Preview: Cowboys vs. Panthers

After last week’s debacle, I thought I’d give the Nostradamus Quatrain Generator another shot. Here we go:

Question– Can the Cowboys right the ship against Carolina on Saturday night?

Our response–

Earth-shaking fire from the center of the Earth

Through his death a great schism will arise

The twelve red ones will spoil the cover

And war reign happily where it once did cease

The first line was the same one that we saw for the Packers’ game, which much be a good sign. And from the looks of things, I predict that we will make twelve trips to the red zone but will struggle to cover the 11 1/2-point spread. Cowboys should still win, though.

AccuScore

Once again, Dallas won 83% of AccuScore’s simulations. Here is the preview:

The outcome of the game is coming down to Tony Romo and his touchdown to interception ratio. In the 80 percent of simulations where the Cowboys win, Romo averages 2.2 TD passes vs. just 1 interception. In Cowboys losses he averages 1.5 TD passes and 1.5 interceptions. After several quiet weeks look for Terrell Owens to have a big game with a 50 percent chance of reaching 100 yards and 1 TD. Teams are going to start gearing up to contain Jason Witten which should leave Owens open for some big plays.

What If Sports

At What If Sports, Dallas won 90.2 percent of the simulations by an average score of 28.7 to 13.1.

Pigskin Pick’em: Dallas Favored by 11 1/2

For yet another week, all of the members of the ESPN Talent picked Dallas to win. However, only 56.9% of users picked Dallas to cover the spread. The preview:

The Cowboys are coming off a stunning home loss to the Eagles and have not wrapped up the top playoff seed in the NFC yet. Dallas is undefeated in six road games this season. The Panthers upset the Seahawks at home last week for only their second home victory in 2007. Dallas defeated Carolina on Oct. 29, 2006, 35-14.

Questions Waiting for Answers: Week 16


fancygens.com

As opposed to previous polls, this week’s version asks which of the following question is the most important on Saturday.

The biggest question that needs an answer this week is…

Can the Cowboys overcome the offensive implosion from last week’s game?
Is Tony Romo’s thumb going to continue to cause problems in the passing game?
Will the Daisy Duke/T.O. spat cause tensions that the Cowboys will have trouble overcoming?
Will Roy Williams’ suspension cause problems on defense… or perhaps resolve them?
Can the Cowboys regain their momentum in general?


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I will choose not to comment on Owens’ comments regarding Jessica Simpson. You can watch E! Online for that news. And while you’re there, you can also get caught up on Jamie Lynn Spears’ pregnancy, relevant to me only because we no longer allow our seven-year-old to watch her television show.

Roy Williams’ suspension is, however, subject to our discussion here. The NFL has upheld its previous decision:

Whatever Roy Williams and his representatives were selling Wednesday in New York, the NFL wasn’t buying.

The one-game suspension sticks.

The NFL made this official early Wednesday afternoon, denying Williams’ appeal of the one-game suspension levied on Monday after his third violation of the “horse-collar” tackle rule this year and the fourth in two years.

The Cowboys’ starting strong safety will miss Saturday’s game at Carolina, without pay, costing him his $35,000 game check and keeping him away from The Ranch until Sunday for dragging down Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb from behind in last Sunday’s 10-6 loss to the Eagles at Texas Stadium

After hearing Williams’ appeal Wednesday morning, the NFL released this statement:

“Commissioner (Roger) Goodell has denied the appeal of the one-game suspension of Roy Williams. The ‘horse-collar’ tackling technique is prohibited because the Competition Committee and the clubs have determined that it presents an unacceptable risk to player safety. Rules that protect and advance player safety must be enforced in a way that will deter violations and prevent injuries from occurring.”

Kevin Sherrington had a column the other day that I tend to agree with these days:

Just in case you thought anyone was picking on your favorite Dallas Cowboy, the NFL targeted signature defensive moves long before Roy Williams perfected the horse-collar.

Fred Williamson’s hammer and Deacon Jones’ head slap are illegal, and Samson went back to his cell after hanging a nasty clothesline in The Longest Yard.

