2009 Season

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San Diego 20, Dallas 17: Goodbye to the NFC East Lead

At 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, my guess of the week had the Cowboys beating the Chargers 27-20. Don’t ask where I came up with:

I am not going to abandon the Cowboys’ chances to make the playoffs and even pick up a playoff win. I think the Cowboys will fall behind tomorrow, but the team will regroup. Tony Romo will have a big day, and Nick Folk will rebound with at least two field goals and no misses.

Chargers Cowboys FootballCertainly not prophetic. It was, in fact, pathetic, given that final outcome was three points, which is the number of points the Cowboys lost thanks to yet another Nick Folk miss. Just before Folk’s miss, the Cowboys failed to score after having a first and goal from the San Diego 4, thanks to the Chargers stuffing Marion Barber three consecutive times from the 1.

It is hard to say that the game would have turned out much differently had the Cowboys scored near the end of the first half, but a 10-10 halftime score would have been considerably better than the 10-3 score that resulted from the Cowboys’ missed opportunity. Heck, a 10-6 deficit would have been better than the 10-3 deficit the team faced.

The Cowboys managed their three points thanks to a 41-yard kickoff return by Felix Jones on the opening kickoff of the game. Dallas moved the ball to the San Diego 13, but on a 3rd-and-7 play, Romo tried to hit third tight end John Phillips in the end zone. The pass was incomplete, and Nick Folk managed to nail a 31-yarder to give Dallas a 3-0 lead.

On the next drive, San Diego faced a 3rd-and-12 from its own 14. In what was a common theme throughout the game, the Dallas defense could not come up with a third-down play when the Cowboys needed a stop. Phillip Rivers hit Malcom Floyd on a 24-yard completion, giving the Chargers a first down. Five plays later, the Chargers had a 7-3 lead, thanks in large part to a pass interference penalty on Gerald Sensabaugh.

Dallas went three-and-out, and the defense again struggled to stop the Chargers. San Diego’s drive stalled with about 11 minutes left in the second quarter, but Nick Kaeding kicked a field goal to give the Chargers a 10-3 lead.

The next Dallas drive took nearly eight minutes off the clock, but the Cowboys could not punch the ball in from the one-yard line. On three consecutive plays, Dallas tried to send Marion Barber to the right side of the line from the one. The strategy failed.

Terence Newman didn’t have a great game, but he gave the Cowboys another opportunity late in the second quarter when he picked Rivers off at the San Diego 27. However, Dallas only managed to move the ball three yards, and Folk missed the field goal to the left.

Late in the third quarter, the Cowboys had a drive that could have defined its season. The team took the ball 99 yards on 13 plays, capped off by a six-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Miles Austin.

The game was tied, and the Cowboys had some momentum in an important home game. The defense had a chance to take control of the game, but instead the team fell apart yet again.

DeMarcus Ware sprained his neck on a second-down play near midfield and was carted off the field. After a nearly 10-minute delay caused by Ware’s injury, the Chargers faced a 3rd-and-12. With the crowd worked up and the Chargers on their heels, Rivers managed to complete a 39-yard pass to Vincent Jackson down the right sideline. One play later, Rivers found Antonio Gates for a rather easy 14-yard touchdown, giving San Diego a 17-10 lead.

The Cowboys’ response on offense: three and out after losing five yards.

The Cowboys response on defense: give up a 15-play, 73-yard drive that led to a Charger field goal. At that point, the game was already over.

Playoff Picture (As If We Need to Worry About That Right Now)

With the Eagles beating the Giants and the Packers beating the Bears, Dallas falls out of the lead in the NFC East and into the #6 spot in the NFC. The Giants (7-6) are a game behind the Cowboys (8-5), but New York obviously holds the tiebreaker over the Cowboys thanks to two wins by the Giants over the Cowboys. Dallas will also lose a tiebreaker in the wildcard race to the Packers, who are now 9-4.

The remaining schedules:

Dallas: at New Orleans; at Washington; vs. Philadelphia

N.Y. Giants: at Washington; vs. Carolina; at Minnesota

Philadelphia: vs. San Francisco; vs. Denver; at Dallas

Green Bay: at Pittsburgh; vs. Seattle; at Arizona.

Cowboys Narrowly Beat Chargers in Simulations

Commentators are generally split about whether the Cowboys will bounce back against the Chargers on Sunday. Four of the eight commentators at ESPN took Dallas, while five of the nine picking for the Dallas Morning News took the Cowboys.

As for the simulations, two of them picked Dallas to win by a slim margin, while the Madden simulation predicted a San Diego win.

AccuScore: Dallas 27, San Diego 26

Philip Rivers might torch the Dallas secondary, but AccuScore still predicts a Dallas win.

The Chargers passing offense looks unstoppable these days and Dallas has allowed 17 TDs while forcing just 8 INTs from opposing QBs. Philip Rivers has a better than 3 to 1 TD to INT ratio per simulation. If Rivers has 2+ TD passes and no more than 1 INT San Diego is the 56 percent favorite. For Dallas to win they need to pick off Rivers at least once and the Cowboys running game needs to average 5+ yards per carry. When they do this the Cowboys are the 75 percent favorite winning by an average score of DAL 31, SD 23. However, if the Cowboys average under 4.0 ypc Dallas has just a 44 percent chance.

WhatIfSports: Dallas 27, San Diego 23

WhatIfSports likewise predicts a big day from Rivers, as he averaged 313.5 yards in the simulations. However, the Cowboys averaged nearly 150 rushing yards in those simulations and won 54.1 percent of the games.

Madden Simulation: San Diego 31, Dallas 28

For the third time in the past four games, the simulation of the game using Madden resulted in a Dallas loss.

The Cowboys’ December woes continue as Dallas drops another one, this time to the Chargers, 31-28.

Tony Romo threw for 308 yards, but he also threw two critical second-half interceptions, including one with under two minutes left on the clock that helped setup San Diego’s game-winning, ten-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Vincent Jackson.

The win is the Chargers eighth straight as San Diego finds themselves playing some of the best football of anyone in the NFL right now heading into the stretch.

My Guess (8-4 this season based on win-loss)

My record has been identical to the Cowboys’ record nearly all season, and that’s not because I always pick the Cowboys to win. My prediction last week turned out to be a big dud.

