Thursday, October 30, 2008

Anthony Spencer to be let loose Sunday

Joe Thomas, one of the league's best LT's and Wisconsin alum, has said that Anthony Spencer of Purdue was the toughest guy to block that he faced in college. And on Sunday Wade Phillips is going to let Spencer "loose" against the Giants.
"They couldn't block him," Phillips said. "He just had a tremendous training camp. He looked so good, but he's just been hampered by injuries. I just think he's to the point where people have trouble blocking him."
They Cowboys plan to use the Cowboy (3-3 formation) with DeMarcus Ware, Greg Ellis and Spencer all on the field at the same time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Orlando Scandrick doesn't lack self-confidence

Confidence is important in sports and in life. When it comes to football, perhaps the most important position to have confidence (aside from QB) is CB. And rookie Orlando Scandrick certainly doesn't lack confidence.
"If you don't believe in yourself, no one will believe in you," Scandrick said. "I always believed in myself ... just never afraid to fail. I am not afraid to get beat. Everybody is going to get beat. But if you are not afraid of getting beat, you are going to win more than you lose."
Once you lose confidence in yourself at CB, it's impossible to be effective. Scandrick has the right attitude though. If you do get burned (and all CBs do at some point), you have to put it in the past and be able to "man up" the next play.

Anthony Henry and Anthony Spencer practiced today so hopefully they both can go on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Football Links

Sports Illustrated NFL page
NFL Scores and Football News

If you have a Cowboys site or an NFL, NCAA Football, NFL Draft, Fantasy Football site and you would be interested in swapping links, please let me know.

E-mail me at thenfldiehard (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Should Jason Witten play with a broken rib?

Jason Witten broke a rib in the game versus the Bucs on Sunday. After Sunday's game, he said he hoped to play versus the Giants this upcoming Sunday. Witten will give it a go on Sunday, but Brian Davis of the Dallas Morning News asks is it worth the risk in his blog post this afternoon.

Jason Witten leads the Cowboys in receptions (46) and receiving yards (549). Without Witten in the lineup, the Cowboys would miss the dimension he adds to the passing game and offense in general. But the Cowboys have sufficient weapons to help Brad Johnson, who let's face it - needs as much help as he can get.

However, talent has not been the Cowboys problem this season (or last season). They sent 13 players to Honolulu last year.

Their problem has been their toughness, focus and discipline. If (arguably) their best receiver - no offense T.O. - shows his toughness by playing with a broken rib, the rest of the team should see his example and play inspired, passionate football. Specifically, the guys who line up next to Witten (the O-Line) need to show/develop some nastiness. Hopefully, Witten's grit leads to that.

I agree with Davis in the sense that I prefer to have Witten for the last 7 after the bye versus the 1 before the bye. But I can see Witten playing Sunday being more than adding his vast offensive skills to the Cowboys lineup. It could be the attitude-changer that the Cowboys need to really make a push towards post-season success.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jason Witten hopes to play vs Giants

In today's game, Jason Witten hurt his ribs. He left the game after the injury, came back for a series and then called it a day.

X-rays came back negative.
“I tried to doctor it up a little bit at halftime and come out, but just didn’t have it in me,” Witten said. “I’ve just got to fight through and hopefully get back to it next week.”
The Cowboys won without Witten for the majority of the game today, but it goes without saying that having him back in the lineup would be a big help to Brad Johnson, who doesn't have the strongest arm, when the Cowboys face the Giants.

Big win over Tampa Bay today

After being off (by a lot) on my Cowboys-Rams pick, I'm glad that I was right today - a 4-point Dallas victory. Today, the Cowboys beat the Bucs 13-9 despite losing another offensive player to injury: Jason Witten, who left the game with a rib injury.

The game was "ugly," but the Cowboys won. It's as simple as that. I rather win ugly than lose pretty.

Wade Phillips, who took over defensive play calling this week, was given the game ball by Jerry Jones.
"Wade Phillips did his job today," said Jerry, who praised Phillips "gutsy" calls and shrewd psychological moves. ". Today was a big victory for this teamIt gives us a chance to stay in the hunt of where we want to be at the end of the year."
The Cowboys held the Bucs to 48 rushing yards on 19 attempts. The Cowboys held serve in the division as both the Eagles and Redskins won as well. The Giants are currently losing to the Steelers 7-3 in the 2nd quarter.

Cowboys - Bucs Preview

Today's game vs Tampa Bay is as much of a must-win for Dallas as a game can be a "must-win" in week 8. The Cowboys currently have a half-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles for 3rd place in the NFC East.