Unless he gets a reprieve from the NFL on Wednesday, Williams will likewise sit out Saturday’s game at Carolina, and deservedly so.

How bad has this week been for No. 31? On Sunday, he’s flagged for his collar of Donovan McNabb. Monday, he’s fined $35,000 and benched.

And Tuesday, he learns that 11 Cowboys have been selected as Pro Bowl starters or reserves, and he’s not one of them.

The omission lends some credibility to his reputation as a safety that can’t cover anymore, and now the NFL isn’t so crazy about the way he tackles, either.

His coaches and teammates ought to be fed up, too. The NFL fined him twice this season and warned him in writing after the last one, and still he acted recklessly.

Even if Williams’ career clearly isn’t headed in the right direction, the Cowboys desperately need him.

He’s not so far removed from the safety that Darren Woodson once described as the best football player he’d ever seen.

Romo’s thumb provides some better news, though:

When Wade Phillips went to practice Wednesday, he did not expect Tony Romo to throw any passes because of an injured right thumb.

Not only did Romo take part in a full practice, he was able to make all of the throws, which led Phillips to believe Romo will play Saturday at Carolina.

During the portion of practice that was open to the media, Romo appeared to be cautious with his passes. Phillips said Romo did not take a snap from center, working only from the shotgun.

Romo felt a little pain on his follow through, said Phillips, who added, “he seemed pretty accurate as far as throwing the football.”

Way Too Much Information Wednesday, Pro Bowl Style

As you probably know, the Cowboys will send eleven players to the Pro Bowl this season, tying a franchise record set in 1993 and 1994. Here are the players:

Terrell Owens, WR
Flozell Adams, T
Jason Witten, TE
DeMarcus Ware, LB
Andre Gurode, C
Leonard Davis, G
Nick Folk, K
Tony Romo, QB
Marion Barber, RB
Ken Hamlin, S
Terence Newman, CB

First-Alternates:

Roy Williams, S
Greg Ellis, LB
Keith Davis, ST
Mat McBriar, P

In franchise history, the Cowboys have had ten or more players make the Pro Bowl following four other seasons, including 1967, 1993, 1994, and 1995. Below is a list of the total number of Pro Bowlers per season, according to my addition from pro-football-reference.com.

1960 – 1
1961 – 2
1962 – 5
1963 – 3
1964 – 2
1965 – 6
1966 – 9
1967 – 10
1968 – 8
1969 – 8
1970 – 3
1971 – 8
1972 – 7
1973 – 6
1974 – 7
1975 – 3
1976 – 8
1977 – 8
1978 – 9
1979 – 8
1980 – 4
1981 – 7
1982 – 7
1983 – 5
1984 – 3
1985 – 4
1986 – 0
1987 – 1
1988 – 1
1989 – 0
1990 – 1
1991 – 4
1992 – 6
1993 – 11
1994 – 11
1995 – 10
1996 – 9
1997 – 4
1998 – 6
1999 – 5
2000 – 1
2001 – 2
2002 – 1
2003 – 5
2004 – 5
2005 – 4
2006 – 7
2007 – 11

* * *

Pigskin Pick’em

What an awful week on the Pigskin Pick’em front. I missed the Thursday and Saturday night picks, then decided that the favorites might fare pretty well. Instead, only five of the favorites that I picked covered, and the one underdog that I took (Buffalo) was shut out.

Week 15: 5/16
Season: 113/224
Average: 108.3/224
Best: 140/224

This Year Could Be Like . . . ?

The water cooler talk this week has focused in part on whether the Cowboys are going to have another December meltdown like they did last year. Good question, but let’s take a look at a few other seasons to see how this year could wrap up.

