Friday, October 12, 2007

The Champs are Here!

What a weekend we have in front of us! But, as opposed to trying to sell you on the MMA Show that Cuban is throwing at the American Airlines Center or Stars-Blackhawks, let’s not kid ourselves; this weekend is built completely around the Patriots visit to Texas Stadium. What an absolute day this shall be.

Let’s understand one thing here, the stakes on Sunday are going to be blown out of proportion every where you look…but it is just 1 game. If you win, it doesn’t mean much more than a few temporary bragging rights, and if you lose, you still are the best team in the NFC. You can measure yourself in this game, but you can’t win the Super Bowl in October. Aside from being blown out of your own stadium, I just don’t foresee any real implications that can be drawn from this contest.

Nevertheless, it is the game we have all been waiting for. The undisputed dynasty of the decade is here, and they are bringing in quite possibly their most impressive squad yet. The acquisitions of their off-season indicate that they have one objective this year: To annihilate the National Football League. And through 5 games, the most points they have allowed in any game is 17, and the fewest they have scored in any game is 34. Think about that. They had a game closer than 17 points!

The match-ups concern me greatly. On Defense, the Cowboys have no answer for the total arsenal that the Patriots possess. Moss/Stallworth/Welker/Watson versus the secondary seems like a chance to pick your poison – and we all know Tom Brady will kill you slowly. Meanwhile, knowing the job Bill Belichick does against young Quarterbacks, when our certain young QB is coming off his worst game as a pro, should give any Dallas fan pause.

I think this game could be won by Dallas, but in my estimation, it will depend completely on whether or not the Cowboys have the stones to roll the dice. I think that Jason Garrett will have to have an enormous amount of confidence in Tony Romo just one week after the Buffalo debacle. They will need between 28 and 35 points to have a chance against New England, and to get that, Romo will not be able to just dump the ball off. He will have to continue to throw 15-20 yards into the defense, and that will require some gambling.

More importantly, how willing will Wade Phillips be to blitz Tom Brady? Because if you blitz him, he can kill you. A 7 yard slant to Randy Moss could easily turn into a 77 yard Touchdown. But, if you don’t blitz Tom Brady – you have no chance with these match-ups. When Wade was in San Diego last January, they sent the house at Brady quite a bit, and forced him into several bad throws. But he didn’t have Moss, and Phillips doesn’t have those Chargers. I think it is important to coach aggressively on Sunday for the defense. You have to roll the dice. Know that you will get burned, and then keep coming the next series. It is your only chance to beat these guys. And the Cowboys are one of only a few teams (Colts) who can afford to take chances on defense, because they have an offense who can get those points back if needed.

I have a hard time seeing a Cowboys win on Sunday, but I also felt that way heading into the Colts game last November. Maybe Texas Stadium will be worth some points, but for the Cowboys to win on Sunday, they need almost everything to go perfectly.

New England 34, Dallas 27

The Boston Globe examines Terrell Owens …and by the way, it might be nice if he has a big game…

Owens was all that last season, when he led the NFL with 13 touchdown receptions and enhanced his status as one of the sport's most prolific wideouts. This season, he ranks second on the Cowboys to tight end Jason Witten in receptions and receiving yards, though Witten, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, indisputably owes his success in part to Owens occupying two or three defenders on many plays. "Everybody knows he can go for a touchdown any time he gets the ball in his hands," Witten said. "We depend on that. He's the guy we're trying to go to."

Not enough, however, according to Cowboys coach Wade Phillips. Owens caught only two passes for 25 yards Monday as the Cowboys overcame five interceptions and a fumble by Romo to stun the Bills, 25-24, on a last-second field goal in Buffalo. The week before, Romo connected with Owens only three times for 33 yards in a 35-7 victory over the Rams at Texas Stadium.

Consequently, the original 81 trails Moss this season in every major receiving category.

"We've got to get him the ball more," Phillips said of Owens. "We need to make him the primary [target] a few more times."

To his credit, Owens has refrained from criticizing Romo, as he did some of his other quarterbacks, most notably Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia. In fact, Owens appeared downright giddy after the Cowboys survived Romo's calamity in Buffalo. And he has impressed Phillips and his teammates with his relative selflessness. "I know people think he's only about catching the ball, but he's pretty proud when someone else makes a catch when two or three guys are chasing [Owens]," Phillips said. "But he obviously wants the football, and we need to get it to him."

For all the pregame hype in Dallas - columnist Randy Galloway declared Sunday's showdown the Cowboys' biggest home game in 14 years, and receiver Sam Hurd dubiously dubbed it "the game of the century" - there was something eerie about Owens's vow of silence. One of the team's most vocal leaders, he had not zipped his lips before any other game this season, a stretch in which the Cowboys went 5-0 and established themselves as early contenders for the Super Bowl. The Dallas locker room felt dead without him.

