They might not be America's favorite team, but they're probably its best one, at least for this week. After beating the world champs on their home turf, the Cowboys are receiving nation-wide consideration as the NFL's top squad. Today, we lead with several debates to that effect:
NFL Rankings: Yes, the Cowboys are the league's best - Rick Gosselin, DMN
The old curmudgeon can no longer hold out. Our Cowboys sit atop his list of the league's best. Here's his rationale:
"I‘m not saying we’re the best team," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last weekend, "but we beat what I thought was the best team (Seattle) at their place." That’s good enough for me.
The case for/ against Cowboys as NFL's best - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
As always, Archer provides a level-headed view on our fave team, offering several pieces of evidence to support each side of the argument. One from each:
The case for:
They convert when they need to: first in third-down conversion percentage (56 percent); Tony Romo has the 2nd-best QBR on 3rd down (93)
The case against:
They allow the most yards before contact per rush (3.5)
Donovan McNabb: despite 5-1 record, Cowboys not a top 10 NFL team - DMN Staff
I have so many excellent, and unprintable, responses to this...
The next burning question: can Dallas sustain this level of play?
Roundtable: can Cowboys keep it up? - ESPN.com
A panel of "experts" discuss the Cowboys unexpected success, with the key question being: is this sustainable? The answer, surprisingly enough, comes from Jean-Jacques Taylor:
The Cowboys have had really good offenses in previous years, but this is the best offense they've had because it travels. They can play this style in the cold, in the rain, in the heat, at home or on the road.
This style is about physically dominating your opponent and making him submit. And just when you get ready to stack the box against them, they will use play-action to attack deep with Terrance Williams, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. If they can avoid key injuries, like any team, this offense will be hard to stop all season.
Cowboys can sustain success on D - Mike Sando, ESPN.com
Sando, a columnist for ESPN Insider, asks the same question as the roundtable group, but focuses on the Dallas defense, offering a four-point analysis. I was partial to his fourth point:
4. There are no signs of a defensive collapse looming.
Fortunes turn quickly in the NFL, but there is no reason to expect the Cowboys to stop playing with the effort and ferocity they have displayed on defense to this point. There is no reason for Dallas to change its offensive approach in a way that would compromise the defense.
The Cowboys should not need their defense to rank among the very best. Continued complementary play is a reasonable goal for a team with a physical offensive line that can control games as long as the coaching staff sticks to its revised philosophy. Depth is a concern, so attrition over the course of the season could hurt, perhaps more than it would other teams. But outside of that, there are no warning signs saying that the Dallas defense can't keep up this level of play.
A couple of enjoyable takes on the Cowboys' defensive effort in Seattle:
Marinelli report - complete shutdown of Seahawks offense - Bob Sturm, DMN
Although the Sturminator is now posting at the Dallas Morning News, the quality of his content remains the same: very, very high. This week, he analyzes the Cowboys' defensive effort at Seattle, replete with .gifs, tables and pie charts to support his claims. Here's a paragraph that made me think:
Is the Dallas defense playing better because they are playing fewer downs? Yes, it seems. And is that because the offense is killing off the clock or because the defense is getting off the field on 3rd Down and winning on their own? My eyes tell me this team is making more defensive stands and getting off the field, but the evidence is not agreeing with my eyes: Through 6 games last season, the Cowboys 3rd Down [defense] surrendered a 1st down 33 out of 78 times for an opponent conversion rate of 42.3%. In 2014, that number is 30 out of 71 for a conversion rate of 42.3%. They are better by the slightest fraction, but effectively, they are exactly the same.
Want more of the same? Hit the link above and read every Sturminatin' syllable.
The Grantland NFL podcast: week 6 recap - Grantland.com
It's a succinct pleasure listening to long-time Cowboys naysayer Bill Barnwell begrudgingly give Dallas - and especially the Cowboys' defense - credit for their performance in Seattle. Start at the 2:00 mark (and go until the 18:18 point).
Stuff from practice:
A slew of big names, including DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo, miss practice - Rainer Sabin, DMN
Murray (illness) and Romo (Wednesday) sat out of yesterday's practice along with linebacker Rolando McClain (personal matter), tackles Doug Free (foot) and Tyron Smith (ankle), linebacker Bruce Carter (quad) and defensive end Anthony Spencer (sore foot). The big win over Seattle came at a cost. That said, it would be a surprise of any of these guys other than Free missed the Giants game.
