2011 Season

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Eagles-Cowboys Looks Like a Toss-Up

There is some question about whether the Eagles- Cowboys game is a good rivalry. The Eagles dominated the series throughout the early 2000s, winning nine of ten. Since 2005, though, the Cowboys have a 7-5 record against Philadelphia along with a playoff win.

The game on Sunday night is critical for both teams. Philadelphia enters the game at 2-4, and a loss could severely hurt the team’s playoff chances. Dallas isn’t in much of a better place at 3-3, though.

On ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em, 57.2% picked the Eagles to win. However, the numbers are much closer in the simulations.

AccuScore: Philadelphia 26.8, Dallas 26.7

It doesn’t get much closer than what we see in the AccuScore predictions.

AccuScore is forecasting a close game with the Dallas Cowboys winning 50% of simulations, and the Philadelphia Eagles 50% of simulations. In close games, turnover margin is especially important. The Dallas Cowboys commit fewer turnovers in 44% of simulations and they go on to win 72% when they take care of the ball. The Philadelphia Eagles wins 70% of the simulations in which they commit fewer turnovers. Tony Romo is averaging 264 passing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average passing yards and at least a 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio (30% chance) then he helps his team win 61%. Michael Vick is averaging 260 passing yards per sim. If he can have a great game with better than average passing yards and at least a 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio (32% chance) then he helps his team win 65%.

What If Sports: Dallas 25, Philadelphia 19

This was a surprise, as Dallas won 69% of the What If Sports’ simulations by an average of six points. The Cowboys held Michael Vick in check, while Tony Romo averaged more than 300 passing yards and DeMarco Murray averaged 55 rushing yards.

Madden: Philadelphia 27, Dallas 24

Romo gave Dallas the lead in the fourth quarter with a TD pass to Jason Witten, but Vick drove the Eagles to the game winner.

Michael Vick was a one-man wrecking crew against the rival Cowboys, throwing for 314 yards and two touchdowns, running for 42 yards and another score, while also delivering a perfect game-winning pass to DeSean Jackson with only 24 seconds left on the clock to give his Eagles the crucial 27-24 victory. No wonder he’s the best player in “Madden” history.

Tecmo Super Bowl 2012: Dallas 19, Philadelphia 17

The Cowboys trailed for much of this game. However, a long run by Felix Jones late in the game helped to set up a game-winning field goal with less than 20 seconds left. Dallas now has a 5-2 record in our Tecmo simulation.

DeMarco Murray’s Day Helps Cowboys in the Power Rankings

One strike away. Twice. It’s even more painful than the Cowboys blowing a 27-3 lead because of two picks returned for touchdowns.

Oh, about the NFL power rankings…

Most of this week’s focus has been on DeMarco Murray’s unbelievable game against the Rams last Sunday. The question is, of course, whether he can repeat.

ESPN: #18

Dallas jumped up three spots in ESPN’s poll.

Finally, the Cowboys got a blowout win, thanks to rookie DeMarco Murray’s 253 rushing yards, the most by a player this season.

Fox (Brian Billick): #18

Dallas jumped ahead of Washington in Brian Billick’s poll.

If DeMarco Murray’s explosion for 253 yards rushing, which allowed Tony Romo to have to attempt only 24 passes, can be a template for the Cowboys going forward, then they can become a legitimate force in the NFC. If, brother, if.

Thanks, coach. But you are not my brother.

CBS (Pete Prisco): #14

Prisco just wants to keep Dallas in the top 10. The Cowboys are back to #14 on his list.

I still think this is a team nobody will want to play later in the season. They have talent. They have a huge game coming up against the Eagles this week.

C’mon, not another talent comment.

Bleacher Report (Matt Miller): #13

Adding a new one for this week: power rankings on Bleacher Report. This writer puts the Cowboys at #13.

So this is what the Dallas Cowboys look like when everyone plays up to their potential. Oh, wait, they played the St. Louis Rams? Never mind.