Crazy as it seems, Owens told teammates he was trying not to become a distraction. This is the same guy who, while playing for the 49ers in 2000, twice dashed more than 50 yards after scoring touchdowns to celebrate atop the hallowed blue star at midfield in Texas Stadium. He's the same guy who last year responded to criticism that he occasionally fell asleep during team meetings by using the football as a pillow and pretending to take a nap after a touchdown catch against the Redskins.

And he is the same guy who last month mocked Belichick after scoring a touchdown by pointing the football at the Miami bench and making a cranking motion as if the ball were an old-fashioned camera and he was filming the opposing defense.
Now Owens has clammed up.

"He's taking a different role, man," linebacker Marcus Spears said. "He's letting 5-0 speak for him now."

Maybe it's a sign of maturity.

"I think, more than anything, he doesn't want to become bulletin-board material" for the Patriots, Witten said. "He's focused on what he wants to do. He wants to be the best on the field at all times, and he's got a huge challenge this week."

Come game time, when the Cowboys face their toughest opponent to date, some of them will look to Owens for inspiration.

"He's the spark that we sometimes lack," James said. "His play can definitely enthuse not only the crowd but us as players. We feed off him."

Brandt looks at the game

Patriots owner Robert Kraft vs. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: Okay, this "matchup" might not have a bearing on the outcome of Sunday's game, but they can both take credit for their team's success. Each has won three Super Bowls since taking over his respective team. They both have played a large part in the league's overall success as well, serving on some of the NFL's most important committees.

This will be only the fifth time in NFL history that two teams have met with records of 5-0 or better. The last time was in 2004, when the 5-0 Patriots defeated the 5-0 Jets, 13-7. In a game of this magnitude, there are several key matchups:

Patriots WR Randy Moss vs. Cowboys WR Terrell Owens: These two star receivers have squared off three times -- Moss has four TD receptions in those games, Owens has two. If Dallas CB Anthony Henry is unable to play with an ankle injury, then Moss has a big advantage. Owens, meanwhile, has a five-inch height advantage on New England's best cornerback, Asante Samuel. He has a six-inch advantage over the other CB, Ellis Hobbs.

Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Cowboys QB Tony Romo: If the Cowboys are to win, Romo needs to play a perfect game -- he can't afford to make the kinds of mistakes he made against Buffalo. Brady, meanwhile, simply needs to play well. Because New England has a better defense and running game, he doesn't need to be perfect for the Patriots to win.

Patriots TE Benjamin Watson vs. Cowboys TE Jason Witten: This could actually be the key matchup of the game, as both tight ends play an integral role in their team's offense. Both should have an advantage in this matchup -- Watson against Dallas safety Roy Williams and Witten against New England safety Rodney Harrison. In particular, Watson is a tough matchup for Williams because of his speed, and he can be very dangerous when he lines up outside, basically making him a wide receiver.

Extra points

Interesting note about New england's trip to Dallas: The Patriots played the first-ever regular-season game at Texas Stadium on Oct. 24, 1971. Dallas prevailed, 44-21. The first touchdown in Texas Stadium history was scored 2:16 into that game by Dallas running back Duane Thomas. Ironically, Thomas was later traded to New England -- only to have the trade voided ... The Cowboys are one of three teams the Patriots have never beaten on the road. The others are Washigton and San Francisco ... Romo enters the 16th start of his career with a record of 11-4. After his first 16 games, Roger Staubach was 15-1. Troy Aikman was 2-14.

Meanwhile, Aggies and Red Raiders in Lubbock, Saturday.

Here are the scores in Lubbock since the Aggies last win in 1993.

1995: Tech 14, Aggies 7
1997: Tech 16, Aggies 13
1999: Tech 21, Aggies 19
2001: Tech 12, Aggies 0
2003: Tech 59, Aggies 28
2005: Tech 56, Aggies 17

How did it all start? 1995, Zach Thomas with a “Pick 6”.

With all of the nonsense surrounding A&M’s preparation for this trip (see below), I have a hard time seeing them finding success in West Texas on Saturday. Now, occasionally, this sort of controversy galvanizes a team and makes them come together and win for each-other and for their embattled coach. Do we believe that this will be the case here?

Not so much.

Tech 44, Aggies 24

Fran controls his own destiny …his job? Win.

Hey, Fran: Better be trailing a long winning streak when you come to the negotiating

Judging from the mood Thursday, all that seems to be saving Franchione's job at the moment is the team's record. The Aggies are 5-1, which ain't bad. Better than Texas, anyway, a preoccupation at A&M.

