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Cowboys News And Notes: Team Getting Healthy, Expectations Rising

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Dallas is focused on the upcoming game at the New York Giants now.

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Dallas Cowboys proving to be road warriors - Todd Archer, ESPN

Conventional wisdom would hold that the Cowboys face a real disadvantage having to play four of their final six games on the road. Conventional wisdom may be kinda stupid, at least this year.

But the Cowboys are the only undefeated team away from home this season, going 4-0. Going back to last year, the Cowboys have won five straight away from home.

Tyron Smith: Dallas Cowboys offensive line ‘getting tighter and tighter as a group’ | Jon Machota, Dallas Morning News

Tyron Smith gets the credit in the title, but Doug Free has the quote that you need to read.

"Any time during the season you start [saying], ‘We're doing really good,' or you start admiring your work to some extent I feel like you take the focus off of continuing to improve.

"At no time are you ever perfect. Any moment you spend thinking about how great you are, you're not putting that effort into thinking about how you can improve. There's so many plays where you look back and you're like, ‘Man, if I would've just held the block for another half-second. If I would've reached this guy a little bit different, it could've been a lot better play.' I think we spend more time on trying to focus on how to improve than trying to think about, ‘Oh, man, we're pretty good.'"

Jerry Jones: Cowboys Dealing With Minimal Injury Issues After Bye Week | David Helman, Dallas Cowboys

When your injury concerns are basically down to one back-up defensive back going into the final six games of an NFL season, you are in pretty good shape.

The availability of both players (Tyrone Crawford and Rolando McClain) gives the Cowboys nearly their full complement of defensive bodies - with the exception of Tyler Patmon. The rookie corner injured both his knee and his ankle in London, and Jones said he is one of the team's only current injury problems.

Jerry Jones' expectations for Cowboys have changed since preseason | David Helman, FOX Sports

Just in case you read closely, yes, David Helman is apparently now writing for multiple outlets. Anyway, the owner has changed his mind about how well this team is going to do since last summer, which flows directly from the previous story.

Sitting on a 7-3 record with six games to play, it feels like ages since Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said the 2014 season would be "an uphill battle."

Asked to revisit that comment Tuesday morning on 105.3 The Fan, Jones said the Cowboys' record -- as well as their relative health at this point in the season -- have changed his initial expectations for this year's team.

"They have, and it has to do with, I would say, certainly how we've played," Jones said. "But the biggest thing is that we're in better shape physically on the defensive side of the ball."

Cowboys' third-down work off the mark lately - Dallas Cowboys Blog - Todd Archer, ESPN

After starting off the season on fire on third down conversions, the Cowboys have seriously cooled off. It is a trend that bears watching. (You might want to keep an eye out here at BTB for a possible article discussing this in depth)

They have converted 12 of 36 third-down opportunities, which is 26th best in the league over the last month. Even in the win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cowboys were just 4-of-13 on third down. What made up for their inability to convert were three touchdowns of at least 35 yards.

George: Doubted at the draft, Cowboys rookie Anthony Hitchens making believers of everybody | Dallas Morning News

Sean Lee, DeVonte Holloman, and Justin Durant out? Rolando McClain hurt? Dallas just sends Anthony Hitchens in and moves on. It is not what many expected back when he was drafted.

Six months ago, everyone with a mouth, it seemed, questioned why the Cowboys used a fourth-round pick on the Iowa linebacker whom many had projected to go much lower in the draft.

Since May, Hitchens has played all three linebacker spots for the Cowboys and helped fill the void left from the season-ending injuries to Sean Lee and Justin Durant.

Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey's confidence unshaken | FOX Sports

Does anything rattle Dan Bailey? Short answer: No.

"No, I mean, from a confidence standpoint, doesn't really affect me," Bailey said on Monday serving early Thanksgiving meals at the Salvation Army Carr P. Collins Social Service Center. "You know, it happens. You play any amount of time in this league and you're going to have breakdowns in protection. And the reality is those guys -- that's their job. They're trying to block your kick every time you go out there."

Cowboys re-sign Keith Smith to practice squad - ESPN

Just keeping you up to date on the latest bottom of the (practice squad) roster moves.

The Dallas Cowboys re-signed linebacker Keith Smith to the practice squad for the fourth time this season after releasing him from the active roster last week to make room for Dekoda Watson

The Cowboys also signed cornerback Robert Steeples to the practice squad. To make room for Smith and Steeples, guard Jeff Baca and linebacker Will Smith were released.

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Adrian Peterson Suspended For Remainder Of 2014 " CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

It is not a story that directly relates to the Cowboys, unless you are one of those who is going to get excited about Dallas trying to sign Adrian Peterson (you know who you are), but it is the biggest story in the league this week.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been suspended without pay for at least the remainder of the 2014 season, the league announced Tuesday.

He will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15, 2015. Peterson is expected to appeal the decision immediately.

On day of Adrian Peterson suspension, Jerry Jones says public opinion can affect NFL penalties | Dallas Morning News

OK, so maybe the AD suspension does tie back to the Cowboys, or at least their owner. Hang on, this is a heavy dose of Jerryspeak about the situation.

"We have a system in this country, a legal system that addresses punishment, if you will. And it has varying criteria even as to the same crimes state-by-state. But one thing it does do, it gives each individual the right to step up and have his set of circumstances adjudicated.

"With all of that in mind, I wouldn't dare. This is such a convoluted issue. I think we're attempting to find our place. We have a workplace, if you want to get simplistic, and it is simplistic. I can't have this conversation without oversimplifying it, and I know it going in. But we have a workplace and we have those kinds of issues to deal with from the standpoint of a team, from the standpoint of a league, and that workplace has public opinion involved. To some degree, the judicial system does not. Although, that's even a stretch because we know punishment is there for a reason, in terms of sending a public message to society."

The takeaway, I think, is that the league is coming down on Peterson very hard to appease public opinion. That ties in to the feeling that Roger Goodell and his advisers are making things up as they go. This is angering the NFLPA, which wants to take discipline out of the hands of the commissioner and bring in an impartial judge or panel.

One other thing that is coming up a lot in social media is that Josh Brent, whose actions resulted in a death, is reinstated while AD is not, so there will likely be a lot of discussion about this in the future. Just remember if you wish to bring it up here at BTB, keep it civil. It is an emotional and complex issue, so tread carefully.

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Don't forget to submit your picks for the BTB Pick 256 Challenge

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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

At exactly 2:00 am ET this morning, we had 141 votes logged, which means there's still lots of room for more participants. In case you want an early heads up on how some of the action is shaking up, Philly is favored over Tennessee (85%), three people voted for the Redskins over the 49ers and one participant out of 141 has the Giants over the Cowboys.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB