/Fullback Jason Witten should be at or near 100% after two weeks off, and he was near 100 yards receiving anyway. Tony Fiammetta should be back. The only negative here is that Martellus Bennett still dropped one of the three passes thrown his way. And John Phillips doesn't tackle linebackers well.

CHANCE OF TE/FB BEING A PROBLEM:  20%  Last time:  30%

Wide Receiver At last. Nothing but good news, and I mean major improvement. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant look to be nearly completely healthy for the first time since early in the Jets game. And Laurent Robinson has provided some much needed depth and a legitimate threat if the team wants to put three wideouts on the field. I am feeling wildly optimistic at this spot for this week. This may even mean Tony does not have to limit himself in his choices when he passes, which can only help.

CHANCE OF WR BEING A PROBLEM:  10%  Last time:  70%

Offensive Line I was very worried about the Yuglies going up against Ndamukong Suh. But they handled it pretty well. Tyron Smith did get beat once late, at a very inopportune time, but nobody is going to win every single battle. There are still big questions about Doug Free and the fact he seems to be playing hurt, but no one seems to know if that is really true or not.

But the O line has proven it is at least competent. And New England is still dead last in defense (yards/game). I expect some mistakes, but I am growing comfortable that these guys will not be a major issue. They may not be spectacular, but they seem to get the job done.

CHANCE OF OL BEING A PROBLEM:  30%  Last time:  70%

Defensive Line There is a bit of controversy about whether they did a good job or a bad one last week. No sacks, but for the first three quarters Matthew Stafford did not look comfortable and was getting banged around. The rushing game for Detroit was a total non-factor. Yes, the team could have used a sack late to stop Detroit from taking the lead. But there were a lot of other things that went wrong, too. I just don't see any reason to change my forecast because I still believe in these guys.

CHANCE OF DL BEING A PROBLEM:  20%  Last time:  20%

Linebacker Again, no sacks. And Sean Lee was a mere mortal this week. The big news for this unit is that Bruce Carter should be available after the New England game. But this forecast is for that game, so I can't factor that in yet. I can just drool over the thought of DeMarcus Ware, Lee, Carter, and Anthony Spencer lined up at the same time.

CHANCE OF LB BEING A PROBLEM:  20%  Last time:  10%

Defensive Backs If any unit needs the bye week at this point, it is these guys. Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick, Gerald Sensabaugh, Alan Ball and Danny McCray all were just recovering or nursing some kind of injury by the time the Detroit game was over according to the scattered reports I have seen. With Tom Brady and the Patriots' receiving corps coming up, there is no better time for the DBs to potentially be at their healthiest all year. I'd improve this forecast, but it is Tom Brady and company coming up.

CHANCE OF DB BEING A PROBLEM:  30%  Last time:  30%

Special Teams Have you noticed that since the Jets game, this unit has been quietly almost flawless? No big returns given up, Mat McBriar is still booming them, Dan Bailey is exceeding expectations, and we have discovered the next great kick returner in Sean Lissemore. OK, maybe not, but then again, I would like to see what would happen if Lissy got another short kick and could get a head of steam built up.

CHANCE OF ST BEING A PROBLEM:  10%   Last time:  20%

Coaching Funny thing about the forecast. Most of the units look fairly good. Several got significantly better. Only one is flagged as a likely big issue. Yet uncertainty abounds for most fans of the Cowboys, including me. And for the first time since Jason Garrett took over the reins, I have to ask myself how many of the issues that came out last game lie at his feet.

There are a lot of things that are going pretty darn well for the Cowboys, given what they faced before the lockout was resolved. But at crucial moments, the team just implodes. I have some serious doubts now concerning how JG calls the game in certain situations, namely when the Cowboys are ahead, I have my theory, and Kegbearer has a very similar one. The gist of it is that, like with Tony, I now find myself worrying that Garrett will make the same mistakes again he has made previously. As I said, it only shows up in certain situations, but then it seems to become a death spiral.

This is the easiest thing to fix. If Jason can see his own problem. But that is not at all certain.

CHANCE OF COACHING BEING A PROBLEM:  50% (dependent almost entirely on whether the Cowboys get out to a big lead or not.)  Last time:  30%

Jerry Jones I don't know whether to make anything of the Tony Romo shrug off video or not. Jerry is not putting much into it and understands that TR was already in about as foul a mood as he could get. I actually get the feeling that JJ is going to stay out of it right now. He's not going to be quiet, just not going to actually do anything. I hope.

CHANCE OF JJ BEING A PROBLEM:  40%  Last time:  30%

Most everything is trending well. Except for the two you can't afford to be going the wrong way. I really had hoped to have a better feel for the nature of this edition of the team by now, but I still feel very uncertain. This can go good. Or bad. And I really don't know which way it will break.

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