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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Can Brandon Weeden Save The Season?

Latest Cowboys headlines: 'Fair goal' for Dez Bryant to return after bye; Brandon Weeden's best weapon may be the Cowboys running game; Matt Ryan explains why Sean Lee is a 'great player.'

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James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons vs. Cowboys has all the makings of a classic trap game - The Falcoholic
Falcons fans are worried there may be more fight left in the Cowboys than has been widely reported.

This is a classic trap game, that game that looks so winnable on paper for the favored team, but has a bunch of intangibles that could make it a disappointing pitfall instead. In this one, it's chiefly a solid Dallas getting the benefit of playing at home against a team that has squeaked out its victories thus far. It's not a stretch to imagine Atlanta stumbling a bit against a still-strong Cowboys defense, nor is it a stretch to think Dallas might gin up enough offense to win a close game, even if a shootout victory seems very far-fetched.

Ranch Roundup: Matt Ryan explains why Sean Lee is a 'great player' | Jon Machota, SportsDay
Not every Falcons fan who's shown up on our board is impressed with Sean Lee, or knows who he is, but their quarterback sure is and does.

"This time of year, you have to watch some film of last year," Ryan said. "When he's out, the defense is different. He's that good of a player that he makes plays and he makes that defense a better defense. I'm really impressed both with his ability to play the run, but actually his speed and his ability to cover at the linebacker position is about as good as anybody in the league. He's a great player."

Defense must present Cowboys’ best case against Falcons | Drew Davison, The Star-Telegram
Davison explains how Sean Lee has been the most important addition to the Cowboys defense.

But the most impactful addition has been the return of Lee, who missed last year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and is now thriving as the weakside linebacker in Marinelli’s Tampa 2 scheme. Lee set a production-points record last week against the Eagles with 14 tackles, including two for loss, and an interception.

"You couldn’t talk about our defense without talking about the difference and the impact he’s making," Jones said.

Jones mentioned a couple other defenders by name, too. Claiborne, a bust to date, is finally playing well in the secondary, as is safety J.J. Wilcox, who continues to progress in his third season. All of it has added up to the Cowboys feeling confident about relying on their defense with the offensive injury issues.

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Here They Come to Save the Season! Backup QB’s that Rose to the Occasion in Super Bowl Seasons - Sportsgrid
Think your season is over, Cowboys fans? Earl Morall, Jeff Hostetler, and Buby Brister, all Super Bowl champion backups, beg to differ.

Which backup QB is in the most trouble in Week 3? | The Sports Daily
Chicago, New Orleans, and Dallas will all have their backup QBs starting today.

The Cowboys have the best chance of making it out of Week 3 with a win.

While Weeden is no world-beater, he’s not facing a top defense. The Falcons—despite a 2-0 start—have allowed the 29th most passing yards in the NFL. No Dez Bryant complicates matters for the Cowboys, but the Dallas offense figures to lean on its dominant offensive line with both Romo and Bryant out of the picture. The Cowboys also have a defense playing as well as any in the NFL so far in 2015.

The Bears and Saints—two struggling clubs—can’t say the same.

Inside the mind of a backup QB: What Brandon Weeden is doing to be ready to start for the Cowboys | Brandon George, SportsDay
For the first time since high school, Weeden has been in the same offensive system for two consecutive years. Will that help him process information as fast as he needs to to succeed?

Last November, Weeden started in place of injured Romo and struggled in a loss to Arizona. He completed only 18 of 33 passes and threw two interceptions. Weeden said Friday, however, he was still thinking too much instead of reacting.

"I'm not getting in the huddle now and thinking, 'OK, God, what do you call? Is it this? Is it this?'" Weeden said. "That part I'm comfortable with, so now it's just going out and executing. This is the first time I've ever had that and the comfort that gives me as far as the knowledge going to the line of scrimmage, I'm not having to think, 'What are all four receivers doing plus the back? Is the back blocking that guy?' Now I can just go out and play."

"I can throw the ball with the best of them. I can make all the throws. I feel like I'm an accurate thrower," Weeden said. "I've got to be smart. Don't try to do too much. When it's there, take it. And don't miss.

