Well, here we go. I refuse to write about the Mavericks and Stars today. They are not worth the virtual ink that I would spend on them right now.
On to the Cowboys. How can they get a win Sunday?
If they win: The season is all good again. The stretch run is reasonable. The likelihood of 8-4 seems well within reach. And if they get to 8-4 on Thanksgiving day, wouldn’t the NFC playoff race look all the different?
If they lose: They will give up the season sweep to Washington. They would fall to 5-5. And there is a great belief that this Cowboys team would come apart at the seams. The odds of making the playoffs after a loss Sunday night would fade to nearly 0.
No pressure, Tony.
I am taking the bait. Despite not seeing anything resembling quality football since basically that Sunday Night in Wisconsin, I am riding the Romo train this week. Partly because of Portis. Partly because I cannot fathom a sports city that has a lousy football, basketball, baseball, and hockey team at the same time.
Save us Cowboys. You may be the only hope.
Cowboys 27, Washington 21
Redskins don’t think Portis can go …
Clinton Portis' sprained knee showed no improvement Thursday, and the Washington Redskins running back appears unlikely to play in Sunday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys.
The NFL's second-leading rusher left Redskins Park during practice, wearing a gray hooded sweat shirt and burgundy sweat pants as he stepped into his Maserati.
"I was hoping today that there would be a little more optimism, and there's not," coach Jim Zorn said. "He's still questionable. I would say there's no change today. I was looking for another jump, but there wasn't."
Portis sprained his left knee in the 23-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers before last week's bye.
With Portis ailing, Ladell Betts appears set to start Sunday. Betts has missed the last three games with a sprained knee, but he was on the field in steady rain for Thursday's practice.
"Betts looked good," Zorn said. "He's got a brace on, but made some cuts. That was encouraging."
Shaun Alexander would start if both Portis and Betts are unable to play.
Zorn also said he doesn't expect defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery (Achilles) to
play, and was pessimistic about Marcus Washington (shoulder). He also said he expects Shawn Springs (calf) to be available, but Springs did not practice and said he doesn't expect to practice again Friday. If Springs doesn't play, new signing DeAngelo Hall would have a greater role in his Redskins debut.
Gil looks at the QB’s …
Dallas QB Tony Romo vs. Washington QB Jason Campbell
Few matchups are bigger winners for the fans and the broadcasting network than a night game in Washington against the hated rival Cowboys. Among the many interesting notes pertaining to this rivalry: The Cowboys' first-ever regular-season road win came in Washington in 1961 before a crowd of 21,142; Tom Landry earned the last if his 250 career wins in Washington in 1988; and the Redskins' current coach, Jim Zorn, signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 1975.
Romo has missed the last three games with a broken pinkie. Prior to that, he had 14 TD passes -- which is still tied for third in the NFC -- and a passer rating of 103.5. He has outstanding athletic ability and is one of the more intriguing success stories in recent NFL history. Romo has a quick release, good arm strength and accuracy, and somewhat of a risk-taking tendency that will get him into trouble. He was the NFC's starter in the Pro Bowl last season.
Campbell is emerging as a top quarterback in the league, and he has been aided a great deal this season by a very good running game (Washington is fourth in rushing offense). Campbell has a very strong arm and improving accuracy -- which is very important in the Redskins' version of the West Coast offense. Campbell, who did not throw an interception in his first eight games this season, has a quick release and is very good at avoiding pressure. That said, he does have trouble with the blitz and will make some mistakes when pressured.
Another key matchup in this game: Cowboys WR Terrell Owens versus Redskins CB Carlos Rogers. In the Week 4 meeting between these teams, Owens had 18 passes thrown to him, catching seven for 71 yards and one TD. Rogers lined up against Owens all over the field in that game, and he most likely will do the same here. The Redskins have allowed only two 100-yard receiving games this season.
Football Outsiders with MacMahon …
Based on the available FO data, rank the Cowboys cornerbacks in order from best to worst this season.