Don’t get too excited about the Cowboys beating a winless St. Louis Rams team on Sunday. I say that even as I move them up four spots, but that’s more due to the losses by the Buccaneers, Raiders and Chargers.

I have said all season that Dallas is good enough to make a run at the division title. The Cowboys need to play every week like they are facing the Rams.

What If Sports: #3

Last week, I posted the What If Sports’ power ranking just for some meaningless optimism. At that point, the Cowboys ranked #7. In this week’s poll (based on winning percentage where every team plays every other team 100 times), the Cowboys rank third. The teams ahead of Dallas are Green Bay and Detroit. Philadelphia ranks #17.

Dallas 34, St. Louis 7: Run, Run, Run, You Rookie

No Dallas runner in history has had a better day than DeMarco Murray did against St. Louis.

The Cowboys faced a decimated St. Louis secondary this afternoon at Cowboys Stadium, so most thought that Tony Romo would torch the Rams through the air. Any running game that the combination of DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice could produce would be nice as well.

As it turns out, Romo did not even need 200 passing yards in a 34-7 rout. Murray, on the other hand, will see his name in the team’s record books, where it will probably remain for a long time to come.

With the Cowboys facing a 1st and 19 on their own 9 early in the game, Romo handed to Murray on a lead draw. The rookie made two Rams miss, and by the end of the 91-yard scamper, the only player close to him was receiver Dez Bryant. The run was the second longest in team history, trailing only Tony Dorsett’s 99-yarder against the Vikings in 1982.

Dallas later took advantage of a St. Louis fumble late in the first quarter. The recovery set up a drive that led to a touchdown pass from Romo to Jason Witten.

The Cowboys briefly had trouble stopping Steven Jackson, who scored on the ensuing drive to cut the Dallas lead to 7. However, Mike Jenkins picked off starter A.J. Feeley later in the quarter, and the pick set up a Dallas field goal. Dallas led 17-7 at the half.

Murray got hot again to start the second half. His 19-yard run moved the ball to the Dallas 45. However, Choice fumbled on the next play, giving the Rams the ball in Dallas territory. St. Louis, though, went three and out, and the Cowboys gave the ball to Murray in heavy doses. After getting the ball at its own 12, Dallas moved to the St. Louis 33. Dan Bailey’s 51-yard field goal increased the lead to 20-7.

Murray continued to impress in the fourth quarter. His 43-yard run early in the quarter moved the ball into St. Louis territory. Jason Garrett turned to another rookie, Philip Tanner, who had a 17-yard gain to move the ball to the Ram 6, followed by a hard six-yard touchdown run.

An eight-yard run later in the fourth quarter gave Murray enough yards to break Emmitt Smith’s all-time single-game record of 237 yards, set in 1993 against the Eagles. Later in the same drive, Bryant made a nice catch in the end zone for the final score of the game.

The Cowboys finished the game with 294 rushing yards. That marks the fourth highest regular-season total in team history. Dallas averaged 8.6 yards per carry on 34 attempts, which is the second-highest average for a single game in team history.

Cowboys Dominate Rams in Most Simulations

The Cowboys have not given anyone confidence that they are a sure bet to win in any given week.

However, if there were such a week, this might be it. In the two most popular simulation engines, Dallas won 87% of the games or more. It helps that St. Louis will have to go with A.J. Feeley instead of Sam Bradford.

AccuScore: Dallas 32, St. Louis 16

The Cowboys won 88% of AccuScore’s simulations, as Tony Romo averaged more than 300 passing yards and DeMarco Murray had solid games.

The Dallas Cowboys are a heavy favorite winning 88% of simulations over the St. Louis Rams. Tony Romo is averaging 298 passing yards and 1.9 TDs per simulation and DeMarco Murray is projected for 65 rushing yards and a 35% chance of having at least 1 rushing TD. In the 12% of simulations where St. Louis Rams wins, A.J. Feeley averages 1.82 TD passes vs 0.74 interceptions, while in losses he has a ratio of 1.03 TDs to 1.41 interceptions. Steven Jackson averages 55 rushing yards and 0.31 rushing TDs when St. Louis Rams wins and 37 yards and 0.15 TDs in losses. Dallas Cowboys has a 50% chance of forcing more turnovers than they commit. Positive turnover margin helps them win 93% of the time.

