After a win in Week 1 for the Cowboys, week two provided more of the recent past and less of a hopeful future. As typical in the Jason Garrett era, Dallas failed to put together back to back wins and once again find themselves starting out the season with a record of 1-1. Last week’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs looked very sloppy and uninspired. Even though Dallas had numerous chances to take control of the game and “steal” a win on the road, they dropped the ball (sometimes literally) at every opportunity to do so and now find themselves heading back home for a matchup against the St. Louis Rams.
St. Louis, who is also 1-1 will be looking to bounce back after getting taken out of the game early last week against the Atlanta Falcons. For the Cowboys, they could possibly be catching the Rams looking forward to their Thursday night matchup against division rival San Francisco. Regardless of that, Dallas cannot afford another lackadaisical performance and needs to come out focused and prepared to put away a team they “should” beat. Here is the newest edition of The Four Quarters for Week 3
Living on the Edge
On the surface, both teams seem to have the ability to win this game with their edge rushing abilities. While Tyron Smith has been playing extremely well so far and Doug Free has improved his play, St. Louis still has two dynamic pass rushers in Robert Quinn and Chris Long to contend with. Even though Long does not have a sack so far in 2013, he has registered double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons. For Quinn, he is picking up where he left off last year, already posting four sacks in two games. For the Cowboys, their matchups appear to have evened out. The Rams will be without their best starting tackle in Roger Saffold, however Dallas may be without the services of Anthony Spencer. Spencer will be a game time decision and even if he is good to go, will likely be limited in his abilities. On the other side, you have former first overall pick Jake Long going head-to-head with one of the best pass rushers in NFL history in DeMarcus Ware. Whichever team wins these one-on-one battles will likely win the game as neither team seems likely to beat you with their ground game.
In conjunction with the assessment above, I believe that Dallas actually wants the ball in the hands of Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Another number one overall pick, Bradford has been underwhelming since his arrival into the NFL. Consider this. In Bradford’s career which spans 44 games, he has only had seven games where he has finished with a quarterback rating of over 100. His career completion percentage is under 60% which is very pedestrian in today’s NFL. Bradford’s touchdown to interception ratio is also very poor as he produces a 1.39:1 ratio. In comparison, Tony Romo, you know, the gunslinging guy with the reckless, turnover happy reputation, has a touchdown to interception ration of 1.95:1. If Dallas can build an early lead and make Bradford have to beat them through the air, I like the Cowboys chances greatly.
Early in the 2013 season, the most important number to the Cowboys appears to be three. Three is the number of field goals that kicker Dan Bailey has made in each game. It is also the total number of offensive touchdowns that Dallas has mustered in two games. When the Cowboys have won the third quarter, as the did versus the Giants, they have won. When they lose the third quarter, they do not. Most telling however is the third down conversion percentage for the Cowboys so far in 2013. Dallas currently is one of the five worst teams, sitting at 29th in the league, when it comes to extending drives on third down. The other four teams have yet to win a game. To put that in perspective, only twice since Jason Garrett and Tony Romo have been together in Dallas, have the Cowboys finished outside of the top ten in this statistic. Those times, Dallas was 11th and 13th in the league respectively. The Cowboys must find ways to continue moving the ball when third down arrives or else they will allow the Rams to hang around unnecessarily.
No Looking Back
As previously mentioned, I really believe that the Cowboys are the far more talented team in this matchup. When you factor in that with the knowledge that this will be a home game, the most important thing for Dallas will be to start out well early. Going back to that Giants game, even though Dallas did not capitalize on all of New York’s miscues, the fact that they kept the crowd energized was helpful in keeping momentum on their side. I think it is imperative for the Dallas offense and their psyche to score a touchdown on their opening possession and build on that by stringing a few scores together. If Dallas can bury the Rams and put them into a chase mode, like Atlanta did last week, I don’t think St. Louis has the fire power to make up for it.
The prediction: Rams 17, Cowboys 27
And now for Week 3’s picks. Last week I broke even, going 8-8 against the spread. It is still too early to read the tea leaves on this season but the early trend taking place is the home underdog covering the spread six out of nine opportunities. The home favorite however is not faring as well, going 11-13 against the spread. This week’s line bring the intriguing conundrum of laying massive points and hoping it pans out. Both Denver and Seattle are two touchdown plus favorites at home. The prevailing thought in the gambling world is to take the points and hope but can Oakland and Jacksonville provide enough hope to do so? I guess we’ll find out. As always, the home team is in all caps.
LAST WEEK: 8-8 (.500)
SEASON RECORD: 17-16 (.515)
WEEK TWO: 0-1 (.000)
-3 TENNESSEE over San Diego
-7 MINNESOTA over Cleveland
+7 Tampa Bay over NEW ENGLAND
-1 Houston over BALTIMORE
-3.5 DALLAS over St. Louis
+7 Arizona over NEW ORLEANS
+1 Detroit over WASHINGTON
+3 CINCINNATI over Green Bay
+1.5 CAROLINA over N.Y. Giants
+2.5 Atlanta over MIAMI
+10 Indianapolis over SAN FRANCISCO
-19.5 SEATTLE over Jacksonville
+2.5 Buffalo over N.Y. JETS
-2.5 Chicago over PITTSBURGH
-15.5 DENVER over Oakland
This week’s “Fab Four” picks would be Houston -1, Detroit +1, Buffalo +2.5 and Chicago -2.5. Last week, New Orleans spoiled the hopes of going 4 for 4. That will of course not stop the experiment however. Until this hits, we’ll stay with $25 getting you $250. Let’s hope to avoid going down $75 for the year.