Monday, September 29, 2008

T.O.: Shut up and play

T.O. had me fooled. Last week, T.O. caught only 2 passes for 17 yards, ran down DBs after INTs and didn't complain. For the next 7 days, I thought he had turned the corner and was a different guy.

What a difference a week makes!

Yesterday T.O. was targeted nearly 20 times out of 58 offensive plays. But T.O.'s complaining about his (lack of) involvement in the offense.
"I’m a competitor and I want the ball," T.O. said.

“Everybody recognized that I wasn’t really getting the ball in the first half,” Owens said. “I’m pretty sure everybody watching the game recognized it, people in the stands recognized it. I think my team recognized it.”
Like Jean-Jacques Taylor says, "it takes incredible gall to moan and groan." The Cowboys didn't lose because T.O. only got 20 looks.

If anyone has a legitimate gripe (although he would never complain), it's Marion Barber. Inexplicably, he carried the ball 8 times and Felix Jones didn't get any carries.

Before it spirals out of control like it did with Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb, someone (probably Jerry) needs to shut this guy up. Because it's obvious he can't do it himself.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cowboys: 3-0 on way to 16-0?

In the Star-Telegram today, a headline reads "Can the Cowboys go undefeated in the regular season?" How did Jerry Jones respond to that question?
"I don’t see that," Jones said. "I really don’t see that. I thought it was almost impossible to make it through 16 games. I see the road is too rough. The East is too tough. ...I just don’t see that happening."
I agree with Jones and especially so about how tough the East is. So far, NFC East teams have a combined 2 losses through 3 weeks. The 'Skins lost to the Giants and the Eagles to the 'Boys. Still no losses to non-division opponents.

I believed the NFC East to be the toughest division in football to start the season, but it is looking like it will be even stronger from top to bottom than I previously thought. Games like tomorrow's division matchup mean so much.

The Cowboys are 11-point favorites over the Redskins this weekend. Does that scare anyone else like it does me? I expect the Cowboys to win (of course), but 11 points in this rivalry?

The out-of-division schedule isn't very tough. The Cowboys have the Steelers on the road and the Ravens, who look like they have their defensive groove back, in the last game ever at Texas Stadium. Other than that, they play teams like the Rams, Niners and Bengals.

It's way too soon to talk about a perfect (regular) season. The only time a perfect season matters is the one that starts in January. Just ask the Patriots.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dallas Cowboys vs Green Bay Packers

The Cowboys and Packers played in 2007 in prime-time in Dallas. The Cowboys came away with a victory that enabled the 'Boys to win the tie-breaker for home-field advantage. Tonight's game could have the same significance.

I thought the Vikings would be the team to beat in the NFC North. Although we have only seen 2 weeks of games, when the Cowboys win the NFC East, I don't expect the NFC South/NFC West to hold their main competition for home-field advantage. It will be the NFC North and with Aaron Rodgers strong play, the Packers are as good in 2008 as they were in 2007. Perhaps, you could even argue they are better.

Here are the 3 keys to the game for the Cowboys from the Sporting News:
1. Stop committing penalties at such an alarming rate. The Cowboys had 10 penalties Monday night against the Eagles, giving them a two-game total of 21. You name it, they've committed the infraction. They had the talent to overcome those miscues in the first two games, but this week against a quality opponent, penalties will cost them.

2. Do a better job defensively on first down. This is especially important because the Packers can run the ball. Wade Phillips is at his best calling exotic blitzes on second- and third-and-long situations. If the Cowboys can win first downs playing the run strong and force the Packers to become one-dimensional, they can make Rodgers uncomfortable and force him into mistakes.

3. Take it easy, Tony. Quarterback Tony Romo has a lot of gunslinger in him, but the less he plays like his idol Brett Favre, the better. Sometimes, a no-gain or an incompletion is a good play. Every play can't be salvaged. Romo knows the difference most times, but he had an interception and a fumble against last week that helped the Eagles score 14 points in a 14-second span in the second quarter. It's hard to win that way.

Keys 1/3 are critical, not just for this week but for the season. This is the most talented team in the league. If they play with passion and focus, they are the best team in football and nobody will beat them. Let's hope they don't shoot themselves in the foot this week (or especially in January/February).

Here's my prediction for the game: Dallas 20, Green Bay 17

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cowboys 2-0; survive tough test against Eagles

Great game last night. The Cowboys looked good except for the back-to-back Romo turnovers.

Jason Witten separated his shoulder, but should be ready to go on Sunday at Green Bay.
It's impressive that Jason Witten caught six balls, including two critical big plays, after returning from a right shoulder injury last night. But it was his blocking that really proved that Witten's a bad dude.
Roy Williams suffered a fracture in his right forearm and will miss 3-4 weeks. Also, Wade Phillips defended Williams on the big play to DeSean Jackson.
"Let me say this, it wasn't Roy's responsibility to play that ball," said Phillips, who frequently mentions that Williams hasn't given up a deep TD since the arrival of this coaching regime.