Season: 1976 (11-3 record)

Final four games:

Nov. 21 (9-1) at Atlanta (3-7) L 10-17
Nov. 25 (9-2) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (8-3) W 19-14
Dec. 5 (10-2) vs. Philadelphia (3-9) W 26-7
Dec. 12 (11-2) at Washington (9-4) L 14-27

Playoffs:

Div. vs. L.A. Rams L 12-14

Why we could see a repeat:

Similar to this season, the Cowboys raced to one of their best records ever at 9-1, only to finish 11-3. A win in the season finale could have given Dallas the best record in the NFC, but instead that distinction went to Minnesota. The Cowboys in 1976 suffered from a lack of consistent running game, prompting the team to trade for the draft pick to get Tony Dorsett in the first round of the 1977 draft. There has been talk that Dallas will try to package its two first-round picks to get a running back next year.

Why it won’t happen:

Dallas had been to Super Bowl X the year before, and a return to the big game in the following year is rare. The running game was in worse shape in 1976 than it is this season, except that the team in all likelihood will be shopping for someone to back up Marion Barber.

Season: 1983 (12-4 record)

Final four games:

Nov. 24 (10-2) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (5-6-1) W 35-17
Dec. 4 (11-2) at Seattle (7-6) W 35-10
Dec. 11 (12-2) vs. Washington (12-2) L 10-31
Dec. 19 (12-3) vs. San Francisco (9-6) L 17-42

Playoffs:

Wildcard vs. L.A. Rams L 17-24

Why we could see a repeat:

The Dallas offense was surprisingly good in 1983, much like this year’s version. However, when both the offense and defense were derailed in the last two weeks of the season, Dallas could not rebound in the playoffs.

Why it won’t happen:

Dallas in 1983 had lost three consecutive championship games in the previous three seasons and was a team beginning its decline. The 1983 squad was the last team of the 1980s (and the last under Tom Landry) that had championship-quality talent, but it seemed as if the team had lost much of its drive. This year’s team is still trying to prove itself.

Season: 1992 (13-3 record)

Final four games:

Dec. 6 (10-2) at Denver (7-5) W 31-27
Dec. 13 (11-2) at Washington (8-5) L 17-20
Dec. 21 (11-3) vs. Atlanta (6-8) W 41-17
Dec. 27 (12-3) vs. Chicago (9-6) W 27-14

Playoffs:

Won Super Bowl XXVII

Why we could see a repeat:

Dallas gained a great deal of momentum in the final two weeks of the season by routing Atlanta on the road and then finishing up against Chicago. The win against Denver was more difficult than expected because the Broncos were forced to start third-stringer Shawn Moore, yet the Cowboys had to pull out the win on a last-minute drive. The Cowboys fell apart in the loss to Washington. In 2007, we’ve seen a last-second win against an inferior club, followed by a disappointing loss to a division rival. Dallas can still regain some momentum in the final two weeks of this year with strong wins over Carolina and Washington.

Why it won’t happen:

The 1992 club was more balanced in the various facets of the game and also had a deeper roster. The 2007 club is inconsistent on the ground, and its defense has some weak spots that other teams can exploit.

Season: 2006 (9-7 record)

Final four games:

Dec. 10 (8-4) vs. New Orleans (8-4) L 17-42
Dec. 16 (8-5) at Atlanta (7-6) W 38-28
Dec. 25 (9-5) vs. Philadelphia (8-6) L 7-23
Dec. 31 (9-6) vs. Detroit (2-13) L 31-39

Playoffs:

Wildcard vs. Seattle L 20-21

Why we could see a repeat:

The 2006 team was exposed on both sides of the ball in three of their final four games, especially on the defensive side. The home losses in both seasons to the Eagles were similar in many ways, with Philadelphia demonstrating that it could keep the Dallas offense on ice.

Why it won’t happen:

This Dallas team has proven to be more resilient than the 2006 squad, at least thus far. Both Dallas losses have come on the heals of very tough, last second wins, and the Cowboys were able to bounce back from the loss to New England very well.

Instant Scratch-Off Trivia: The Horse Collar Edition

Dallas will be without Roy Williams on Saturday against the Carolina Panthers due to his third violation of the “ROY WILLIAMS RULE.” Mind you, when I said yesterday that he ought to be suspended, I wasn’t thinking that it would actually come true. Nevertheless, I feel about as bad for him as I would feel for: (a) someone who can’t seem to quit drinking and driving, or (b) former Dallas tackle Erik Williams, who couldn’t quite bring himself to quit violating the “ERIK WILLIAMS RULE.”

