NFC East Breakdown: Week 15
(Dan T. writes for The Landry Hat, which is FSB‘s Dallas Cowboys blog. Representing the rest of the NFC East are G-Men HQ, Inside the Iggles. and Riggo’s Rag.)
Drama in Dallas? Where? When? If ESPN’s Ed Werder isn’t hauled into court to reveal his sources then we all might as well write off ESPN and the Dallas metro newspapers for their bizarre reporting of the Dallas Cowboys this week. None of seemed true on the field Sunday night when the Cowboys dismantled the New York Giants. The Giants only proved that without Plaxico Burress their passing game is mediocre and without Brandon Jacobs, their running game is laughable. The Philadelphia Eagles are also winning at the most opportune time, and all indications are the final game of the season pitting the Cowboys against the Eagles in their scummy home town will decide a playoff berth. And poor Jim Zorn is already fearing his job in Washington D.C. Even he said he feels like the worst coach in the world. He might be.
Dallas Cowboys (9-5):
Looking Back: The Cowboys defense has not played that well since the Doomsday Defense era. They sacked Eli Manning eight times (he was only sacked 15 times before this game) and three of them went to Pro Bowler and possible MVP DeMarcus Ware. Cornerback Terence Newman also hauled in two interceptions and he’s really helped boost the play of the secondary since his return. Tony Romo was 20-30 for two touchdowns and 244 yards, while rookie running back Tashard Choice played another incredible game, including scoring a touchdown late that secured the win. Marion Barber did play but he wasn’t much of a factor. The Cowboys did not need him. So, where was all the drama? Terrell Owens didn’t have a great game and had less than five catches, but he didn’t seem to care. The Cowboys won. Jason Witten made two spectacular plays on third down that kept key drives alive. Other than an early snap that resulted in a safety and a punt-kick that gave the Giants good field position for a field goal, the Giants never really came close to actually scoring a touchdown on offense. Everything is clicking for the Cowboys at the right time, and that’s news none of the metro newspapers and ESPN are reporting.
Looking Forward: The drama that was supposed to divide the Cowboys locker room was a made up fairy tale and the Cowboys took it in stride. However, up next they host another powerhouse defense in the Baltimore Ravens, who should have beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers if it weren’t for a bad call late in the game. The Cowboys are not going to freely move the ball against these guys. Tony Romo will have to avoid Ed Reed and the offensive line must pass protect. Surely the Ravens saw a glaring weakness with Cory Procter, but the offensive line coach should be able to make adjustments to help the third stringer. This should be a nail biter of a game, but Dallas is 6-1 at home and should be able to win this one if the defense pressures rookie quarterback Joe Flacco.
Looking Back: The Giants looked scary bad against the Cowboys. The comparison of the Giants now to the Cowboys of last year is a fair one to make, because they are tumbling fast. Plaxico Burress was a very important cog to the wheel, and Brandon Jacobs is the wheel. When the Giants have both of those guys out, winning is a lot harder to do, especially against good teams like the Cowboys. The Giants probably won’t get Burress back, but Jacobs should return. But their energy is running thin and they don’t seem to be as smooth as they were for most of the season. Someone let the air out of the Giants balloon and it’s getting hot in the locker room right now. I’m not sure there’s a person on the team who has enough to pump this team back up.
Looking Forward: If the Giants want the No. 1 seed, then they will have to go through Carolina to do it. The Carolina Panthers are playing good football right now. The Giants are not. They will desperately need a healthy Jacobs back to counter that strong rushing duo of the Panthers. We know the Giants defense will bring pressure but the question is can they play an entire four quarters if the offense is struggling. They didn’t in Dallas and the Cowboys pulled away.
Looking Back: The Cleveland Browns were no match for the Philadelphia Eagles, as they claw and kaw for a playoff berth. Donovan McNabb has found yet another receiver to throw to named Jason Avant, along with a host of relative unknown guys who are going to try to get the Green Birds into the playoffs. Just four weeks ago McNabb was benched, and he like would have lost his job for the year if youngster Kevin Kolb played well. He didn’t and Mcnabb is back playing well in what possibly will be his last year in the Green, White and Black.
Looking Forward: If the Bucs or Falcons lose, the Eagles find their way in the playoffs. But whenever you play a division rival, it’s tough to beat teams that you’re supposed to beat. Case in point will be this weekend when the Eagles taken on the Redskins, who are dying for a win. The Eagles have to win out to keep pace with the Cowboys, Bucs and Falcons. But the also need one of those teams to lose once or twice, too. That Bengals tie could haunt them.
Looking Back: When you lose to the Cincinnati Bengals something is desperately wrong. When you lose five of six games, you’ve got a problem. Something is desperately wrong in Washington and coach Jim Zorn has a problem. He went from being a coach of the year candidate to being on the list of possible firings. What the heck happened? Well first of all, Clinton Portis is part of the problem. The guy doesn’t practice and he’s dumb as rocks. No one with rocks for a brain can motivate a team. So, his MVP year quickly became a joke. But it’s not just on Portis. The coaching staff seemed to lose its luster and the play calling went from pretty darn good to pretty darn questionable. Zorn deserves a few years to build his team, but he may want to consider getting Portis off it.
Looking Forward: Their playoff hopes are over, but that won’t make these guys give up. There are some players on this team who would love nothing more but to ruin the Eagles chance of making the post season. Beating them this week would do it.