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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Can Tony Romo Lead Cowboys To Playoffs From 4-5 Record?

Latest Cowboys headlines: Can Cowboys still make playoffs once Tony Romo returns?; establishing the run is best chance for Cowboys versus Patriots; Brandon Weeden has has played better than most give him credit for; Cowboys' chances hinge on the pass rush.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys are going to lose to the Patriots — and then make the playoffs - The Washington Post
As the Cowboys get their injured players back one after the other, they should become much more competitive than they currently are, and with the state of the division, the Cowboys still have a good chance to make the playoffs.

Division rivals Philadelphia and Washington own two of our five lowest-graded offenses in the NFL right now, while the Giants have issues on the offensive line and in pass defense, while Eli Manning ranks No. 26 in our QB grades this season.

This division is there for the taking – and if the returns of Hardy, McClain and Gregory can help cover up some of the holes on defense, the Cowboys’ playoff chances might be better than any of the other three.

Urgency but not panic time yet for Dallas Cowboys - Todd Archer, ESPN
In his Twitter mailbag, Archer discusses the team's level of panic, and suggests the team needs to be at least 4-5 when Romo returns to still have a shot at the playoffs.

I'm not about to say, "Remain calm. All is well," because there should be urgency with the Cowboys' season. The games against Atlanta and New Orleans looked to be the most winnable when compared to New England, Seattle and even the trip to New York.

Tony Romo will be back with seven games to go. At worst the Cowboys can be 3-6 and still have a chance. I think they need to be 4-5, and if those two wins come against the Giants and Philadelphia, all the better. I don't see a team running away with the NFC East, so the Cowboys should be in the race, but how they lost to Atlanta and New Orleans could haunt them because they were in position to win both games.

Bob Sturm: Cowboys need to be at least 4-5 when Romo returns; here's how they get there | Dallas Morning News
In a chat with fans on Friday, Sturm explains where the next two wins need to come from.

I think [Romo] could return with 7 to play. I think the Cowboys need to be at 4-5 to have a chance. That means 2 wins in their next 5 games. New England - At New York - Seattle - Philadelphia - At Tampa Bay. Basically, they must get one of these 3 home games and the Tampa game. If they do, with Romo and Dez from the Miami game on, I think 9-7 is reasonable and I also think that can still win the division. If they could make sure one of those wins is against the Giants or Eagles, that will help quite a bit, too.

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NOT BREAKING: Establishing the Run Game Best Chance for Dallas to Slow New England Offense - Football by Football
In an age where a report about a player breaking wind is immediately called a "Scoop" or "Breaking News", the irony of this headline is much appreciated. Matt Chatham played for the Patriots and Jets over nine seasons in the NFL, winning three Super Bowls. He takes a detailed look at the Cowboys' running game, and concludes:

The Cowboys must run the ball. And the Patriots must stop them from doing so. Whoever fails probably loses. While stopping a Tom Brady offense prolly isn't a great goal, using your own offense to keep his off the field is a step in the right direction...

Cowboys' rushing attack still thriving, even without marquee names - Providencejournal.com
The Patriots are well aware of the problems the Cowboys' running game can cause them.

The Cowboys are happy to own a running game that appears capable of thriving without a star back such as Murray. The early-season success is all traced back to a talented, veteran offensive line that has drawn plenty of respect in Foxboro this week.

"I would say they do a good job of getting the backs started in the running game," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "They don’t have a lot of [defensive] penetration so there aren’t very many negative plays. They’re usually able to get the back into the line of scrimmage and get them going and it’s up to them, whether it’s Murray last year or Randle this year, those guys once they get in there make a lot of yards on their own. "

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Weeden maintains confidence despite Cowboys’ struggles | Clarence Hill, The Star-Telegram
Brandon Weeden has yet to win as the Cowboys’ quarterback but has played better than most give him credit for.

He has completed 45 of 59 passes for 551 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He has completed 76.3 percent of his passes and his quarterback rating of 108.8 ranks sixth in the NFL.

Weeden also ranks 4th overall in Net Yards per Attempt.

