The most crucial three-game stretch of the season (to be followed immediately by the most crucial two-game stretch) starts tonight for the Dallas Cowboys as they travel to Raymond James Stadium to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's the first of two Saturday games in a row as well as the NFL schedule adjusts to Christmas falling on Sunday this year.
It's also a night game this week, covered by the NFL Network. I hope you are all able to find somewhere to watch the game. I'd invite you over to my house, but the Witness Protection Program gets all squirrelly when I . . .
Oops. Just ignore that last part.
Anyway, the weather should be good. Looks like they are expecting partly cloudy skies and temps in the 60s.
Current events next. There will be a quiz.
Related to the story that we all are a bit disturbed by, Jerry Jones is hoping that Sam Hurd's activities didn't include any current Cowboys. In Jerryspeak:
"I have no detail at all on his activity and when and where and how," Jones said. "I just couldn't answer that. But I'm really satisfied with how the basic method of understanding the example that we want our players to set and appropriate behavior."
You'd think a man with his resources could afford enough verbs. But we still feel you, Jerry, and hope the current players are all clean in this.
While we are on the subject of somewhat mangled quotes about Sam Hurd, here is what his teammate and fellow former Cowboy Roy Williams had to say about it (I know you are all dying to hear Roy Willie's opinion):
"And I'm kind of pissed off at him, too, because it's a really selfish act," Williams said. "He has let us down in the wide receiver group, in which we were so close. He let down the wide receivers coach, the head coach, the Bears organization and the city. But that's my boy, too."
There is at least some hope that Jerry may get his wish about no other players being involved.
An attorney for San Hurd says rumors that the former Bears wide receiver was selling drugs to other NFL players are "patently and totally false."
Now if only it wasn't coming from a lawyer . . .
Moving on to more pleasant topics, Jerry was also expressing his opinion of how Doug Free has performed.
"He’s playing winning football. I think the best way to attest to that is that offensively, we are playing winning football, so I’m not as hard on Doug as maybe some of the media has been."
Well, we are above .500, so I guess the point is valid.
For a quick chuckle, take a look at these Fearless, Hopeless Predictions.
The game is probably going to have some impact on the direction Tampa Bay takes regarding its head coach, Raheem Morris. Don't know if you care about this. Or the link to the pictures from their cheerleader tryouts. I know none of you would care about that. (Admittedly they aren't Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader quality - but then who else is?)
Rob Ryan feels that he is to blame for some of the communications issues on the defense.
Dez Bryant thinks the Cowboys have the best wide receiver corps in the league.
"I feel like without a doubt that we are thebest receiving corps in the league," Bryant said.
That's debatable. There are other receiving corps that can make the same claim, including the one that won Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium. But the Cowboys' trio is at least in the conversation if Austin can stay healthy.
If only it weren't for that word if.
I love Troy Aikman the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback. But sometimes I am not terribly fond of Troy Aikman the Fox Network analyst. Like when he says things like this.
I've been in locker rooms before where you say, 'Yeah, but we control our own destiny, and it's all right out in front of us.' And for fans sometimes that's easy to understand. 'Yeah, OK, no real big deal as long as we take care of business the rest of the way.' But sometimes, in the locker room, it's hard to lose like that and keep your confidence.
After becoming one of the big surprises for the team and winning four games with his kicks, Dan Bailey has had a rough couple of weeks. The Oklahoman has a good article about him knowing how to face difficult times.
Challenges, after all, are nothing new to Bailey. He came out of Southwest Covenant School in Mustang, which most folks in the Oklahoma City metro area haven't even heard of. He walked on at Arkansas, which didn't work out. Then he walked on at OSU. That, on the other hand, worked out.
Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker.
He's been up for every challenge.
Now for the various and sundry analysis of the game itself.
It's always interesting to see where the news service articles show up first. This preview of the game came out first in sunny Honolulu.
The Dallas Cowboys are experiencing yet another December downturn, but their problems pale in comparison to those of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the Cowboys still have playoffs on their minds when the NFC East co- leaders head to Raymond James Stadium seeking to bounce back from a potentially very damaging loss from a week ago, the floundering Buccaneers will be attempting to avoid their longest in-season skid in 24 years when they take the field for Saturday's standalone Week 15 matchup.
The mothership has its take on the game.
The Sporting News makes its Pre-snap read.
NFL.com has a somewhat negative view of the game (from our point of view, anyway).
Then again, these are the Cowboys we're talking about. Sure, they have playoff talent, and they're still in the hunt for a postseason berth, but losses the past two weeks by missed/blocked field goals in the waning seconds point to another December slip for Dallas.
So actually, there are reasons to think the Cowboys could lose their third straight to a team that's run amuck in the wrong direction.
The Tampa Bay media has a "by the numbers" post that is pretty interesting, and a look at the lineups and analysis. And a different outlet offers keys to the game.
The Austin American-Statesman has its preview and look at what Tony Romo has to say about the game.
"Obviously, we've lost a couple of close games," Romo said. "We just have to come out and play a great game this week, have great energy and play our best game of the year.
"It's going to be a great challenge," he said. "Tampa is never an easy place to play."
The San Antonio paper always has good articles about the game with their scouting report and five things to watch.
And ESPN calls this a grudge match.
All the predictions are fun, but the truth will win out tonight. Here is hoping for a good win to build some momentum for those last two games.