If you're the 2015 Cowboys, you find ways to lose games. It's what you do. If you want to save 15% on car insurance, you switch to GEICO. It's what you do. If you have a lot of questions heading into the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you simply look no further than your BTB peers to come up with answers. It's what I do.
Question 1 - It was discovered that my wife's hamster died last Sunday night with about two minutes left in the fourth quarter of the Eagle's game. She asked me if I could take him out of the cage for her because she was too sad to do it. I said fine, but can it wait a minute? Is this a reasonable response on my part or am I an insensitive bastard?
Rabblerousr: It would have been completely reasonable to ask her to wait until the end of the season. The Cowboys take priority over everything.
Tom Ryle: Go ahead and admit it. You killed Kenny, you bastard.
Michael Sisemore: As diehard Cowboys fans, everything must wait until the game is completed. It could very well be considered breaking a vow to you sir to bother with dead rodents during a Cowboys game, although our team seems to be dead rodents as of late.
One Cool Customer: You're an insensitive bastard. Here's what you should have done: Ask how the hamster's passing makes her feel. Then, while she talks, say "I understand," in intervals of about 1-2 minutes. That would have safely gotten you to the end of the game.
[Note to self: Do not ask any marital advice from any fellow BTB writers.]
Question 2 - There are some things I envisioned about this season that didn't play out like I expected and there are some things that are right on cue. Thinking back to your preseason predictions, what is one thing you were spot on about and one thing that you were dead wrong about?
Rabblerousr: I was spot on about Mo Claiborne. After watching the CB drills in camp, I concluded that he was their best corner in terms of his athleticism, hips, ability to shift weight, etc. And that was before Scandrick was injured. I have been dead wrong about the defensive line. I thought that they had assembled a group capable of putting immense pressure on the QB; instead they might even have been less effective than last year's group.
Tom Ryle: I don't know if I was spot on about much at all. Very little has born much resemblance to my expectations. I did expect the secondary to improve, and that happened. Darren McFadden has provided some evidence that it was the line that mattered in the running game. But the closest thing to being absolutely dead on was that I figured that if Tony Romo went down, the team was doomed. I think that has been proven quite conclusively.
The biggest miss has to be the pass rush. I thought that this bunch, especially after Greg Hardy joined them, would be absolutely terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. The only one they have really gotten to was Tom Brady, for one half. And it had no impact on the outcome of the game. I am assailed by the bitter taste of ashes on that expectation.
Michael Sisemore: I stood on tables this offseason to express my displeasure for the RBBC approach and I was absolutely correct. Part of the reason they were successful was they ran their offense through a good back that could help them close out games and build on leads. McFadden is the guy now and he's done a nice job as of late. I'm certainly glad that they abandoned the notion of a three-back system. I was dead wrong about this defense as a whole. I really thought they were going to be difference makers especially along the defensive line. Just about every defensive player could have their faces on milk cartons except Greg Hardy and Byron Jones. They have had some nice performances but they don't cut the mustard and they certainly don't make plays.
One Cool Customer: I don't remember any specific prediction I made, as I don't usually do those. But I do remember thinking that this was the season where the Cowboys could possibly put everything together and make a very deep push in the playoffs. That's why this season hurts so much, because I'm not sure that window will be open again next year.
Question 3 - It seems like every loss the Cowboys have had, we've been able to hang an excuse on it based on the opponent's capability on one side of the ball. This will not be the case on Sunday with Tampa Bay as they aren't particularly strong on either side, but they do have some good playmakers. Which Bucs player are you most worried about?
Rabblerousr: I'm not worried about any specific player so much as I am in the Buccaneer's defense's ability to generate turnovers, especially when compared to the Cowboys complete inability thus far to do the same. Both teams run the same scheme, one designed to take away the ball; thus far, Tampa's has done that and Dallas's hasn't.
Tom Ryle: Mike Evans. He is one of the league leaders in dropped passes. Because of the unique dynamics that surround the Cowboys week after week, that means he is going to look like a combination of Odell Beckham and Dez Bryant this week, with a dose of Rob Gronkowski thrown in. And I have absolutely no idea how the Cowboys can counter it, because the way backups and journeyman players as well as stars do against them week after week continues to confound me.
Michael Sisemore: I worry about the connection between Mike Evans and Jameis Winston if they start hooking up early and often. This is a game in which I believe the Bucs could very well use as a motivational step in the right direction for their entire organization. The Cowboys find ways to lose games and every week has been a must-win and they still fall short. If Jameis Winston is playing well and not turning the ball over, the Bucs could likely put the stake in the Cowboys before they get a chance to see Tony Romo again. The Cowboys get everybody's best shot and that's not likely to change this weekend, especially with a self-proclaimed Eagles' fan in Winston.
One Cool Customer: (Declined to answer this question and quite possibly may have went on a tirade)
Question 4 - The Cowboys need a strong collective effort, but it would be nice if a player stepped up and had a huge game that helped bring home a victory. Which Cowboys player do you think will rise up and be the biggest factor in helping the Cowboys end this horrid losing streak?
Rabblerousr: Hmmm...I don't trust anyone the defense to step up in a meaningful way, so I'll go with the obvious answer: Number 88. This will be his third week back, and he's improved each week. By that logic, he's ready for the kind of multi-score game we routinely saw from him last season.
Tom Ryle: This could be several players, but let me take one each on offense and defense. I think this game, McFadden will take the load on his shoulders and just run wild, going over 150 yards and getting a couple of touchdowns. That will not only help the Cowboys control the ball and the clock, it will open up the passing game as the Bucs have to try and load the box to slow DMC down.
On defense, I think Byron Jones is going to finally close those last couple of inches and get an interception that will be a big boost for Dallas.
Michael Sisemore: Dez Bryant. The Cowboys have to score points to mask their deficiencies on defense because they are wounded this week at linebacker and have seen bad play from their secondary. If Dez Bryant can have his type of game a score multiple times or at least facilitate a heavy offensive attack, there just may be something to root for next week.
One Cool Customer: Tony Romo. (Yep, he's still upset...follow him on twitter @OCC44 to possibly learn more about what set him off.)
Question 5 - A loss to Tampa Bay will, for all intents and purposes, put a stamp on this disappointing year. A win, however, will keep a glimmer of hope alive especially since the Romo hiatus is expected to be over. Besides just winning the game, what do you hope to see on Sunday that could possibly jump-start this team as they prepare for a huge second half run?
Rabblerousr: A positive turnover differential. The Cowboys are the better team, even without Romo; all other things being equal, they should win this game. However, they haven't been on the positive side of the turnover differential ledger since the losing streak began. If they are to help Romo run the table, the defense is going to have to start collecting takeaways. If they can't, then it will simply be too difficult to climb out of the hole they have dug for themselves.
Tom Ryle: Sacks and/or takeaways. The offense looked pretty good last week, but the D needs to put its stamp on a game and not have a fourth quarter fade.
Michael Sisemore: They need to show the ability to play a complete game. There have been too many mental mistakes and poor efforts to go around. What really needs to come through though is a reliable defense. These guys along the defensive line need to create pressure and opportunities for takeaways. They have been so close at times but have not shown the ability to capitalize and it's killed them slowly. Turnover ratio is huge in the NFL and the Cowboys are dead-last at -9, they have to figure this out.
One Cool Customer: Sacks. Lots of sacks. By multiple players.