With Halloween rapidly approaching, I assume the spooky similarities between the 2012 Dallas Cowboys and the 2011 Cowboys squad should not be so shocking. Regardless of the time of year, the deja vu coming from this Cowboys team heading into Week 7 is downright eerie.
I’m sure this claim may appear exaggerated at first glance, so let’s take a look at several similarities between both Cowboys teams at the same points in their seasons.
WEEK 5 (ENTERING THE BYE WEEK):
- Held an overall record of (2-2) heading into the break
- Notched a huge road win versus a legitimate NFC playoff contender within the first two weeks
- 2011 – won at San Francisco (Tony Romo records 307 passing yards and 3 TDs)
- 2012 – won at New York Giants (Tony Romo records 345 passing yards and 2 TDs)
- Suffered an embarrassing loss against an NFC North team right before the bye week (caused fans to lose confidence in the players and coaching staff)
- 2011 – at Detroit Lions (Tony Romo threw 3 INTs, game-changing INT returned for TD)
- 2012 – vs Chicago Bears (Tony Romo threw 5 INTs, game-changing INT returned for TD)
WEEK 6 (GAME FOLLOWING THE BYE):
- (2-2) Cowboys travelled to take on a (4-1) AFC team and known Superbowl contender
- Played an inspired, tough football game, finally succumbing to their host within the last minutes of the game
- 2011 – led New England until surrendering the lead with 0:22 left in the game
- 2012 – missed last second FG and blew chance to win the game
- Both Cowboys teams outgained their supposedly far superior opponent in total yards
WEEK 7 (THIS WEEK’S CONTEST):
- Cowboys entered Week 7 with a (2-3) overall record
- Facing off against a struggling NFC team
- 2011 – Dallas hosted the (0-5) St. Louis Rams
- 2012 – Dallas travels to (1-4) Carolina Panthers
- Opposed by a defense that will allow Dallas to step it up on offense
- 2011 – Rams defense was ranked 22nd in league
- 2012 – Panthers defense ranks 23rd in the NFL
- Both opponent’s defense is least effective at stopping the run
- Dallas’ starting running back misses his first game of the year with injury
- 2011 – DeMarco Murray gets the start as Felix Jones has to sit out
- 2012 – Felix Jones fills the starting role while DeMarco Murray is a no-go
- First start of the season for both replacement running backs
- Week 7 launches a critical 5-game stretch
- 4 of 5 games are against NFC conference foes
- 2 of 5 are NFC East divisional opponents
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE???:
The vast similarities leading into Week 7 between the 2012 and 2011 Cowboys go far beyond even likely parallels. Although the 2012 Cowboys enter this game with a less than desirable (2-3) record, there is good news to be found though a couple of means.
One, last week Dallas produced a very strong game against an extremely balanced, solid Ravens team. The offensive line looked much more sound and even dominating at times with Phil Costa back at center. While the overall effort and morale of the team were both very honorable.
With the 2011 Cowboys sitting in the same (2-3) hole as these current Cowboys, they methodically man-handled the Rams 34-7 in their Week 7 game. This launched a burning stretch where the 2011 Cowboys won 4 of those 5 critical games.
They drastically improved their (2-3) record to an overall (6-4) mark following the completion of Week 11. Their NFC conference record exploded to (5-2), placing them firmly back in the hunt for a NFC playoff spot. Now sporting a (2-1) record within the NFC East, the 2011 Cowboys began making a serious push at a division championship.
Things may look uncertain from many angles when analyzing the 2012 Cowboys and where they stand at the moment. While this team is far more equipped than last year to make a strong run, the immediate schedule is much more difficult. A reasonable expectation is to go 3-2 over the next 5 weeks, bringing the overall record to (5-5) following Week 11.
While it may not seem ideal, (5-5) would be a nice spot to occupy heading into the final 6 games of the regular season. All 6 of those remaining games are winnable, with the two most difficult (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) taking place in Arlington, TX. It’s very conceivable Dallas could string together a 5-1 run to close out the year and finish a solid (10-6). Which would likely be enough to win the NFC East division.
From what I viewed last week at Baltimore, it looks like this Cowboys bunch still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Their renewed energy will carry over to Carolina this week, and a struggling Panthers team will play the unlucky host to a hungry Cowboys unit clawing desperately to get back into the win column.
DALLAS 30 , CAROLINA 17