Since there are no more opportunities for the Cowboys to rest up while watching, say, the Philadelphia Eagles get flat out stomped into the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field as Mark Sanchez proves that some levels of quarterback ineptitude are beyond even the unparalleled coaching skills of Chip Kelly, they now have to finish out the season. Here is one prognostication to consider. If he is right, we are going to be smiling at the end of the season.
Jean-Jacques Taylor, after considering the level of disarray the New York Giants are in following the five ELI . . . uh, INT performance Eli Manning put in, reminds us that the Cowboys have a reputation for finishing the season weakly.
Still, to avoid yet another December swoon -- one which could prevent them from even making the playoffs -- the Cowboys must take care of bad teams such as the Giants.
The Cowboys need a victory Sunday at the Meadowlands just as they need to beat underachieving teams such as Washington and Chicago later this season. Doing so would give Dallas a minimum of 10 wins.
JJT does mention in his article that the run-first style that has carried the Cowboys this far is well suited to finishing up the season, with four road games, all except the season-ending trip to Washington involving Northern climes. The main component of that new style is of course league leading (by 282 yards if my math is correct, after Le'Veon Bell's 204 yard performance during Monday Night Football) running back DeMarco Murray. Rainer Sabin reports that Murray is ready and willing to do whatever it takes, all the way to that last game against the Washington team that could not beat the one win Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who now have two wins after a stunningly easy victory. But enough about the team of DeSean Jackson. Murray has a much better attitude, anyway.
On Tuesday, DeMarco Murray will be back at work, preparing to carry the 7-3 Cowboys to a playoff berth.
"I am ready to go,' Murray said. "Whatever they ask me to do it, I am going to do it times 10. It's going to be an exciting next couple of weeks."
Once upon a time, Jerry Jones was famous (or infamous) for handing out rich contracts to players just as they began to slide into mediocrity. This rewarding past performance rather than paying for what could be reasonably expected in the future taught us all the concept of "cap hell" (or, as we have learned, what is more accurately called "minor cap heck"). That has changed, and Todd Archer looks at how this new approach is affecting the much-discussed contract negotiations with Dez Bryant.
But now the Cowboys are looking for what can be called "team friendly" deals. Sean Lee signed a six-year, $42 million deal that provided the Cowboys some insurance in case he got hurt again. Tyron Smith signed a 10-year, $110 million deal in training camp with a $10 million signing bonus and $40 million guaranteed. In the strange world that is the NFL, some observers felt Smith left money on the table.
The Sturminator takes the desires of both the team and the star receiver into account, and comes up with his own suggestion for a contract that is fair to both sides.
I think the deal that gets this done would be in the 6 year-$84m total with $28m guaranteed. I am sure that Bryant wants to break $30m guaranteed and might be able to if he let's DeMaryius Thomas' situation play out, but the Cowboys better be careful if they wait. They can put the franchise tag on him, but I imagine he would negotiate a settlement that the following year he would hit the market and the Cowboys would lose their tagging leverage altogether. By then, AJ Green and Julio Jones will have their new deals and $14m a year may not seem absurd.
Todd Archer reminds us that Bryant is not the only player who has a contract to worry about. Except Henry Melton isn't really worrying about it right now.
Melton has five sacks on the season. With one more sack, he will pocket a $250,000 incentive. He will get $500,000 for seven sacks and $750,000 for eight sacks.
But there will be a question as to whether the Cowboys pick up the option. He plays fewer than 30 snaps a game. He does not start. Is it wise to pay a player $9 million if he plays so little? The Cowboys could always work out a new deal with Melton before they have to pick up the option on the first day of the 2015 league year.
"Ah, man, I don't think about that," Melton said of the option. "We're trying to win games."
Several members of the team, a contingent of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and Jason Witten's two sons all went to serve an early Thanksgiving meal at the Salvation Army's center in Dallas. They noticed a decided tone of optimism about the team's chances going forward from the people they served.
"All I heard was Super Bowl around here," defensive end George Selvie said. "It sounds good having everybody in high spirits and excited about the Cowboys."
Monday was Jason Witten's 12th year in delivering the meals. While appreciative of the food, some were not afraid to throw around opinions when the Cowboys weren't doing so well in the past.
"I've been here a few years where it's been boos at times," Witten said. "It's good to see the cheers."
An interesting read, especially on the way some media feel they are lied to by the teams. Note that the panel is writers who cover or covered the NFC East, including Clarence Hill and Ed Werder. Here's what Hill had to say about the lack of honesty.
I get blatantly lied to often covering the Cowboys. My favorite motto on the beat: "How do you know they are lying? Their lips are moving." And even Jerry Jones will cop to the line, "Just cause I said it doesn't make it so."
The Cowboys do control their own fate, as the saying goes, but realistically they can also be impacted by what other teams do. One team they might have to contend with is the San Francisco 49ers, who are one game behind in the standings, but who also hold the tie-breaker from winning the opening game against Dallas, should they manage to close the gap. The Niners won against the Giants, but it was not a game to inspire a lot of confidence.
But the 49ers' offense, once again, was choppy and ineffective. The worst red-zone offense in the NFL produced just three field goals in the red zone. All three fourth-quarter possessions ended with a punt in a one-score game. Even with Eli Manning's epically bad day - five interceptions - the 49ers managed to score three points off turnovers and were at risk of losing until the final 29 seconds.