Hello Dallas Cowboys Nation. It’s been some time since we’ve all been so proud and full of celebratory bliss but the time now is nice. The Cowboys knocked the Eagles off the top of the NFC East to claim sole possession of it themselves, and did so not by simply being the team to make the fewest mistakes on the field, but the team that dominated the game just enough to prevail the victors.
105.3 FM “The Fan” aired the word “substance” often Monday morning. They weren’t talking about drugs or media coverage though, well they did but we’ll get to that later. They remarked that the Cowboys won that game with substance, meaning they had a plan and executed it. They saw the obstacles and overcame them. They played good and sound football to win the game.
Sure, the running game was a little weak until the fourth quarter, and you wouldn’t really expect that from the triple threat combo of Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones, but it happened. In the fourth quarter though, Barber came out and did exactly what he is best at doing – dominating and punishing a worn out defense in the final 15 minutes to control the clock. That’s the role he is most suited for, the closer, and the coaches should be more mindful of that the next time he takes a first quarter handoff and runs into the dozen players waiting for him up the middle. Getting knocked on his butt isn’t really the ideal way to win games.
Miles Austin was rather absent for much of the game as well. He was thrown to maybe 4 times and had but one catch, albeit for a touchdown over 30 yards. And keep in mind that his touchdown was the game winner … again.
But perhaps the biggest story of the game as far as the players go comes down to Tony Romo and Roy Williams finally showing some signs of meshing, of finding that elusive same page, and making something happen with it.
Just as Wade Phillips said, and others … It did appear that many of the passes to Williams before Sunday were either too high, thrown behind, or simply not where he was. Most of us would likely agree, regardless of any personal feelings against Romo, that an experienced quarterback is going to know pretty well where the route goes, so does that mean that Williams has been to blame? Maybe.
Williams caught something like 5 of 7 balls for 75 yards Sunday night in Philly and while it wasn’t a spectacular performance by any means, unless you’re the Browns, it was solid and that is what we’ve needed more of from our number 1 receiver – solid play.
If he plays solid and runs good routes and even catches half of the passes directed toward him, he’ll likely continue to see enough double coverage’s to help Witten, Bennett, Crayton, Austin, Hurd, and even Ogletree. Not to mention the benefits for the running game. So while it again was nothing worthy of praise, it was a long overdue spark to the chemistry that he and Romo must develop for this team to achieve anything beyond a divisional title this year.
And let’s face it, the Cowboys only winning the NFC East this year will be considered a bust for the season, and rightly so. We’ve won the division a few times since 1996 – the last time we won a playoff game. So doing so this year wouldn’t amount to anything more than the same and maintaining status quo this year will be the only sure fire way to lose Wade Phillips his title of Head Coach.
Which brings me to a brief mention of The Fan’s topic on firing Wade. The local press around here has been calling for Wade’s dismissal as recently as the week following the Kansas City game. Granted, that game should have been a blow out, an easy win for us, even if the team was supposed to view it as anything but that – easy.
We struggled in all aspects of that game including making the fourth quarter stop to put the game away, sending it into overtime. But the one great thing that came out of that game was that in our times of trouble, Miles Austin was given a real shot to make a play, and did he ever accomplish that.
He played so good in that game, setting a franchise record or two in the process, that he booted Crayton as the #2 guy immediately. Funny thing about that though, this team has been lacking so much of what makes a team a team. But as soon as Crayton is relegated to the third spot, he didn’t just sulk and make snide comments to the media like he and others have done before when unhappy. No, he went out instead and made the most of his remaining duties.
Two weeks in a row, Mr. Consistent who usually averages only 10 yards on punt returns goes and breaks one for six. Who would have ever saw that coming? That’s a teammate right there. Basically in the dog house and he just works harder and ends up making two huge plays in an area of the game that has been seriously raunchy up until this year – special teams.
So I’m pretty happy about this team right now. So much so that I’ve had to watch myself so that I don’t get too excited. I really think we’re playing like a Team that’s ready to compete for the Lombardi Trophy. And a game into November I don’t expect anything to change right away, not until after the Thanksgiving game against Oakland – not until we hit December.
It’s time to see if this team finding some of its identity and unity is enough to not only win games, but win in December and beyond. Let us hope.
Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report
Though it's still early in the 2018 season, the lead in the NFC East is up for grabs when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet this Sunday. Both teams would like their full roster available for the game, but the Week 7 injury reports indicate that won't be the case.
Here are the players either confirmed to be out of action tomorrow or are otherwise listed by Dallas and Washington:
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
- LB Joe Thomas (foot) - OUT
- CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) - Questionable
The Cowboys are getting healthier, with Sean Lee finally off the injury report and set to return to action. Not only will Dallas get their elite linebacker back, but it means a deeper rotation while the team remains without Joe Thomas.
Tavon Austin elected to skip season-ending surgery on his injured groin, but his should be out a few weeks. That will put Cole Beasley on punt returns and perhaps create more offensive opportunities for Deonte Thompson and Brice Butler.
Awuzie remains limited in practice but has played the last few weeks despite the ankle injury. There is no reason to think he won't suit up in Washington.
- WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) - OUT
- WR Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) - Doubtful
- S Troy Apke (hamstring) - Doubtful
- RB Adrian Peterson (ankle, shoulder) - Questionable
- RB Chris Thompson (rib, knee) - Questionable
- G Shawn Lauvao (calf) - Questionable
- CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) - Questionable
- CB Danny Johnson (forearm) - Questionable
It's a rough time for Washington's offensive weapons. They will definitely be without slot receiver Jamison Crowder and likely starter Paul Richardson, who current lead all WRs in receptions. Josh Doctson will put into a major role, as will veteran Brian Quick off the bench.
Peterson and Thompson both practiced this week and should play, but have nagging injuries that could slow them down. Washington is already missing Rob Kelley and rookie Derrius Guice, who are both on injured reserve.
Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao is also nursing a lower leg injury, but practiced in a limited capacity all week. His backup is undrafted rookie Casey Dunn out of Auburn.
In the defensive backfield, starting CB Quinton Dunbar was a Friday addition to the injury report with a shin injury. He did practice with it, though, so will likely play. Backup safety Troy Apke is doubtful with a hamstring issue.
Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.
Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.
Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.
Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.
Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.
The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.
Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.
Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.
Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.
Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.
He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.
If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.
Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.
Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.
That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.
#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance
It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.
But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.
According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.
Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.
What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.
For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.
As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.
Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.
Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).
Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.
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