This week, I think the Cowboys will initially have problems on offense and will fall behind early. However, the defense will hold the Giants to field goals, and the score will be 6-0 at the half. Early in the third quarter, Dallas will start to run the ball more effectively and will take the lead early in the third quarter. The Cowboys will hold on to the lead by scoring one more touchdown while holding the Giants to more field goals. The final: Dallas 21, N.Y. Giants 12

Of course, the Cowboys didn’t start slowly at all. When the team fell behind, the running game wasn’t there to save the Cowboys. Moreover, Dallas did not hold the Giants to field goals. Wrong on all counts.

Key—

Week: My Prediction (Actual Result)

Week 1: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 24 (actual: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21)

Week 2: N.Y. Giants 17, Dallas 14 (actual: N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31)

Week 3: Dallas 31, Carolina 21 (actual: Dallas 21, Carolina 7)

Week 4: Dallas 24, Denver 14 (actual: Denver 17, Dallas 10)

Week 5: Dallas 31, Kansas City 14 (actual: Dallas 26, Kansas City 20)

Week 7: Atlanta 28, Dallas 17 (actual: Dallas 37, Atlanta 21)

Week 8: Dallas 31, Seattle 17 (actual Dallas 38, Seattle 17)

Week 9: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17 (actual: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16)

Week 10: Dallas 31, Green Bay 20 (actual: Green Bay 17, Dallas 7)

Week 11: Dallas 20, Washington 6 (actual: Dallas 7, Washington 6)

Week 12: Dallas 30, Oakland 13 (actual: Dallas 24, Oakland 7)

Week 13: Dallas 21, N.Y. Giants 12 (actual: N.Y. Giants 31, Dallas 24)

 

I am not going to abandon the Cowboys’ chances to make the playoffs and even pick up a playoff win. I think the Cowboys will fall behind tomorrow, but the team will regroup. Tony Romo will have a big day, and Nick Folk will rebound with at least two field goals and no misses.

The score:

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Dallas 27, San Diego 20

Relative Value Rankings After Week 13

No real reason to celebrate individual performances after a bad team loss to the Giants last week. Most of the rankings remain the same as last week, though there are a few adjustments at the top.

Inactives vs. N.Y. Giants: QB Stephen McGee, S Ken Hamlin, CB Cletis Gordon, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C Duke Preston, T Marc Colombo, LB Curtis Johnson

45. Michael Hamlin, S

Last week: 44

Poll rating: 1.56

vs. N.Y. Giants: Hamlin did not record a tackle against the Giants.

44. Pat McQuistan, T

Last week: 45

Poll rating: 1.67

vs. N.Y. Giants: McQuistan saw action as a blocker on special teams.

43. Steve Octavien, LB

Last week: 43

Poll rating: 1.56

vs. N.Y. Giants: Octavien recorded two assists on special teams. He also recovered the onside kick attempt at the end of the game, but Sam Hurd had touched the ball illegally.

42. Jon Kitna, QB

Last week: 42

Poll rating: 1.78

vs. N.Y. Giants: There is a good chance that Kitna won’t take the field this year. He also doesn’t hold field goals, so he couldn’t take Mat McBriar’s job in that area.

41. Cory Procter, C/G

Last week: 41

Poll rating: 2.00

vs. N.Y. Giants: Procter played on special teams yet again.

40. John Phillips, TE

Last week: 40

Poll rating: 2.00

vs. N.Y. Giants: Phillips caught the second pass of his career. The eight-yarder early in the game was his first catch that gained yards.

39. Kevin Ogletree, WR

Last week: 37

Poll rating: 1.90

vs. N.Y. Giants: Ogletree returned two kickoffs, averaging 15.0 yards per return.

38. Victor Butler, LB

Last week: 39

Poll rating: 1.90

vs. N.Y. Giants: Butler recorded two tackles on special teams. However, he was also called for holding on a kickoff return, negating a long runback by Felix Jones.

37. Sam Hurd, WR

Last week: 36

Poll rating: 2.00

vs. N.Y. Giants: Hurd recorded one tackle on special teams.

36. L.P. Ladouceur, LS

Last week: 38

Poll rating: 3.33

vs. N.Y. Giants: Ladouceur isn’t the problem on the field goal unit. The holder apparently is, though.

35. Deon Anderson, FB

Last week: 35

Poll rating: 2.90

vs. N.Y. Giants: Anderson recorded two assists on special teams.

34. Jason Hatcher, DE

Last week: 34

Poll rating: 2.82

vs. N.Y. Giants: Hatcher recorded one QB hurry.

33. Junior Siavii, DT

Last week: 33

Poll rating: 2.50

vs. N.Y. Giants: Siavii did not record a tackle against the Giants.

32. David Buehler, K

Last week: 32

Poll rating: 3.82

vs. N.Y. Giants: None of Buehler’s five kickoffs made it to the end zone. Buehler also reportedly won’t get a chance to kick field goals, despite Nick Folk’s problems.

31. Nick Folk, K

Last week: 31

Poll rating: 2.50

vs. N.Y. Giants: The one-time automatic Folk missed two field goals against the Giants. One was a 57-yarder, but the other was a 42-yarder that the team really needed. Part of the problem has apparently been Mat McBriar’s holding, so Tony Romo will apparently take over the holder job.

30. Pat Watkins, S

Last week: 30

Poll rating: 2.80

vs. N.Y. Giants: Watkins did not record a tackle against the Giants. Watkins missed a key tackle on Domenik Hixon’s punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

29. Stephen Bowen, DE

Last week: 29

Poll rating: 2.70

vs. N.Y. Giants: Bowen did not record a tackle.

28. Alan Ball, S

Last week: 28

Poll rating: 2.60

vs. N.Y. Giants: Ball recorded two defensive tackles and another tackle on special teams. The team may not miss Ken Hamlin’s missed tackles, but the team’s coverage over the middle has suffered with Ball replacing Hamlin.

27. Bobby Carpenter, LB

Last week: 26

Poll rating: 3.08

vs. N.Y. Giants: Carpenter had one assist on defense and one special teams tackle.

26. Orlando Scandrick, CB

Last week: 25

Poll rating: 3.00

vs. N.Y. Giants: Scandrick recorded three tackles against the Giants. He didn’t give up any big plays, though his play will be a concern during the next two weeks.

