Dallas Cowboys: Progress Report Headed into Week 9

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Dallas Cowboys: Progress Report Headed into Week 9
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Dallas Cowboys haven't been outplayed by an opponent since they were dominated by the Chicago Bears before their bye week on Oct. 1. That's good.

But the Cowboys have only won once since that date. That's bad.

Dallas' hopes of winning the NFC East took a Texas-sized hit when it fell a few fingertips short against the division-leading New York Giants in Week 8, but the 'Boys still have a chance of fighting back to gain a playoff spot. 

Here's where they stand headed into Week 9 and the month of November.

 

What They Should Be Thinking

Glass Half-Empty

We don't have the focus or the discipline to compete with the big boys in the NFC. None of the conference's four division leaders have more than 11 turnovers this season, while we have 19.

We're talented enough that, for the most part, we've contended despite such sloppiness, but it looks as though now it's costing us, because we would have beaten the Giants and controlled our own destiny going forward had we not committed an obscene number of giveaways in that game (six in total).

We continue to lack pop in the running game and don't know for sure when DeMarco Murray's coming back, and it's only a matter of time before not having Sean Lee patrolling the middle hurts us badly on defense. That's especially the case now that Dan Connor's hurt, too. 

Oh, and now we have to face the best team in football, at least according to their record. Atlanta just stomped on the Eagles to move to 7-0 and now gets to play us in the comforting confines of the Georgia Dome in prime time. The Falcons will be looking to make a statement, and that defense can make plays. That's scary, considering the fact that our quarterback already has more interceptions this season than he's had since 2008.

There's a very good chance we lose that game, and with these injuries and bad habits, it'll be almost impossible to battle back from 3-5.

 

Glass Half-Full

Um, we probably should have beaten the Giants despite six turnovers and not having two of our best players in Sean Lee or DeMarco Murray. We won't be turning the ball over like that for good—nobody does—and we're going to get Murray back soon. With that being the case, there's no reason we can't finally begin to post some consistent victories during the second half of the season. 

We can still earn the tiebreaker over the Giants by winning three or four of our final four divisional games, and those guys always struggle during the second half of the season. Even if the NFC East race is over (and we believe it isn't), we're only a game and a half back of the last wild-card spot. 

Romo's interception-plagued start to the season was an anomaly, and that could change now that we're more desperate. If Murray can come back soon and Dez Bryant can continue to cut down on mental mistakes, we can plow through the remaining schedule in a big way. 

Consider, too, that our pass coverage was unbelievable against the Giants. Our cornerbacks smothered Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks throughout that game. It's simply amazing that we were able to do that despite not having Lee to deal with backs and tight ends and despite generating only a tepid pass rush (we only hurried Eli Manning seven times, according to Pro Football Focus).

This team is good enough to make a charge. We just have to stay focused.

 

What I'm Thinking

Stock Rising (Offense): Jason Witten

Any time you set a new record for receptions in a game at your position, your stock is rising. Witten caught 18 passes on 23 targets, dominating the Giants defense Sunday. Suddenly, after a terrible start, he's on pace for one of his best seasons as a pro.

 

Stock Rising (Defense): Brandon Carr

He had been quite the disappointment through seven weeks, but Carr put forward a fantastic performance against Cruz Sunday, giving up only one six-yard catch to the Giants' most dangerous weapon. He and Morris Claiborne are going to make up one hell of a duo.

 

Stock Dropping (Offense): Tony Romo

Romo's numbers have dropped off this year in every single relevant category, and in some cases by a huge margin. After a four-interception game against New York, he now has at least three more interceptions than every other quarterback in football this season. He's not getting a ton of support, but this is still baffling.

 

Stock Dropping (Defense): DeMarcus Ware 

It's hard to find anyone on this defense who deserves to be here, so we'll go with Ware. He's the leader of the pass rush, and they didn't get quite enough pressure on Manning Sunday. The veteran linebacker did have a single sack, but only two hurries, according to PFF, and two penalties. 

 

Outlook

The next two weeks will make or break the Cowboys' season. They have to travel to Atlanta to take on the league's lone unbeaten team before traveling to Philadelphia to play the desperate Eagles, by whom they were dominated twice last season.

This certainly doesn't feel like a team that can overcome such obstacles, but if they can pull it off, things get a bit easier during the stretch run.

Don't tune them out yet, but everything points to the Cowboys missing the playoffs for the third straight year, 

View last week's report here

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