The primo game in the NFL this weekend will feature the New England Patriots making their first visit to Jerry-world just outside Dallas and taking on the Cowboys. The Pats are coming off the bye, are healthy and stand at 3-0 with a vengeance.
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The Cowboys have predictably struggled without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant and are currently 2-2. They’ll get some reinforcements back on defense for this game and they need it bad with two division games and a visit from the Seahawks coming up in the next three weeks.
Here are three reasons why you should get behind the Pats, not just to win this game but in general, all the time.
1. Most teams want their opponent to be at top health, for their best players to be on the field competing. Yet it’s not the Patriots’ fault that Romo, Bryant and Lance Dunbar are all out for this matchup, making it far less compelling than it initially seemed it would be when the schedule was announced.
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Without those particular guys on the field Sunday afternoon, the Patriots’ defense should feast. Cowboys backup quarterback Brandon Weeden played pretty well against the Saints last week and actually had Dallas in position to win the game late in the fourth quarter. But he’s also the same guy whose lost his last 10 starts and with guys like Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and an older, diminished Jason Witten as his top targets, this feels like a week for the Pats’ secondary to make plays and gain some confidence.
The Cowboys indeed have a great offensive line and running back Joseph Randle has run well with DeMarco Murray now in Philly. But having to rely primarily on a ground attack plays right into the Patriots’ strength on D. If Dallas scores more than 17 points in this game it will be a surprise.
2. He’s coming off a 12-4 season. He was once one of the hottest coaching commodities in the league. But is Jason Garrett a good coach? Is he in control of his team? Is he capable of cobbling together a winning situation without his two most important, valuable players on offense? Is he just the latest in the long line of puppets being maneuvered from behind the scenes by Jerry Jones following immortals like Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and Wade Phillips?
Regardless of any of the answers to any of these questions, Garrett is overmatched in the coaching tete-a-tete this week. He’s 10 games over .500 for his career but eight of those games came last season. And while it’s never easy to realistically judge the head coach of the Cowboys given the presence of Jones and the fact that he behaves as though he’s the coach (and team doctor and head of PR, etc.) in public, the most reasonable way to characterize Garrett is as just another guy who had one good year.
To his credit, Garrett said this week that the Patriots are “obviously the best program in football” and “I think we all aspire to that.” Indeed. Still, he’s got his work cut out for him. Advantage Belichick.
3. Jones’ comportment is well-documented. This is an owner who fancies himself a general manager as well, conducts postgame press conferences outside his team’s locker room and has his own radio show. If he someday decides that it might be in his team’s best interest to not constantly undermine his coaches, medical staff and personnel department, he probably wouldn’t know how.
His reaction to Greg Hardy’s loathsome comments about coming out for Sunday’s game “guns blazing” and regarding Tom Brady’s wife, friends and sisters-in-law (not to mention voting for the Pro Bowl based on how hot he finds players’ wives) was so typical/predictable, it’s a wonder anyone was even slightly surprised. This kind of behavior is perfectly emblematic of the Cowboys’ entire culture. It is the antithesis of a winning atmosphere. And it makes you wonder just what the NFL is thinking when it allows such things to happen.
Credit Garrett for doubling back on his own inane response to Hardy’s words but really, how much dap does a person deserve for realizing he said something to enable a person as gross as Hardy then changing course 24 hours later?
Most of the time (e.g. when their starting quarterback and No. 1 receiver aren’t out), the Cowboys are talented enough to win any game. Maybe even 12 of them. There’s a very clear reason why they’ve won two, count ‘em, two playoff games in 20 years, though.
Good luck building that Patriots-esque program, coach Garrett.
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