Has anybody heard anything about the Cowboys this week?
Breakdown after the fold.
For Cowboys news leading up the game, check out Blogging the Boys, our SBN brother.
St. Louis Rams, 1-4, t-3rd - NFC West
Dallas Cowboys, 4-2, t-2nd - NFC East
Parentheses include NFL rankings in that area.
STL pass - 84/148, 155 yds/gm (28th), 2 TD, 3 int (t-4th), 70.5 rat (25th)
DAL pass D - 123/200, 212.8 yds/gm (17th), 8 TD, 2 int, 91 rat (23rd)
No Pacman, no Terence Newman, and the possible addition of S Roy Williams makes the Cowboys a good matchup for the Rams to get their pass offense clicking. With Donnie Avery's game-saving play last week, the momentum is on his side to play the #2 spot and feed off of what should be some softer coverage since the Cowboys will have to key on Torry Holt (see some of Van's analysis here). By the way, Orlando Scandrick (rookie CB) looks like he is 15:
The Rams will have to deal with the Dallas pass rush to give Bulger some time; if he get's it, we could see flashes of the old Bulger, making accurate passes around starting cornerbacks Anthony Henry and Mike Jenkins. I miss those throws. Those were the ones we signed Bulger for $65 million over six years to make. It'd be nice to see him remind us why we did so against the Cowboys.
STL run - 110 rsh, 82.4 yds/gm (29th), 3.7 yds/carry, 2 TD (t-30th)
DAL run D - 141 rsh, 87.5 yds/gm (7th), 3.7 yds/carry, 3 TD
Just for some perspective, the Rams are averaging less than half as many yards per game as the Giants (181.2 / game).
The reality is, Dallas brings a solid pash rush backed up by talented linebackers: Greg Ellis, Bradie James, and 13-year vet Zach Thomas. I don't count DeMarcus Ware, because the Cowboys play what I call a false 3-4. He's a DE, not a linebacker. In any case, the Rams will have a tough time running against this crew. With the recent news that Brian Leonard is gone for the year, that lack of depth puts even more pressure on the running game to start pushing the ball and developing drives. Field position will play a huge role in this game not only to keep the Cowboys out of range, but to get Josh Brown, who has to be in line to make the Pro Bowl this year, in range to make kicks like the one he did to win last week. Regardless, Steven has to find his way into the linebacker corps and then use his talents to get past that crew.
STL O-line - 15 sacks (t-23rd)
DAL D-line - 7 sacks (t-5th)
Again, Dallas has a strong group up front. DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, and Chris Canty are going to challenge this group (Richie Incognito's wacky anti-referee epithets aside). For Bulger to succeed (which is looking like the CQ as for what it's going to take for the Rams to compete), this group is going to have to fight hard to keep a pocket for Bulger, especially if Orlando Pace ends up sitting this one out.
DAL pass - 128/201, 274 yds/gm (3rd), 14 TD (t-1st), 5 int, 103 rat (t-3rd)
STL pass D - 91/139, 234 yds/gm (t-25th), 8 TD, 1 int, 110.3 (t-31st)
So, Romo might play, which means Brad Johnson might play, and new WR Roy Williams will certainly play in some fashion. Who the hell knows how this is going to work out. The truth is, with the rushing threat Barber and Felix Jones bring, the passing game gets a bit of extra freedom. That freedom is more than you can afford to give Terrell Owens. Outside of Owens, the Cowboys WR corps was pretty soft, which is why they were willing to give up so many draft picks for Roy Will. This will be a huge test for the Rams after playing so well against the Redskins (who beat the Cowboys, lest thee forget).
DAL run - 161 rsh, 127.8 yds/gm (8th), 4.8 yds/carry, 7 TD
STL run D - 171 rsh, 169 yds/gm (30th), 4.9 yds/carry, 9 TD
This is a huge test for Jim Haslett's defense. The Cowboys O-line has done an effective job at opening things up for Marion Barber and Felix Jones. They haven't done a great job (especially against Arizona) keeping the heat off of Romo. If Romo plays and has the new Cowboys dual threat of TO and Roy Williams, the Rams run defense is going to play a huge role. If Brad Johnson doesn't, that role will be even bigger. If the O-line and Barber III or Felix Jones IV can pound out 4 or 5 yard runs, the Cowboys can lean less on the pass, manage some long drives that eat up the clock, and push the Rams into poor field position. Haslett needs to get this crew ready to battle.