What If Sports: Dallas 30, St. Louis 14

The results in What If Sports was similar to the AccuScore simulations. Dallas won 87.7% of the games as Romo averaged 318 passing yards.

Madden: Dallas 24, St. Louis 16

The Rams made it more of a game in the Madden simulation, but the Cowboys proved to be too much.

Brandon Lloyd makes an immediate impact with the Rams, catching eight passes for 100 yards and one touchdown in a stat like that fantasy football fans around the country will rejoice over (if he’s on your team, that is). But even with the Rams newfound passing threat, it’s still not enough to beat Dallas as the Cowboys actually play a mistake free game and take out the Rams 24-16.

Tecmo Super Bowl 2012: St. Louis 20, Dallas 10

In a stunner, the Cowboys fell to 4-2 by losing to the Rams in week 7 action. Dallas had a terrible time stopping Steven Jackson, who rushed for 93 yards and scored the game-clinching touchdown.

On the season, the Cowboys now trail the Giants by one game in the NFC East.

Cowboys Continue Falling in the Power Rankings

Putting up a good fight against the Patriots wasn’t enough to keep the Cowboys in the middle of the pack in the various power rankings. Two of the polls reviewed below have the Cowboys outside the top 20.


ESPN: #21

The Cowboys fell six spots in the ESPN poll.

After a crushing loss to New England, the Cowboys get the 0-5 Rams.


Fox (Brian Billick): #21

Billick has not been high on the Cowboys all year, and he also dropped the team down to #21.

The Cowboys need to find a running game to support QB Tony Romo and the inconsistent offense. Felix Jones, their feature back, rushed for only 14 yards on 8 attempts against the Patriots, and that just won’t cut it.

CBS (Pete Prisco): #18

Prisco has been higher on the Cowboys than just about anyone else, but even he has doubts now.

They’ve lost three tough games — including to the Patriots Sunday — but they are too talented to count out. Why not play to win at New England?

What If Sports: #7 (!!!)

Thought I would throw in something positive. The web site What If Sports has its own power ranking system that is based on its simulations. The Cowboys stand tall at #7, one spot ahead of Detroit.

So there’s hope after all—in the word of simulations.

Winning the Turnover Battle but Losing the Game

Week after week, the Cowboys are finding new ways to accomplish the improbable.

Blow a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter for the first time in franchise history? Done.

Blow a 24-point lead in the second half? Done.

What the Cowboys did yesterday was not a first in franchise history, but it is rare. The Cowboys forced four turnovers and only committed two. That marks the 98th time in franchise history that the Cowboys have forced at least four turnovers and committed two or less.

The Dallas record in those games: 91-7.

In most of the seven games that Dallas lost, the opposing team outgained the Cowboys. In yesterday’s game, the Cowboys not only won the turnover battle but also outgained the Patriots by seven yards.

Here is a summary of the seven losses:

Nov. 28, 1965: Washington 34, Dallas 31

Turnovers: Washington 6, Dallas 2.

Yards: Washington 415, Dallas 284

October 17, 1976: St. Louis Cardinals 21, Dallas 17

Turnovers: St. Louis 4, Dallas 1

Yards: St. Louis 436, Dallas 380

October 1, 1989: N.Y. Giants 30, Dallas 13

Turnovers: New York 5, Dallas 2

Yards: New York 342, Dallas 288

November 25, 1993: Miami 16, Dallas 14

Turnovers: Miami 4, Dallas 2

Yards: Miami 382, Dallas 293

September 7, 1997: Arizona 25, Dallas 22 (OT)

Turnovers: Arizona 4, Dallas 1

Yards: Dallas 327, Arizona 286

October 25, 2010: New York Giants 41, Dallas 35

Turnovers: New York 5, Dallas 2

Yards: New York 497, Dallas 254

October 16, 2011: New England 20, Dallas 16

Turnovers: New England 4, Dallas 2

Yards: Dallas 377, New England 371

New England 20, Dallas 16: 57 Minutes of Great Defense

Jay Ratliff and the defense gave Tom Brady trouble, up until the last 150 seconds of the game.

