Let's get this out of the way right up front. We are bathing in a shower of positive news about the Dallas Cowboys, but before you start getting too full of yourself with the obnoxious Eagles fan you work with, keep this bit of wisdom firmly in mind.
I'm saying it now: if the #Cowboys lose Sunday, it completely invalidates this past Sunday night. Now, Dallas needs to show consistency.— Mark Lane (@therealmarklane) September 30, 2014
Big Picture: Cowboys & Texans Rolling Early On - Rowan Kavner, DC.com
Both teams come into the game at 3-1, which had to have been rather unexpected given the preseason view of both. Both have faced some teams that are now seen as a bit suspect as far as their ability to compete. This is going to be an early test to see who is the contender and who is the pretender. Since the Cowboys have a top notch offense and a less competent defense, this will be a case of strength against strength.
The Texans have gotten by largely with their defense. Apart from a 30-17 loss in Week 3 without Foster, they've allowed 17 points or fewer in each of their other games. This is Ryan Fitzpatrick's first year as the starter in Houston, and he's got five touchdowns and five interceptions in four games. Meanwhile, the running game's had some shining moments and some duds.
OK. I just wanted to get everyone to stay grounded here. Nothing is in the bag, and the NFL season has already seen several nearly inexplicable games. Having taken care of business, let's get down to some good stuff.
New Orleans Saints bombed in every phase vs. Dallas Cowboys: Film Study | NOLA.com
Just to show that I am not immune to some gloating myself, here is a bit of Schadenfreude (courtesy of a heads up from OCC).
The New Orleans Saints' loss against the Dallas Cowboys exhibited all of the team's shortcomings through the first four weeks in one 60-minute snapshot. In short, the Saints have issues in every phase of football.
Watching the tape burns your eyeballs. Seriously, it's like looking at the sun.
Be honest, how many out there figured around four weeks ago that you'd be reading stuff like that about Dallas now?
NFL Week 5 Elo Ratings And Playoff Odds | FiveThirtyEight
This is not your average ranking, because FiveThirtyEight is seriously into statistical analysis and prediction. This site gained its reputation by predicting political races better than anyone else in the country, so when they start coming up with good forecasts for the Cowboys, I am encouraged - even when the praise is a bit lukewarm.
The Dallas Cowboys are the biggest gainers so far on the season, having added 61 Elo points. Still, the Cowboys' schedule has been easy, and Elo will need to see more from them before it concludes they're anything beyond slightly above average.
The Dallas Cowboys Tree of Competence - Grantland
This is a great piece, explaining the link between the offensive line and the improved defense, in a six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon chain of logic. It is highly entertaining, including great GIFs throughout and some superb wordsmithing.
After the game, Trent Dilfer broke down the Dallas defense by using words like "disciplined," which left Dallas Nation stunned. They haven't heard the word "disciplined" to describe anything Cowboys-related since George Clooney was Batman.
Bob's Blog - Live from Lewisville: Decoding Linehan - Week 4 - New Orleans
Sturm's weekly look at the offensive performance is a complete turnaround from the Eeyore-style contemplation of impending doom that wove through his pre-season articles. This article is all good, which is not surprising given how the Dallas O hummed along against the Saints.
Forgive me, but in the interest of time, I did not spend too much time on Tony Romo this week. In short, he was very, very good. He diagnosed blitzes, he made throws, he did not risk interceptions, and overall he was absolutely the type of player that looks like a QB1 capable of leading his team to a division win.
Of course, there is so much more in that equation, but if your QB is at that level (and not nursing a back injury that is ending his career) then my fears of the last several months are quieting down. This was not the case after SF and Tenn, but these last 2 weeks have been "Top Shelf Romo".
If he is going to do that, and if the zone blocking is going to do what we saw above, and the tactical decisions made by the man with the call sheet are going to remain on point, and if the health continues....the sky is absolutely the limit for this offense.
Zach Martin Earns Rookie Of The Month Recognition - SeniorBowl.com
The Senior Bowl doesn't just look for future NFL players to participate in its postseason all star game, it also hands out some recognition to rookies during the season. Being a showcase for prospective pro talent, it should not be surprising that they would be able to look beyond the flashy skill guys and see real talent at work in the trenches.
When the Dallas Cowboys bypassed the popular Johnny Manziel with the 16th overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft to select Martin, there were certainly some Cowboy fans who said, 'Who?'
They know who Martin is now. He has stepped into the Dallas starting lineup from day one and helped the Cowboys' new-found rushing attack lead them to a 3-1 start this season.
FedEx Players Air and Ground - NFL.com
Click on the above link if you want to try and get DeMarco Murray some much deserved acclaim to go with Martin's honor.
Dwayne Harris stands out as blocker - ESPN
Don't let the fact he only caught two passes and had no chance to do much in the return game fool you.
That doesn't seem to be much of a contribution, but Harris had a huge impact on the game. He was the seventh or eighth offensive lineman at times, joining the five big guys up front as well of the tight ends.
On nine running plays by DeMarco Murray or Joseph Randle, Harris served as an edge blocker and the Cowboys gained 68 yards.
Wide receivers who can make effective blocks are usually present when a team is able to run the ball well.
Jason Witten catch a sign of Scott Linehan's creativity - ESPN
So, just how important is the new play caller?
Beasley runs mostly short in- or out-breaking routes, but this time streaked down the field. Williams had an inside release and went vertical as well, to occupy safety Rafael Bush, leaving Vaccaro on Witten.
Witten breaks inside at the snap, takes five steps and reverse pivots back to his right, creating separation from Vaccaro and an easy throw for Romo. With Beasley and Williams running down the field, there is a ton of space for Witten to run for a first down and pick up 16 yards.
"That's Linehan's touch," Romo said. "Pretty good one, too, huh?"
A little update on injuries, just to get things back to earth after all the good stuff.
Is Claiborne’s Career Over In Dallas? " CBS Dallas / Fort Worth
Jerry Jones doesn't think so, and feels that a string of injuries have held Morris Claiborne back.
Jones insists that Claiborne can still be a very good NFL player - that's if he gets the needed repetition.
"He does need a lot of repetition. There's nothing wrong with that," said Jones. "He's just not had as much as we'd like him to have because of these injuries."
Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter out 10-14 days with quad strain - ESPN Dallas
He is hoping to stay on the short end of the projection, but Bruce Carter is not planning on being available for the Texans game. He just hopes he can heal faster than someone did last season.
"I felt like I got shot," Carter said. "I was opening up about to catch him and then just, 'Pow! Out of nowhere.'"
Former Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware missed three games last season with a quadriceps strain.
"It's just something how your body responds to it," Carter said. "Some guys are different so hopefully my recovery time will be lot faster than his."
Finally, I am just going to leave this here. If you have read my work much in the past, you will understand why.
Hearing that there is some discussion internally on a Garrett contract extension. Jones family very excited with direction/results of team.— Birddog26 (@Birddog26) September 30, 2014
Don't forget to submit your picks for the BTB Pick 256 Challenge
Pick 256 is a season-long contest in which BTB members and readers get to pick the straight-up winners for all games each week. If you haven't yet submitted your picks, now would be a good time, here's the link to the entry form.
If the link above doesn't work for whatever reason, use the following alternative, which does not autofill your BTB user name into the entry form.
Alternative Pick 256 Entry Form
Through the wee hours of the morning, we've logged about 190 entries (50 more than last week at this time), of which 98% have picked the Cowboys for the win over the Texans on Sunday. You can review the full Week 4 standings and the season leaderboard of our Pick 256 challenge in this fanpost by BTB-member Hookerhome.