This week's GMC Professional Grade question is actually two questions. We could just pick one and answer it, but here at Blogging the Boys, we always believe in giving you more. So here are both questions, with my answers.
(Here's the transcript in case you have trouble with the video.) "To Be GMC Professional Grade you must build upon your strengths. Look at your team now and assess what it does best. Is it running the football? How about pass defense? How about throwing the ball deep? Do they find creative ways to win? Let me know how you would build on that success to get your team into the playoffs."
It should be fairly obvious that the strength of the Dallas Cowboys is irrevocably tied to quarterback Tony Romo. When he is in the game and performing well, the team can play with anyone. But based on the game where Brandon Weeden tried to fill in for him, the team is in deep trouble when he is out.
What the Cowboys have done best is run the football, but the results against the Arizona Cardinals show that there must be a credible passing threat to prevent the other team from loading up the box and bogging DeMarco Murray and company down. For the moment, there is no reliable way for Dallas to have that requisite threat without Romo. Against the Cardinals, and Washington before them, they ran into well-coached defenses that came with a plan specifically designed to stop the ground game while not letting the pass beat them. Additionally, the team was missing two starting offensive linemen in Doug Free and Ronald Leary when they played Arizona, which was not a help in running the ball.
It is possible that Dallas could send Weeden back out against the Jacksonville Jaguars and come away with a win. Weeden could play better, Free and Leary might be back, and the Jaguars are not nearly as talented as the Cardinals. But possible is a long way from likely.
To play to their strengths, the Cowboys have to get/keep Romo healthy and then recover the balanced run/pass attack that carried them through the six game winning streak. There are seven games left to go, and the team needs to win at least four of them. It is certainly achievable, if they can protect the franchise quarterback.
The second question of the week is a Tweet:
"To be GMC Professional Grade, you need to be driven. Assessing the second half of the season, how do you see your team playing coming down the stretch, in terms of the playoffs? What role does your team play in this final stretch? Is it spoiler, hunter, or contender? What do they need to do if they have a chance to get into the playoffs?"
The answer is closely related to that of the first question. I think the team will get its feet back under it once Romo is back on the field. That will lead to the return of the running game that the Cowboys were using to such good effect. With a 6-3 record, The defense is starting to get some consistent pressure up front, and is showing that it can contribute enough to the game to help get wins on the board.
Dallas is most certainly a contender for a playoff spot, and with a couple of wins will be challenging the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East title.
For the first time this year, injuries are really starting to play a part for the Cowboys. Most of the season the team had seen few starters out, but that does not last forever in the NFL. How far the Cowboys can go this year, and whether they remain a contender, is going to depend largely on how they manage the injury situation. If they are successful in dealing with the wear and tear on the players, they should be playing in January.