Patriots wary of Brandon Weeden | Boston Herald
The Patriots aren't planning on underestimating anybody, which is a big reason why they are as successful as they are. Weeden may not be a high-profile quarterback, but the Patriots have treated him like a superstar this week.

The Pats will focus on Weeden’s best work. Yeah, he has a 10-game losing streak dating back to 2012, but he caught their attention by completing five of his last seven passes for 91 yards and a beautiful 17-yard, game-tying touchdown on fourth down in his last series against the Saints. For a team that compartmentalizes as well as Bill Belichick’s Patriots, that’s all they needed to take Weeden seriously.

"At some point this season, we’re going to play teams and quarterbacks who are really good and on top of their game," McCourty said. "This week is a guy that hasn’t had a ton of reps with the starters, but you see him make more and more plays each week. I think that was evident in the Saints game where a lot of people probably counted him out with a two-minute drive when they needed to score, and he marched them down the field.

"That’s what it comes down to, no matter how big your name is, it’s what you do in that particular game, so we’ve got to prepare and be ready for Weeden."

"We don’t look at Weeden as a backup quarterback," safety Patrick Chung said. "He’s a starter. He can play. He can go out there and play. You can’t look into all that stuff like that. Just go in there and watch the film like he’s a starter, an All-Pro and go play some ball."

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Scout's Eye: Cowboys' Chances Hinge On Pass Rush | Bryan Broaddus - Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus sees a weakness in middle of the the Patriots' offensive line.

I expect we will see Marinelli try and attack the middle of the pocket, not only with his defensive linemen but by blitzing linebackers, as well. The Patriots have three rookie starters inside and up until this point they have been solid. If there is a weak link its guard Shaquille Mason. He has had his moments where he plays off balance and gets a little over-extended.

For the Patriots to win this game, they are going to need to handle this Dallas front seven and be able to deal all the different combinations they will have thrown at them.

Scout's Notebook: Pressuring Brady up the middle | Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus makes it two articles in a row in which he talks about the pass rush.

Just have a feeling that Rod Marinelli is going to try and attack the middle of this Patriots offensive line with pressure. They have had some success with linebackers blitzing inside. With Rolando McClain back in the lineup, he gives this defense a physical player to get push. Marinelli has to do his best to move Brady off that spot or there will be issues. Keep an eye on how Marinelli uses both McClain and Sean Lee in this game.

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Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee cleared, will play against Patriots - Todd Archer, ESPN
Lee has made it through the NFL's concussion protocol and will play on Sunday against the Patriots.

"I feel great," Lee said. "I went through all of the protocol this week and I haven’t had any symptoms."

For the first time Lee will play alongside Rolando McClain, who will make his debut after missing the first four games due to a suspension. Defensive end Greg Hardy also will play for the first time since his four-game suspension ended.

Lucky Whitehead set to make debut as return man | David Moore, Dallas Morning News
If he can hang on to the ball, maybe he'll be the spark the return game needs so badly.

Matt Cassel to be active for Patriots game | Drew Davison, The Star-Telegram
Matt Cassel is expected to be on the active roster Sunday vs. New England after being inactive for two games since coming to Dallas in a trade on Sept. 22.

Asked how comfortable he feels in the system, Cassel said: "I felt like I had a great two weeks. It was a good lead in. I felt like I’ve learned a lot. I feel like I’m capable of running the offense at this point."

Cowboys Ban Filming Offense In Practice With Patriots Next On Schedule | New England Patriots | NESN.com
Certainly nothing lost by this, but what if ...

And while it could be just another ploy by the Cowboys to get under the Patriots’ skin, Dallas will look pretty smart if they whip out a trick play for a touchdown Sunday.

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How often do 1-3 teams make the playoffs? - Arrowhead Pride
There's usually one every year, so these 11 teams still think they have a chance: Dolphins, Browns, Ravens, Jaguars, Texans, Chiefs, Eagles, Bears, Bucs, Saints and 49ers.

Cromartie on O.B.J.: 'One-year wonder' - ESPN Video
Lulz.

Chip Kelly in danger of losing the Eagles locker room, per ESPN report - Bleeding Green Nation
ROFL