With a loss today, the Cowboys would fall to 4-4 with games on the road in NY and Washington next. Also, the Eagles are 9-point favorites over the Falcons at home. Although the Falcons are playing better than I expected, the Eagles should win that game relatively easily as they get back a healthy Brian Westbrook and Kevin Curtis. So, after today's game, the Eagles are likely to be 4-3.

Heading into today's game, the Bucs are perfect at home (4-0). But they are only 1-2 on the road.

The Cowboys are without Tony Romo again and the soonest he'll be back in week 11 vs Washington.

The Cowboys offensive line (and whole team for that matter) is as talented as any other group in the league. However, they haven't been playing that way. The Cowboys' OL needs to protect Brad Johnson better, but even more importantly, the Cowboys NEED to establish the run early and often. And it all begins with the big boys up front.

If the Cowboys can run the ball effectively, they will take the pressure off Johnson to make plays. Marion the Barbarian needs to run with passion and the reckless abandon that only he can, which will be the sparkplug that ignites this offense.

Wade Phillips is going to take over defensive play-calling. And the defense should focus more on executing a certain, smaller set of plays. Keep it simple.

With their backs against the wall, this is a put up or shut up type of game.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 21, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More focus on basics for D

The Dallas Cowboys defense has suffered some injuries early in the season. Terence Newman, Roy Williams, Anthony Spencer, etc. have missed games and/or currently are out. Plus, Adam "Pacman" Jones is out indefinitely (and will probably never play in Big D again).

The Cowboys are giving up the 9th-most points per game at 25.0. The Cowboys also have only 2 interceptions on the season (only Seattle and Detroit have fewer).

Wade Phillips will take over play-calling responsibilities for the defense. And the Cowboys are going to focus on a few plays and make sure they do those well instead of several that most likely won't be called in the game.
“We need to do one or two, three things very good,” Phillips said. “We have a lot of calls we haven't used in a game. Our players are preparing to do all those calls (in practice). We need to streamline that part.”

“This game is real simple: They run it, we stop it,” [Tank] Johnson said. “Build a wall. Defense is all about building a wall and offense is about scoring points. As a defense, we have to get better at building a wall and stopping them within that three or four plays we are going to concentrate on.”
If the defense can stop giving up the big play, then the Cowboys can allow Marion Barber and the big boys up front to play a more physical style of football on offense and allow Brad Johnson to manage the game.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cowboys - Rams keys to the game

The St. Louis Rams were the worst team in the NFL until last week with the exception of the Detroit Lions. Although the Rams beat the Redskins last week, can they pull off back-to-back upsets over superior NFC East opponents? Will Tony Romo, who's not starting but declared back-up for today's game, play?

Here are the keys to the game for the Cowboys according to the Sporting News:
1. Perform well on special teams: The Cowboys' coverage units have been spotty much of the year, but they had a complete special teams meltdown against Arizona. They allowed J.J. Arrington to return the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown, the third kick return of more than 45 yards in the past two games. Dallas also allowed a blocked punt that Arizona returned for a touchdown to win the game. The Cowboys can't hope to win if they're giving up touchdowns on special teams.

2. Keep Torry Holt under 100 yards: Four times this season, the Cowboys have allowed a receiver to surpass 100 yards, so Holt should be looking forward to playing against the Dallas secondary. The Cowboys have allowed at least one 30-yard reception each of the past four games. They're pressuring opposing quarterbacks but not sacking them. The challenge will be greater without top corner Terence Newman (sports hernia) and nickel back Pacman Jones (suspension).

3. Run the ball: The Cowboys' running game has been inconsistent all season. Marion Barber has just one 100-yard game and has reached 80 yards only three times. More concerning is that he has averaged less than 3.8 yards per carry each of the past three weeks. With Johnson filling in as starting quarterback, the running game becomes more important. The Cowboys don't want to put the onus on Johnson to win games. The way to do that is to run the ball.

Here's my prediction for the game: Cowboys 35, Rams 17

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tony Romo wants to play Sunday?

Tony Romo broke his right pinkie finger and it was estimated that he would miss roughly 4 weeks.

Brett Favre has called Romo telling him that he should try to play through it (if he could).
"The only thing I said was, it's worth trying [to play] if you can deal with the pain and can function good enough with a splint,'' Favre said. "If not, don't try.''
And Romo has reportedly told coaches that he wants to play Sunday.

Romo did not practice on Wednesday but did throw the ball on the side with his fractured pinkie in a splint, and according to eyewitnesses, he was able to throw the ball with good velocity and appeared confident after throwing. The session was not open to reporters.

There is no assurance he can protect the ball, take a snap or deliver the ball accurately under game conditions.

