Before we look ahead, take just a moment more to bask in the warm glow of being tied for the division lead.
It was certainly not an easy win, but the Dallas Cowboys displayed unquestioned determination in beating the Washington Redskins. One of the things that struck me was how the team never gave up. No matter how badly things went, the team just buckled their helmets back on and went after it. OK, maybe some butts got chewed out but the team still managed to pull it all together, and with a lot of contributions from a lot of people it scratched out a win.
However, the team also had to overcome a lot of its own problems. And the Detroit Lions are coming into the game undefeated and challenging the defending champion Green Bay Packers for command of their division. (Wow. Did not expect to be writing that sentence when the season started.) Injuries are still a major concern, and there are some stormy clouds in the forecast, although there are also some brilliantly beautiful skies in places.
Here is my prediction for how good or bad things may be for the various positions on the team. Remember, 10% is the best forecast, and 90% is the worst and will be re-named the "likelihood of things going all Phil Costa bad snap on the team".
Quarterback I figured that the quarterback would almost likely be a problem if Tony Romo didn't play against Washington, but it is obvious that if he can drag himself onto the field, he will play. So why is my forecast worse for this week? Ndamukong Suh. And maybe Nick Fairley.
Tony is facing a monster in Suh, and if Fairley can make it onto the field, it just gets worse. With the problems on the offensive line, there is just so much risk of long-term injury. I would almost prefer to see the team sit Tony and let Jon Kitna take his shot. Give Romo's famous ribs a chance to heal while taking a long term approach to the season.
Yeah. Like Tony would go along with that. Please, don't get hurt any more.
CHANCE OF QB BEING A PROBLEM: 50% Last time: 40%
Running back Felix Jones came through big, and suddenly the Cowboys found a badly needed running game. If someone else had shown up, this would be down to 20%, but as of right now the Cowboys are one deep at running back, and Jones had a banged up shoulder. DeMarco Murray is showing some signs of having something to contribute, but Tashard Choice just doesn't seem to help at all. I still think that Phillip Tanner would be worth at least a look, and have a hard time figuring out how he would offer less than Choice right now.
CHANCE OF RB BEING A PROBLEM: 40% Last time: 40%
Tight End/Fullback Martellus Bennett struck again, and was one reason to worsen this unit's number. The other is Jason Witten's sore ribs. Injuries are driving me crazy, and I'm just a fan. Imagine the way the coaches are feeling. At least Tony Fiammetta looks good, with some key blocks and nice receptions.
CHANCE OF TE/FB BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 10%
Wide Receiver Dez Bryant gutted it out and made a key reception, but he was maybe 75%. Miles Austin seems unlikely to return for this week. Kevin Ogletree is very close to playing himself off the roster. I am not sure why Jesse Holley was a non-factor, but I would not be surprised to see the team go with Laurent Robinson as the #2, and either Holley or Dwayne Harris in the #3. Robinson did look pretty good, but this unit is just in trouble until Dez and Miles can both get healthy. Then it will be killer, but for now it is just hanging on.
CHANCE OF WR BEING A PROBLEM: 70% Last time: 40%
Offensive Line Again, struggles on the O line. My optimism about the rise of the Yuglies may be misplaced. I wonder if Phil Costa's problems were caused by the defense making fake calls, and why that could not have been handled. Doug Free struggled again early, although he seemed to get a bit better.
I'm thinking about this lineup sometime in the near future:
LT: Tyron Smith LG: Phil Costa C: Kevin Kowalski RG Kyle Kosier RT Doug Free
I think this idea would make the left side of the line and center stronger than it is now. The problem is that it's going to be an experiment, and any changes would be easier to put in place during the bye week. Do we want to risk Romo on an experiment with Suh out there licking his chops?
CHANCE OF OL BEING A PROBLEM: 70% Last time: 40%
Defensive Line This defense may be good enough to win with me at quarterback. OK, nobody is that good, but look at what these guys are doing. They are giving up 288 yards per game, fifth best in the league. They have the second best rushing defense in the NFL at 62 yards per game. The D line did not show up in the stats so much, but they certainly did their job, even with Jason Hatcher going out with an injury. Kenyon Coleman had the best night for the DL, with six tackles.
CHANCE OF DL BEING A PROBLEM: 20% Last time: 20%
Linebackers Sean Lee continues to be an absolute beast. DeMarcus Ware got a sack. Victor Butler showed up for a sack. And Anthony Spencer delivered the coup de grace with that brilliant strip sack. This is now the strongest unit on the team.
CHANCE OF LB BEING A PROBLEM: 10% Last time: 20%
Defensive Backs Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam both had good nights, with seven tackles apiece. Alan Ball made some pretty good plays. Terence Newman had a good game in his return, although there are some concussion concerns. Mike Jenkins has a couple of passes defended. I am starting to believe in these guys.
CHANCE OF DB BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 40%
Special Teams Dan Bailey was clutch, key, coolness under pressure, automatic. He scored all the points. And he overshadowed the rest of the special teams, who pretty much shut down the return game for the Redskins. Now, what does the team do with David Buehler? Does it really need to spend that roster spot on him when the other team is pretty much getting the kickoff at the twenty anyway?
CHANCE OF ST BEING A PROBLEM: 20% IF THEY CUT BUEHLER TO SAVE A SPOT: 10% Last time: 30%
Coaching Rob Ryan has, oh, exactly nothing in his game to criticize. He and his defense deserve, oh, like about 50% of the credit for the win, at least (with 35% to offense and 15% to ST, just as an estimate).
Jason Garrett got some criticism in the threads last night. I thought he called a good game except when he got down in the red zone, and the Cowboys' old problems reared their ugly heads. But his big challenge this week are the offensive line issues. Along with working around the injuries, of course. Those are huge things to deal with, and I think he will have partial solutions, at best. There is still a chance for issues here. Not really his fault, just that anything he can do has limitations.
CHANCE OF COACHING BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 30%
Jerry Jones I don't remember hearing anything much from Jerry. Winning!
CHANCE OF JJ BEING A PROBLEM: 30% Last time: 40%
This game is going to be a challenge. I think the Cowboys can win it, but it may not go their way. A little bad luck, one more injury in the wrong place, and they may not come out on top.
But I know one thing: They are going to fight to the last whistle. There is no quit in them that I can see.
And Detroit played some pretty weak teams, based on the limited evidence of the W-L records so far. The Season of Hope is still alive and kicking. Emphasis this week on the kicking.