Anyway, here’s more from the Cowboys’ official site:

Roy Williams’ third violation of the NFL’s illegal “horse-collar” tackle rule this year has earned him a one-game suspension without pay, the league announced late Monday.

The Cowboys’ Pro Bowl safety will not be eligible to play in Saturday’s nationally-televised game at Carolina (7:15 p.m. CST) on the NFL Network (Channel 27 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area) after NFL director of football operations Gene Washington’s swift ruling.

Williams received a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for his horse-collar tackle on Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in Sunday’s 10-6 loss to Philadelphia. The play marked Williams’ third violation this season, and the fourth in the past two seasons.

The one-game suspension will cost Williams $35,000, or 1/17 his $595,000 base salary.

The NFL already has fined Williams $27,500 this season for a pair of horse-collar tackles, an illegal technique that includes “grabbing the inside collar of the back of the shoulder pads or jersey, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling down the runner,” according to the NFL’s definition.

Williams was fined $12,500 for tackling Bears tight end Desmond Clark in Week 3 and another $15,000 two weeks later for collaring Bills running back Marshawn Lynch. In 2006, Williams coughed up $10,000 for using the horse-collar technique on former Giants running back Tiki Barber.

[Incidentally, I am not one of those who thinks we should (or could) trade or release Williams. I simply think that the penalty was about as stupid as it gets. Just my opinion.]

So in honor of Roy’s one-week hiatus, here are some trivia questions about the All-Pro safety.

Question #1: When Williams did not take the field to start the Thanksgiving Day game against the Jets, it ended a streak of how many games that Williams had started?


Get Your Own Scratch

Question #2: During which season did Williams injure Terrell Owens’ leg with a horse collar tackle, and what was the outcome of the game?


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Question #3: In addition to Williams, which other players have been named as finalists in the Home Depot NFL Neighborhood MVP contest?


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Still time to vote here

Philadelphia 10, Dallas 6: All Out of Miracles

This result of today’s loss to Philadelphia was bound to happen, I suppose, given that the Cowboys have started slowly in so many games. This was still hard to take, though. The Cowboys had chance after chance today, only to fail to capitalize. Here are the key plays:

* 1st Quarter (10:39): Julius Jones gains five yards on a first down run. He also finished the game with five yards. There is no reason at all for him to be a starter.

* 1st Quarter (9:53): Tony Romo missed Terrell Owens on a deep route that may have gone all the way. It was the first of a number of bad throws. It was followed by a drop by Sam Hurd.

* 1st Quarter (6:23): Roy Williams called for a horse collar tackle on Donovan McNabb, putting the ball in Dallas territory. Williams needs to be suspended, just for being so stupid that he can’t avoid committing a penalty named after him.

* 1st Quarter (4:38): David Akers misses a 47-yard field goal. This should have given Dallas some momentum. Should have (…it was a three-and-out).

* 2nd Quarter (11:32): Tony Romo hits Jason Witten on a 53-yard pass, giving the tight end more than 1,000 yards this season (his first). Ordinarily, this would spark the Dallas offense, but…

* 2nd Quarter (9:57): Romo is picked off by Quintin Mikell in the end zone. For some odd reason, Mikell decides to run it out, fumbling it back to Dallas at the 14. Big break for the Cowboys, who could not move the ball any further, settling for a field goal.

* 2nd Quarter (2:23): Instead of a momentum-building final drive of the first half, Romo threw the worst pass of the day. Trying to force the ball to Owens, he was instead picked off by Lito Sheppard. This set up the Eagles’ touchdown at the end of the first half, and Dallas would never lead again.

* 3rd Quarter (8:30): Dallas moved the ball to the Philadelphia 3 but was unable to punch it in. A field goal cut the lead to 7-6.

* 4th Quarter (13:34): An Akers field goal effectively put the game away, because the Dallas offense had fallen apart at that point.

* 4th Quarter (2:57): On the would-be final comeback drive, Romo followed up a sack by throwing to Philadelphia safety Brian Dawkins.