With the Cowboys leading 16-13 with two and a half minutes left in the game, the Cowboys punted the ball to the Patriots. Up to that point, Tom Brady looked very human. He had completed 19 of 32 for 211 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Dallas had no answer for Brady on the final drive.

16 to Aaron Hernandez

11 to Rob Gronkowski

5 to Wes Welker

10 to Wes Welker

9 to Danny Woodhead

Incomplete pass

A third-down QB sneak by Brady

13 to Woodhead

6 to Welker

8 to Hernandez in the middle of the end zone. Touchdown. Game over.


None of the Patriot weapons hurt the Cowboys badly all game until that final drive. Maybe it was a moral victory for Dallas. But it was certainly the Cowboys’ third loss of the season, with each of those losses coming in winnable games.

At least Tony Romo didn’t lose this game. His biggest mistake came early in the game when he misfired on a throw to either Miles Austin or Dez Bryant and instead found New England corner Kyle Arrington. That gave the ball to the Patriots in Dallas territory, but the Patriots were not able to convert the turnover into a touchdown. A field goal gave New England a 3-0 lead.

Dallas had some early opportunities. One of Brady’s interceptions in the first quarter led to a Dallas field goal. The Cowboys forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return, but Tashard Choice fumbled five plays later.

Dallas struggled for a while after the Choice fumble, and the Patriots increased their lead to 13-3. However, Dallas managed a drive in the last five minutes of the second quarter, and Romo’s touchdown to Jason Witten cut the Patriot lead to 13-10.

New England had to punt on one drive. After Dallas tied the game at 13 following a long drive in the third quarter, the Patriots moved the ball into Dallas territory. However, Bradie James stripped the ball from Hernandez after a short gain, and Terence Newman recovered.

The Patriots held the Cowboys, but when New England drove to the Dallas 33, Victor Butler hit Brady’s arm, and Sean Lee caught the pick after another deflection.

The Dallas offense answered by driving 60 yards on 10 plays. However, the Cowboys could not punch the ball in and settled for a field goal. Dallas then led 16-13.

The Cowboys defense had a great drive, forcing a three-and-out. Dallas got the ball back with 3:36 at the Cowboy 28.

Jason Garrett didn’t give Romo a chance to play the goat, calling runs on first and second down. Felix Jones was not on the field because of an ankle injury, and DeMarco Murray was not able to gain positive yardage. Though the Cowboys forced New England to take two time outs, New England still had 2:31 left after the Dallas punt.

At 2-3, Dallas has sole possession of third place in the NFC East. Washington lost to the Eagles today, while the Giants beat the Bills. New York leads the division with a 4-2 record, while Washington falls to second with a 3-2 mark. Philadelphia is a half-game behind Dallas at 2-4.

Simulations Say Cowboys Don’t Have Much of a Chance vs. New England

Most experts and simulations heavily favor New England over Dallas.

After two weeks of envisioning Alan Ball covering Wes Welker, I express no surprise that almost nobody has picked the Cowboys to beat the Patriots. Two of the simulation engines predict that this game will be a blowout, while a third simulation ended up fairly close.

But then there is Tecmo Super Bowl 2012, which contains a Dallas-friendly engine. That simulation gives us some hope.

AccuScore: New England 35, Dallas 24

It isn’t looking good for the Cowboys if AccuScore is accurate. The Patriots won 77% of the simulations.

The New England Patriots are a heavy favorite winning 77% of simulations over the Dallas Cowboys. Tom Brady is averaging 326 passing yards and 2.9 TDs per simulation and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is projected for 56 rushing yards and a 45% chance of having at least 1 rushing TD. In the 23% of simulations where Dallas Cowboys wins, Tony Romo averages 2.33 TD passes vs 0.75 interceptions, while in losses he has a ratio of 1.77 TDs to 1.32 interceptions. Felix Jones averages 57 rushing yards and 0.4 rushing TDs when Dallas Cowboys wins and 37 yards and 0.18 TDs in losses. New England Patriots has a 61% chance of forcing more turnovers than they commit. Positive turnover margin helps them win 86% of the time.

