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Mediocrity Seeks a Champion: Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants?

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No matter which team wins on Sunday, the NFL East champion will have a record of 9-7. Either the Dallas Cowboys, or the New York Giants will emerge with the title of “champion” regardless of a lackluster season, riddled with boneheaded mistakes and poor play. The once strong division is suffering, not from a poverty of stars, but from a deluge of penalties, interceptions, and generally poor play.

It is ironic that the division team with the worst record, the Washington Redskins, is a team that is looking stronger at the end of the season when it counts. The Redskins have a record of 2-3 in their last five games. It doesn’t sound great, but it’s the same record that both the Cowboys and Giants, the title contenders, have over the same period.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who are 3-2 over the last five games, have a 4-1 record against the division teams, displaying once again that head coach Andy Reid is the coach to fear in the division. With a win against the Redskins this weekend, the Eagles can post an admirable 5-1 record in division play, but they will end the season in second place at best.

Three Things That Need to Happen for a Cowboys Victory

First, the Cowboys have to win the turnover battle. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been prone to interceptions recently, and the Cowboys will need the advantages that turnovers give them. The biggest advantage is that intercepting a Manning pass can stop what often turns out to be an undeniable momentum when Manning is connecting with receivers.

photo Terence NewmanWinning the turnover battle will require much better play from the pass rushers on the Cowboys side of the ball as well as an elevated performance by the Dallas secondary, particularly the play of Terence Newman who has been beaten badly on many routes since coming back from an early season injury.

Secondly, at the line of scrimmage, the Dallas line, offensively and defensively, must win the battle over the running game. The Cowboys offensive line is shaky, though they have performed very well at times during the season. They are young, but they have to play like savvy veterans and without stupid penalties.

Brandon Jacobs photoThe defensive front line simply has to beat their blockers in the one-on-one game of line play. If Ahmad Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs are allowed to run through the line as Jacobs did in his last encounter with the Cowboys, the game will be over.

Getting Giants turnovers will be relative to how much Manning has to pass. Combined, Jacobs and Bradshaw have only lost one fumble among them this year. A controlled running game by the Giants will reduce turnovers, and the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys, Rob Ryan, will have to take care of the running game strategy on defense.

It sounds absurd to suggest that a Cowboys victory depends on how much Manning has to pass, especially given his skill, but when the ball is up in the air, the Cowboys actually have a better chance of winning the turnover game, which is the key to their victory.

Thirdly, head coach Jason Garrett will have to be at his best. In spite of the confidence crushing event of the previous week, when owner Jerry Jones went to the sidelines to conference with Garrett about keeping quarterback, Tony Romo, and running back, Felix Jones, out of the game, Garrett will have to call the plays and take the risks that are associated with winning championships. He cannot allow himself to second guess, wondering WWJD (What would Jerry do?).

Sunday’s Game

My strong hunch is that the Cowboys season will end on Sunday. They may win the turnover battle, but the Giants have a running game that the Cowboys have not shown themselves capable of stopping. With the Giants’ strong running game, Dallas will be neutralized, in spite of how well their offense plays.

If the Cowboys lose, and Philadelphia wins, the Cowboys will move from first to third place in the division, and it will be the position that accurately reflects the disappointing season they have had.

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About ToddT

I enjoy baseball and writing about it. I pay to see independent league play, the Fort Worth Cats and the Grand Prairie AirHogs, and I follow the Texas Rangers rather passionately. A native of the Dallas area, I am nearing 60 years old, and I have been married to my college sweetheart for 36 years and counting.
  • Mark Bickham…

    Once again just enough was done to warrant a ….wait till next year attitude…with the same tired old lines…if we stay healthy..and if Romo gets it….well ..he’s in his 30’s now….and its still wait till next year…

  • http://www.moviesaboutgladiators.com/ DF

    Jerry Jones has a way of blaming someone each year for the failures of the previous season. Who does he blame this year? (Assuming you’re correct that the Cowboys lose on Sunday). Does it ever come down to Romo?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/toddt/ Todd Thompson

    Jerry Jones is running out of fingers to point. I suspect he will blame the season on Garrett’s inexperience as a head coach, but he will do it with his usual attempt at subtlety. Jerry’s own fingerprints are all over this one. Garrett was his fair-haired boy for a long time, and he doesn’t want to look bad. He will defend the Garrett hiring while, at the same time, pointing a finger at him.

    As far as Romo is concerned, there is always just enough evidence to justify keeping Romo in the position of QB. His mistakes have lost big games, but then his numbers are so good at times, he’s very difficult to replace.

    There were a lot of opinions, before the season started, saying this was Romo’s make-or-break year. I think he has survived it, and Romo won’t be touched unless he pulls another ridiculous stunt this weekend. It’s a big game for both Garrett and Romo.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    I know it’s not just me, because I’ve talked about this to other people: there does seem to be a mindset among TV commentators and pundits that Tony Romo can do no wrong. Whenever a Cowboys play goes pear-shaped, even if it’s blindingly obvious to everyone watching that he screwed up, it’s never his fault – it’s always the rest of the offensive line who are to blame.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/toddt/ Todd Thompson

    Dreadful, you’re onto something there that bugs me a lot, too. Media-made star athletes are often disappointing on the field or court of play. The other side of this is that there are athletes who never make it big in media, though they are better contributors to a team’s success than the media-made types are.

    In my articles on the Dallas Cowboys, I’ve noticed, I mention the play of linemen more than most people do. In part, this is because I played on the line, but I also know that without strength up front no one else can be a legitimate star. Troy Aikman used to give the Dallas offensive line some pretty nice gifts after a championship. He recognized their value.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Media-made star athletes are often disappointing on the field or court of play.

    You’re right there, Todd. Anna Kournikova is perhaps the best example of that. There was so much fuss made of her – could it perhaps have been because she’s drop dead gorgeous? – and at the big tournaments like Wimbledon and the US Open she always got to play on the show courts… yet she was a mediocre player and never won a pro tennis title.