The Cowboys aren't a good team without Tony Romo. They're even worse without Terence Newman and Adam Jones playing cornerback. And they're downright inept when you take sparkplug running back Felix Jones and starting offensive guard Kyle Kosier out of the mix.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, yet somehow I get the sense that this will be some sort of revelation to many who have written off the Cowboys at the midway point of the season. Granted, the depleted Cowboys have looked terrible the past four weeks but was anyone really surprised at how inept the Cowboys offense was with Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger at quarterback or how porous the secondary was been with rookies Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick thrust into action at cornerback?
Now, I'm not saying the Cowboys didn't have their problems before they were bit by the injury bug and another Pacman suspension. But they did begin the season 3-0 and clearly looked like the best team in the league before losing to the Redskins, beginning a stretch that has seen the Cowboys go 2-4 in their last six games. But excuse me if I don't read too much into the last three games, in which the Romo-less offense has averaged 13 points a game after scoring at a 29-point pace in the first six games of the season. Or that their defense, without Newman, has given up over 30 points in three of their last four games after allowing 30 only once in their first five.
So, no, I'm not hopping on the "Dallas is Dead" bandwagon. Not yet anyway. Not with Romo, Newman, Felix Jones and Kosier returning to practice this week during the team's bye week and the possibility of Pacman Jones returning a week later if he is reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (by the way, the best news the Cowboys have had in the past three weeks is that Jones hasn't made any news since his four-game suspension began).
Yes, the Cowboys' problems on offense and defense run deeper than a handful of missing players, but I'd like to see the Cowboys play with those players before I write off a team that has 13 Pro Bowlers and went 13-3 last season. Anyone who watched the Cowboys languish through the likes Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson and Drew Bledsoe at quarterback before Romo came along knows that the offense just isn't the same without him in the lineup. Dallas doesn't run an offense that allows you to simply plop in any quarterback who hasn't started a football game since high school like New England. Most of Dallas' best offensive plays the past two seasons have been improvised by Romo, who has a way of eluding pass rushers and slinging passes to open receivers downfield like his idol, Brett Favre. Granted, he's also due for a mistake or two a game like Favre, but you can live with that with a player of his kind of talent.
One of the most missed players on offense (and often lost because of Romo's injury) has been Felix Jones, who was averaging 8.9 yards per carry, not to mention 27.1 yards on kick returns, before injuring his hamstring in the same game Romo injured his pinkie. The Cowboys are 4-0 when he touches the ball more than three times on offense, which makes sense considering his big play ability with runs of 60, 33 and 22 yards and a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Eagles.
Not only do the Cowboys return a bevy of key players after the bye week but they face San Francisco, Seattle and Baltimore at home down the stretch. Win those, and they would have to win just two of their four games against Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the Giants (at home) to get to 10-6 and most likely make it into the postseason. They already own possible playoff tiebreakers with Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia (for now).
Sure, the Cowboys would like to be doing better during the regular season, winning 13 games, running away with the division by three game and claiming home field advantage instead of limping into the postseason with a 10-6 record and a wild card spot, but that didn't really help them last year. Just ask the Giants.