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Cowboys News & Notes: How The Cowboys Will Win The NFC East

Latest Cowboys headlines: The divisional record will be key for the Cowboys' playoff aspirations; offense needs improvement beyond quarterback play; how dominant can the Cowboys' pass rush be?

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Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Machota: Why the Cowboys will repeat as NFC East champions | Jon Machota, SportsDay
In a chat with fans, Machota explains why he feels the Cowboys can still win the East - with a win over the Giants next week.

Question: If the Cowboys beat the Giants next week and are sitting 3-0 in the division with reinforcements on the way, they have to be the favorite to win the division, right?

Jon Machota: I would agree with that thought. Jerry Jones thinks they need 10 wins to win the division. I think they can get it done with nine, as long as they take care of business against the other NFC East teams. That way they'll have the benefit of the tiebreaker if Washington, Philly or NY also have nine wins. The division isn't that good. If they can win a couple games before Romo gets back, they'll remain in the hunt as long as Romo and Co. are playing well once he returns.

NFL roundtable: Who wins the NFC East? - Sportsnet staff
The Giants have the best record in the NFC East at 3-2, and the other three teams are 2-3. But who will reign supreme in the division by season's end? A four-man Sportnet panel weighs in, and while three panelists take the Giants, one takes the Cowboys (with impeccable logic).

If you assume - as the current reports seem to indicate - that Dez Bryant will return for week seven and Tony Romo will return in week 11, then I think you have to go with the Cowboys. Based on the way nobody in the division has stepped up to grab the top spot with authority, you have to believe Dallas won’t be more than a couple of games out of the mix, at worst. And with a healthy Romo and Bryant and a second-half schedule that features a lot of should-win matchups, they can come roaring back quickly.

How The East Will Be Won - Daniel Apadula, The Sports Quotient
Because someone eventually has to win the NFC East, this post looks at point differentials, DVOA, and Strength of Schedule to figure out who the winner could eventually be. The conclusion:

So it seems, after all the analysis and discussion, we find ourselves no wiser than before.

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Struggling Cowboys offense needs improvement beyond quarterback play - Eric Prisbell, USA Today
The Cowboys' sputtering offense needs to fix a host of issues, Prisbell writes, and not just at quarterback.

"It's a reflection of the whole offense," quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said of the unit's problems amid a three-game losing streak that sent quarterback Brandon Weeden back to the bench in favor of recently acquired veteran Matt Cassel, who is expected to provide a boost until Tony Romo can return from his broken collarbone.

"It's not all dumped on Brandon. We've had penalties, we've had dropped balls, we've had a myriad of things that have happened on offense."

Why Cowboys' backup QB battle isn't something to get too caught up in - Tim Cowlishaw, SportsDay
Cowlishaw wonders whether we should expect different results now that the team has moved from Brandon Weeden to Matt Cassel.

Cassel's record as a starter will be determined mostly by the availability of Dez Bryant. Not a lot more to it than that.

Let the Cassel Era began. It's time to try something new. But if you're old enough to remember when second-choice quarterbacks rode to the rescue all the time, don't get too caught up in this. This isn't Morton and Staubach. This is Dallas' version of Houston's Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer.

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Cowboys' bye week could help Rolando McClain, Greg Hardy - Todd Archer, ESPN
Rolando McClain and Greg Hardy have played only one game this season for the Cowboys, but the bye gives them time to get more acclimated.

"I think any time you’re coming back from not playing for a little while you want to continue to get yourself acclimated, and those guys work hard," coach Jason Garrett said. "They were prepared last week to play that game. But now it gives them a chance to have a good couple of practice days before they get ready for the next week of preparation for the Giants. I thought they handled their work well in the game and they were back out there (Wednesday). Both of those guys had good practices."

Sturm's Xs and Os: A look at how dominant Cowboys' Greg Hardy can be | SportsDay
Sturm concludes that Greg Hardy is very good at playing football.

Plenty has been written about Hardy, but when it comes to football, it would be reasonable to recognize him for what he is - a real impressive talent. Some may be as strong and some may be as quick and some may have the motor. He seems to combine all 3 at a pretty elite level.

Jeremy Mincey wants whole Cowboys defensive line involved: ‘To destroy a buffet, everybody got to eat’ - Jon Machota, Dallas Morning News
While it would be nice to have some players with double-digit sack totals this year, Jeremy Mincey explained why the Cowboys don’t necessarily need that to have success.

"Listen, let me tell you something, if you look at teams like Seattle, teams that won championships, they didn’t have 10 double-digit sack guys," Mincey said. "They had five or six guys with six or seven sacks, which means everybody is eating at the table.

"In order to destroy a buffet, everybody got to eat. The buffet is the Super Bowl, and hopefully we’ll get to that buffet. But we’re taking it one game at a time and it’s going to be tough."

Will We See More Of The 3-2-6 Defense From Dallas? - Marcus Mosher, All 22 Breakdown
With the return of Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain, the Cowboys debuted an unusual defense: the 3-2-6 defense had the Patriots struggling for long stretches of the game. Mosher disects the film of this defensive formation and concludes:

The 3-2-6 package presented problems for one of the smartest and best offenses in the NFL.

Obviously, this isn’t a defense that you would consider as your "base" defense, but what it does do is present [yet] another possible formation for teams to game-plan for. I fully expect Dallas to employ this defense versus the Giants in two weeks as they primarily play out of the shotgun. I still think Dallas will prefer to use their NASCAR package on obvious passing downs, but Dallas showed how they can cause havoc with this odd-looking formation.

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Pollack: New Starter La’el Collins Has Made "Good Progress" At Left Guard - Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
Offensive line coach Frank Pollack said Leary remains a "vital cog in the wheel" and will stay ready even though La'el Collins gets the start at left guard.

Pollack has been pleased with Collins’ development even though he hasn’t seen certain defensive looks in live action.

"He’s made a lot of good progress in his technique, his body control and position, his balance," Pollack said. "He’s done a lot of growing as far as his awareness to schemes and what teams are doing. He’s going to continue to grow. The more he plays, the better he’ll be."

Quick Turnaround For New Running Back Smith During Bye Week - Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys
It's been a whirlwind of activity for Rod Smith, the recently signed fourth running back on the roster.

Claimed off waivers Wednesday, Smith took the red-eye flight from Seattle and said he arrived at Valley Ranch about an hour before team meetings on Thursday morning. Then he suited up for his first Cowboys practice wearing No. 45. "This is my home now," Smith said, "so I’m just ready to work."

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Dallas Cowboys' Brandon Carr returns to encourage kids to read - Jiquanda Johnson, MLive.com
Brandon Carr' Carr Cares Foundation partnered with the United Way to sponsor three reading centers for Flint-area schools, which Carr visited on Friday.

"I love playing the game of football, but I get that much more satisfaction from knowing that I've come back to my community, coming back to the kids that look up to me, that look up to the National Football League players and coming back with a different message," he said. "It's not about the NBA or NFL. It's about every single day committing yourself to becoming a better person...About taking ownership of your own life."