Dallas Cowboys: Progress Report Headed into Week 11

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Dallas Cowboys: Progress Report Headed into Week 11
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The NFC East is extremely winnable for the Dallas Cowboys. They'll likely be favored the next two weeks, which means that if everything goes as planned and the New York Giants fall to the Packers in Week 12, the 'Boys will actually be leading the division on Nov. 26. 

Of course, things rarely go as planned in Dallas these days, and it probably wouldn't shock anyone to see the G-men rally hard to close the door anyway. 

The point, though, is that the 'Boys have a real opportunity here. This team is talented enough to go deep in the playoffs, assuming what happens over the next seven weeks isn't too little or too late.

Here's a look at the state of the Cowboys as they enter the home stretch.

 

What They Should Be Thinking

Glass Half-Empty

Despite a double-digit victory in Philadelphia, the offense itself still only created 17 points. We deserve credit for a punt return touchdown, a pick-six and a forced/recovered fumble in the Eagles' end zone, but let's not assume the offense is suddenly back because of that 38 number. We still haven't hit the 30 mark on offense this season.

And with DeMarco Murray likely to remain out, there's a chance not a lot will change. 

It was nice to see the defense start to make some plays against Philly, but we still surrendered 23 points, primarily against a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut. The lapse in coverage that left Jeremy Maclin wide open on his 44-yard touchdown was unacceptable, and we failed to take advantage of several turnover opportunities presented to us by Nick Foles.

Plus, it's a little discouraging that we were only able to sack Foles twice (and Vick zero times) despite the fact we're pretty sure there are former Lingerie Football League players starting on their offensive line. Despite possessing DeMarcus Ware, we have just 18 sacks in nine games, which ranks 20th in the league.

Oh, and we're still taking far too many penalties. We drew 13 flags against Philadelphia and continue to be the league's most penalized team. 

We merely survived against an Eagles team that hasn't won since September, so what makes us think we can win consistently between now and the end of the year, regardless of how weak the competition is?

 

Glass Half-Full

The points will begin to flow soon. Murray should be back before it's too late (and Felix Jones has found a rhythm in the meantime), Dez Bryant has finally gotten on track, and the offensive line is in better shape this year than it was last year. Keeping in mind that Miles Austin and Jason Witten are having great seasons and that Tony Romo appears to be getting better as the season progresses, it's only a matter of time before we bust out.

We've also kicked our turnover habit, with no giveaways since that Week 8 debacle against the Giants. And on defense, we're finally beginning to get takeaways. 

The D isn't quite the same without Sean Lee, but our coverage has generally been superb. Morris Claiborne had a roughing outing against the Eagles, but he's been good more often than he's been bad. And once again, DeMarcus Ware is near the top of the league in sacks. 

If this team is indeed about to peak, the timing couldn't be better. No one's running away with the NFC East crown or the final wild-card spot this year, so we're more than alive, and we have the personnel to make a run.

 

What I'm Thinking

Stock Rising (Offense): Tony Romo

With more support coming from the guys surrounding him, Romo has really started to get back into a groove now for the first time since Week 1. He's now gone 70 passes without an interception and is looking more accurate than ever. He only had 209 passing yards against the Eagles, but he gave them what they needed.

 

Stock Rising (Defense): Anthony Spencer

Nobody on this defense is playing as well as Spencer right now. Ware's underrated "sidekick" had four pressures, three defensive stops (per Pro Football Focus) and was great against the run and in coverage against the Eagles. He's the key reason why they aren't completely screwed without Lee.

 

Stock Dropping (Offense): Nate Livings

The veteran guard's been fairly steady all year, but he gave up two sacks against the Eagles. That's enough to make him the top stock dropper on what was otherwise a solid day for everyone on offense. 

 

Stock Dropping (Defense): Morris Claiborne

Cornerbacks have to have short memories, but that's the kind of game Claiborne will never forget. He took a ridiculous five penalties, costing his team a pick-six in the process and becoming the league's second-most penalized corner in one afternoon. He was also beaten four times on five targets, according to PFF, and surrendered a touchdown to Riley Cooper. 

 

Outlook

The advantage comes with their schedule. The winning percentage of their seven remaining opponents is a laughable .397. So while I still don't completely trust this team, I can see them winning four or five of those games. If it's four, they're done. If it's five, they'll likely have a shot when they play Washington in Week 17. 

It'll be a fun race to watch, but my feeling right now is that the 'Boys will fall short for the third consecutive year. That said, I continue to feel better and better about the 2013 Cowboys, and I believe Jason Garrett deserves another shot regardless. 

View last week's report here

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