25. Doug Free, T

Last week: 24

Poll rating: 3.00

vs. N.Y. Giants: The Giants only sacked Tony Romo twice, with Free playing just fine.

24. Martellus Bennett, TE

Last week: 23

Poll rating: 2.75

vs. N.Y. Giants: Bennett suffered a concussion against the Giants after catching two passes for 20 yards.

23. Tashard Choice, RB

Last week: 22

Poll rating: 4.09

vs. N.Y. Giants: Choice only carried the ball twice in a bad rushing performance by the entire team. There are many different opinions about how the team should use Choice, but he probably won’t see more touches barring injury to one of the other backs.

22. Roy Williams, WR

Last week: 27

Poll rating: 2.40

vs. N.Y. Giants: Williams had six receptions for 60 yards, including two touchdowns. Williams very nearly had a third touchdown, but Romo overthrew him.

21. Marcus Spears, DE

Last week: 21

Poll rating: 3.27

vs. N.Y. Giants: Spears had one assist. He has not done much at all to stand out this year.

20. Flozell Adams, T

Last week: 20

Poll rating: 3.45

vs. N.Y. Giants: Adams’ personal foul on Justin Tuck was embarrassing for the entire team.

19. Kyle Kosier, G

Last week: 19

Poll rating: 3.82

vs. N.Y. Giants: None of the linemen performed well, especially in the run game. Kosier managed to record a tackle on Osi Umenyiora’s return of Marion Barber’s fumble.

18. Felix Jones, RB

Last week: 18

Poll rating: 3.91

vs. N.Y. Giants: Jones seemed very hesitant when running the ball. He only managed six yards on six carries.

17. Mat McBriar, P

Last week: 15

Poll rating: 4.18

vs. N.Y. Giants: McBriar only averaged 26.4 yards on five punts, but three of those punts were downed inside the 20. He had a 59-yard punt in the fourth quarter, but Hixon returned that punt 79 yards for a touchdown. McBriar also lost his job as a holder this week (reportedly).

16. Patrick Crayton, WR

Last week: 17

Poll rating: 3.18

vs. N.Y. Giants: Crayton only had two receptions for 24 yards. Crayton fair caught four punts.

15. Igor Olshansky, DE

Last week: 16

Poll rating: 4.00

vs. N.Y. Giants: Olshansky had one assist on defense.

14. Leonard Davis, G

Last week: 13

Poll rating: 4.36

vs. N.Y. Giants: Like other linemen, Davis didn’t have a terrible game in terms of pass blocking, but the running game never got going.

13. Andre Gurode, C

Last week: 12

Poll rating: 4.25

vs. N.Y. Giants: See Davis, Leonard.

12. Bradie James, LB

Last week: 14

Poll rating: 3.73

vs. N.Y. Giants: James had five solo tackles and two assists. He wasn’t fast enough to run down Brandon Jacobs on Jacobs’ 74-yard catch-and-run.

11. Gerald Sensabaugh, S

Last week: 10

Poll rating: 4.15

vs. N.Y. Giants: Sensabaugh recorded five tackles and an assist, though he missed a tackle (after being held) on Jacob’s touchdown reception.

10. Terence Newman, CB

Last week: 8

Poll rating: 4.25

vs. N.Y. Giants: Newman didn’t have a great game against Steve Smith. Newman also misjudged a pass that Hakeem Nicks caught for a touchdown in the second quarer.

9. Marion Barber, RB

Last week: 6

Poll rating: 4.00

vs. N.Y. Giants: Barber had 36 yards on 15 carries. His fumble in the second quarter was very costly. Several people are growing tired of Barber pounding his chest after each three-yard gain.

8. Anthony Spencer, LB

Last week: 9

Poll rating: 4.31

vs. N.Y. Giants: Spencer’s stat sheet was full: five tackles, two tackles for losses, three QB hurries, and a forced fumble.

7. Mike Jenkins, CB

Last week: 7

Poll rating: 4.25

vs. N.Y. Giants: Jenkins had a huge interception in the third quarter.

6. Jason Witten, TE

Last week: 11

Poll rating: 4.50

vs. N.Y. Giants: Witten had one of the most productive games of his career, catching 14 passes for 156 yards.

5. Keith Brooking, LB

Last week: 1

Poll rating: 4.68

vs. N.Y. Giants: Brooking only had only one tackle and two assists against the Giants.

4. Tony Romo, QB

Last week: 5

Poll rating: 4.36

vs. N.Y. Giants: Romo completed 74.5% of his passes (41 of 55) for a career-high 392 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Pretty good, except for the L.

3. Jay Ratliff, NT

Last week: 2

Poll rating: 4.43

vs. N.Y. Giants: Ratliff recovered a fumble that set up a touchdown. He had a tackle and two assists as well.

2. DeMarcus Ware, LB

Last week: 4

Poll rating: 4.54

vs. N.Y. Giants: Ware tied for the team lead with seven total tackles and had six solos. He also had the team’s only sack.

1. Miles Austin, WR

Last week: 3

Poll rating: 4.67

vs. N.Y. Giants: Austin had his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He is on pace to gain 1237 yards on 69 receptions. In fact, it is possible that Austin could surpass 1355 yards, which was what Terrell Owens had during his most productive season in Dallas.

Poll

A Potentially Depressing Playoff Picture for the Cowboys

165If yesterday’s loss to the Giants wasn’t bad enough, consider this:

The Cowboys could rather easily go from being division leaders to being a
team barely holding on to a playoff spot.

If:

(1) The Cowboys lose to the Chargers, causing the Cowboys to fall to 8-5; and

(2) The Giants beat the Eagles, making both teams 8-5; and

(3) The Packers beat the Bears, making the Packers 9-4.

Then:

The Packers will have the inside track for the first wildcard spot. Moreover,
the Packers hold the tiebreaker over the Cowboys thanks to Green Bay’s win over
Dallas.

The Giants would lead the NFC East, thanks to a 4-1 division record.

The Cowboys would still have the #6 spot in the NFC, thanks to the win
earlier this year over the Eagles. But consider this: the Cowboys have to play
the Saints in week 15, while the Eagles face San Francisco.

