OK, I want all of you to take a bow. You know, all the ones who looked at the schedule and said that all Dallas had to do was get on a winning streak in November and then the Giants would fall back to us. You called this. You were very, very good. The Dallas Cowboys have done exactly what you said they needed to do, and if anything, they are ahead of schedule.
But there are still six weeks of the regular season to go, and even though the Giants have a much tougher looking schedule ahead of them prior to our first game with them, there is still not a big margin for error. The Cowboys need to stay focused and remember that any team can suddenly put their best game on the field. The mystique of the Star is alive and well, and any win you can get over Dallas is a little special, especially now that the team is once again relevant concerning the the playoffs.
Before I get to the forecast, just a moment to give a little football thanks, in the spirit of the season. I am so thankful that the team is in such a radically different place than it was a year ago. I, for one, enjoy talking about what the team needs to do to get to the third or fourth seed much more than wondering if the new guy has what it takes to become the permanent head coach. I am so glad to be looking at how to win better than wondering how many seasons it would take to become competitive again. Thanks to the coaches, staff, ownership, and team that have made this a Season of Hope.
And, a little more personally, thanks to everyone here at BTB for making my first season as a staff writer so much fun. The other staff and all you great fans make it so much fun to come here and share my semi-informed and occasionally peculiar thoughts.
Now, on to the forecast. Dallas comes into the game on a three game winning streak, but so do the surprisingly surging Miami Dolphins. Both teams have recently played the Buffalo Bills, and both dealt the Bills a serious beating. With that in mind, I'll take a shot at projecting how the Cowboys are likely to do.
If you are new, the percents are my SWAG about how likely the Cowboys are to see "bad weather" or on field problems because of that unit.
My look ahead after the jump.
Quarterback Tony Romo was a little bit of a mixed bag against the Redskins. There were some times when he just did not seem to be quite in tune with his wide receivers, although it is hard to know how much of that was on him and how much on them, or on the Washington defense. But there is no question that he had some really remarkable plays. His rollouts away from pressure on both of his fourth quarter touchdowns were marvelous examples of why he is such a good quarterback.
More importantly is that he has not thrown an interception during the three game winning streak. Tony is playing smart football. He can have some issues, but he is still a very talented and always competitive quarterback.
CHANCE OF QB BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 10%
Running Back The Redskins found a way to slow DeMarco Murray down - but they didn't completely stop him. He still had some tough runs, and Jason Garrett did not abandon the rush. And I think there is something to the fact that Washington had Tashard Choice on its roster, which meant they essentially had the Dallas running playbook to use in game prep. Miami is statistically a better running defense than Washington, but they are also a worse passing defense. I think something has to give, and I think DeMan and Felix Jones will do all right - especially if the team has a fullback playing Thursday.
CHANCE OF RB BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 10%
Tight End/Fullback I apologized to Martellus Bennett last week. And he had the best game of his pro career against Washington. So 'Tellus, I am sorry for every bad thing I ever thought or said or wrote about you. Even thinking that was a goofy looking hat you wore after the game.
Meanwhile, Jason Witten had the longest touchdown reception of his career. I am glad this Senator has no term limits so far. And even John Phillips got in the act with a reception.
As a matter of fact, there were seven balls thrown at the tight ends by Tony Romo, and they caught all of them.
The only sign of a problem here is the health of Tony Fiammetta. I haven't seen anything about what illness he is suffering, or how he is doing. If he is not back, the question becomes whether the team will go with what they used against Washington, or bring Shaun Chapas up from the practice squad. Without an answer, this remains a small concern. But according to some of the comments from the fans here at BTB, the issue with the running game wasn't the lead blocking, it was just that there were too many Redskins getting to the play. (See Tashard Choice conspiracy theory under the running backs section.)
CHANCE OF TE/FB BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 20%
Wide Receiver This is one thing that really surprised me. The wideouts were just not very good for much of the game. Dez Bryant only caught 3 of the 8 passes thrown his direction, and Laurent Robinson was perhaps even worse, catching 4 of 11. Each of them did have touchdown catches and Dez had the big reception to set up the game winning field goal, but overall, they were not at all good. I think this was more of a one game thing, especially for Laurent who was so reliable prior to this game, but I do have some concerns. And I don't think Miles Austin makes it back this week.
CHANCE OF WR BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 20%
Offensive Line I was worried about the pressure from Washington's pass rush last game. It looks like I should have been a little more worried, since Tony got sacked four times. And the running game was held in check for the most part. The Yuglies are still up and down. Fortunately the Dolphins are not as good at sacks or overall pass defense as Washington, but they are a team on the upswing.
CHANCE OF OL BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 40%
Defensive Line Against the run, the defensive front was great. Against the pass . . .
Like I said, they did a good job stopping the run. And quite frankly, I think the difficulties in stopping Rex Grossman and his, um, less than stellar receivers came from the scheme. Jason Hatcher had a strip sack and three quarterback hits. But Miami is getting a lot of production from Reggie Bush, and the Cowboys need to figure out how to stop that, starting here.
CHANCE OF DL BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 30%
Linebacker Sean Lee led the team in tackles, so he seems to be adjusting well to the Q Tip. And Bradie James was back on the field. But once again a team exploited the poor pass coverage over the middle. And the pass rush from DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer seemed less than it should have been. I am concerned here about the way these guys were being used, frankly, but this still reflects on them.
CHANCE OF LB BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 20%
Defensive Backs I really expected these guys to do very well against Rex Grossman. Well, that prediction certainly sucked. Matt Moore is playing very well right now, although the Miami team is not exactly putting up big numbers while they are winning. Still, the coverage is going to have to get better. And something has to be done about the way the middle of the field and the flats are being exploited. My prediction here is really high, which is just a gut reaction. I hope I am wrong.
CHANCE OF DB BEING A PROBLEM: 50% Last time: 10%
Special Teams With one exception, they pretty much fell apart. Mat McBriar largely set the Redskins up to score a touchdown with a terrible punt. When he did kick it deep, Brandon Banks shredded the coverage, and it was only a couple of saving tackles that kept him from getting touchdowns. This was totally out of character, since the Cowboys had been decent on coverage up until this game.
The one exception, of course, is Dan Bailey. (See: Game Ball Of The Week.)
CHANCE OF ST BEING A PROBLEM: 60% Last time: 30%
Coaching Jason Garrett is doing a good job. From a long term view, so is Rob Ryan. But this is the second game this year where he just seems to have been outplayed by the opposition. What was the three man rush all about (see OCC's post for details)? And if you drop eight in coverage, shouldn't they be doing a bit better? And is the problem with covering the passes in the flat on the players, or on the coverages being called? I think I detect two issues with RR: He sometimes builds a bad plan for the game, and he doesn't seem to adjust as well as I would hope when things start unraveling, especially late in the game. Letting Washington drive 94 yards to tie the game? Really?
Meanwhile, Joe DeCamillis has some serious work to do. Dan Bailey is not really Joe's area, and that was about the only thing that went well for the special teams. I do think he needs a better weapon than Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to return kicks, and maybe Felix Jones can help there. But the special teams came very close to giving this one away.
CHANCE OF COACHING BEING A PROBLEM: 50% Last time: 20%
Jerry Jones Seems to be fading from my consciousness. Kudos to him.
CHANCE OF JJ BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 20%
It's Thanksgiving week, which means the Cowboys are at home. Here is hoping that it goes a lot better this week - but as long as it's a win, it will be good.