The Cowboys aren’t choking; they just aren’t that good.
This is not to say they won’t make the playoffs or that they are a bad team. They are an above average team that happens to have the hardest part of their schedule in December. (And it doesn’t get any easier with a game in New Orleans next week.)
The Cowboys are famous because of their history, their owner, their quarterback, and now their stadium. But that doesn’t help their secondary cover, and it doesn’t prevent their massive offensive line from looking old.
The Chargers are one of the five best teams in football, so it’s no shame losing to them 20-17. Just like there’s no shame losing on the road to a desperate Giants team. The shame was thinking the Cowboys were an elite team at 8-3 because they routed the Raiders on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys are a borderline playoff team, just like we all expected them to be at the start of the year.
The December swoon angle is already tired, especially concerning Tony Romo. Dallas’ quarterback played very well again Sunday, but didn’t get enough help from his defense and running game.
Don’t count the Cowboys out from making the playoffs; the Eagles and especially the Giants are similarly flawed.
Also don’t count on seeing Wade Phillips in Dallas next year. I see the Cowboys as a slightly above average team playing to its capability, but Jerry Jones surely doesn’t agree.
The Chris Johnson insanity update
Jeff Fisher seems on board with trying to get Chris Johnson as many records as possible. With 28 rushes and 119 yards on the ground Sunday, the most electric back in football is on pace for 2,001 rushing yards. He added three catches for 69 yards through the air, putting him on pace for 2,482 yards from scrimmage. Marshall Faulk’s record is 2,429.
Johnson scored from touchdowns from 39 and 66 yards out Sunday. No one makes long touchdowns look easier or opponents look slower.
1. The Broncos made an insane amount of mistakes in key situations against the Colts, but still had a chance to win the fourth quarter. Denver was stuffed twice on fourth down, threw an interception at the goal line, and missed a field goal. It says a lot about the strength and character of Denver’s team they were able to score 16 unanswered points to make the Colts sweat the fourth quarter.
2. The Saints have struggled to soundly beat mediocre teams since Week 6. But the victories keep piling up, and the team can only be judged on the “Big Games” at this point. New Orleans passed that test with flying colors against New England, and has another one coming up Saturday night against the Cowboys. A win in the Superdome next week would essentially wrap up home-field advantage.
3. There’s a reason the Packers were only three and a half point favorites Sunday. Rivalry games on the road are never easy — and Green Bay has learned how to close out games. It’s a good sign they could win with the ground game (137 yards from Ryan Grant) and without the usual aerial assault.
Some panic is acceptable
1. The Bengals don’t have a Super Bowl caliber passing game. Carson Palmer’s accuracy is iffy, his receivers don’t create separation, and his protection didn’t hold up against Minnesota. Palmer attempted 25 passed, which resulted in just 94 yards. That’s JaMarcusian. The Bengals’ defense actually played well despite the 30-10 loss, but Cincinnati is not going anywhere in January if they can’t throw.
Defense and running got Marvin Lewis’ old Ravens team far, but the NFL has changed too much for that to work again. And the defense isn’t that good.
2. Sunday was Jacksonville’s Super Bowl and they lost. Their 7-6 record shows they are tied for the last wild-card spot, but they blew it. Indianapolis and New England are next up, and the Jaguars have too many holes on their roster to win both, regardless if the Colts rest starters. Miami pushed Jacksonville around on both lines and the Jaguars’ secondary gets picked apart by any decent passing team. The Jaguars won the turnover battle 3-0, and still lost 14-10. The game shouldn’t have been that close.
3. Randy Moss had one of his worst games as a pro Sunday, fumbling a pass and dropping a few others. He even heard some boos. The Patriots need him playing well to make a run in the playoffs, and there has to be some concern about Moss going in the tank.
4. Most accounts said Tom Brady appeared to be playing through a significant rib injury Sunday, though that’s just guesswork. (These are the Patriots after all.) It looked like Brady and the coaching staff had to work around the problem Sunday with more quick throws. They can’t afford for Brady to take another big hit to the midsection.
5. JaMarcus Russell promised a “totally different” JaMarcus when he returned to the lineup. He looked a lot like the old guy. Bruce Gradkowski racked up 153 yards in the first half, but left with a knee injury. Russell threw for 74 yards on 16 attempts with an interception, only leading the Raiders to three points in Oakland’s 34-13 loss to Washington.
2013 SNF Schedule
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