The bottom line is that Dallas has four must-win games coming up. A 10-6
record is probably not good enough to make the playoffs.

N.Y. Giants 31, Dallas 24: Gutless Performance Despite Lofty Statistics

On many of the message boards this year, two distinct types of fans (there
are other types, of course) have emerged.

The first gave up on the Cowboys after the team’s loss at Denver, saying that
Wade Phillips should have been fired then.

The second type weren’t ready to give up on the Cowboys, though most positive
comments were tempered with the phrase "…but let’s wait until we see what
happens in December."

There is no need to summarize the Cowboys’ December woes, given that nearly
every story about the Cowboys last week focused on those woes. But I’m going to do it anyway. What has tended
to happen in December?

(1) The Cowboys’ fundamentals fly out of the stadium. The team misses
tackles, blows assignments, misses key blocks, and you name what else.

Example: Allowing the Baltimore Ravens to score on two long runs to close out
the final game at Texas Stadium in 2008.

(2) The Cowboys’ offense makes key mistakes at the worst possible moments.
This might be an interception or a fumble, or it may just be a bad read.

Example: Tony Romo throwing a pick against the Steelers, which Pittsburgh
returned for a touchdown in a 20-13 Steeler win in 2008.

(3) When something positive happens for Dallas, the opposing team very
quickly erases any momentum that the Cowboys might have gained.

Example: The Cowboys eating up nearly all of the second quarter of their 2007
playoff game against the Giants and taking a 14-7 lead, only to watch the Giants
easily march down the field to tie the game before the half.

The Cowboys incorporated all of these miscues into their miserable, gutless
loss to a Giants team that provide it knew better than the Cowboys how to win.
The game had a feel much like the Cowboys’ 21-17 loss to New York in the 2007
playoffs; in fact, the Giants at one point led 21-17 on Sunday. The game was
likewise much like the Cowboys’ 20-13 loss at Pittsburgh in 2008, which began a
1-3 month of December that ended the Cowboys’ playoff hopes. Like the Cowboys’
loss at Pittsburgh, it was hard not to have the impression that Dallas would
find a way to lose the game.

At one point in the game Sunday, the Cowboys had outplayed the Giants and had
taken a 10-0 lead. In fact, Dallas took advantage of an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble to
score a touchdown with 3:14 remaining in the first half. The Giants had not yet
moved into Dallas territory, and it looked as if the Cowboys might start running
away with the game.

Then came three consecutive 16-yard gains by the Giants, including a pass
where Eli Manning should have been sacked but was able to flip the ball to tight
end Kevin Boss. With relative ease, the Giants scored on a 21-yard touchdown
pass when Terence Newman tried to make a play on the ball but missed, and Hakeem
Nicks pulled in the pass to score.

Dallas began what looked like a nice drive into Giant territory, but Mathias
Kiwanuka stripped Marion Barber on a screen pass, and Osi Umenyiora picked up
the ball and raced to the Dallas 28. The Giants again scored rather easily and
took a 14-10 lead.

Thus, what looked like a very promising first half falls apart thanks to all
three of the miscues noted above. The rest of the game was not pretty for Dallas
fans, even with some positive plays thrown in the mix.

The Giants opened the second half by moving the ball effectively yet again,
but from the Dallas 25, Manning lofted a pass that Mike Jenkins intercepted.

The teams then exchanged three-and-out drives before the Cowboys got rolling
again. Dallas moved the ball 56 yards in eight plays, capped off by Tony Romo’s
second touchdown pass to Roy Williams. Dallas had the momentum again, along with
a 17-14 lead.

The momentum lasted for 19 seconds on the game clock. On the Giants’ next
drive, Manning hit Brandon Jacobs in the flat, and Jacobs outran Anthony Spencer
and Bradie James and broke an attempted tackle by Gerald Sensabaugh to go 74
yards for a touchdown.

It was all but over for the Cowboys after that, even though it was only a
four-point game. Dallas managed to move to the Giant 24 with 10:50 remaining,
but on a third-and-seven play, Romo missed Tashard Choice on what might have
been a touchdown pass. Nick Folk then completely blew a 41-yard field goal
attempt.

The Giants responded with a drive down to the Dallas 5, but the Cowboys held.
With a Lawrence Tynes field goal, the Giants extended their lead to 24-17.

With the Cowboys needing some heroics, Romo managed to commit an intentional
grounding penalty, and the Cowboys had to punt. The stellar punt return team had
several shots to bring down Domenik Hixon, but Hixon broke several arm tackles
en route to a 79-yard touchdown.

The Cowboys had a chance to close the gap to seven with just over four
minutes to play, but Romo’s pass to Williams went way too high. Dallas failed to
convert a fourth down and turned the ball over.

Romo hit Miles Austin on a 22-yard touchdown pass with just under a minute
left to cut the lead to 31-24, but the Cowboys failed to recover the onside
kick.

At least

one blogger
gave the Cowboys credit for their performance today, but it’s
hard to believe that this season will turn out any better than previous years.
The Cowboys that played today are no different than the Cowboys who could not
finish out the season in previous years.

As for numbers, Tony Romo was a fine fantasy quarterback today. He completed
41 of 55 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns. Jason Witten had a huge game
with 14 receptions for 156 yards, while Austin had 10 receptions for 104 yards
and a TD. Williams had his first multiple touchdown game since 2007.

Predictions Favor Cowboys in Final Game at Giants Stadium

A surprising number of commentators have predicted a Dallas win over the
Giants. Seven of the eight commentators at
ESPN picked Dallas, while five of the
eight commentators at the

Dallas Morning News
took Dallas.

One of those who took the Giants, though, was Todd Archer, who has the
highest prediction rate among the DMN staff. Tim Cowlishaw also took the Giants,
thinking that New York

might have an edge in this game
.



AccuScore
: Dallas 25, Giants 25

This game can’t be any closer if the AccuScore predictions are accurate. The
Giants won 50.3% of the simulations, but the average score is dead even at 24.5
to 24.5.

