We'll kick things off with a (thankfully) hum-drum practice report.
Highlights: Romo returns after traditional off Wednesday; Tyler Patmon expected to miss next 2-3 games; Cowboys likely to promote Micah Pellerin from the practice squad to fill Patmon's spot on the roster.
One of the most important stories heading into games 11-16 has to be the D-line's increased general well being...
In two NFL games, the Cowboys rookie DE is thus far sack-less. As he waits to get off the schneid, his work against the rush has been impressive. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cowboys have allowed 44 yards on 22 carries with Lawrence on the field. With Lawrence off the field, opponents have averaged 4.7 yards per rush. In the meantime, he's sweating the small stuff:
"It feels like it's right there," Lawrence said. "It's just that tenth of a second, just making your move a little quicker, getting to the level of the quarterback fast. It's just working on those little small details and getting off the ball."
In his weekly Xs and Os piece, The Sturminator puts Tyrone Crawford under the microscope. He boldly claims that Crawford has been Dallas' defensive MVP through 10 weeks, admitting that he doesn't have much in the way of statistical evidence to substantiate his claim. What he does have is a selection of eleven superb plays from Crawford's 2014 season. Here's Sturm's conclusion:
Tyrone Crawford is a very well kept secret in the NFL right now. Others are getting way more regard and I doubt he can be fully appreciated unless you are breaking down the Cowboys games every week. But, for those of us who are, the defense has found a real piece of the puzzle here.
Rolando McClain and Orlando Scandrick have been great. Henry Melton is coming on and JJ Wilcox has shown great progress. But, Tyrone Crawford? Easily, the biggest surprise and key contributor that they needed to make this defense work.
It's Friday, and that means it's time for scouting reports. Yippee!
Giants second-year tackle Justin Pugh aggravated a leg injury in Sunday’s loss to San Francisco, and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Last Sunday, Charles Brown played poorly after taking over for Pugh, so the RT options for this weekend would be either veteran guard Geoff Schwartz, who has missed all 10 games with a toe injury, or journeyman James Brewer.
Anthony Spencer, meet Eli Manning...
The Broad One's weekly look at key match-ups for the upcoming game. This week, he features the Cowboys OTs vs. the Giants' DEs and the Dallas Corners against rookie WR Odell Beckham, Jr. Here, he opines on the latter of these:
...Carr and Moore do not have the same speed as Scandrick, so their technique in coverage will be much different in that they are physically going to have to beat Beckham up at the line and neutralize his ability to use his speed to get up the field...The last situation that Carr and Moore want to be in is chasing Beckham all over the field with free access in his routes, because that puts them in a no-win situation. I just have this feeling that Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is going to test these Cowboys corners and feature Beckham to create some big plays.
One of the best things about the bye week ending is the return of The Noble Drummond's weekly stats-driven preview piece. Here, he offers a couple of key stats that are highly correlative to wins and losses. The Cowboys currently are sixth in the league in passer rating differential and ninth in ANY/A differential, both indicators of success (FYI: the Eagles are 23rd and 21st respectively).
Todzilla renews his weekly stats-based preview piece, courtesy of the fine gents at ESPN Stats & Information. Some noteworthy numbers:
- The Cowboys are the NFL's only unbeaten team on the road this season (4-0)
- Dallas averages 7 more points per game on the road than they do at home (30.3-23.3)
- The Cowboys are outscoring their opponents by 10.0 points per game away from home, the best differential in the NFL.
- Tony Romo's QBR of 87.1 in road games is by far the highest in the NFL.
- The Cowboys are +3 in turnover margin on the road, and -4 at home, this season.
I assume this means an uptick in interception return drills...
The young Cowboys appear to be prepared for the stretch drive...
According to Bryant, the 2014 Cowboys have a better feel to them:
"It feels different, it’s a lot different – it’s a lot different from last year," Bryant said. "We’re more together, we want it more, we’ve got the same vision, and that’s kind of hard to stop when you’ve got a team like that....I’ll tell you this: it’s totally different now than it’s ever been, and that’s a credit to Coach Garrett. The way we moving, I love every bit of it."
Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan says the plan going forward is to lean on the running game:
"If you’re built through your running game, like we’ve been able to do so far this year – which is great, obviously -- we’ve got to do it now," he said. "It certainly should bode well for you when you get into the meat of the season, as you get into the outdoor games, you never know what the weather is going to be like."
As Helman points out, there's no time for that like the present. During the Giants’ current five-game losing streak, they’ve surrendered an average of 191 rushing yards (yikes!), with a high of 350 against Seattle.
The Cowboys have committed turnovers in each of the last six games and have committed at least two turnovers in five of the last six games. On the season, Dallas is tied for 10th in the NFL with 18 giveaways. Tony Romo knows this trend cannot continue:
"The games later in the year -- and if you’re lucky enough to be playing in January -- the turnovers are going to be what ultimately decides your season," Romo said. "You can play a great football game and be a better team, but if you give up the ball, you’re not going to be able to accomplish your goals. I think that’s a very big key for us."
Romo's 107.2 passer rating is second in the league. He is second in completion percentage (68.8 percent). He is tied for ninth in touchdowns. His 8.34 yards per gain is third best. After throwing three interceptions in his first 14 passes of the season, he has thrown three in his last 255 attempts.And, as Archer writes, he can't let up now:
The Cowboys will need Romo to continue to play as well in the final six games if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Despite the 8-8 finishes the last three years, Romo's late-season numbers have been impressive.
In the final six games he has played since 2011, Romo has 38 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
Some reports from the enemy camp...
Valentine's preview series continues with a look at the Cowboys offense vs. the Giants defense. He reviews the first meeting between these two teams and then, noting the slew of injuries the Giants have suffered since then, concludes:
If the Giants couldn't stop the Cowboys a month ago, when they weren't as depleted personnel-wise as they are now, how are they going to stop them this time? Well, if they play as disciplined and as hard against the run vs. Dallas as they did last Sunday against the 49ers they have a fighting chance.
Salomone offers five leading narratives for Sunday Night's game. Here's one of the five:
2. Schwartz’s return.
The Giants activated Geoff Schwarz off injured reserve/designated for return on Monday after the veteran offensive lineman missed all of the regular season until this point with a dislocated toe that he suffered in the preseason. The question now becomes where he will fit into a lineup that has started the same offensive line group in every game this season. Before the injury, Schwartz, who has started at both guard and tackle in the NFL, spent the majority of his time at left guard, which is currently being played by rookie Weston Richburg. "I do not have a preference yet," coach Tom Coughlin said when asked about which side Schwartz will play. "I don’t have any preference yet, except to get him going."
DRC, who the Giants signed in the offseason as their signature free agent acquisition, has battled nagging injuries in his hamstring, back, and leg all season. With Prince Amukamara out for the year, a hobbled Rodgers-Cromartie will face off against Dez Bryant, which is no easy task:
"You gotta have a different mentality [against Bryant]," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "I mean, you always have the same mentality of going out there and getting a win but when you've got a dude of that caliber, and you know he's got that dog in him, you gotta have kind of a nasty attitude going against him."
Elolz in a nutshell. Enjoy the subtle variations on a (dumbface) theme...