The Cowboys' biggest concern is that Romo gets hit again, causing him to miss more time than initially anticipated and possibly require surgery.

The Cowboys play the St. Louis Rams Sunday. With or without Tony Romo, the Cowboys should win this game and win big. I wouldn't risk Romo vs the Rams. The other 2 games that he's expected to miss (vs Bucs, at Giants) are much tougher. If he can play, I would consider letting him play I were on the Cowboys coaching staff. But in the greater scheme of things, it might just make more sense to let it heal and have Romo come back healthy and not have to worry about him getting hit and causing more (serious) damage.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cowboys acquire WR Roy Williams for draft picks

Roy Williams wasn't happy with his role in Detroit with Calvin Johnson getting the bulk of looks. In the off-season, there was a lot of speculation that the Cowboys were pursuing a deal with Detroit to bring (the other) Roy Williams to Big D.

Well, there is no more speculation. The Cowboys have added Roy Williams in exchange for a 1st-round, 3rd-round and 6th-round pick. The Cowboys also get a 7th-rounder from Detroit.

No question that Roy Williams significantly upgrades the Cowboys #2 WR. But will he (and T.O.) be happy and is the price too much?

Roy Williams is from Texas and is coming home to play for a legitimate Super Bowl contender. As recently as when Matt Millen was fired, he was quoted as saying that Detroit has a "realistic chance to make the playoffs, believe it or not". That obviously wasn't true. According to Jerry Jones, T.O. was "ecstatic" about Roy Williams coming to Dallas. It should free him up from being double-teamed as much as he was.

The Cowboys gave up a lot, but I don't think too much. They had an extra 3rd-round pick and they will be giving Detroit their 6th-round pick, which they no longer have to give to Tennessee because of Pacman.

With an offense that has Romo, T.O., Williams, Witten, Barber, Felix will be nasty when all healthy. How 'bout dem Cowboys!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Injuries suffered this weekend

Aside from Tony Romo being out up to a month, the Cowboys have been decimated with injuries this weekend:

Mat McBriar: out 6-8 weeks with fractured right foot
Sam Hurd: out "for a while" and will have ankle surgery
Felix Jones: out 2-4 weeks with strained hamstring

Terence Newman was already out a month after sports hernia surgery.

When it rains, it pours...

Tony Romo out 4 weeks?

Not only did the Cowboys lose to the Cardinals in a heart-breaking loss yesterday, they lost Tony Romo, who broke his pinkie finger, for perhaps the next 4 weeks. If Romo misses 4 weeks, he would miss the following games:
  • at St. Louis
  • vs Tampa Bay
  • at NY Giants
The 4th week would be the Cowboys' bye week and they come back from the bye with a game in Washington.
"We don't know how long he'll be out. It depends on how fast that heals," coach Wade Phillips said Monday. "I'd say week to week, depending on quickly he heals. Different people heal differently."
Since Romo became starting QB on October 29, 2006, only 2 QBs (Tom Brady and Philip Rivers) have a higher winning percentage. Romo is 23-9 as a starter during that span.

Could Romo play through it? I heard Steve Young talk about how Drew Bledsoe played with a broken index finger that was splinted. But I also heard Trent Dilfer talk about how important the pinkie is in Romo's throwing motion saying that although he probably could play through it, he would lose accuracy and the ability to change speeds on the ball.

I saw a poll question on ESPN that asks if the Cowboys will make the playoffs with Romo out for 4 weeks and after 80047 votes, it's 51% "no." What an overreaction!

The Cowboys should (hopefully will) be really physical over the next few weeks and pound the ball with Marion Barber. With a massive OL and a punishing runner, the Cowboys should be wearing teams down by the 4th quarter. And while I'd prefer Romo to be healthy and the starter, re-establishing the running game may make Romo's loss not as devastating.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals - 10/12

Today, the Cowboys take on the Cardinals in Arizona. Here are the Cowboys keys to victory per Sporting News:
1. Pressure Kurt Warner. Warner can't move in the pocket. He's not even that adept at sliding right or left like Dan Marino used to do. That means he's a sitting duck for a good pass rush. Of course, Carson Palmer should've been a sitting duck last week but the Cowboys couldn't get to him until the last drive. DeMarcus Ware has a sack in eight consecutive games, but the Cowboys' pass rush has been inconsistent this year. Aside from Ware and Greg Ellis, Dallas doesn't have another consistent threat to sack the quarterback. Look for the Cardinals to use more three-step drops to keep Warner upright.

