I guess I better start this weekly staple by saying that should the Seahawks beat the 49ers in two weeks or the Dallas Cowboys lose their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (baring massive injuries to the Seahawks), there will likely be no more “Looking Forward/News and Notes” articles this year. I explained the scenario’s last week, but basically the Seahawks are unlikley to relinquish the last NFC wilcard spot. They would need to lose two of their next three games, and the Dallas Cowboys would have to still have sweep to beat them. Considering that Seattle plays Buffalo next week and then St. Louis to close out the season, they are highly unlikely to lose either of those games (even if they do lose the middle game to San Francisco).
The Dallas Cowboys’ opponent this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have the best pass defense in the NFL. The Steelers are holding opponents to a paltry 166.7 yards per game through the air, so I’d peg the Cowboys chances of winning this home game at about 20%. If the Cowboys offense has any chance of scoring enough points to win, either QB Tony Romo or RB DeMarco Murray will have to come through in a big way. Given that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a top 5 defense, the chances of any of the Cowboys’ offensive players having a big day is unlikely at best. Some light at the end of the tunnel is the fact that the Steelers pick off less than one pass a game, so a Chicago-style disaster is unlikely. Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys defense needs to step up (they do every week), but against an opposing defense as good as Pittsburgh’s, there is no room for error.
News and Notes:
The Cowboys Cowboys won. You can find a complete recap of each possession here.
Dan Bailey hit another game winning kick. As of this week, that makes six. He really should have hit all of the game winning kicks in his career, but when Jason Garrett iced him, he missed the second attempt. In other words, when his own coach doesn’t sabotage him, he’s 100% in game winning situations. It’s so nice to have him after suffering through Vanderjagt and Foles.
The Seahawks have now officially won 58-0. Just read the Cardinals’ stats. I don’t want to say that losing by 58 points no matter the team (except for the Eagles) is ever funny, but the yards per pass seem like they came from Felix Jones. As I explained earlier, that also puts the Cowboys’ chances of winning a wildcard spot in tremendous jeopardy.
The Dallas Cowboys commit three turnovers. The Steelers average over a turnover a game. However, the Cowboys have one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines. They struggled against a good Cincinnati defensive line, and the Steelers have a better pass defense. Keep in mind that there were almost three interceptions instead of just the useless one (3 of Tony Romo’s passes that could have easily been interceptions were dropped by Bengal defenders), so commiting three turnovers against the Steelers doesn’t seem extreme. DeMarco Murray is good at keeping the ball off of the turf, and I did say earlier that Tony Romo wasn’t going to have a ‘MNF Chicago-styled’ experience, so I’d wager a fumble on special teams, a pick, and another fumble by Romo, one of his receivers or even Murray.
The Cowboys lose 21-13.
Even with the turnovers, I don’t think that the Steelers’ scoring a ton of points will be the key issue. The Steeler’s defense is just that good. The Cowboys’ offense has struggled with rushing (the Steelers’ “weaker” area) and in redzone scoring, both of which are musts against a team as good as Pittsburgh. Even if I’m dead wrong and the Cowboys don’t commit a single turnover, trading touchdowns for field goals will, as it has all season, doom the team. Of course, if history shows anything, they will have about 8 minutes to go, then they’ll figure out how to play football and make a spirited comeback only to fall just short, just like when the Giants and Redskins played in Dallas. Still, Pittsburgh is a better defensive team, meaning that a comeback by the Dallas Cowboys to steal the win, in my opinion, is unlikely at best.