Rolando McClain out until Friday due to personal issue - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas
McClain returned to his home state of Alabama on Tuesday to deal with custody issues involving his two children. Last week, he only practiced on Friday and then balled out against Seattle, so I'd expect the coaches will be just fine with a repeat schedule - and a repeat performance.
Scouting report: Cowboys sign OT from Dolphins' practice squad - Bryan Broaddus - The Mothership
The Broad One goes to the film room to take a look at the Cowboys newest addition, offensive tackle Tony Hills. With Donald Hawkins elevated to the gameday OT swing, Hills will likely take Hawkins' place as the backup tackle who never makes the 46-man gameday roster. Here's one of several bullet points gleaned from Broaddus' notebook:
Has some pop in his punch along with some upper body power and strength. Mauler – Brawler type of blocker. Works hard to finish his blocks. Has a nasty side to him. Plays with emotion.
Plays with emotion? Should fit in with this bunch just fine...
RB Randle to get significant fine; expected to play Sunday - Nick Eatman, The Motherhship
Garrett to reporters:
"We addressed with him immediately. The actions that we’re going to take is to fine him significantly and move forward," Garrett said in his press conference. "Joseph addressed it this morning with the team in the team meeting. He addressed it with me in length yesterday."
Cowboys Randle: "biggest mistake of my life" - Jordan Ross, Cowboys HQ
Randle to reporters:
"It was hard coming back into the locker room, looking at people who care about me in the eyes, knowing that I did something stupid," Randle said. "I had to talk to them about it. I can’t just go like nothing happened. I had to address the issues. ... It means a lot to be out there with my team. I love this game and I love the team I play for. I try my best to rep the star the right way. I didn’t do that. I am going to try my best to make it up to my teammates and all of the people that really care about me.''
DeMarco Murray not interested in history lesson - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Number 29 isn't too preoccupied with the record books. In true Garrettian fashion, he's taking it day-by-day:
"I’m just focused on doing my part to give us a good chance to win this game," Murray said. "It’s something I’m not really concerned about. Just trying to get focused up and have a good week of work."
"Cinderella Man" Tyrone Crawford still seeking first sack - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli calls Crawford "Cinderella Man." What, you say? Here's the story:
"He gave me a story behind it and the story behind Cinderella, like I haven’t seen the movie before," Crawford said, laughing. "You know, Cinderella, she started off mopping floors and then she got her opportunity to become a beautiful princess."
For Crawford, his first sack will feel like the moment the prince put the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot.
"I’m still mopping floors until I get that first sack," Crawford said.
Initial looks at the upcoming opponent...
Eli Manning: "I think we'll be fine" - Dan Graziano, ESPN.com
"I'm not worried about myself or the team," quarterback Eli Manning said. "With what we're doing and where we're staying, I think we'll be fine."
Where they're staying? It better be a Holiday Inn Express. Just sayin'
Scout's Eye: Giants rookie RB is one to watch with Jennings out - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
Broaddus' weekly overview of the opponent presents three names to watch out for: Jason Pierre-Paul (weapon); Eli Manning (nemesis); RB Andre Williams (under-the-radar). Here's what he has to say about Manning the lesser:
Manning comes into this contest wildly inconsistent with his play, but a lot of this is due to the struggles that his offensive line has had in protecting him. Manning has never been the most mobile quarterback, and when the protection breaks down it exposes him to hits and sacks that create turnovers in the pocket.
In two games I studied this week, against the Cardinals and Eagles, the ball was knocked out of his hand due to him holding on to it entirely too long waiting for a receiver to break open. Pressure tends to make him do strange things with the ball in the pocket. The more that he faces the harder it is for him to operate.
Sturm: Why I expect game vs. Giants to be very tough for Cowboys - Bob Sturm, DMN
In an interview transcript, Sturm asserts that next Sunday might be another tight one:
It is a divisional game and the Giants were just humiliated. These next two games – especially this one – will test the Cowboys ability to lock in on the task at hand and leave the praise and the Seattle game at the door. Can they perform well as the front runner? What a great problem to have.
Gotta go on a cheese-free diet, boys...
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