Eli Manning indicates his injury is not hurting his ability to play. If
he is healthy Manning is expected to have a pretty solid game with 230 yards
and an average of 1.6 TD passes and just 0.7 INTs. Tony Romo is averaging
similar stats with 240 yards, 1.7 TDs and 0.8 INTs. The key to the game is
the running game. If the Giants can re-establish their running game and
average 4.5 ypc the Giants are 53 percent favorites. If the Cowboys average
4.5 ypc they are 57 percent favorites. If both running games do well then
the game will hinge on turnovers. The team with at least a +1 turnover
margin advantage improves their chances from roughly 50 percent up to 75
percent.



WhatIfSports
: Dallas 25, Giants 23

The Cowboys did a little bit better in the WhatIfSports’ simulations, winning
62.6% of the games. The Cowboys averaged 163 rushing yards compared with 139 by
the Giants, and Eli Manning had a slightly higher interception percentage than
Tony Romo.


Madden Simulation
: Dallas 27, Giants 16

Tony Romo had a huge game in the Madden simulation.

The Dallas Cowboys look to knock their division rivals right out of the
playoff hunt, and it appears they do just that with the "Madden"-simulated,
27-16 win over the Giants.

Tony Romo gets a December win thanks to 271 yards passing, two
touchdowns, and more importantly, zero interceptions against the New York D.

With the win, the Cowboys improve to 9-3 on the season while the
once-mighty Giants fall to 6-6.

My Guess (8-3 this season based on win-loss)

On the day before Thanksgiving, I

predicted a 17-point Dallas win
over the Raiders. That turned out to be
accurate, though I had too much faith that Nick Folk would make more field
goals.

Since I am going to the game, I refuse to believe the Cowboys are going
to struggle against the Raiders, who have had problems putting together
back-to-back wins. Dallas will jump out to a 16-0 lead thanks to three Nick
Folk field goals. The Raiders will cut into the lead, but two second half
touchdowns will put the game away for Dallas.

For the season, my record in predicting wins is identical to the Cowboys’
overall record.

Key—

Week: My Prediction (Actual
Result)

Week 1: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 24
(actual: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21)

Week 2: N.Y. Giants 17, Dallas 14
(actual: N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31)

Week 3: Dallas 31, Carolina 21
(actual: Dallas 21, Carolina 7)

Week 4: Dallas 24, Denver 14 (actual:
Denver 17, Dallas 10)

Week 5: Dallas 31, Kansas City 14
(actual: Dallas 26, Kansas City 20)

Week 7: Atlanta 28, Dallas 17
(actual: Dallas 37, Atlanta 21)

Week 8: Dallas 31, Seattle 17 (actual
Dallas 38, Seattle 17)

Week 9: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17
(actual: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16)

Week 10: Dallas 31, Green Bay 20
(actual: Green Bay 17, Dallas 7)

Week 11: Dallas 20, Washington 6
(actual: Dallas 7, Washington 6)

Week 12: Dallas 30, Oakland 13
(actual: Dallas 24, Oakland 7)

 

This week, I think the Cowboys will initially have problems on offense and
will fall behind early. However, the defense will hold the Giants to field
goals, and the score will be 6-0 at the half. Early in the third quarter, Dallas
will start to run the ball more effectively and will take the lead early in the
third quarter. The Cowboys will hold on to the lead by scoring one more
touchdown while holding the Giants to more field goals. The final:

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Dallas 21, N.Y. Giants 12

Relative Value Rankings After Week 12

The Cowboys’ offense had a resurgence this week, but few players made huge leaps forward. On the other side of the ball, Anthony Spencer continues to impress and has moved up to #9.

Most of the complaints about these rankings have focused on my treatment of injured players. After giving it some thought, I’ve decided to remove any inactive player from the list, even if that inactive player will return later this season. Thus, Ken Hamlin does not appear on this week’s ranking, even though he should return soon.

Inactives vs. Oakland: QB Stephen McGee, S Ken Hamlin, CB Cletis Gordon, LB Jason Williams, G Montrae Holland, C Duke Preston, T Marc Colombo, LB
Curtis Johnson

45. Pat McQuistan, T

Last week: 46

Poll rating: 1.60

vs. Oakland: McQuistan has replaced Doug Free on special teams. At least he’s active.

44. Michael Hamlin, S

Last week: 47

Poll rating: 1.40

vs. Oakland: Hamlin was active for the second time this season against the Raiders. He recorded a tackle on a kickoff return following Felix Jones’
touchdown run.

43. Steve Octavien, LB

Last week: 45

Poll rating: 1.60

vs. Oakland: Octavien showed up on the television screen, but he did not show up in the stat column.

42. Jon Kitna, QB

Last week: 44

Poll rating: 1.60

vs. Oakland: Tony Romo may end up taking every snap this season, so Kitna hasn’t done anything more than Stephen McGee.

41. Cory Procter, C/G

Last week: 43

Poll rating: 2.14

vs. Oakland: Procter remains a special teams player and nothing else.

40. John Phillips, TE

Last week: 41

Poll rating: 2.00

vs. Oakland: Blocking tight end. Nothing remarkable to note.

39. Victor Butler, LB

Last week: 40

Poll rating: 2.29

vs. Oakland: Butler did not manage a tackle against the Raiders. He has done very little to note since sacking Donovan McNabb.

38. L.P. Ladouceur, LS

Last week: 39

Poll rating: 3.00

vs. Oakland: Nick Folk missed another field goal, but it had nothing to do with the snap.

37. Kevin Ogletree, WR

Last week: 37

Poll rating: 2.10

vs. Oakland: Ogletree turned heads by making some big plays on bubble screen passes in a couple of earlier games. He turned more heads in a negative sort of way when he dropped a punt against the Raiders. That’s a good way to become inactive again.

36. Sam Hurd, WR

Last week: 36

Poll rating: 2.40

vs. Oakland: Hurd managed one tackle on special teams. He hasn’t caught a pass since scoring against the Seahawks.

35. Deon Anderson, FB

Last week: 35

Poll rating: 2.56

vs. Oakland: Anderson made a solid block on Raider linebacker Kirk Morrison in the first quarter, which helped to spring Tashard Choice on a 66-yard run out of the Razorback. On the next play, though, Anderson was called for holding.

34. Jason Hatcher, DE

Last week: 42

Poll rating: 2.14

vs. Oakland: Hatcher managed a solo tackle and an assist against the Raiders. He has not made headlines, but Hatcher can make plays from time to time. He very
nearly recorded a sack, but Anthony Spencer got to Bruce Gradkowski just before Hatcher.

