Dallas Cowboys: Progress Report Headed into Week 12

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 18:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against  Jabaal Sheard #97 of the Cleveland Browns at Cowboys Stadium on November 18, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It's an expedited week of preparation for the Dallas Cowboys, who host the Washington Redskins in less than 48 hours on Thanksgiving Thursday.

Dallas has won back-to-back games for the first time since November of 2011. On that streak, they were able to make it three in a row with a win over Washington, but they'll have their hands full with an equally desperate Redskins team this time around.

Here's how we view the Cowboys headed into that matchup.



What They Should Be Thinking

Glass Half-Empty

Suddenly the fact that we needed a late flurry of scores to beat the Eagles is a little embarrassing, because Philadelphia was hammered by Washington this past week, and the 'Skins just happen to be our next opponent. 

Our offense is too depleted right now. It looks as though we'll be without Tyron Smith and DeMarco Murray again Thursday, and with little protection and no support from the running game Tony Romo was sacked a career-high seven times against Cleveland. 

The Redskins aren't necessarily better than the Browns defensively, but our defense won't be able to compensate as easily against a Robert Griffin III-led passing attack that posted a perfect passer rating on Sunday. Rookie quarterbacks weren't all created equal, and our hands will be much more full with RG3 than they were with Brandon Weeden. 

Overall, it seems like we're fighting a losing battle. 



Glass Half-Full

All that matters is we beat the Eagles and beat the Browns and now we're at home on Thanksgiving for a Redskins team that is probably even more banged up than we are. The schedule's a cinch and the division-leading Giants are in tough with a difficult set of games to finish the year. We basically control our own destiny, and we've been winning more than anyone else in the division lately.

Plus, if we can survive against the Redskins, there's a good chance we'll get guys like Smith, Murray, Phil Costa and Ryan Cook back with lots of time to rest before meeting the terrible Eagles again next Sunday. Considering how well our other skill position guys have been playing, that could mean we're in for a big run.

Plus, this defense is playing very well. The coverage has been much-improved this season and DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer are on top of their game. We could use Sean Lee and Kenyon Coleman, but guys have been stepping up left and right and we're taking care of business. 

Overall, there's little reason we can't pull this off.



What I'm Thinking

Stock Rising (offense): Dez Bryant

Twelve catches, a career-high 145 yards and a touchdown against the Browns for Bryant, who hasn't dropped a pass in three weeks. His stock's never been higher.



Stock Rising (defense): Gerald Sensabaugh 

That beautiful stick on Trent Richardson alone gets him here. That's how you tackle, and it was a game-altering play. He had a superb game against the run, too. 



Stock Dropping (offense): Doug Free

I don't know if it's possible for his stock to drop any further. Free is quite simply one of the worst tackles in the NFL. He has no business starting after giving up three more sacks Sunday, but the Cowboys have no one else to turn to. 



Stock Dropping (defense): Marcus Spears

The D played well Sunday against Cleveland so it wasn't easy to find a candidate for this spot, but Spears struggled a fair bit in his first start in place of Coleman. 




The schedule is hilariously easy, but Dallas hasn't dominated anybody all season so nothing's a gimme. This is a team that is dealing with some big injuries and has been inconsistent all season. I don't trust them at this point, but I still think they'll hang in until the final week or two of the season. 

Right now, though, I'm still picking the Giants as the only playoff team in the NFC East. 

View last week's report here