1-2, or 2-1. The difference is huge. Sunday is an opportunity to put this season on a positive track...and a pitfall to make the uphill climb steeper.
Let's start with the coaching staff. How pleased is the fan base with the coordinators? And what are the chances Jason Garrett is the Cowboys' HC in 2014? What do those chances hinge on; is it playoffs or bust?
Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli are doing good work with the defense so far. It may not show up in the stats yet because of a terrible pass defense game in the opener vs. the Giants, but it looks like the Cowboys defense could be good if they get a few things cleaned up. The linebackers have struggled in pass coverage so far, but a lot of that seems to be related to learning the new scheme and getting used to it on the field.
The Cowboys pass rush is picking up and they did get 5 turnovers on defense in the opening game. On offense, Bill Callahan's play-calling has been under fire a little bit so far. Romo's yards per attempt average is way down for him, the Cowboys just aren't getting the ball downfield and the run game has struggled. There are more questions on that side of the ball. As for Jason Garrett's chances of being HC in 2014, who knows?
Too many circumstances come into play, but if the team stays healthy he probably needs to make the playoffs to be sure.
Two games in - what are you certain of with respect to this team? Is there anything you know about a unit that will be the case throughout the season?
The Cowboys defensive line looks like it is going to be steady, they've played well so far. DeMarcus Ware and the returning Anthony Spencer form very good bookends and Jason Hatcher is playing well at tackle. That unit looks solid and they might get Jay Ratliff back after a while and if he's healthy they could do real damage. The wide receivers are a unit I have confidence in, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin form a great 1-2 punch. Throw in Jason Witten and the Cowboys have some strength in their receiving weapons and Tony Romo can get the ball out to them. Those two units look like the most consistent.
Let's focus on the offensive line. How much help does that group need? How does Travis Frederick look so far in his initial NFL campaign, and has he lived up to where he was selected in April to this point (or at least is he on a trajectory to do so)?
The offensive line is kind of the x-factor for the Cowboys. If they play well, the Cowboys should be a very good team by the end of the year. If they play poorly, it's back to 8-8 again, or worse. The addition of veteran Brian Waters should help. Hopefully he'll take most if not all the snaps at right guard. Doug Free has been playing well and Tyron Smith has been fine at the tackle spots. They handled the KC duo of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali last week. Travis Frederick had looked very good all through camp, preseason and game one of the season. He struggled last week, but I think he'll bounce back this week. He looks like a very good player who could man the middle for a while in Dallas. Left guard Ron Leary is getting his first extensive playing time this year so we're not sure how he'll end up. The line needs a little time to gel but they could be good now that Waters has been added. So we have guarded optimism that they will improve this year.
Defensively, how exploitable is the secondary? Mo Claiborne cost y'all some draft capital, and Orlando Scandrick has been a Cowboy for a while. Brandon Carr's done well by all accounts in his first two this season. Where should the Rams look to attack in the passing game?
The Giants did a good job of exploiting holes in the coverage and some confusion in week one, but that was the first game the team had played under their new defensive system. It looked like they had gotten somewhat better against KC last week. Claiborne's injury shifted him to the nickel corner last week and may again this week. He's definitely struggling with the shoulder injury. Scandrick started in his place and played well. He and Carr performed well last week and overall they all form a pretty good trio of corners. The Cowboys safeties would be the weak link. Will Allen is a journeyman who may be losing his job to rookie J.J. Wilcox. Barry Church is a good in the box safety and okay in coverage. The middle, where the linebackers have struggled in coverage and the safeties can be vulnerable, is probably the best place to attack.
What's your early sense of the division? It's not the conference dominator it was like say in 2007 when there wasn't a team with a losing record in the NFC East. Where do the Cowboys fit in this quartet?
The NFC East definitely appears to be down this year, as they were last year. Both the Giants and the Redskins have looked bad so far, they've both dug themselves a hole at 0-2. The Eagles are in transition and despite their week one victory, they've lost two in a row, looking poor against KC last night. So Dallas is very much in the middle of this and stand a good chance in the division. In my view, they've been the "least-bad" team so far in the East. If they can get on a roll, they could be the front-runners for the East. But it all starts with this Sunday, they have to take care of their own business against the Rams.
Thanks to Dave to for taking the time to answer these.