DAL O-line - 7 sacks (t-5th)
STL D-line - 11 sacks (t-17th)
This is one of the growing abilities of the Rams. In fact, of all the stats with which I included their NFL rankings in parentheses, this is our best one after interceptions, which we've only thrown 3. Hopfully, Haslett just threw this group in a room for two days and had them watch the Arizona-Dallas game. Arizona racked up 3 sacks, forced a fumble from Romo (and a tuck-rule-fumble), and broke his pinky finger. More important were the hurries and knockdowns. Romo was under pressure all day; he needs to be again for the Rams to limit the Cowboys aerial attack. As for the run, Carriker is going to have a huge assignment, working inside against guys like Andre Gurode and Cory Procter. The Rams are going to have to toss some bodies around.
This week's top 3 storylines brought to you by the life & times of Adam "Pacman" Jones:
1.) The Spitter's Pair: On August 25, 2006 and October 26, 2006, Jones got in to some trouble with a woman on each night (unrelated) and allegedly spit on them. Will the Cowboys secondary be able to spit on the Rams' passing game? This is the area in which the Cowboys would seem to have the most trouble in dealing with the Rams. Will there be any 'disorderly conduct'? Will the Rams' passing game be put on 'probation'? Ok, I'm stretching, but the truth is, I'm going to be watching the passing game closer than anything.
2.) The Minxx Jinx: During the '07 NBA All-Star Game Weekends, Jones joined up with Nelly and made it rain on some shakers. For those of you who didn't catch that, he was throwing $1 bills at dancers at a local adult entertainment venue. The manager directed his dancers to pick up the money which angered Jones; apparently, he thought it was just for show. I think this is the first time I've ever imagined an NFL player in a strip club telling the ladies "You can look, just don't touch." So you know the story (and if you don't, it's pretty predictable): Jones leaves and a while later, someone comes in and shoots up the place. Essentially, Jones set himself up for trouble by not only attending Club Minxx, but also by throwing around money he didn't want people to take. What dumb thing are the Rams or Cowboys doing that is setting them up for failure? Is it the Rams falling in to a trap based on all the drama this week surround the Cowboys? Is it the Cowboys for overestimating this team, much like the Redskins did? Is it Tony Romo? It certainly will be if he plays, re-injures the finger and ends up missing more than the original 3-4 weeks that the doctors suggested he sit. Is it Jerry Jones for signing away so many draft picks for Roy Williams to play alongside TO? Keep in mind Jerry Jones traded his 2000 and 2001 1st round draft picks for Joey Galloway to Seattle (who eventually used those picks on Shaun Alexander and Koren Robinson en route to a Super Bowl appearance). Will this trade bust similarly? Why hasn't Pacman spit on any women lately? (Ok, that one was for my own amusement)
3.) The Bodyguard: One of the things I love about Pacman is how he challenges your assumptions, or mine at least. Usually you have a bodyguard defend you from threats to your personal security. It's unusual that the bodyguard somehow ends up becoming that threat. On Oct. 7th, that's what happened when Jones and his bodyguard apparently battled each other in a bathroom in Big D. So this one kind of relates to the above: what person in either franchise is in a position to help, but is instead hurting the team? It's not Jay Zygmunt; nobody believes he's helping in the first place. Is it Jerry Jones? Has he lost his classic touch to be able to wade through the NFL waters and come up with gold? Has his penchant for media attention paid its final price? Has his business savvy finally overtaken his football savvy to the point where he can't run a team effectively as owner/GM? And on the Ram's side, I look at Haslett. With the rumors circulating about an extension if he can lead the Rams to a 6-6 record to finish the season (which at this point would only require 5 wins), is he going to start pressing more for his job at the expense of the team? Linehan certainly did. He refused to play Donnie Avery, benched Bulger for Trent Green, and convinced the front office to release Fakhir Brown. Will Haslett learn from his predecessors mistakes or lead them down a simliar downward spiral? Sunday will give us a first look at some of these answers, but it will probably give us more questions.
And just for the record, I grew up in Dallas for 26 years. It's my favorite city on Earth. A city like that deserved a better group of people than the Cowboys. C'mon Rams.