The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys have a lot in common. The names of both cities begin with a D, for example. Both play every Thanksgiving, and both certainly had, in the 90s, two of the finest running backs in NFL history. Both have also been, in nearly equal ways, pretty disappointing considering how much talent they have.
The Lions especially so. They won four games last season, but with two overtime losses, and three more by four or fewer points. They were about as close to a nine-win season as a four-win team can be. It’s not, therefore, all that surprising that they’ve already gotten 4 wins this season, although they’re not the most impressive.
They took out Minnesota in their opening game, a task only achievable, these days, by teams at least slightly better than a school of sick porpoises. They beat Cleveland, who fell off the Brian Hoyer tree branch and into the void so fast, Sandra Bullock is nodding her head and saying, btb. You’ll give ‘em credit for a win over mediocre Chicago, and possibly one over the Bad Redskins of early this season, but it doesn’t strike fear in the heart.
That doesn’t mean they’re not really good, it just means they haven’t shown it yet. Green Bay and Cincinnati, 2 of their 3 losses, are quality teams. They lost to the Cards. So it goes.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys, like an NCAA team that lost its first one and suddenly finds itself still in national title contention towards the end, are having a season that keeps improving in retrospect. The Chargers loss was a bummer, but their other two losses, Denver and Kansas City, were to two teams that are now a collective 13-1, and they were by a combined total of 4 points. Not. Too. Shabby.
Still, once again, as with the Broncos and Chargers, the Cowboys find themselves facing a doppleganger in which their great strength, the passing game, is poised like a gun at the other teams’ great weakness, pass defense, but the exact same thing is true of their opponent. Yes, what the Cowboys’ D did to an Eagles running game that has been averaging 9000 yards a game is impressive, but we’re not going to call last week’s Foles-Barkley show a real test of whether the secondary has improved.
P.S. the box score tells me that Foles ran for 25 yards in that game. Which is amazing, because he looked like a lost Molina brother.
Those high octane passing games, by the way (Romo’s 2010 yards, 15 TDs to Stafford’s 2129 yards and 15 TDs) were the subject this week of one of the sportswriting world’s favorite types of fake controversy in which a player, this time Dez Bryant, says essentially “to do well in a professional sport you have to believe that you’re the best even if you know that that’s probably not entirely true”. For the 7 millionth time, much of the news media gleefully, purposefully misunderstood this as Dez claiming he was the best, for page views reasons, and they should all be very proud of themselves.
The Cowboys’ O-line will be tested by Ndamukong Suh, who may or may not survive the whole game without getting thrown out for dirty play, but I, for one, am excited to see it. I think Romo’s protection has been about as good as I’ve seen it, these last few games, and whether or not that keeps going will be the difference between Cowboys as threat, and Cowboys as failure. As far as the running games go, Reggie Bush has been doing a good job as a dual threat out of the backfield, but he’s had a number of O-linemen go down in front of him, and the Cowboys should get DeMarco Murray back. But this thing is going to be won through the air.
The Cowboys, just like everyone else, don’t have anybody who can guard Calvin Johnson. But the Lions’ two highest yardage receivers behind Megatron are both running backs, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Meanwhile, with Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley coming along, as well as Dez and the ever-steady Jason Witten, you have to like the Cowboys’ diversity of talent compared to the Lions, here. T-Will, as everyone knows, has been especially impressive lately. On the season, he’s caught 24 of 28 targets for 380 yards and 3 TDs.
We’ll see. Overall, I think the Cowboys have the edge. They’ll have more trouble with those intermediate and short RB routes than a lot of teams because their secondary should still be considered awful until proven not awful. But if they can limit the damage, they’re more well-rounded and have a little more offensive talent. Either way, it should be a close one.