Two weeks ago, I wrote of a 3-game litmus test looming against New Orleans, Houston, and Seattle. Test passed already. Now it's just a matter if the grade will be an A, B, or C.
Trouncing New Orleans was unexpected. A hard-fought, strength-versus-strength victory against Houston was far more predictable. Left is Seattle in the great northwestern unknown, where teams' hopes have often seen a noisy and unceremonious bludgeoning.
A decade of Cowboys history hangs pessimistically over the weekend. However, more recent events foreshadow better. I truly have no idea what to expect Sunday, but I can't wait to find out.
There's nothing wrong with 4-2, which is why that overtime win was so incredibly important. Of course, 5-1 with a win up there in that snake pit will turn the nation on its side. Imagine the pain and angst at the Cowboys for not playing the prescribed role given them as league comedy fodder. A sinkhole might engulf Landover. Steven A. Smith might switch to soccer.
While expectations should be tempered, it is imperative that Dallas plays well. A win would be glorious. A hard-fought loss would be perfectly acceptable. But a whooping at the hands of Seattle could upset the mojo and turn things a sour direction. There's your A, B, and C grade scenarios right there for the litmus test. At least the D and F possibilities are gone.
In truth, the next really important games lie after Seattle, with home games against the Giants, Redskins, and Cardinals waiting. (That is, if the Cowboys have home games anymore. We should call them “proximity games” from now on because I don't see much of a home-field advantage in this team's future going forward in that building.) Those games will have a greater effect on the playoffs for Dallas than Sunday in terms of where the Cowboys are in this redevelopment process.
I believe the Cowboys are built to play well in Seattle. The run game is the best in the biz right now and is suited for that environment. It'll milk clock, and it'll open things up for the passing game far more than what other teams can do against Seattle. Washington looked lost Monday night.
The defense is more iffy in this match-up, especially with Bruce Carter out and Rolando McClain gimpy, if not out as well. Geez, what a difference that guy makes. Best free agent signing in the NFL. Good on you, Jason and Jerry. I hope he can play, but if not, get him ready for the more-important Giants game.
What Dallas is doing defensively surprisingly reminds me of Seattle, flying to every ball and playing fast. Granted, the talent is inferior to the Seahawks' defenders, but receivers are getting almost nothing after they catch the ball. Running backs aren't breaking tackles, even when they break through to the secondary. Rod Marinelli has his defense playing well, and without Ware, Hatcher, and Lee. How is that possible? Excuse my sarcasm.
Pre-snap penalties are down. Mental mistakes are down. Romo's back is relatively quiet. The offensive line is everything it was hyped to be. And the defense isn't the worst in NFL history as the experts promised us. What we have here is a pretty tight ship, thank you.
Now it's time to open up the valves, get on the Autobahn, and get a real idea of what's under the hood. Plenty of season remains to tweak and add to the offense, and hopefully pass rush is on the way with DeMarcus Lawrence and Josh Brent. Enough with the linebacker injuries, too, if you please.
Color me intrigued. Bring it on, Seattle.