NFL FANTASY FOOTBALL
Dallas Cowboys - Team Report
December 30, 2011
The odds are certainly against the Cowboys this Sunday in a winner take all showdown for the NFC East title against the Giants.
A win and they make the playoffs.
Lose and their season is over.
Said linebacker Bradie James: "Confidence? If you don't have any confidence, you shouldn't be here. That's our solution. Like I said, everybody has jobs, you guys have a job, I have a job, my job is to go out there and help this team win, all of us. We're confident. It's win or go home. We are excited about the opportunity."
The Cowboys have lost six straight games on Sunday Night Football. They have lost four of five and six of the last eight to the Giants.
Also consider that Cowboys don't have a history of playing their best football late in seasons when it matters most.
Since 2006, the Cowboys are 13-18 in December and January, including the playoffs.
They were in a similar situation in 2008 when they traveled to Philadelphia for the season finale with a wild-card playoff berth on the line for both teams.
The Cowboys lost 44-6.
"You don't look at it that way," tight end Jason Witten said. "There is no question we haven't met the expectations of Super Bowls and all that. I'm not denying that. But you don't look at it and say, 'December' or any of that. This is a one-game opportunity. We believe we are a good team. I don't believe confidence is a concern. It's just going out and executing."
"I have seen a lot," coach Jason Garrett said when asked what he bases his confidence on. "I have seen us play a lot of really good games. I have seen a lot of resiliency in our team. We have had some good wins. We have had some disappointing losses. We keep coming back and putting ourselves in position. We have earned the right to play in this game for the division title. We are excited about the opportunity to be NFC East champs."
The Cowboys also view this is an opportunity to change the past and change their legacy as a team that melts down in big moments.
Quarterback Tony Romo certainly can take a step towards removing the choker label from his resume.
The same is true for the entire team.
"You're judged by stats and wins and losses and Romo and I were talking about that," James said. "We've won some of these games and we've lost some of these games. We've been disappointed and dealing with that disappointment. The only way you can right those disappointments is to go out here and win. It's up to us to just go out there and get it done. The execution part of it, all the rest of that, is a part of the game plan. But really it's just the determination and the heart to just go out there and just win the game."
SERIES HISTORY: 99th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 56-40-2. The Giants have won four of the last five and six of the last eight.
--The Cowboys put just two players in the Pro Bowl. It is the fewest for the Cowboys since they had one in 2002.
The players were linebacker DeMarcus Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who both were honored by their selections. It is the fourth Pro Bowl appearance for Ratliff and the sixth for Ware.
"It's a blessing anytime you get that honor," Ratliff said Wednesday. "I thank God for it. I thank the fans. I thank my peers here in the league, as well as the coaches. Right now, my focus is on the Giants. We're just going to take it one week at a time. Nothing's changed for me. I'm going to give it the same thing. Nothing is going to change."
Said Ware: "I always talk about being consistent and being consistent this long is always good. Making the Pro Bowl is always good."
--TE Jason Witten didn't make Pro Bowl, ending a streak of seven straight selections. He lost out to New Orleans' Jimmy Graham and Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez. Witten has a team-leading 72 catches for 873 yards and five touchdowns. "Sure it is," Witten said when asked if he was disappointed. "I think you always focus on trying to help the team win a championship. Along the way, you want to be the best at your position. The other two guys had great seasons, so unfortunately it didn't work out. Give those guys credit. They had good years. You always want to do your best and put yourself in position. I felt like I had a great year. Other guys, I guess, had better years. It's always a disappointment. They earned it for sure."
--Cowboys owner Jerry Jones caused a stir by going on the field to talk to coach Jason Garrett against the Eagles. Jones said he is not going to change his style and is not stepping down any time soon.
"No, I don't," Jones said. "When I bought the team I said that there's no way I could make the kind of commitment that I'm making to buy the team ... and not have the final say relative to the kinds of things that general managers decide. So, I don't see that at all. What I do see is a better straight-line way of making decisions and that has borne out over the years. Now we need to win a Super Bowl."
On retiring: "Well, when you enjoy what you're doing as much as I do then what are you retiring from? I understand and I've done that. I've had that briefcase in my particular case and made calls 17 hours a day. I would probably stop that at some point to do something that I enjoyed more. But as far as running the Cowboys, being involved in the NFL, being involved in sports, I don't know what I would do relative to what you'd be doing that I enjoy more than what I'm doing. So I don't see retiring from that."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it is great and I think he is one of the great owners in the league. I think there is a tremendous amount of evidence that shows that. He wants to win and whenever you have an owner that wants to win, whether you're a coach, player or anybody working for him, that is an exciting opportunity. He is very committed to winning and will do everything necessary to help us and that is a great feeling to have when we come to work. Our relationship has been outstanding for a lot of years and different capacities. I am excited about the opportunity to be his head coach." -- Jason Garrett on working for owner Jerry Jones.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--LB Anthony Spencer was fined $7,500 for a facemask penalty against the Eagles. He was also flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It is unknown if he will fined for that.
--LB Sean Lee was held out of practice due to an illness. He will play against the Giants. He has no issues with a hamstring injury that sidelined him in the Eagles game.
--LB DeMarcus Ware was held out of practice for precautionary reasons with a stinger. But he will play against the Giants. He is second in the league in sacks with 18 and hoping to become the first player in NFL history with two 20-sack seasons.
--NT Jay Ratliff was held out of practice Wednesday with a rib injury. It was for precautionary reasons. He will play against the Giants on Sunday.
--NT Josh Brent practiced Wednesday after missing the past four games with a sprained knee. He will be available to play against the Giants. But the Cowboys like what Sean Lissemore has done as the backup nose tackle in his place. Brent is stronger and has the wider frame. Lissemore has the better motor.
--QB Tony Romo practiced on a limited basis with a bruised hand. He wore a glove on his hand and threw some passes. He still has swelling in the hand and it must subside by the end of the week. The Cowboys are confident he will play against the Giants.
--SS Danny McCray didn't practice on Wednesday but is expected to play against the Giants after missing the Eagles game with a sprained ankle. He is the Cowboys' best special teams player.
GAME PLAN: The Cowboys must stop the run first and then find a way to get some heat on quarterback Eli Manning. The Cowboys did not sack Manning one time in the previous meeting when he passed for over 400 yards. Offensively, they must protect quarterback Tony Romo, who is nursing a bruised hand and must be able to make plays down field to receivers Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson in a game that stands to be a shootout.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Giants QB Eli Manning vs. Cowboys secondary -- Manning passed for 400 yards in the first meeting against the Cowboys. He routinely victimized the secondary for big plays, particularly cornerback Terence Newman. If the Cowboys hope to slow down the Giants this week they must find a way to defend the pass. Newman must be more competitive with the Giants' receivers and not get caught so much in trail mode.
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Giants cornerbacks -- Bryant has feasted on the Giants the past two seasons with eight receptions for 208 yards and four touchdowns. He also has returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown against the Giants. He will have a chance for another big game against a struggling Giants cornerback corps. Veteran Aaron Ross and rookie Prince Amukamara have taken turns getting burned the last month of the season.