31-of-45 (69 %), 392 yards, 8.7 ypa, 2 PBU, 0 INT, 2 pass interferences
Adam "Pacman" Jones
21-of-42 (50%), 216 yards, 5.1 ypa, 7 PBU, 0 INT, 1 pass interference
22-of-33 (67%), 248 yards, 7.5 ypa, 2 PBU, 1 INT, 0 pass interference
14-of-17 (82%), 175 yards, 10.3 ypa, 1 PBU, 0 INT, 0 pass interference
7-of-14 (50%), 85 yards, 6.1 ypa, 0 PBU, 0 INT, 0 pass interference
2-of-3 (67%), 12 yards, 4.0 ypa, 0 PBU, 0 INT, 0 pass interference
The table above is compiled by the volunteers in our Game Charting Project, who break down every play of the NFL season to capture a myriad of things that aren't recorded in the NFL's official play-by-play. One of those things is to mark who is in coverage on a pass play. While marking who's in coverage is an inexact science without coaches' film, the charters are given specific instructions on what to look for. Note that the numbers above have plays where a defender was flagged for pass interference included as completions with yards added to the player's total.
Starting at the top, as much of a headache as he's been, we continue to see the Adam Jones that steps between the lines on Sunday as an elite corner. The opposition only completed 50% of passes to receivers when he was in coverage, and he allowed only 5.1 yards per attempt. He also had almost as many passes defensed (seven) as the rest of the team's corners combined (eight).
Second would be Mike Jenkins. Now, we're looking at pass coverage here. I'm well-aware of the infamous fake that Jenkins put on himself when he was trying to tackle Derrick Ward. Looking as his numbers in the passing game, Jenkins has been acceptable for a nickel corner. He's been pressed into service as the team's top corner at points, which he's not ready for. Although it was a bit of a fluke, he also has the team's only interception from the cornerback position.
I'll put Anthony Henry third. He's simply allowing too many yards to be a championship-caliber corner -- whether that's because he's allowing too much of a cushion to account for his quad or not, I can't say, but last year, he only allowed six yards per attempt, which was 11th-best in football.
Finally, there's Terence Newman, who returns from sports hernia surgery this week. While it's true that Newman often takes the other team's top receiver (he did so last year at a 50% rate, which was 10th in the league), and he also limits the number of throws that come at him, those metrics are simply unacceptable. Virtually every pass thrown in his direction has been complete, and while he was in coverage on the bomb to Santana Moss in the Redskins' game, he's allowed nine first downs and a touchdown on those 17 attempts, so it's not just one big play that's inflating his numbers.
I think Newman is playing better than those numbers indicate, but he certainly wasn't up to the caliber of the player he needs to be or is being paid like when he was in the lineup.
2. How bad did the Brad Johnson error, oops... era end up being?
There are so many different ways to express how bad Brad Johnson was. His DVOA was -55.9%. That's the worst in the league for any passer with more than 60 attempts. Tony Romo, on the other hand, had a DVOA of 29.6%.
That's a difference of 85.5%. In the 13 years that we have DVOA data for, no backup who's dropped back more than 80 times has ever even come close to being that much worse than the starter. The previous low was a difference of 75.9% for the 2001 Vikings, who replaced an injured Daunte Culpepper with Spurgeon Wynn, who threw six interceptions in 98 attempts and averaged 4.3 yards per attempt before being benched. Wynn was actually the third-stringer, as 29-year-old rookie Todd Bouman was the first guy off the bench and actually did a respectable job.
Second-worst would be Tommy Maddox when he filled in for Ben Roethlisberger during the Steelers' Super Bowl run in 2005.
Not coincidentally, both Wynn and Maddox never played again in the NFL. I suspect Johnson will be joining them.
3. Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts are both banged up, so there's a chance Shaun Alexander could be the Redskins' primary running back. How dramatic a drop-off would that be for the Washington running game?
It's hard to overstate how bad Shaun Alexander was in 2007. We had him as the second-least valuable running back in the league according to DYAR; by nary a single measure was he superior to backup Maurice Morris, who is no one's idea of a great player.
