We’ve all heard that old cliché regurgitating from players and coaches around the league; “We don’t look ahead,” “You’ve got to take it one game at a time.”
Yeah right. That sounds good but I’m not buying it. I’ve got to believe everyone looks ahead and identifies games they should win as well as which ones will give them the toughest challenge.
No doubt each team’s goal is to make it to the playoffs and of course, ultimately the Super Bowl. Realistically they know they will need to win a minimum of at least 10 games to have a chance.
Even that might not be enough. Last year the Patriots put up an 11–5 record and still failed to make the playoffs.
Then again, the Cardinals finished the regular season at 9 – 7, qualified for the NFC playoffs and rolled all the way to the Super Bowl.
That was the same record the Cowboys ended 2008 with after finishing on a two game losing streak they missed the playoffs.
What’s in store for the Cowboys in 2009? In Part One of a four part series, I will break down the upcoming season into four quarters, don’t want to look “too far” ahead.
Today we look at the matchups for the first quarter of the Cowboys season. Here’s what the Cowboys are up against the first four games:
Opening on the road is never fun. But if you have to do it, then doing it against a team with a new head coach and a new quarterback is the way to go.
Last year the Cowboys squeaked out a 13–9 victory against the Bucs and that was with Brad Johnson at quarterback.
This year the offense should be ready to roll to start the season. Look for Jason Garrett to lean on the ground game to decide this one.
The trio of Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice should prove to be too much for the Tampa Bay defense to contain.
The Dallas front seven should be up to the task of shutting down the Bucs running attack led by former Giant Derrick Ward and an injury-plagued Cadillac Williams.
Look for DeMarcus Ware to be the key to the game as he should have a field day putting pressure on the Bucs immobile quarterback Byron Leftwich.
Prediction: Dallas 23 Tampa Bay 13
Season Record: 1–0
Welcome to Jerry’s world. Finally Jones and the Cowboys get to unveil their $1.2 billion dollar dream house for real.
It is hard for me, an 11-year Cowboys season-ticket holder to believe that the Cowboys will not win a game with the amount of energy that this game will create.
It’s the first home game of the season, the first regular season game ever in the new stadium, it’s the Sunday Night Football prime-time game and it’s against one of their biggest divisional rivals.
Then again, I never thought they would lose the last game ever played in Texas Stadium last season. I was dumbfounded as I sat there and watched them get steamrolled in the fourth quarter by the Ravens and lose 33–24.
The Giants roll in to town as the “favorite” to win the division as well as the NFC.
Now I’ve never been a believer in east coast media bias, but seriously how many teams that lost both their starting wide receivers from a year ago, a 1,000 yard rusher and their Defensive Coordinator would be picked to win the conference if they were not in New York?
Who will Eli turn to at crunch time? That is the key question. Or it might be will they guy he turns to actually catch the ball when it is thrown to him?
Bottom line is can the Cowboys defense stop Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw and force Eli Manning to put it in the hands of his untested receivers.
Look for Bradie James to be the key-to-the-game for the Cowboys and their defense. The pressure will definitely be on James and fellow inside-backer Keith Brooking to plug the holes.
Prediction: Dallas 20 New York 17
Season Record: 2–0
Well if you think there will be energy flowing in the first home game in Week Two against the Giants just wait until the first Monday Night Football game ever held in Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
There is nothing as electric as a Monday Night game and this matchup against the Carolina Panthers will be no different.
For the second week in a row, a power running attack will come to town. The Panthers led by DeAngelo Williams will be looking to run the ball early and often.
The Cowboys will load up the box to stop the ground game and forcing Panther QB Jake Delhomme to beat them.
This means the key to the game in Week Three will be cornerback Terence Newman and his ability to shutdown the Panthers go to receiver Steve Smith.
If Smith is a non-factor the Cowboys should have no problem feeding off the crowd’s enthusiasm and bringing home another victory.
Prediction: Dallas 27 Carolina 14
Season Record: 3–0
Dallas wraps up the first quarter of the season with a visit to Denver. Talk about a team in turmoil. The Broncos are a case study in turmoil based on this offseason.
While Josh McDaniels may one day prove to be an outstanding Head Coach in the NFL, he and his Broncos team will suffer through tremendous growing pains in 2009.
I have earmarked this Week Four matchup as the springboard for the Cowboys season. All signs point to this being an opportunity for both the offense and the defense to shine.
The Broncos are in the process of rebuilding their lowly defense, which should give Cowboys QB Tony Romo an opportunity to put up some big numbers.
If you have Romo on your fantasy team Week Four should be one of his highest scoring weeks this season.
In addition to Romo look for tight end Jason Witten to be the key to the game for the Cowboys. Witten should have a field day against the Broncos linebackers and safeties.
Prediction: Dallas 34 Denver 10
Season Record: 4–0
See you at the start of the second quarter…