The Dallas Cowboys Must Be Beary Careful

Well kiddos, another week is over and there seems to be more doom and gloom in Cowboys Nation than there is positivity and hope.  So far the season has been a mixed bag optimism and pessimism for me, and I don’t expect that to be clarified any further on Monday night against the Chicago Bears.

Sep 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett watches players before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

Jason Garrett’s Cowboys hope that their process has moved the Cowboys forward in the prevention of mistakes, and that they can stack good practices together and….. ZZZZzzzzzzzzz.  What? Sorry.  Let’s move on, ok?

The rest of the division looks even weaker

The Cowboys are currently in a three way tie for 1st place in the NFC East with the Super Bowl Champion New York Football Giants and the Philadelphia “Dream Team” Eagles.  The Cowboys beat the Giants head to head in week 1, and they haven’t done a lot to prove to me that they’re the same team as they were last year.  To be fair, they looked average at this time last year and only got into the playoffs by the hair on their chinny chin chin, and mostly at the expense of your Dallas Cowboys.  All the same, their secondary is among the worst in the league and they have as many or more areas of concern as the Cowboys.

It’s kind of amazing that the Philadelphia Eagles are even 2-1 at this point.  They’ve turned the ball over at a ridiculous rate and it looks like they’ve taken on a side bet to see if they can get Michael Vick killed on the field even before Romo’s line has him executed with their play.  This team seems every bit as flaky and out of sorts as it was last year.

The Washington Redskins shocked the world with their Week 1 victory over New Orleans – a feat which has been somewhat diminished with the Saints dropping the next two games – and RGIII seemed poised to take his place among the NFL QB elite.  The Redskins now too look like they’re interested only in seeing how much punishment they can dole out to their #2 overall draft pick.  The league is catching on to their college style offense and their defense was dealt a fatal blow with season ending injuries to defense stars Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker.  This team will be dangerous in the years to come, but for now, I don’t believe they are serious threat to win the NFC East.

All of this to say – The Dallas Cowboys have an excellent chance at winning this division.

The Defense has been better than we could have hoped. 

Rob Ryan’s unit (I wonder how long it’s been since he’s seen it –BAM, fat joke!) has been very, very good.

*Rankings as of this writing

These rankings are particularly impressive if you look at how a couple of those metrics are raised courtesy of the Cowboys’ loss against Seattle 2 weeks ago.  Higher than usual Rushing Yards, and subsequently Total Yards, raised our season average.  Not too shabby.

I think a lot of people underestimate how the Seahawks and think of them as the perennial loser of yesteryear.  All referee shenanigans aside, this team narrowly lost to the Arizona Cardinals (who also beat New England and Philadelphia) and hung in the game to the end against the Green Bay Packers, who were 15-1 last season.

Are Seattle or Tampa Bay offensive juggernauts – No, not exactly, but they’re not exactly slouches either.  The Giants aren’t half bad either.

 

Sep 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) looks to the sidelines during the third quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Buccaneers 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

 

And now for the Offense:

Who would have thought our biggest issue would be with our Offense?   There have been way too many false start penalties and it was almost like they are in on a plot to have Romo killed.  They simply have to do a better job of opening lanes for Murray and keeping Romo off of the coroner’s slab.  That’s two death jokes in a row, but I was honestly and seriously worried about Romo when he laid there motionless on the field with his eyes closed.

I have been a Bill Callahan apologist — and I still think he Offensive Line’s failures have more to do with a clearly subpar talent pool than it does with his coaching, but they have got to figure out something.

The Cowboys’ offensive woes have been thoroughly discussed, so I don’t intend to belabor this well tread topic, but between drops, penalties, and a porous offensive line, the talented skill players on this team aren’t being given much of an opportunity to make plays.

Some are suggesting that maybe this means our offensive skill players aren’t as talented as we thought.  I suppose there could be an argument for this being true of our Wide Receivers – I think being a high level WR is much easier when you have an elite QB throwing to you – but I think that DeMarco Murray’s talent has been very apparent in the face of adversity.  Yes, Dez Bryant is incredibly inconsistent and has only one game in his career for over 100 yards receiving, but Miles Austin has been very consistent — despite his ongoing injuries — and we’ve gotten more out of Kevin Ogletree than anyone thought.  Jason Witten will become Jason Witten again… I hope.

I’ve heard that the play calling is the issue – which may or may not have credence, but any offense in the NFL is going to stall if they repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and negative plays.  If they don’t clean up the negative plays, no brilliant game plan is going to turn this unit around.  The Cowboys have tried to bring more balance to the offensive game plan, thanks in large part to the emergence of DeMarco Murray, but running lanes were particularly scarce against Tampa Bay.  When that happens, they put the entire game on the shoulders of one man – Tony Romo.

Sept 13, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

Chicago is coming to town and they have 14 sacks in 3 games so far this year, so I think we might see some of those patented Romo spinouts as he runs for his life.  Again the Cowboys find themselves against a high level defense that can get after the Quarterback.

In many ways the narrative for the Chicago Bears has become the same as that of the Cowboys.  The Bears’ offense was supposed to come to prominence with the addition of a true #1 receiver in Brandon Marshall, but it’s the defense that has kept them competitive in the face of their offensive ineffectiveness.  Their offensive woes have largely been to an inability to protect their quarterback, which has led to turnovers and Jay Cutler being surly with the media.

The aforementioned Chicago Defense compares favorably to that of Dallas, but just like Dallas’ defense, they can be beat.  The Cowboys need to use the Bears defensive aggressiveness against them and get the ball out of Romo’s hands quickly.  I think we could easily see a game plan very similar to what we saw against the Giants in Week 1.

The Chicago Bears have a very singular focus to their offense – particularly with their top two Running Backs being banged up.  The more dangerous of the two, Matt Forte, has intimated that he expects to be active and play on Monday night, which is really sort of amazing considering what the consensus of pundits thought of the severity of his injury initially.  It’s also possible that the Bears are trying to mislead the Cowboys about his availability.  Forte’s backup, Michael Bush, is also dealing with an injury, which could hinder his effectiveness.

In other words, the one weapon we absolutely know they will have is Brandon Marshall.  There has been a lot of speculation that we could see Brandon Carr playing Safety in 3 WR sets, much like we saw against the Buccaneers at times.  What that means is that we will likely see Morris Claiborne or Mike Jenkins man to man on Marshall and Carr or Sensabaugh (assuming he plays) giving support over the top.  I think it’s the best way to get our most talented players on the field, and is going to be crucial to winning this game.    Marshall gets by far and away the most targets (31 so far this season) and Jay Cutler as never been one to shy away from throwing to his favorite receiver, no matter how tight the coverage.

In the end, I think this game ends up exactly how it’s trending to be – a defensive battle where the team who makes the least mistakes wins.  In my mind, Tony Romo is the far superior player between he and Cutler, and I think ultimately that will be the difference maker.  Jay Cutler will try to force the ball to Marshall in tight coverage, leading to turnovers, while Romo will spread the ball around and do what is best for the offense.  If Forte was healthy, that would add a whole new dimension to the Bears’ offense, but I just don’t see how he can be himself so soon after an ankle injury.

Prediction:

Cowboys 17 – Bears 10   

Topics: Brandon Marshall, Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo

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