Brandon Weeden's Accuracy Tested - ESPN Sport Science
Few people doubt that Weeden has the arm of an NFL QB, but his accuracy ... Holy Mackerel!

Atlanta Falcons vs. Dallas Cowboys: What's the Game Plan for Dallas? | Joey Ickes, Bleacher Report
Ickes argues that the best way to help Weeden is a heavy dose of Dunbar.

The way that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan can help his quarterback and get the ball moving down the field in the pass game is to continue to involve Lance Dunbar in the passing game. So far in 2015, the Falcons have faced Darren Sproles and Shane Vereen, two backs in the same mold as Dunbar. These backs each caught at least seven passes for 76 yards and should provide a template for Linehan and Weeden.

How injuries to Tony Romo, Dez Bryant could help Dallas Cowboys - SI.com
Andrew Perloff makes an argument that while injuries to starting players can be incredibly tough on NFL teams, they can also help a team grow stronger.

No matter who starts, Dallas will have to become more conservative, which could suit them well. Coach Jason Garrett could show off his talented offensive line by hammering opponents with the run game. And Rod Marinelli’s defense ranks No. 2 in the NFL after two games and adds pass-rusher Greg Hardy in Week 5.

None of this is to say Cowboys fans should be excited about Romo and Bryant missing games or buy plane tickets to San Francisco for Super Bowl 50. But they're up two games in the loss column in the NFC East already. If the Cowboys can stay competitive until their stars return, Jones could be right ... they’ll rejoin a stronger team than they left. Championship-caliber teams can overcome injuries and even grow because of them. The next two months will tell us a lot about how great the this version of the Cowboys can be.

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Stephen Jones: 'Fair goal' for Dez to return after bye - NFL.com
From NFL.com comes a timely reminder that just last Sunday, "NFL Media Insider" Ian Rapoport trolled everybody with a report that Dez Bryant allegedly faced a 10-12 week time frame to recover from his surgery.

The Cowboys have been adamant a shorter timetable is more apt for Bryant. The team decided not to use the injured reserve/designated to return spot on Byrant in part because they believe he can be back sooner than eight weeks -- Dallas used their one IR Boomerang spot on Tony Romo.

If Bryant indeed returns after the team's Week 6 bye it will be a huge boon to quarterback Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys' chances of staying atop the NFC East while Romo heals.

In Boise, the Kellen Moore watch picks up steam as Cowboys host Falcons | Idahostatesman.com
The former Boise State quarterback still has a huge following Idaho, and that fan base continues to follow his every step. Good news for Moore fans: he beat out Christian Ponder, Matt Flynn, Josh Johnson and McLeod Bethel-Thompson for a spot on the Cowboys roster. That's got to count for something.

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Everybody want to rule the East.
This year, everybody thinks they can win the NFC East.

One thing is clear about the NFC East: It's a division up for grabs - USA Today
This article makes a case for the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, or Redskins to win the muddled NFC East.

This Is Why The Cowboys Can Still Win The NFC East - The Sports Quotient
Why can the Cowboys be cautiously optimistic? Because the other NFC East teams suck even more.

Perhaps most comforting of all, the Cowboys play in the NFC East.

Sunday Morning QB: The Giants will win the NFC East. - NY Daily News
This Giants writer trots out the old "but he's got two rings" argument for why the Giants have a better QB than the other NFC East teams - a QB whose late-game blunders have already lost the Giants two games.

The Cowboys have been decimated. And now, like the Eagles, with the dreadful Sam Bradford, and Washington, with Kirk Cousins among the worst in the league, the Cowboys don’t have a quarterback. That’s why the Giants will win a very weak division.

It may not take much to win the NFC East - Philly.com
Even the Eagles hold out some faint hope that they can win the East, if the other teams would just suck even more.

At 0-2, they might be the most disappointing team in the NFL. Coach Chip Kelly gave his team a face-lift because he did not think consecutive 10-6 seasons were good enough to get him where he wants to go.

The irony is that 9-7 might be good enough to win the NFC East in 2015.

Don’t laugh, but the Redskins could win the NFC East - Washington Post
I laughed.