Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dallas Looking to Make Statement Saturday Night vs. Tampa Bay

On the verge of falling out of the NFC playoff picture, the Atlanta Falcons got back in the thick of things with a convincing 41-14 Thursday night win over the struggling Jaguars, improving to 9-5 on the season.

Tonight, in the season's first Saturday night matchup, the Dallas Cowboys are looking to make a similar statement on the road against the 4-9 Buccaneers.

Tony Romo, as we are all well-aware, has a history of falling apart in the month of December. This year has been no exception as his 'Boys are riding a two-game losing streak with back-to-back defeats to Arizona and NFC East counterpart Giants.

Sitting at 7-6 (2-4 on the road), Dallas is tied atop the East with the Giants–well, not quite, New York owns the tiebreaker. So if Jason Garrett expects to make a playoff push they will need to win out, including a victory over New York (Week 17) to clinch the division.

Over the last two weeks, Romo has played great according to the box score. He hasn't turned the ball over and threw for a combined 620 yards and five touchdowns, but did not receive much help from the rest of his team.
Against Arizona, Dallas averaged under four yards per carry (75 yards on 20 carries) and allowed five sacks of Romo. Against New York, the offense did its job in putting up 34 points on the board, but the defense struggled to put pressure on Eli Manning up front and allowed 400 yards through the air as well as 37 points. New York scored 15 points in the final three minutes of the game to complete a late 12-point comeback.

I've heard numerous arguments against Romo over this two-game stretch and I don't quite understand how you can solely put the blame on him. Yes, I would agree to a certain extent that he doesn't always show the strongest leadership abilities on the field, but he orchestrated two quick scoring drives late in the game–one from 80 yards, and one from 49. Dan Bailey missed what would have been a game-tying 51 yard field goal with under a minute to play to end the game for Dallas' offense.

How can this possibly mean Romo is to blame for Dallas' two-game skid? He has played near-perfect football, protecting the ball and getting his offense in the end zone time after time while his defense gives up 56 points over that span.

Even just "looking at the box score" would do Romo justice. You can avoid actually watching the game and instead checking the numbers and you can basically get the whole story. Now, I'm not saying that's what I did, because I did actually watch him play. I'm just saying the box score explains everything and it's tough to argue against his four-touchdown, 321 yard, 141.3 QBR game against New York.
As for tonight against Tampa Bay, I don't think he'd have any trouble continuing his recent success through the air. Tampa Bay is ranked 27th against the pass in terms of yardage, in the bottom five in rushing yards allowed and has allowed the most (19) touchdowns on the ground as well. So even without rookie DeMarco Murray the 'Boys are expected to have great success on the ground tonight. Felix Jones racked up 106 yards against NY last week, and I would expect a heavy dosage again tonight.

This means it will be tough for Tampa to make Dallas' offense one-dimensional. Big day offensively for the Cowboys, I can feel it.

My Prediction: Dallas 31, Tampa Bay 10

Photo credit
Tony Romo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
LeGarrette Blount: Grant Halverson/Getty Images

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