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Cowboys Have More Questions Than Answers As They Enter Bye Week

The season is almost a third of the way over as Dallas begins its week of self-evaluation, and from the looks of things it is not going to be a week of rest for those who make the decisions about the team.

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I will grant you that the Dallas Cowboys are not the same team that they are when Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are not injured, but that is not the only issue in the Metroplex. The entire team looks to me like they are out of adjustment with each other, and they have ever since the opening kick off of the season. Something is amiss in Dallas and it goes deeper than just the injury factor.

The offensive line is not playing at the same level that it did one year ago. Part of that is because opposing teams have an entire year of film to study on what has become one of the most-talented groups in the league and they are able to scheme against the Cowboys line this time around. That is to be expected. They are also working with less support than they did last year. The back that helped make them look so good has departed, and without Romo and Bryant behind them to add a downfield threat, they have had more to deal with up front than they did last season.

That does not excuse their performance, however; the five big guys up front are going to have to start dominating their battles on every snap. The unit known as the Great Wall of Dallas faced similar issues during their tenure as one of the most dominating offensive lines in the game. They found ways to dig deep, overcome the challenges in front of them, and win the day. The next prospect on the horizon for the Cowboys line of 2015 is to learn how to accomplish the same thing. They are the "stars" of the show right now, and they have to elevate their games if an offense without its playmakers is going to have any hope for success.

On the other side of the ball, the Dallas defense is going to have to figure out how to take the ball away from their opponents and give more opportunities to a floundering offense. Not only will that give the suddenly conservative by necessity offense more chances to put points on the board, it will help to shift momentum in the Cowboys favor. Through five games Dallas has only taken the ball away three times. Only the Houston Texans have fared worse than Dallas  in taking the ball away.

Just how important is this one single stat?  It can be argued that it is the single most telling one in football.  Coaches will tell you, that at any level of the game, if you win the turnover battle you win the game. The stats and records from the 2015 season fully support this statement.

Seventeen teams have more giveaways than takeaways: Dallas, Seattle, Tennessee, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami, Washington, Jacksonville, Baltimore, San Francisco, New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Houston. Not a single one has a winning record. The Chargers are 2-2.The combined record of those teams: 25-57.The combined record of the other 15 teams with a plus-turnover ratio: 51-19. All but three teams have winning records. Six are undefeated.

Until Sunday's game against the Patriots, you could add the pass rush to this as well. The return of Greg Hardy coincided with the return of the pass rush. If Dallas can find a way to keep opposing quarterbacks under pressure then that should help create opportunities for the Cowboys defense. The challenge that the defensive coaches will face is to maintain the momentum that started with a five-sack first-half against New England and to find ways to cash in on the opportunities that the success upfront will produce.

For Dallas to succeed with the personnel currently available to them, it is going to take every man available to step his game up. That starts with two key units. The offensive line is going to have to prove itself as the best in football, Last year they dominated the opposition; now, not so much. In the NFL if you are not getting better you are getting beat.  The line is going to have to be better than last year for Dallas to achieve its potential no matter who is under center. The same goes for the defense. The talent is better this season but the performance has not been.

The Cowboys are currently one game behind the New York Giants with the G-Men next up on the slate. This week is a week of opportunity; an opportunity for self-reflection and renewed commitment  The season is not over yet and Dallas can right the ship and finally get on track. Every man on the roster has the ability to dig deep and find something extra. That should be the focus during the bye. The season depends on how they come out of this week.

What are their chances? Ask me after I see what they do against New York.