With the Giants game approaching, there are still a lot of things on my mind. So I look no further than to my fellow BTB peers to help provide some insight. You want answers? You want the truth? Whether you can handle it or not, here's it comes.
Question 1- If the first couple Cowboys drives don't amount to much, I can just see the twitterverse going crazy with "Cassel's-no-better-than-Weeden" statements. Do you really expect things to be any different with Matt Cassel at QB?
Tom Ryle: Yes, I do expect things to be different. Not a night and day kind of thing, but just more ability to move the ball, getting one or two first downs when Weeden was going three and out. It will be a slow accumulation over the course of the game, I believe, but it will show. It may involve a slow start, and our fans are not exactly patient, but I think it will work out. (It better, or the team could be in trouble.)
Dawn Macelli: If the Cowboys don't light it up from the opening kick-off, social media will be spreading more doom and gloom. That is the nature of the beast I suspect that the powers that be in Dallas have been anticipating this change since they made the move to acquire Cassel. Give him a few weeks to learn the ropes and get him in there. This is a contract year for Weeden and it is obvious to me that they do not have confidence in his abilities to lead the team. This is an audition for Matt to take his place. Weeden's only hope was to light it up. Now it is the other guy's turn to prove himself. If he does I look for Weeden to get his walking papers when Tony Romo returns. That being said, I don't expect miracles and no backup quarterback should ever be expected to produce them. For Dallas to come out of this situation they are in right now all he has to be is solid. I think Cassel can do that. Will he; I guess we will find out.
Michael Sisemore: I expect Cassel to at least do his best to get this offense moving forward. A big part of the offensive plan has to be execution. Cassel gives them a better opportunity to get into rhythm because he will take some chances. Part of the quarterback's job is to throw guys open at times, I hope that he can accomplish that goal. He's no Tony Romo, but he's had success before and perhaps the best part about him is that he's got that experience.
Jim Scott: I expect a difference in air yards. I don't expect Cassel to hit huge bombs or anything, but I do expect Cassel to find second or maybe even third reads before dropping it down to the RB. I look for more medium range passes of 8-15 yards in the air.
Question 2 - The much anticipated, five best pass rushers will all be together for this game for the first time this season. I haven't felt this excited for a group of people all coming together since the Save By The Bell reunion. Do you think these guys will be as good as advertised or should fans temper their expectations a bit? I have them getting 12 sacks in this game, is that too high?
Tom Ryle: The rushmen may not see as many sacks because Manning will throw the ball away, but he has less to work with as far as receiving talent with Cruz out and Beckham and Randle both less than 100%. I think Manning feels the pressure and it strongly affects the NYG offense.
Dawn Macelli: I expect several sacks this weekend. The Giants are hurting up front, and especially in the middle of the line. Philly got a lot of pressure from there. Eli has always hurt us by stepping up into the pocket. With what Dallas has up front and what the G-Men are missing he should not be able to do that this week. I suspect we will see multiple sacks from the DT position and I figure the DEs will get a taste, too. No projection on the total number of sacks, but there will be several happy rushmen watching film this week.
Michael Sisemore: That may be a bit too high but the excitement is certainly warranted. These guys have an opportunity to really take over this game. Eli Manning has to be forced into mistakes for these Cowboys to get the win. They cannot let him get the ball out quick and distribute it all across the field. They must bring the pressure and I believe they will in this game.
Jim Scott: Twelve sacks is a bit high, but Eli will not be comfortable this game. I expect more effective rotation rather than exotic packages, but I am definitely anxious for it.
Question 3 - We've heard mixed signals as to which RB gets the starting nod on Sunday. Forget what you think will happen, but rather tell me what you think is the best way to utilize this three headed, RB committee?
Tom Ryle: The team just has to stick with running the ball. Based on the latest comments, it looks like Randle may still be the starter, and there is some indication that Linehan is not as fond of Michael as the fans are. I think the combination of Cassel and Collins may be more important for the running attack than who is the starter. The one thing the Cowboys must avoid is falling behind early and having to go with a pass-heavy offense. This is going to be a real challenge, since the Giants look to be best against the run on defense.
Dawn Macelli: I suspect that C-Mike is being put into a similar situation as Matt Cassel. For him this is an audition for the future. Linehan will give him opportunities to prove his mettle. I expect Randle to get plenty of chances as well. The game plan will likely be focused on giving both men a similar amount of snaps, but they will be flexible enough to ride either horse if one of them has the hot hand. If neither man emerges, Dallas will be looking at a second or third round running back in the off season.
Michael Sisemore: I think Christine Michael has to be your starter at this point. Think about the vision of his running style in the beginning of games to get those necessary drive-extending yards and then out of nowhere you get Joseph Randle breaking a nice long gainer. That was their plan last year and it worked, they need to return to this method if they want to replicate that success. Without Romo and Dez, it's hard to establish that identity but that still remains their best chance for success.
Jim Scott: I am honestly okay with Randle still getting the bulk of the carries, but McFadden has been very hot and cold and his pass protection has been much worse than advertised. I'd like to see Michael eat into McFadden's snaps.
Question 4 - This last Wednesday was the actual date that Marty McFly traveled into the future in 2015. If you have returned from the future and have already witnessed the Cowboys beat the Giants, can you tell us what player was the biggest difference maker in this game?
Tom Ryle: While the pass rush is going to be big, I predict the individual star of the game is one Jason Witten. He seems to find a way to get the catches against the Giants, and I think Cassel is going to quickly find out why Tony Romo is so fond of the Senator.
Dawn Macelli: I am not sure which one it will be, but I look for one of the down roster guys to come up big for the Cowboys. It may be a special teams play, it might be something they do in a limited role. Somebody is going to step up and make a play that sparks the team.
Michael Sisemore: Give me Brice Butler on offense and Greg Hardy on defense. I think the Cowboys will try and get back to their ground-and-pound ways which will give Butler some one-on-one coverage that he surely could beat. I think he walks away with a solid performance including a score. On defense, Hardy is ready to take that field and he makes everyone better around him as we saw a few weeks ago. I expect the Cowboys to force a turnover or three and it's going to be all due to the dominance of a defensive line led by Hardy with guys like Gregory, Crawford and Lawrence making their individual cases.
Jim Scott: Randy Gregory.
Question 5 - Okay, let's hear it. Give me your final score prediction. Who wins this and why?
Tom Ryle: I hate predicting, but I really think this week things come together for a Cowboys team that is getting markedly healthier, and going up against a Giants team with some serious injury problems of their own. I am going with 30-16 Cowboys.
Dawn Macelli: Cowboys 24 Giants 17. New York is the favorite on paper, and looking at the big picture they should be. That all changes with the Return Of The Rushmen. Eli Manning gets rattled when you smack him in the mouth. His depleted line versus Marinelli's Merry Band...that will slow the Giants down. Dallas' offense will not run wild in Cassel's debut but the will do enough to win.
Michael Sisemore: At the beginning of the week even after that Monday performance, I thought that the Cowboys just don't have what it took to get a W. I think it had a lot to do with what we've seen recently and what we haven't seen yet. The confidence is pretty low in this offense and they must get back on track. However, as we get closer to the game, I believe the Cowboys are the more desperate team and they get this win collectively. I'll take the Cowboys over the Giants 28-17.
Jim Scott: Dallas wins 20-10 in a game that isn't anywhere near that close, giving up an early drive to the Giants and keeping them in check the rest of the game while the offense manages to put together a decent performance. The Dallas pass rush dominates the game and gives Dallas good field position constantly.
Okay, so there you have it. The BTB staff had their shot. How about you? What are your answers to these five questions?