33. Junior Siavii, DT

Last week: 38

Poll rating: 2.56

vs. Oakland: Siavii did not manage a tackle against the Raiders.

32. David Buehler, K

Last week: 34

Poll rating: 2.80

vs. Oakland: Five kickoffs, with three in the end zone and three touchbacks. Solid.

31. Nick Folk, K

Last week: 31

Poll rating: 2.20

vs. Oakland: Folk missed yet another field goal. Though the 49-yarder hit the upright, a miss is a miss. This marked the third consecutive game that Folk has missed a field goal.

30. Pat Watkins, S

Last week: 33

Poll rating: 2.60

vs. Oakland: Watkins recorded a defensive tackle and a special teams tackle. His play on the coverage units is especially impressive when you can watch the entire field at a live game.

29. Stephen Bowen, DE

Last week: 32

Poll rating: 2.70

vs. Oakland: Bowen recorded one tackle on defense.

28. Alan Ball, S

Last week: 28

Poll rating: 2.70

vs. Oakland: Ball recorded one tackle. He nearly had an interception when he stepped in front of a Bruce Gradkowski pass early in the second quarter. The negatives: he gave up the Raiders’ lone touchdown pass, and he was called for holding on a punt return.

27. Roy Williams, WR

Last week: 30

Poll rating: 1.50

vs. Oakland: Two receptions, 15 yards. He might have been the victim of pass interference on one play, and he managed to make two very nice receptions. The second of those was for a touchdown and put the game away. That said, he appears to have trouble getting off the line.

26. Bobby Carpenter, LB

Last week: 26

Poll rating: 3.20

vs. Oakland: Surprisingly, Carpenter did not record a tackle against the Raiders.

25. Orlando Scandrick, CB

Last week: 26

Poll rating: 3.30

vs. Oakland: Scandrick recorded two tackles and one pass defense.

24. Doug Free, T

Last week: 23

Poll rating: 3.30

vs. Oakland: Trevor Scott recorded two sacks, and at least one of those was on Free. Otherwise, Free appeared to do a good job on run blocking, though he had help from Bennett and Witten.

23. Martellus Bennett, TE

Last week: 24

Poll rating: 3.89

vs. Oakland: Just as soon as you think Bennett will get more involved with the offense, Jason Witten reemerges, and Bennett goes without a reception. I moved Bennett up a spot because he helped Free on the blocking scheme.

22. Tashard Choice, RB

Last week: 22

Poll rating: 2.82

vs. Oakland: Choice made a great play when he lined up in the Razorback, found a seam, and took off for a 66-yard gain. He ran out of gas towards the end, though, and the play only set up a field goal. Earlier, Choice also made a nice tackle on a punt return.

21. Marcus Spears, DE

Last week: 21

Poll rating: 3.33

vs. Oakland: Spears make one solo tackle and one assist. His value is probably best judged by some factor other than stats, but it is tough to make figure out what this is. He does not always command a double-team, so it must be something else.

20. Flozell Adams, T

Last week: 18

Poll rating: 3.36

vs. Oakland: In the second quarter, Tony Romo found Marion Barber in the flat, and Barber raced 42 yards to the Oakland 28. Next play: False start, #76, offense. You should have heard the groans.

19. Kyle Kosier, G

Last week: 16

Poll rating: 3.40

vs. Oakland: Kosier had a role in both of the Cowboys’ long runs (Choice’s first-quarter run and Jones’ touchdown run). However, Kosier also committed two costly penalties, including one for illegal hands to the face, which moved the team out of field goal range.

18. Felix Jones, RB

Last week: 20

Poll rating: 3.00

vs. Oakland: Jones outplayed fellow Razorback Darren McFadden. Felix scored on a 46-yard touchdown run and finished the game with 68 yards on 7 carries. He’s about to lose the "Fragile Felix" nickname, though he did leave the field late in the game when he was poked in the eye.

17. Patrick Crayton, WR

Last week: 15

Poll rating: 3.53

vs. Oakland: Crayton had a very quiet game and did not manage to make a reception. He averaged nine yards per return on four punt returns.

16. Igor Olshansky, DE

Last week: 19

Poll rating: 3.62

vs. Oakland: Unlike Spears, Olshansky contributions are pretty noticeable. He managed three tackles against the Raiders.

15. Mat McBriar, P

Last week: 17

Poll rating: 3.71

vs. Oakland: Of six punts, four ended up inside the 20.

14. Bradie James, LB

Last week: 14

Poll rating: 3.73

vs. Oakland: James had two solo tackles and three assists against the Raiders. Solid day at the office.

13. Leonard Davis, G

Last week: 11

Poll rating: 3.80

vs. Oakland: The Raiders never made much of a push up the middle, and Davis did not appear to make any mistakes.

12. Andre Gurode, C

Last week: 12

Poll rating: 3.87

vs. Oakland: Gurode’s performance was just as strong as Davis’. Gurode had a slightly higher rating last week, so I moved him up a spot.

11. Jason Witten, TE

Last week: 13

Poll rating: 3.93

vs. Oakland: Witten had his first 100-yard receiving day in a year against the Raiders, which was surprising given that he was a game-time decision.

10. Gerald Sensabaugh, S

Last week: 9

Poll rating: 3.73

vs. Oakland: Sensabaugh recorded four solo tackles and two assists with one pass defense.

9. Anthony Spencer, LB

Last week: 10

Poll rating: 3.93

vs. Oakland: He’s "Almost Anthony" no more! One week after recording a game-clinching interception, Spencer recorded two sacks, six solo tackles, and two assists. Two of his tackles were for losses, and he hurried the quarterback three times.

8. Terence Newman, CB

Last week: 8

Poll rating: 3.80

vs. Oakland: The Raiders are not especially strong at the receiver position, but Newman had a solid game.

7. Mike Jenkins, CB

Last week: 7

Poll rating: 3.93

vs. Oakland: See Terence Newman’s note.

6. Marion Barber, RB

Last week: 5

Poll rating: 3.81

vs. Oakland: Barber finished with 61 yards on 14 carries. He also had a 42-yard pass reception.

