I learned a valuable lesson when I declared the Dallas Cowboys doomed five weeks ago as a result of the season-ending injury suffered by superstar linebacker Sean Lee. The Cowboys found a way to survive that injury, even flourishing in early November to get back into the playoff picture.
But now that the man who filled Lee's big shoes is also out for the season, I'm having a very difficult time seeing how the Cowboys will possibly hold up defensively over the final five weeks.
Connor has been dealing with a neck injury and hadn't taken more than 21 snaps in a game until last week, while Sims wasn't even on an NFL roster one month ago. Carter hadn't missed a single defensive snap since Lee went down.
Those two guys are capable as Band-Aids, but this is a major concern, because Dallas won't be successful by clotting blood and patching things up. This is a team that, based on what happened against the 'Skins and based on the hole they're forced to climb out of, has to improve and excel over the next few weeks, rather than simply hope they don't take another hit.
Can the Cowboys make the playoffs without Bruce Carter?
As an inside linebacker with limited pass-rushing opportunities, it's hard to emphasize Carter's impact with numbers. You had to see it to believe it.
There was, for example, that time when the 240-pound Carter spotted Falcons speedster Julio Jones three yards and displayed remarkable speed and showed off great instincts with his angle before chasing Jones down from behind.
Don't forget that the second-year linebacker was also calling defensive signals in place of Lee, which leaves the defense in an even tougher spot yet again. I don't know if this is the last straw for the 'Boys, but considering all of the other injuries they're dealing with, including the loss of Barry Church and Kenyon Coleman on this very defense, it's beginning to look as though there won't be enough gas in the tank for a late-season run.