Well, if Williams wasn't to blame, it doesn't take a triple-digit football IQ to figure out that Adam "Pacman" Jones was the guy Jackson toasted.
Here was the (bonehead) play by Jackson:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cowboys vs Eagles preview/prediction

Ted Sundquist, former Broncos' G.M. and current contributor to Pro Football Talk, listed his keys (for both teams) to tonight's match-up as follows:
  • KEY #1 for Philly will be slowing down the Dallas pressure on McNabb. If the Cowboys can pressure and or sack McNabb on early downs and force the Eagles to throw on third, it could open up some turnover opportunities for the talented Dallas secondary.
  • I’ll pin the success of the Eagles on their defensive front getting to Romo and helping out the secondary to blanket the Dallas receivers. Cole and Patterson are the two best run stuffers; look for Dallas to go to their right behind big OG Leonard Davis aligned over Bunkley.
  • ...the Philadelphia defense has an excellent history of shutting down opponents’ TE’s. This could be a big week for WR Patrick Crayton. The Eagle defense swarms the primary receiver, but struggled to shut down the second and third options last season.
  • KEY #4 will be how well Dallas ILB’s Zach Thomas and Bradie James can contain Brian Westbrook. The Eagles tied for second with thirty-three 10+ play drives in ’07...
  • KEY #5 for me is the punting of Matt McBriar (DAL) versus Sav Rocca (PHI). Look for the resulting field position battle to be a key factor in the final outcome.
Although I hate calling a week 2 matchup a huge game, the NFC East is going to be a dogfight by all early indications. After tonight's game, the only 2 losses by this division will be against division foes (Redskins against the Giants and yes, the Eagles against the Cowboys).

My prediction is Cowboys 27, Eagles 21.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tony Romo Helps Couple Change Tire

With the exception of fame, fortune and superstar girlfriends, Tony Romo is just like you and me. After Browns game, he helped a couple fix a flat tire.
Bill and Sharon White told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that at least 100 drivers ignored their broken-down Mercury before someone stopped late Sunday. Sharon White said a well-dressed man "with something strange on his chin" walked up and offered a hand.

"Don't tell me how you guys did," [Bill White] said he told Romo. "I'm going home to watch it."
This isn't a huge deal; just a nice guy doing a good thing. But the media likes to focus its attention on the negative things surrounding the Cowboys, I wanted to point it out. Everyone talks about the bad things T.O. does, but I'm never hear them talking about what T.O. did at the ESPYs.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Strahan says: " team in the league"

Back on August 1, Michael Strahan was at Dallas Cowboys training camp. And he must have liked what he saw. Even though he picked the Giants to win the NFC East (rookie mistake), he soon learned the errs of his ways and said...:
"I have to be realistic and I have to be objective here," Strahan said in justifying his pick. "The Dallas Cowboys are the best team in the league."
I'm not unrealistic. Going into week 1, I would have thought the Pats, Chargers and Colts all had as good or better of a chance to win the Super Bowl than Dallas. But after the Chargers and Colts lost at home and generally looked flat and the Pats won (unconvincingly) but lost the league's MVP. We'll see what happens with the Pats without Brady. Maybe the system works with or without him. But I doubt it.

The Browns are probably over-rated. But the Cowboys went on the road and faced a team with a talented offense and playoff expectations. And they made it look easy. Like Strahan, I have to be "realistic" and say the "Cowboys are the best team in the league."

How 'bout them Cowboys!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cowboys win, but suffer injuries

The Cowboys won 28-10 over the Cleveland Browns to kick off the season. The offense and defense looked solid. The Cowboys had 487 yards of total offense (320 passing / 167 rushing) to 205 total yards for Cleveland.
"We're ready," said Owens, who finished with five catches for 87 yards. "Training camp and all that stuff is over with. The season is here and this was a great start."

Afterward, owner Jerry Jones was all smiles: "I didn't expect to feel this good," he said. "I was worried to death. I thought we could lose this opener."
Some in the press were negative about how the Cowboys played in the pre-season. They easily answered all of the questions people may have had about them today.