What If Sports: New England 26, Dallas 23

It was not quite the blowout over at What If Sports. New England won 58.4% of the simulations, and the average score was only a three-point difference. Tony Romo averaged more than 300 passing yards in the simulations, but the Dallas defense had no answer for Tom Brady.

Madden: New England 49, Dallas 31

Madden gave the Dallas secondary even less credit, as the Dallas defense gave up five touchdown passes in a 49-31 loss.

Talk about offensive firepower! Tony Romo throws for 360 yards and three touchdowns but still gets upstaged by Tom Brady and his 379-yard, five-touchdown performance. Brady hit five different receivers for his five TDs, with only Chad Ochocinco left out of the end zone celebration. What else is new.

Tecmo Super Bowl 2012: Dallas 31, New England 17

The Cowboys took advantage of three Patriot fumbles in the second half, as the Cowboys improved to 4-1 on the season with a 31-17 win.

Dallas lost Felix Jones, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten to injury. However, strong games by Tashard Choice and Martellus Bennett helped fill the void.

Tony Romo’s touchdown late in the fourth quarter sealed the win for Dallas.

Week Off Helps Cowboys in the Standings but Not the Power Rankings

The Cowboys were fortunate during their bye week, given that both the Giants and Eagles lost. At 2-2, the Cowboys are just one game behind the Redskins and a half game behind the Giants. The Eagles are struggling at 1-4.

In the power rankings, the Cowboys are still in the middle of the pack. The Cowboys moved up in one poll but stayed the same in another and dropped two spots in a third poll.

ESPN: #15

The Cowboys moved up two spots in the ESPN rankings, going from #17 to #15. Dallas trails both the Giants and the Redskins.

The Cowboys don’t exactly get the easiest rebound game out of their bye week. Up next: the 4-1 Patriots.

Pete Prisco, CBS: #12

Prisco continues to have the Cowboys ranked higher than others. Dallas stayed steady at #12.

They come off the bye with a trip to New England. That should be fun if the good Tony Romo shows up. If bad Romo shows up, it could get ugly.

Brian Billick, Fox: #19

Billick obviously has no faith that the Cowboys can pull off the win against New England. I’d have to agree.

The bye week was a great opportunity for the Cowboys and, specifically, QB Tony Romo to overcome his second-half demise against the Lions in Week 4. Unfortunately for them, two weeks still won’t provide them enough prep time for the New England Patriots.

Romo Ranks in the Top 10 in Both Passer Rating Systems

Tony Romo might have had his problems helping the Cowboys to close out games, but he has not had any problems with his stat sheet.

He ranks #5 all time in career passer rating, trailing Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady. The Cowboy QB who is next highest on the list is Roger Staubach at #31.

Under the traditional passer-rating format, Romo ranks #9 this year. Here are the top 10:

1. Aaron Rodgers, 122.9
2. Tom Brady, 109.5
3. Alex Smith, 104.1
4. Eli Manning, 102.3
5. Drew Brees, 102.3
6. Matthew Stafford, 100.4
7. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 96.4
8. Matt Hasselbeck, 95.9
9. Tony Romo, 92.9
10. Matt Schaub, 92.5

Earlier this year, ESPN unveiled its Total QBR system, which considers a number of factors not considered in the traditional system. Here is a guide to understanding Total QBR, which is rather complicated. Romo right now ranks #6 after week 5.

1. Aaron Rodgers, 84.8
2. Tom Brady, 84.2
3. Matt Hasselbeck, 77.7
4. Drew Brees, 77.3
5. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 73.1
6. Tony Romo, 72.8
7. Chad Henne, 62.6
8. Philip Rivers, 62.0
9. Matthew Stafford, 61.4
10. Michael Vick, 61.3