This Thanksgiving, Buffalo Bills fans can rejoice as the team will be playing the Dallas Cowboys for the world to see. This could serve as the statement game Buffalo needs in the eyes of people who’ve been underestimating them all season despite their 8-3 record. To preview the match-up we talked with David Halprin from Blogging the Boys to see what’s going on with “America’s Team.”
1) What’s the patience level at with Jason Garrett?
It would appear that Jason Garrett has lost a lot of the fanbase with some really poor coaching decisions this year. The Cowboys are a very talented team with firepower up and down the roster, yet they continually make mistakes, start games slow and are hampered by curious coaching strategies and specific decisions in-game. Kicking a field goal in the red zone last Sunday late in the game when down by a touchdown was something that almost no one understood. Garrett has done a good job building a culture in Dallas and the players really seem to play hard and never quit when things are going poorly, but Garrett’s in-game decisions are very conservative and the team this year seems unprepared at the start of each game. The Cowboys look like they have ridden as far as they can with Garrett as the head coach unless a miracle turnaround happens and the Cowboys go very deep into the playoffs, like the conference championship game or Super Bowl.
2) Dak is having a fantastic year, how much do you think he will get paid versus how much do you think he deserves?
He is going to get paid at the top of the food chain after the season is over. Currently the top yearly average is $35 million for Russell Wilson, so that is probably the benchmark to look at. The Cowboys may try to sign him for an extended contract which could lower his yearly average, or they might pile on the guaranteed money or some other combination of things, but in the end he will be paid at the top level. He deserves to get paid that money. Contrary to a lot of opinion that he’s only doing well because of his offensive line or his running back, Prescott has been good to great throughout his time in Dallas. The Cowboys are just now transitioning from a running team to a team that relies on Prescott’s arm, and the offense is better for it. Pay the man.
3) Leighton Vander Esch is expected to miss another game with a neck issue, what impact does that have on the Dallas defense?
Last year it would have seemed like a bigger deal. That season, his rookie year, Vander Esch was so good, moving from sideline-to-sideline, showing great instincts and making sure tackles. This year, not so much. Yeah, he still puts up stats but his instincts have failed him a lot and he’s often caught taking bad angles and getting out of position. He’s also not as sure a tackler as he was last year. There is probably some drop off between him and Sean Lee, who is getting up there in years, but it’s not a huge deal this season based on how Vander Esch has played.
4) What’s the biggest area this team needs to improve on the rest of the season?
Special teams. They are a disaster and other teams are taking advantage. Last week the Patriots blocked a punt to set up the game’s only touchdown. They also pooched their kickoffs to force the Cowboys to handle them and the Cowboys constantly misplayed them or fumbled them. The Cowboys have been regularly losing the hidden yardage game all season. Their starting field position on average has been horrible, and they also do a poor job of covering kicks. Sometimes we forget that there are three phases to the game and the Cowboys have been great in one (offense), mediocre in another (defense) and wretched in the third (special teams). If the Cowboys had decent special teams, they might have won a couple of more games this season.
5) Prediction for Thursday?
The Cowboys are at home where they usually play pretty well. Amari Cooper is a totally different player when he plays in Dallas as opposed to being on the road. They won’t have to deal with the wind, rain and the cold like they did on this past Sunday which should drastically improve their passing game. They are desperate for a win to stay in the lead in the NFC East. I would expect them to come and play much better than they did on the weekend. The team seems to do pretty well when their backs are up against the wall like they are now. So I will predict a Cowboys win something in the range of 24-20.