However, Tony Romo and Marion Barber suffered injuries today. Tony Romo has a cut on his chin that will require stitches and Marion Barber did damage to cartilage in his rib.
A high-ranking Cowboys source told ESPN's Ed Werder that Barber damaged cartilage in his rib cage but X-rays indicated there were no fractures. While the team is uncertain of Barber's availability for next Monday night's home game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the source said the Cowboys medical staff believes that Barber could be treated with painkilling injections and the injury protected with additional padding that would improve his chances of playing.
Romo should be fine, but I'm worried about the status of Barber. Felix Jones played well (62 yards on 9 carries), but he's ideally suited for a back-up role. And if Barber's playing with extra padding and in pain, will he run as aggressively as he normally does? Will he be more proned to fumble?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cowboys 2008 Schedule - Predictions

Less than 48 hours away from the Cowboys season opener, let's take a look at the schedule and make some predictions. Here is their 2008 regular-season schedule:

Sept. 7: at Cleveland Browns
Sept. 15 (MNF): Philadelphia Eagles
Sept. 21: at Green Bay Packers
Sept. 28: Washington Redskins
Oct. 5: Cincinnati Bengals
Oct. 12: at Arizona Cardinals
Oct. 19: at St. Louis Rams
Oct. 26: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Nov. 2: at NY Giants
Nov. 9: Bye
Nov. 16: at Washington Redskins
Nov. 23: San Francisco 49ers
Nov. 27 (Thu): Seattle Seahawks
Dec. 7: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Dec. 14: NY Giants
Dec. 20 (Sat): Baltimore Ravens
Dec. 28: at Philadelphia Eagles

The Cowboys' strength of schedule (based on opponents' 2007 records) is 134-122 (.523). Their strength of schedule is identical to Washington's and their opponents had only 1 more win than that of the Eagles and Giants' opponents. So, basically the difficulty of their schedule is the same as the difficulty in the other 3 NFC East teams' schedules.

Aside from divisional games, the opponents that made the playoffs in 2007 are very winnable games - at Green Bay, vs Tampa Bay, vs Seattle and vs Pittsburgh. I actually expect the Vikings to win the NFC North over GB, the Saints to win the NFC South over TB and the Cards to win the NFC West over SEA. Although I think the Steelers will win the AFC North, the Cowboys will have 10 days to prepare as the previous game is on Thanksgiving.

vs NFC East teams: 4-2 (anyone can win against anyone in the division but the Cowboys are clearly the best in the division so we'll give them 1 game above with Giants/Eagles going .500 and the 'Skins going 2-4 in the division)

vs 2007 playoff teams: 3-1 (they are better than all 4 teams and 3 of the 4 are in Big D. Can't see them going 2-2 in those games)

vs 2007 non-playoff teams: 5-1 (none of the opponents scare me although it's just the nature of the game to have an upset thrown in there)

Final Season Prediction: 12-4

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Joshua Cribbs to miss season opener vs Cowboys?

I saw a debate on ESPN's NFL Live about who's the bigger special teams weapon: Devin Hester or Joshua Cribbs. Regardless of your viewpoint, there's no arguing that both are explosive weapons that can change a game quickly.

Joshua Cribbs has indicated that he's likely to miss their season opener against Dallas.
"My competitive side, I want to be out there with my team," said Cribbs, who suffered the sprain in an exhibition game against the New York Giants on Aug. 18. "It was so hard in preseason watching my team play. But where they're coming from is we've got 15 games after this. It doesn't matter what I think at this point. It's not up to me. They're going to make an assessment as the week progresses and do what's best for me and the program."
I agree with Cribbs. He should wait until he is 100% or week 2, whichever comes later.

Stanback returns to practice, will play in Cleveland

After Austin, Hurd and Stanback got hurt and the Cowboys only kept five WRs on the active roster, it looked like the Cowboys would use only two active WRs: T.O. and Crayton. However, the number has grown to three.
Second-year receiver Isaiah Stanback returned to practice after sustaining a dislocated left shoulder Aug. 22 against the Houston Texans. Stanback was wearing a harness for support at practice, which he did last year after he separated the same shoulder.

"It looks good that he’ll play and be able to play as the third receiver for us as long as no hitches come the rest of the week," coach Wade Phillips said. "But I thought he looked good in practice."
I still think the number should grow to four with the Cowboys activating either Amendola or Jefferson from the practice squad.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Amendola and Jefferson signed to practice squad

The Cowboys have added WRs Danny Amendola and Mike Jefferson to their practice squad. They are also interested in re-acquiring Jamaica Rector, who was released by the Cardinals.

Although Sam Hurd and Miles Austin are definitely out vs Cleveland, Isaiah Stanback is going to practice with a harness this week and might give it a go Sunday.
Agents representing veterans Freddie Mitchell and Joe Horn have also contacted the Cowboys, but the team has shown no interest.
I wouldn't mind if the Cowboys added Horn, but the Freddie Mitchell, "the people's champ"? C'mon. Will we ever be that desperate?

Here are the rest of the players signed to the practice squad:

RB Alonzo Coleman
FB Julius Crosslin
DE Marcus Dixon
LB Tearrius George
TE Rodney Hannah