I guess I make this pick completely out of respect for guys like Jason Witten and Greg Ellis and Bradie James and Marion Barber. I believe they don’t want to go out like this, so they will dig a little deeper and win a game they must win.
I think Tampa and Monte Kiffin will make it extremely tough, by clogging any and all short routes and challenging the Cowboys to throw it over the top, where Brad Johnson’s weak arm will be called into question.
Should be intriguing. And it should be scary.
Cowboys 17, Tampa Bay 16
Gil Brandt looks at the big games and calls it one of the biggest games in Cowboys History! …
Tampa Bay QB Jeff Garcia vs. Dallas QB Brad Johnson
This may be one of the biggest games in Cowboys history. At 4-3, Dallas plays the Giants and Redskins on the road after this game.
With Tony Romo out, this becomes a quarterback matchup between a 38-year-old (Garcia) and a 40-year-old (Johnson). Johnson started 14 games for Minnesota in 2006. He's very smart and knows what to do with the ball. He will require great protection and a clean pocket, because he doesn't have much arm strength when he can't plant and use his lower body. He will provide much-needed leadership
The entire NFC South had just one player selected to the Pro Bowl last year -- Garcia. He's smart and understands the West Coast offense. He's able to move around and very seldom makes a bad pay.
Ironically, while Johnson played QB for the Buccaneers' Super Bowl-winning team team in 2002, Garcia will be throwing in this game to a pair of former Dallas WRs -- Antonio Bryant and Joey Galloway, who will most likely be the main targets.
Michael Lombardi’s review and comment on the news ….
FROM CALVIN WATKINS OF THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS…“The season’s not over,” Stewart said. “You should get measured by what you do at the end of the day, right? Not at the beginning. Look at the full body of work. Don’t judge me on not even half of the season.” Stewart has received most of the criticism over the defense’s struggles. Though this is Phillips’ 3-4 scheme, Stewart was brought in from San Diego last season to help teach it to the new defensive coaches and players. “The way you look at it is, you knew the job was rough when you took it,” he said. “All you can do is be you, coach hard, be the best coach you can be at whatever you’re supposed to be doing. And then what happens, happens. If you get blamed, you get blamed.”
I think the biggest problem with the Dallas defense lies in the expectations of being a shut down unit. They have gotten pass rush pressure from Demarcus Ware, but have not been able to get consistent pressure from anyone else. And some of the guys that they are counting on to be good players have not matured as players, or have seen their better days as players. For example, linebacker and first round pick Anthony Spencer has not been a factor, and the play of Anthony Henry has been so bad it amazes me that he is still active for games. All that talk about this being a top talent defense is just that– talk. Now, I am not saying there is not room for improvement from the coaching side, because we all can do our own jobs better. But when you look at the Cowboys on paper, they are just good on paper, not on the field.
No love from Phil Simms, either …
The crew on Showtime's "Inside the NFL" didn't hold anything back when asked about the Cowboys on Wednesday's show. Cris Collinsworth called the Cowboys "the most individualistic team in the league," which sounds fairly accurate to me.
Added Phil Simms: "When I watch the Cowboys it's like a boxing match. They want to go out there and win a decision by dancing around. Sooner or later you got to punch somebody in the mouth. They don't punch anybody in the mouth. The first thing I notice about all their games is they are never the aggressor physically and you can't win in the NFL unless you are."
And here's what Bill Cowher said: "You have to cater your defense to what you have personnel-wise. They have coverage issues. In my mind what they have to do is get some way to create pressure. I know [Demarcus] Ware is a good rusher. But at the same time they got to get there quicker. They've got to be more disruptive with their front. I look at this team right now and they are trying to play the same way they did when they had everybody healthy. They don't have everybody healthy. Right now you've got to cater that defense to what you have and they aren't doing that."
Big 12 NFL Draft thoughts …
My Stars Blog this morning …including Ovechkin Videos…
And finally, The real big game this weekend ...Chelsea vs. Liverpool...Sunday Morning, 8:30am, Setanta...
The top two in the Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Chelsea host Liverpool, live on Sky Sports 1 and HD 1.
Chelsea currently sit at the table's summit, but only by goal difference as Liverpool lurk in close proximity after matching their weekend opponent's unbeaten start.
Liverpool's positive beginning has seen Rafa Benitez's title credentials taken more seriously than any of the Spaniard's previous four campaigns in England as the Reds start to resemble a squad which can realistically end an 18-year wait for league glory.
Luiz Felipe Scolari's Chelsea, however, have the critics purring, with the Blues ridding themselves of the conservative football played under former managers.
The 2005 and 2006 Premier League winners also boast a daunting 86-game unbeaten home record in the league and, with Liverpool recording only one three-point haul at Stamford Bridge in 16 visits, their opponent's task appears all the more intimidating.
Liverpool, though, have become the comeback kings this season after coming from behind against Middlesbrough, Manchester United, Manchester City and Wigan in the league to leave confidence high ahead of their trip to West London.
But Chelsea captain John Terry is as eager as any of his team-mates to deliver a dent to the aspirations of their title rivals as the England captain prepares to take his place in the heart of Scolari's defence.
The centre-back has been accused of putting club before country after featuring in last weekend's drubbing of Middlesbrough having missed the World Cup qualifiers with Kazakhstan and Andorra with a back injury, but he is now fully recovered.
Top-scorer Frank Lampard will continue to prove Chelsea's lynchpin in the centre of midfield, while Juliano Belletti - who was star of the show against Boro - will hope for a recall in the continued absence of Michael Ballack (foot) after dropping to the bench against Roma in the UEFA Champions League.
Liverpool have captain Steven Gerrard and midfielder Xabi Alonso available, despite fears that the star duo may miss out, but Benitez is to make a late decision on the fitness of striker Robbie Keane.
The trio were substituted against Atletico Madrid in Europe on Wednesday as Gerrard (fatigue), Keane (groin) and Alonso (knee) suffered.
But Benitez looks set to name Gerrard and Alonso in his starting XI as he attempts to compensate for the absence of Fernando Torres, who is missing with a hamstring injury, while Dirk Kuyt should return after dropping to the bench at Atletico.
Possible starting XIs:
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, Bridge, Mikel, Lampard, Deco, Malouda, Anelka, Kalou.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Dossena, Riera, Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard, Kuyt, Keane.
UFC 90 – Saturday Night