The biggest concern for Redskins fans with Portis out, honestly, will have to be the blocking game, where Portis is without peer. Mike Sellers is a decent pass blocker, but the Redskins are going to have to either dramatically limit their offensive playbook or hope that Alexander is up to handling DeMarcus Ware or Anthony Spencer/Greg Ellis when they come free.
In other news, after 10 games in 2007, The New York Jets record was 2-8. The Green Bay Packers were 9-1.
After 10 games in 2008, the New York Jets record is 7-3. The Packers play the Bears Sunday for a chance to get to 5-5.
Hmm. Didn’t these two teams make a trade of someone? Who would have thought the QB with the most wins in NFL History would affect the Win totals of each team?
Ted Thompson should be fired.
Tonight on the NFL Network, at 8pm, the 1985 Bears march into Lambeau to take on (gulp) Jim Zorn and the Green Bay Packers:
Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers (11/3/85) - 1985 Bears widely regarded as one of the greatest teams in NFL history; need a dominant performance from Walter Payton, 192 yards and game-winning fourth quarter touchdown, to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field.
Baseball Free Agency is on:
Rangers Targets …And yet no mention of Kerry Wood? If I had to bet, I say the Rangers will get the Wood in here. It is so Tom Hicks…
Free-agent targets A look at players the Rangers could pursue in free agency.
Brad Penny: Injuries derailed him in 2008. Oklahoma native was an All-Star in 2006 and 2007.
Freddy Garcia: The Rangers expressed some interest before he signed with Tigers late last season. Only 14 starts past two years.
Ben Sheets: Highland Park resident was injured late in 2008. He’ll get a rich deal, but maybe not as rich.
Brian Fuentes: Rangers linked to lefty, who was a craftsman at hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Chad Cordero: Coming off shoulder surgery; the Rangers have asked for his medical records.
Eddie Guardado: If he decides to pitch another season, the Rangers would love to have his veteran presence.
Casey Blake: Will likely be due a multiyear contract, something the Rangers don’t want to offer.
Joe Crede: He could be had on a one-year deal. Bad back, iffy average are concerns.
Nomar Garciaparra: He’s considering retirement because of injuries. Wife, Mia Hamm, has Texas roots.
A bigger list …
MLB's top free agents:
1. Mark Teixeira, 28, LA Angels
2. Kevin Millar, 37, Baltimore
3. Sean Casey, 34, Boston
1. Orlando Hudson, 30, Arizona
2. Felipe Lopez, 28, Cardinals
3. Mark Grudzielanek, 38, Kansas City
1. Rafael Furcal, 30, LA Dodgers
2. Orlando Cabrera, 34, Chi. White Sox
3. Edgar Renteria, 33, Detroit
1. Joe Crede, 30, White Sox
2. Casey Blake, 35, Dodgers
3. Juan Uribe, 29, White Sox
1. Manny Ramirez, 36, Dodgers
2. Raul Ibanez, 36, Seattle
3. Adam Dunn, 29, Arizona
1. Mark Kotsay, 32, Boston
2. Rocco Baldelli, 27, Tampa Bay
3. Jim Edmonds, 38, Chi. Cubs
1. Bobby Abreu, 34, NY Yankees
2. Eric Hinske, 31, Tampa Bay
3. Emil Brown, 33, Oakland
1. Pudge Rodriguez, 36, Yankees
2. Jason Varitek, 36, Boston
3. Brad Ausmus, 39, Houston
1. Milton Bradley, 30, Texas
2. Cliff Floyd, 35, Tampa Bay
3. Frank Thomas, 40, Oakland
1. CC Sabathia, 28, Milwaukee
2. Ryan Dempster, 31, Cubs
3. A.J. Burnett, 31, Toronto
1. Brian Fuentes, 33, Colorado
2. Joe Beimel, 31, Dodgers
3. Will Ohman, 31, Atlanta
1. Francisco Rodriguez, 26, Angels
2. Kerry Wood, 31, Cubs
3. Juan Cruz, 30, Arizona
UFC 91 Saturday Night
And more…I think I am rolling with Lesnar. But, Nog will beat him after that…