5. Tony Romo, QB

Last week: 4

Poll rating: 3.00

vs. Oakland: Romo made the plays he needed to make. However, he was nearly picked off in the second quarter when he tried to drill a pass to Williams on a slant pattern. Fortunately for Romo, SS Tyvon Branch and DE/OLB Trevor Scott ran into one another before either could make the pick.

4. DeMarcus Ware, LB

Last week: 3

Poll rating: 4.40

vs. Oakland: Ware only managed one sack and one tackle. However, he hurried Gradkowski four times and was in the backfield on several other plays.

3. Miles Austin, WR

Last week: 6

Poll rating: 3.20

vs. Oakland: Seven receptions for 145 yards. Austin was the catalyst on several huge drives. In the second quarter, with the Cowboys facing a 3rd-and-11, Austin took a short pass and managed to plow his way forward for a first down. Two plays later, Austin caught a 27-yard pass that set up Jones’ touchdown run. Austin caught three passes on a drive later in the quarter, including a nine-yard score with less than 40 seconds left in the first half.

2. Jay Ratliff, NT
 
Last week: 2

Poll rating: 4.44

vs. Oakland: Ratliff recorded four solos and an assist, along with one QB hurry.

1. Keith Brooking, LB

Last week: 1

Poll rating: 4.94

vs. Oakland: Six solos and three assists, with one QB hurry. He has become the team’s vocal leader, and hopefully the team is listening more to him now that the season has reached December.

 

Poll

No Advantage to Dallas in Week After Thanksgiving

The Cowboys’ tradition of playing on Thanksgiving Day began in 1966. Including last week’s win over the Raiders, the Cowboys now have a 27-14-1 record on Thanksgiving.

For many years, though, it was not the team’s Thanksgiving performance that was the most impressive. Between 1968 and 1984, the Cowboys won 15 consecutive games during the week after Thanksgiving. The few extra days off seemed to help the Cowboys, who often blew out their opponents after a 10-day rest.

Since 1985, though, this advantage has all but vanished. The Cowboys went 0-5 during the week after Thanksgiving from 1985 to 1989. Dallas won five straight from 1990 to 1994, but since 1995, the Cowboys have only managed a 5-9 record in the game following the Thanksgiving Classic.

In sum: From 1966 to 1984, the Cowboys had a 16-1 record after Thanksgiving. Since then, Dallas has gone 10-14.

Next Sunday’s game against the Giants marks the third time in five seasons that the Cowboys have traveled to the Meadowlands after playing on Thanksgiving. Dallas lost at New York in 2005 but won on a last-second field goal in 2006.

Here’s a look at the Cowboys’ games during the weeks after Thanksgiving.

Date – W/L Score, Opponent

Dec. 4, 1966 – W 31-17, St. Louis

Dec. 3, 1967 – L 23-17, Baltimore

Dec. 8, 1968 – W 28-7, Pittsburgh

Dec. 7, 1969 – W 10-7, Pittsburgh

Dec. 6, 1970 – W 34-0, Washington

Dec. 4, 1971 – W 52-10, N.Y. Jets

Dec. 3, 1972 – W 27-6, St. Louis

Dec. 2, 1973 – W 22-10, Denver

Dec. 7, 1974 – W 41-17, Cleveland

Dec. 5, 1976 – W 26-7, Philadelphia

Dec. 3, 1978 – W 17-10, New England

Dec. 2, 1979 – W 28-7, N.Y. Giants

Dec. 7, 1980 – W 19-13, Oakland

Dec. 6, 1981 – W 37-13, Baltimore

Dec. 5, 1982 – W 24-10, Washington

Dec. 4, 1983 – W 35-10, Seattle

Dec. 2, 1984 – W 26-10, Philadelphia

Dec. 8, 1985 – L 50-24, Cincinnati

Dec. 7, 1986 – L 31-14, Seattle

Dec. 6, 1987 – L 21-10, Atlanta

Dec. 4, 1988 – L 24-21, Cleveland

Dec. 3, 1989 – L 35-31, L.A. Rams

Dec. 2, 1990 – W 17-13, New Orleans

Dec. 8, 1991 – W 23-14, New Orleans

Dec. 6, 1992 – W 31-27, Denver

Dec. 6, 1993 – W 23-17, Philadelphia

Dec. 4, 1994 – W 31-19, Philadelphia

Dec. 3, 1995 – L 24-17, Washington

Dec. 8, 1996 – W 10-6, Arizona

Dec. 8, 1997 – L 23-13, Carolina

Dec. 6, 1998 – L 20-17, Kansas City

Dec. 5, 1999 – L 13-6, New England

Dec. 3, 2000 – L 27-7, Tampa Bay

Dec. 2, 2001 – W 20-14, Washington

Dec. 8, 2002 – L 31-27, San Francisco

Dec. 7, 2003 – L 36-10, Philadelphia

Dec. 6, 2004 – W 43-39, Seattle

Dec. 4, 2005 – L 17-10, N.Y. Giants

Dec. 3, 2006 – W 23-20, N.Y. Giants

Nov. 29, 2007 – W 37-27, Green Bay

Dec. 7, 2008 – L 20-13, Pittsburgh

Dallas 24, Oakland 7: Weapons Resurface

A great win for the first Thanksgiving Day game at Cowboys Stadium.

A great win for the first Thanksgiving Day game at Cowboys Stadium.

The Cowboys seriously lacked firepower during the last two weeks in games
where they scored only seven points in consecutive games. This was nothing a
game against the Raiders couldn’t help.

Consider these performances:

Tashard Choice

Past two games: 4 att., 14 yards

vs. Oakland: 3 att., 67 yards, including a 66-yard run out of the Razorback
(Wildcat)

Felix Jones

Past two games: 13 att., 55 yards, with a long run of 9 yards.

vs. Oakland: 7 att., 68 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown run.

Jason Witten

Past two games: 10 rec., 90 yards

vs. Oakland: 5 rec., 107 yards

Miles Austin

Past two games: 8 rec., 67 yards

vs. Oakland: 7 rec., 145 yards, 1 TD

Tony Romo

Past two games: 409 passing yards, 2 TD, 74.6 QB rating

vs. Oakland: 309 passing yards, 2 TD, 121.2 QB rating

 

What has been consistent during the past three games has been the Dallas
defense. The Cowboys gave up only one touchdown against the Raiders and held an
opponent to fewer than 10 points for the third time this season.