* 4th Quarter (2:38): The Eagles faced a 3rd and 9 when McNabb hit Brent Celek on a 29-yard pass. This allowed the Eagles to run the clock out in Dallas territory.

What This Loss Means

Dallas and Green Bay now have identical 12-2 records. Dallas needs to stay even with the Packers to have home field advantage (though, to be sure, I’m not sure that home field is all that important to this year’s squad).

On the brighter side, the Cowboys earned a first-round bye due to Seattle’s 13-10 loss to the Panthers.

Final Two Opponents

The Panthers and Redskins both won this week against teams with better records, so the Cowboys do not have the cakewalk that we might have wanted.

Video Highlights

Some people are having trouble with my videos starting automatically. To watch this video, click here.

Cowboys-Eagles Glog

Friends, thanks to a Carolina Panthers win over Seattle, the Cowboys officially get a first-round bye. The Packers, however, will beat the Rams, and so home field advantage will have to wait another week.

Terence Newman, Patrick Crayton, and Marc Columbo will all suit up today. Inactives this week are CB Alan Ball, CB Evan Oglesby, RB Tyson Thompson, G Joe Berger, OT Doug Free, OT James Marten and WR Isaiah Stanback.

Preview: Cowboys vs. Eagles, Week 15

The Cowboys may very well have clinched home field advantage after the game tomorrow, but this hardly makes tomorrow’s game any more interesting. Still hard to believe that the game is largely meaningless, and hopefully tomorrow results in more excitement.

For the video preview from NFL Films, click here.

And the preview from Yahoo:

The last time the Dallas Cowboys won 13 games in a regular season, they won the first of three Super Bowl titles during a dominating stretch in the 1990s.

This year’s Cowboys show signs of having similar potential.

A week after clinching the division, Dallas looks to take the next step and guarantee a first-round playoff bye when it hosts the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

The Cowboys (12-1) come in having won seven straight since suffering their only loss of the season to New England on Oct. 14. Dallas rallied to win 28-27 last Sunday against the Detroit Lions to capture the NFC East title for the first time since 1998.

Tony Romo was 35-of-44 for 302 yards and two touchdowns, recording his seventh 300-yard effort of the season. The Cowboys scored 14 points in the final quarter, completing the comeback on Romo’s 16-yard TD pass to Jason Witten with 18 seconds left in the game.

“We still have more to accomplish. It’s a stepping stone of what we’ve wanted to do from the start of the season,” linebacker Akin Ayodele said. “For us, we can cross out one of our goals, and we can move on to the next.”

The Cowboys are now setting their sights on wrapping up a first-round bye with a win or a Seattle loss at Carolina on Sunday. They also could guarantee themselves home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs with a win and a Green Bay loss at St. Louis.

“As soon as we got those (NFC East champion) hats, (coach Wade Phillips) was saying home field, and there’s so much more,” Witten said.

Witten and the Cowboys realize just making the playoffs won’t be good enough for one of the best teams in franchise history. Only the 1992 Dallas team with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin won 13 games in a regular season. That team went on to win the Super Bowl, the first of three it won over a four-year stretch.

Terrell Owens said the Cowboys’ rise to prominence this year didn’t surprise him.

“I had a feeling this season was going to be very special,” he said. “Knowing that we had a new coach and they added me to the guys on this team and the talent of the guys on this team.”

Sunday will be the fourth time Owens will face the Eagles (5-8) since his acrimonious exit from Philadelphia at the end of the 2005 season. Owens had 10 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown in Dallas’ 38-17 win over the Eagles on Nov. 4 in Philadelphia.

“I know there are things I probably could’ve done differently,” he said when asked if he had any regrets about his time with the Eagles. “Overall, I’m content with where I am. I honestly know that everything that was reported when I got suspended there wasn’t true. Everything happens for a reason. I feel like I got the better end of the deal.”

