Dave Halprin, Blogger extraordinaire for the Cowboys site Blogging the Boys, was gracious enough to take some time out of his schedule to answer some questions about the team everybody loves to hate. This is a big game for both teams, and the loser will have a big hole to climb out of if they want to make the playoffs this season.
Just for the record, I fully expect that team to be Dallas.
Dave's answers to our questions, after the jump.
1. Statistically, Dallas looks pretty good so far. They are 2nd in the NFL in offense, at 421 yards a game, and 8th on defense, with just over 300 yards a game. Why are the Cowboys 1-3?
In a word, mistakes. The Cowboys have been killing themselves with stupid penalties, botched plays, turnovers; just a highlight reel that should be titled "How to Lose an NFL game". There has been just plain bad play too, the offensive line had a rough time against the Titans
last week, and the secondary hasn't been as good as hoped. But as you noted in the question, all three games they lost, they could have easily won. The Cowboys throw the winning TD on the Redskins
, it's wiped out by a penalty. The Cowboys score a late TD to tie up the Titans and grab momentum, then get a celebration penalty and give up a 73-yd kickoff return. The Cowboys are a team that can dominate a game statistically, then give the game away with penalties, mental breakdowns and plain ol' stupid play.
2. Jerry Jones just reiterated that Wade Phillips' job is "absolutely safe." If Dallas continues to struggle, will that status change? If Phillips is replaced, who would probably be the interim coach, and would he have a real chance at being named the permanent head coach?
Wade's status, I guess, could change at any time. If we were to really go into the tank this year, Jerry could do something. But he usually doesn't change coaches in mid-season. At the end of the year if this team fails to make the playoffs, then he could certainly go. If something did happen in-season, then offensive coordinator Jason Garrett would be the obvious choice for interim coach. Jerry's been looking at him as head coach material for a while, that's no secret. It's hard to speculate without knowing how the season plays out, but if Wade fails, Jerry would likely also look at the big names - Cowher, Gruden - and when Jerry zeroes in on somebody, he usually gets them.
3. Last week Felix Jones got the running game untracked, and seemed to give Dallas a much needed spark on the ground. Is Jones durable enough to be the #1 back, and will his production marginalize Marion Barber?
That's a question we all ask - is Felix Jones durable enough. His first few seasons were marred by injury, we only got a taste of his abilities and then he was gone. So we're naturally worried about that. I think we're about to find out if he is durable enough. The Cowboys run game look much better last week when they decided to feature Felix. It's a move many have been calling for and it appears the Cowboys are heading that way. Not only was Barber's production marginalized, but Tashard Choice
, who was seeing some time through the first four games, was a ghost. The Cowboys should feature Felix and let the chips fall where they may on the injury front. He's our best back at this moment.
4. This is as 'must win' a game that can be for the 5th game on the schedule, for both teams. If Minnesota wins and Dallas falls to 1-4, do you still see a realistic path to the playoffs for the Cowboys?
Not really. I suppose it's possible, but realistically, both teams are playing for their season Sunday. As a fan, I won't give up hope if we lose on Sunday; you can always pray for some kind of miracle 6 game win-streak and get right back into the hunt. But I'll know that it's probably over.
5. What's the best matchup, in terms of individual battles or unit (DB's vs. WR's, for example) that Dallas has against Minnesota, and what do you expect the Cowboys gameplan to be?
On offense, the Cowboys best weapon is their passing game. We are just loaded in that area and when it's clicking, it's hard to stop. Romo is having another prolific year passing, and he's throwing to one of the newly-emerged elite receivers in the game, Miles Austin. Jason Witten is still there, and now Roy Williams has been re-born and is putting together a very solid season. Toss in Dez Bryant
, who has been good so far, and you got a tough unit to cover. The Cowboys need to run some, but if they're going to win this game, it will likely be on Romo's arm.
On defense, they'll want to pressure Brett Favre. That's what Dallas wants to do anyway, they run an attacking defense, but with his injury and his recent issues, they'll want to do it even more. The Cowboys have been shaky on defense in a few games this season, the secondary was shredded a couple of times and Randy Moss
has traditionally killed the Cowboys. And the run defense has leaked recently after being water-tight for a long time. Getting to Favre and sacking him or forcing mistakes will likely be their best weapon.
Bonus: Care to give me a prediction for the game?
Thanks to Dave from Blogging the Boys. I have answered five of his questions, and they will be posted over there sometime today.