2. Get Terrell Owens involved. T.O. is emotionally fragile. You know that when you put him on your team, so it's up to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to figure out how to get him more involved with the offense so he doesn't spend the second half of every game crying on the sideline like he did Sunday. T.O. has been struggling against bump-and-run coverage. One way to counter that is to put him in motion or move him into the slot. Look for Dallas to do a lot more of that this week.

3. Protect the ball. Tony Romo says every good quarterback throws interceptions. That's true. They just don't throw them every game. Romo has a pick in eight consecutive games, including all five this season. He also has lost two fumbles. More important, the opposition has turned his seven turnovers into 29 points, which is nearly one touchdown per game. You can't consistently give the opposition a touchdown every week and expect to continue winning.

Game Prediction: Dallas Cowboys 38, Arizona Cardinals 27

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Terence Newman to have surgery?

Terence Newman is out for Sunday's game in Arizona and maybe much longer. Newman's been sent to a top sports hernia specialist for further tests.
"It's been hurting me for awhile, but I thought I could play through it," Newman said. "Last week it got worse, so we did some more tests. I just want to get right so I can get back on the field."

"Maybe what he needs is some extra time to be ready to go," Newman's agent Ben Dogra said. "But surgery would be a last resort."
Hopefully, the tests will reveal it's not as bad. But if he needs surgery, the sooner, the better. I would prefer that Newman misses time now, gets healthy and is full-strength during the post-season.

Adam Jones has altercation with bodyguard

Adam "Pacman" Jones, was at practice today after an altercation last night at the Joule Hotel. The Cowboys have said that Jones did not violate the stipulations of his contract and they will not take action. The question is whether or not the NFL will.
"I guess I would tell you I'm disappointed we're even discussing this at this point and time," Goodell said on ESPN Radio.
Adam Jones had the scuffle with one of his bodyguards, Tommy Jones. First, Adam Jones shouldn't be getting himself involved in any altercations anywhere at any time. Second, the altercation shouldn't be with his bodyguard.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Romo, T.O. names used in voter-fraud scheme

There is a group in Nevada that has been accused of fraudulently submitting voter-registration forms in the names of Tony Romo and Terrell Owens.
"Tony Romo is not registered to vote in the state of Nevada, and anybody trying to pose as Terrell Owens won't be able to cast a ballot on Nov. 4," said Secretary of State Ross Miller.
It reminds me of a pretty funny Mayne Event on ESPN's NFL Countdown. There was a guy going around pretending to be Ben Roethlisberger in public. In the Mayne Event, Drew Brees was joking about how he used to pretend that he was a pilot to meet girls before he became an NFL QB.

The perfect Xmas gift?

Got $500,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Then Neiman Marcus has the perfect Christmas gift for you.

A Texas Stadium endzone. Not only do you get the endzone, but you get "VIP treatment and a post-game party with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders."

The proceeds will go to the Salvation Army.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Brad Johnson loses bet with T.O.

Terrell Owens is from the state of Alabama. Brad Johnson's brother-in-law is Mark Richt, the Georgia Bulldogs head coach. So, T.O. and Johnson wagered on the outcome of the Alabama-Georgia game last week.

What did they wager? The loser had to dress like the winner at practice.
Alabama won, 41-30, forcing Johnson to wear white tights, something Owens wears during practice, and the jersey of the wide receiver's alma mater, Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Brad Johnson went on to compliment T.O. in the article:

"He's great to work with," Johnson said. "I've been with great receivers before from Keyshawn [Johnson] to Cris Carter, Irving Fryar, and the list goes on. T.O. is great to work with, an extremely hard worker who gets along with everybody in the locker room. He's fun to be with, and you appreciate when you play with guys like that."
Hopefully, the Cowboys put last week's loss and T.O.'s frustration behind them when they play the winless Bengals tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ocho Cinco: Jerry "just say no"

With T.O. complaining about only getting 20 looks, imagine how he would feel about Chad Johnson stealing touches from him. In Chad Johnson's conference call today, he talked about playing for the Cowboys.
"I tried," Ocho Cinco said during his epic conference call with the Valley Ranch media. "I talked to 81 almost every day, man. I love 81. We talk all the time. That would've been a circus.

"Let me tell you, I don't mean to be funny ... I'm not tried to be rude or piss anybody off, but if I was in Dallas, they would have to change all of our damn games to pay-per-view because you need to pay to see that [beep]. I'm serious. I'm so serious. They would have to put all the games on pay-per-view. Because you can't just watch a show like that for free; 81 and 85? Come on, now. Please."

"Tell Jerry Jones I said hello," he said as the conference call wrapped up, "and give me a call some time."
Jerry -- please don't do it. The Cowboys could use additional weapons at WR, but they more than enough talent to get by without this headache.