AccuScore

For the second week in a row, Dallas won 83% of AccuScore’s simulations, still surprising given the Eagles dominance of the Cowboys until this year. Here is the preview:

Even though this is a huge rivalry, it will be hard for the Eagles to play with passion given that their playoff hopes are dashed and Donovan McNabb may be playing his final few games as an Eagle. Do not look for sympathy from Terrell Owens and Tony Romo. After a subpar Week 13, the combo comes back with 6 receptions, 100 yards and 1 TD. Jason Witten follows up his massive 15 reception performance with 6 more receptions this week. With the passing game cruising for the first half, the rushing game takes over to close the game and look for Marion Barber to rush for another TD. The Cowboys effectively limit Brian Westbrook to just 110 total rushing and receiving yards.

What If Sports

At What If Sports, Dallas won 82.0 percent of the simulations by an average score of 30.6 to 14.2. We don’t need a repeat of last week, though.

Pigskin Pick’em: Dallas Favored by 10 1/2

All of the members of the ESPN Talent picked Dallas to win. ESPN users are less certain, with 59.0% picking Dallas to cover the 10 1/2-point spread.

The Eagles swept the season series last year, but the Cowboys won the first meeting this year. On Nov. 4, Dallas scored a 38-17 win over Philadelphia. Terrell Owens caught 10 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown against his former team. Marion Barber totaled 106 yards from scrimmage and scored on a five-yard run.

Questions Waiting for Answers: Week 15

Dallas is playing its hated division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, on Sunday with a chance to clinch a first round bye, and possible clinch home field advantage. What do we get to talk about?

(a) Whether we should give credit for this season to Bill Parcells (sure, but good riddance otherwise).

(b) Whether T.O. is better for the Cowboys than Keyshawn Johnson was (sure, but what’s the point?)

So we’ll start off with this for our Questions Waiting for Answers.

Will Terrell Owens find something else to talk about other than Keyshawn Johnson?

No.
Yes
T.O. can say want he wants. He’s a big reason we are where we are.
T.O. is still a jackass. Who cares?


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I just don’t care about this. But if you do, here is the latest from T.O.:

Enjoy!

Will the Cowboys remember that we still hate the Eagles, even more so than the Giants?

Sure, as long as Parcells still gets sufficient credit for. .. . anything, really.
No. We’re too busy looking ahead.
No. And the Giants are our biggest rival these days.
Yes, because nothing will stop us from going 15-1 this year.


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I’m really searching hard for poll questions. You might have noticed.

Will the Dallas defense step up this week?

Yes. This isn’t 2006, no matter what it looked like last week.
Yes. Wade will get us back on track.
No. The Lions have exposed us.
No, but it’s only because the Eagles offense won’t show up.


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With regard to our last question, there is plenty of blame to go around from last week:

On Monday, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips took the blame for his defense’s struggles in Detroit.

On Thursday, he got company. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and safety Roy Williams held themselves accountable as the team prepared for Sunday’s game against the Eagles.

“Players executed their game plan,” Stewart said. “They executed their game plan against Green Bay, and the quarterback ended up not being able to finish the game. … And then going into this game against Detroit, they ran the ball more than we anticipated.

“So that’s fine, as long as our guys go through the game plan we put forth, it’s on me to do the adjusting.”

Williams’ problems, meanwhile, came early on. The safety took a bad angle to the ball on a 10-yard run by Kevin Jones in the first quarter. Then he overran T.J. Duckett on the 34-yard touchdown that gave the Lions a 7-0 lead. The four-time Pro Bowler had no problem taking his share of the blame, while adding that the problems are correctable.

“Yes, we got gashed,” Williams said, referring to the Lions racking up a season-high 152 rushing yards. “There was maybe one or two players out of position, and that’s it. You know what? I was out of position.”

Way Too Much Information Wednesday: Videos Galore

There are a bunch of Dallas Cowboys videos available, so I thought I would provide a few of these for Way Too Much Information Wednesday. Here we go:

Cowboys-Lions Highlights

Here are some good highlights of last week’s win over Detroit:

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Tony Romo Highlights

Here is a clip featuring Tony Romo highlights:

Terrell Owens

Owens was the feature in a few video clips:

And, um, T.O. warming up:

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