During the week that Greg Ellis returned to Dallas, it was his replacement in
the Dallas lineup that had one of the biggest games. Anthony Spencer was a
monster on Thanksgiving, recording two sacks and eight total tackles.

The Cowboys had a few miscues against Oakland, but thanks to the defense,
those miscues became largely irrelevant.

On the second offensive play for the Cowboys, Romo hit Austin on a crossing
route that gained 49 yards to the Oakland 27. However, right tackle Doug Free
committed a penalty, followed by another penalty by Kyle Kosier. The drive
stalled, and the Cowboys were backed up so far they had to punt.

Two drives later, Tashard Choice took a snap out of the Razorback and took
off. He probably should have had a touchdown but was run down after a 66-yard
gain. Next play: Holding on Deon Anderson. Dallas had to settle for a field
goal.

In the second quarter, Romo hit Marion Barber in the right flat, and Barber
raced 42 yards up the sideline. Next play: False start on Flozell Adams.

Despite those plays, the Cowboys wrestled control of the game in the second
quarter. Leading 3-0 with 13:09 left in the second quarter, Dallas took the ball
at its own 11. Two passes to Miles Austin moved the ball to the Oakland 46. Austin’s first reception on the drive was big, as it came on a 3rd-and-11 play from the Dallas 10. He stretched at the end of the play to give Dallas a first down. Two plays later, he caught a pass on a crossing route and gained 27 yards. Felix Jones then found a hole up the middle and raced all the way for a touchdown. It was Jones’ first touchdown since the Cowboys’ week 2 loss to the New York Giants.

Late in the first half, Dallas moved the ball into Oakland territory. Romo
hit Austin over the middle, and it appeared that when the defender tackled
Austin that Austin’s knee never hit the ground. A review showed that Austin’s
ankle and lower leg did touch the ground, but the ruling did not end up
mattering. Romo hit Austin two plays later on a screen pass that Austin ran in
to give the Cowboys a 17-0 lead.

Oakland managed to cut the lead to 17-7 in the second half, but the defense
stepped up after the lone Raider touchdown. Meanwhile, the Dallas offense
effectively put the game away when Romo hit Roy Williams on a six-yard touchdown
early in the fourth.

Dallas piled up 494 total yards in offense, marking the team’s best offensive
output in terms of yardage all season. The last time the Cowboys gained more
yards was against St. Louis in 2007, when Dallas gained 502.

With the Giants’ loss to the Broncos on Thursday night, the Cowboys have a
two-game lead over New York. The Eagles can stay within a game of Dallas by
beating Washington on Sunday.

Cowboys Should Handle the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day

The simulations of the Dallas-Oakland game heavily favor the Cowboys. This is hardly a surprise. However, thanks to consecutive seven-point scoring performances, few think that the Cowboys will cover the 14-point spread. Dallas managed to win by an average margin of 14 points in only one of the three simulations noted below.

AccuScore: Dallas 27, Oakland 13

The Cowboys won 83% of AccuScore’s 10,001 simulations by an average score of 27-13. This was the most optimistic of the three simulations.

The Cowboys offense has struggled and the past 2 weeks and they barely cracked 300 yards last week. If they are held to under 300 yards the Cowboys are still heavy 75 percent favorites against the Raiders because the Cowboys defense is expected to hold the Raiders to just 13 points. If Bruce Gradkowski throws no interceptions and the Raiders trio of RBs can average over 5 yards per carry the Raiders chances improve all the way to 46 percent. If the offense is good and they also hold Dallas to under 300 yards the Raiders are actually a 5 point favorite.

WhatIfSports: Dallas 25, Oakland 15

The Cowboys were less successful in WhatIfSports’ simulations, winning 72.3% of the games by an average score of 25-15. Tony Romo threw for fewer than 200 yards on average in these simulations. The Raiders averaged 300 yards in total offense, with 140 coming on the ground.

Madden Simulation: Dallas 23, Oakland 13

ESPN’s simulation of the game using Madden was similar to the WhatIfSports simulation.

The Cowboys matched their entire scoring output from their last game in their first drive against the Raiders, and they never looked back, winning their Thanksgiving showdown, 23-13.

Tony Romo completed 26 of 41 passes for 289 yards, including one touchdown and one interception. Marion Barber added 94 bruising yards on the ground as the Cowboys get their eighth win of the season.

The Raiders, meanwhile, drop to 3-8, although they look much more competitive on offense now that JaMarcus Russell watches the game from the bench.

My Guess (7-3 this season based on win-loss)

My wild guess last week accurately predicted that the Redskins would only score six points against the Cowboys. I never once thought the Cowboys would only score seven for a second consecutive week. Here was my prediction:

As for this week, I think Dallas will control the clock by using shorter passes and the running game. Romo may have a couple of big plays to Miles Austin to help set up scores, but the real story in this game will be the defense’s role in smothering the Redskins and the offense’s role in grinding out yards and keeping the ball out of Washington’s hands.

For the season, here is the record:

Week 1: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 24 (actual: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21)

Week 2: N.Y. Giants 17, Dallas 14 (actual: N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31)

Week 3: Dallas 31, Carolina 21 (actual: Dallas 21, Carolina 7)

Week 4: Dallas 24, Denver 14 (actual: Denver 17, Dallas 10)

Week 5: Dallas 31, Kansas City 14 (actual: Dallas 26, Kansas City 20)

Week 7: Atlanta 28, Dallas 17 (actual: Dallas 37, Atlanta 21)

Week 8: Dallas 31, Seattle 17 (actual Dallas 38, Seattle 17)

Week 9: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17 (actual: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16)

Week 10: Dallas 31, Green Bay 20 (actual: Green Bay 17, Dallas 7)

Week 11: Dallas 20, Washington 6 (actual: Dallas 7, Washington 6)

Since I am going to the game, I refuse to believe the Cowboys are going to struggle against the Raiders, who have had problems putting together back-to-back wins. Dallas will jump out to a 16-0 lead thanks to three Nick Folk field goals. The Raiders will cut into the lead, but two second half touchdowns will put the game away for Dallas. The result:

personalized greetings

Dallas 30, Oakland 13