Even after the debacle in Miami, which looks worse by the week, the Aggies have positioned themselves well. Yes, the most difficult part of the schedule still awaits. Still, it's not unreasonable to think they could win four more games in a weak Big 12.

Pull the plug on Fran's job now, and who suffers most? Byrne admitted Thursday that he's worried about the "distractions" the e-mail controversy has caused A&M players so far.

If he's worried about the effects up to now, imagine if he fired Fran in the middle of the season.

First of all, who takes over? Gary Darnell, the defensive coordinator? He's been on staff a little more than a year. Les Koenning? Offensive coordinator in name only.
Of course, R.C. Slocum is still in town. Gene Stallings is on the board of regents. But even their deep Aggie loyalties wouldn't mitigate the effects of uprooting a coach at midseason.

You also have to consider how the players would react to a coaching change now. Stephen McGee, the quarterback, defiantly backed his coach when the story first broke. He followed that defense by rounding up his teammates in a resounding show of support at Franchione's news conference last week.

The mood Thursday was in stark contrast to those public displays. Instead, Byrne apologized to students, alumni and "the citizens of Texas." He called the Aggies "embarrassed." He even said his "best guess" was that Fran's failure to tell him about the secret correspondence was "an attempt to keep it from us."

Randy Couture, leaves the UFC as heavyweight champion

The Ultimate Fighting Championship appears to have lost its ultimate fighter.

Randy Couture, UFC's reigning heavyweight champ, has resigned the promotion, according to a report from The Fight Network.

Couture leaves UFC with two fights already contracted, the report said, abandoning his on-air analyst job, as well.

According to the report, Couture notified UFC president Dana White with a letter written from the South Africa set of the movie "The Scorpion King — Rise of the Akkadian," which will feature Couture.

The Fight Network reported one of the major factors in Couture's decision was the fact that UFC was unable to sign PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko.
"I appreciate this opportunity the sport of MMA and the UFC has given me," Couture said, according to the report said. "However, I'm tired of swimming upstream at this stage with the management of the UFC. It only makes sense at this point in my career to fight Fedor Emelianenko, and since he's now signed with another organization, I feel like it's time to resign and focus on my other endeavors."

In a release from the UFC, White said Couture's retirement was not shocking.

Tough ending for Richard Matvichuk in New Jersey..

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello announced yesterday he will attempt to trade veteran defenseman Richard Matvichuk, who has fallen out of favor in new coach Brent Sutter's system.

Lamoriello told Matvichuk of his decision in a meeting yesterday morning. Matvichuk, 34, did not practice with the team at Codey Arena in West Orange, and did not make the trip to Florida, where the Devils will play the Panthers tonight before heading to Atlanta for a game on Saturday.

Lamoriello, who does not intend to put Matvichuk on waivers, believes he can get a deal done soon.
"It's a situation where we're trying to work with him and help him to get an opportunity somewhere else," Lamoriello said. "We're going to talk to other teams.

"When you've got a veteran and a player like Richard, who has given everything he could give, it's something we believe in, as far as giving him the opportunity somewhere else. It's just not going to work out here."

Matvichuk sat out all but one regular-season game last year following back surgery. The emergence of younger defensemen, coupled with a struggle to fit his $1 million salary under the team's cap, worked against him then.

In the playoffs, he was solid, which made his healthy scratch from the season opener in Tampa a week ago difficult for him. Matvichuk told The Star-Ledger last week he was "shocked" and "hurt," and said it was worse than having to sit out almost all of last season.

Matvichuk, scratched from all three games so far this season, was unavailable for comment yesterday. Lamoriello said he first spoke with him about where he stood with the team after the scratch in Tampa.

Star Wars Trumpet Lady

Tiger Trap


Andy D. said...

Bob-- I guh-gree with you both times.

Pats 33
Cows 23

Tech 50
A&M 34

OU 38
Mizz 27


Jake said...

I think the Dustbowl in Lubbock will be a little closer than in previous years but a shalacking by Raider might get Fran out of here faster, which I'm in favor of.

The matchup to watch will be Moss vs. secondary.

Go Cowboys.

Jay said...

I don't like the matchup of Rodney Harrison on Witten. He will be jumping routes. If Rodney Harrison doesn't get at least one pick Sunday it will be a miracle.

fickle said...

Tiger Trap = awesome.

Lance said...

Give me...

Cowboys 31, Patriots 28
Tech 52, Aggy 27
Mizzou 34, Sooner 24

Jay said...

Cowboys will shock the Patriots, 34-17.