Damn that was an ugly loss. Second one this year, I know, but this one...
Anyhow, there are a million blogs and fan sites (and main stream sites) where you can read all about another 'Romo collapse'. What's done is done and it's time to move on. So I'm here to tell you why there is plenty of reason to be excited about the last 12 games of the Dallas Cowboys season and why, even after a 2-2 start, I believe this is a playoff team and serious contender for the NFC East. Even though prior to the season I thought they could very well start out 3-1 but still finish 8-8.
1. Romo. Yeah, yeah, I know. You don't have to tell me. But look, this guy has played the last 3 games with broken ribs...and for the most part he's played well, even managing comeback wins in two of them. It is said that as Tony goes, so goes the offense. If that's true, then things look good because...
2. This team hasn't been healthy since the first half of the Jets game. The list of injuries is a who's who of Cowboys potential Pro Bowlers and critical starters.
Tony Romo - Broken Ribs for 3 games
Dez Bryant - Missed 1 game, severely limited in all of the other 3. Has been a game time decision the last two weeks
Miles Austin - Missed 2 games, severely limited in parts of the other 2.
Jason Witten - Playing through bruised ribs
Felix Jones - Playing through separated shoulder
Terrence Newman - Out two games with groin
Mike Jenkins - Playing through 3 different injuries mostly because there is no replacement for him
Orlando Scandrick - High ankle sprain. Has yet to appear in a game
David Buehler - Missed last two games with groin
Jason Hatcher - Missed last game with Calf injury
You kidding me? And that's just starters.
At times, Romo was on the field with a trio of receivers that came into the season with 1 NFL catch...combined. The last time Romo and his recievers were all healthy was approximately half way through the Jets game.
At times, there were 3rd and 4th safeties playing corner. The last time the entire starting secondary was healthy was...well...we're still waiting to see that one.
So why the optimism? With the bye, the majority of these guys should be back to something resembling healthy bodies heading into New England which brings me to...
3. The schedule has been surprisingly brutal in the early going. Who expected the Lions and 49ers to be this good? The combined record of the Cowboys 4 opponents stands at 12-4...and Dallas is responsible for hanging 2 of those 4 losses on them. In fact, other than the Jets, every other team the Cowboys have played is undefeated against teams not from Dallas. The schedule looks to get a tad easier going forward. Starting with...
-New England. Yep, they look just like the team that went 14-2 last year. Yep, Tom Brady looks just like the QB that won his second MVP last year. Yep. This game is in Foxboro where Brady seemingly never loses. And Yep. I'm predicting a Cowboys win.
Don't call the guys in white coats on me just yet. Hear me out.
Last year, there was one game where Brady looked completely lost. One game that the Patriots were beaten pretty easily, in fact. That one game was against the Cleveland Browns. A mediocre defense at best, but one that confused Brady so much that he couldn't beat them. Why is this significant? Because that Defense was coached by one Rob Ryan. This year Brady is going to see much of the same things that turned him into a mere mortal a year ago, only he's going to see it from stronger, faster, more athletic...just flat better...players who have two weeks to prepare for him. Add that to the fact that a healthy Dallas offense matches up very well with a pedestrian Pats defense and we have the makings of an upset in Foxboro.
Riding the confidence that is sure to accompany a win in New England, assuming continued relative good health, Dallas should fairly easily win 5 of the ensuing 7 games on their schedule.
That puts them, worst case, at 8-4 heading into the final month which is just too far out to predict. Prime position to sew up a wild card at least, and possibly compete for the division title.
So, Cowboys Nation, get off that ledge...it really IS as simple as that.