Cowboys Sign Punter: Bears’ Devon Hester to have a Big Game?

Dallas Cowboys punter Chis Jones has a sprained knee and it’s not clear if he will play Monday night against the Bears. This week Dallas signed recently released punter Brian Moorman from the Bills which may indicate Jones is not playing. Moorman has had an outstanding career as a punter but he simply isn’t what he use to be.

In three games with the Bills, Moorman has a higher per punt average 45.5 than Jones at 42.5 however stats indicate that Moorman has been kicking line drives this year.

No Hang Time:

His net average of 32.7 is one of the lowest in the NFL and a career low for him. Another indication that Moorman’s hang time is suffering is that he has no fair catches this season. One of a few punters who can make that claim. In addition, the Bills have allowed more punt return yards this season (172 yards)  than any team in the NFL. Those numbers will get a punter cut from a team.

Good news for Hester?

The Cowboys face one of the best punt returners in the game Monday night in Devon Hester of the Bears. He is the NFL all time TD leader in punt returns. If Moorman kicks line drives to Hester which are difficult to cover, it could allow Hester an opportunity to break open what is expected to be a close game.

Suggestion: If Moorman plays in place of Jones, have him practice punting shorter and higher than usual (fair catches are good with Hester) or just punt toward the sideline out of bounds.


Bears@Cowboys Preview: Both QBs Likely to be Sacked

Frustrating QB Jay Cutler is the key to beating the Bears.

So far the Dallas Cowboys offensive line has struggled this season and that has been well documented. But you won’t have to look far to find another NFL offense that has an offensive line that has not protected their QB in the Chicago Bears.

When these two NFC teams clash in Dallas on Monday Night Football, you may see as many sacks as the Seahawks produced Monday night against the Packers.

Bears QB Jay Cutler has been sacked 11 times in 3 games while Tony Romo has been sacked 7 times. Romo’s escape ability has probably kept those numbers from being higher. That’s why no doubt we have seen Cutler yelling at his offensive line at times particularly in the Packers game they lost. The Cowboys defense matches up well here.

On the other hand, the Bears defense is the truth.  It’s one of the best in the NFL in about any way you can measure it. Their front seven are dominating and they are very good at pressuring QBs, tops in the NFL, which can’t be good news for Romo and his offensive line.

This is where the Cowboys are over matched and it could be a problem Monday night. Dallas was able to survive the Giants defensive front opening night but the Bears actually will present an even bigger challenge.

Let’s break it all down.


Jay Cutler has an unimpressive 58.6 QB passing rating which places him 31st in the NFL only slightly better than Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill. Cutler has thrown 6 interceptions this season which ties him with three other QBs as the most thrown. His completion percentage has only been 52% which combined with the 6 INTs produce a very low QB rating.

As a team, the Bears are ranked 28th in the NFL in passing. WR Brandon Marshall who was picked up from the Dolphins, has caught 16 passes for 214 yds and 1 TD. They also drafted talented WR Alshon Jeffery who has 9 catches for 132 yards and a TD. Marshall has been Cutler’s main weapon in the passing game when he has time to throw.


The Cowboys pass defense ranks number 2 in the NFL in yards allowed. Their new CBs Carr and Claiborne have been keeping opposing WRs in check and that could certainly frustrate Cutler.

However the Cowboys lost safety Barry Church with an injury and last week moved Brandon Carr to play safety some. It’s not clear if they will continue to play Carr at safety as it may depend on how healthy the other safety Sensabaugh is at game time. It could make Dallas weaker defending deep passes.

Ware has 4 of the 7 sacks for Dallas in 2012. So far this season, the Cowboys have been good at pressuring QBs but not great.

Advantage: Dallas. 


The Bears rushing offense averages 103 yards a game which ranks them 13th in the NFL. Matt Forte has been out with a sprained right ankle but practiced this week and it appears he plans to play against the Cowboys Monday night. FORTE

Bears RB Michael Bush (from the Raiders) has 44 carries and 151 yds in 2012. It’s not clear if Bush is going to be healthy enough to play against the Cowboys, since the Bears were using recently signed back up Kahlil Bell in the fourth quarter of the Rams game. They just aren’t showing their hand on the status of Bush.


This has not been a strength for the Cowboys so far in 2012 as they rank 19th in defending the run. The Cowboys certainly had trouble with Lynch of the Seahawks and it could be a problem again.

Advantage: EVEN


The Bears lead the NFL in sacks with 14 in three games. Protecting Romo, will be an enormous challenge Monday night because the pressure doesn’t come from just one player. Three Bears Julius Peppers, Henry Melton, and Israel Idonije, have combined for 8 sacks this season.

A struggling Dallas O line combined with an aggressive Bears D line, could equal a long night for Romo trying to pass.


The Cowboys passing game ranks 13th in the NFL. At times the passing game has looked good like Kevin Ogletree against the Giants, but lately it has struggled with several dropped passes and miscues on the offensive line. This is the wrong week for Dallas to struggle on offense. The Bears defense will be very unforgiving.

Advantage: Chicago


Against the run, the Bears defense has been stingy allowing only 76 yards a game, which ranks 6th in the NFL.


The Cowboys struggled last year to run the ball and have been a little frustrated this season too even with a healthy DeMarco Murray. Most the blame would appear to be on the offensive line. Dallas averages 76 yards a game rushing and that ranks 29th in the NFL and they are at the very bottom in the NFC.

Advantage: Chicago

SPECIAL TEAMS: With Devin Hester, the Bears rank in the top 10 in kickoff and punt returns. Hester represents game changing return ability that Dallas will have to prepare for. Dallas has struggled in kick returns but did get a nice 44 yard punt return from Dez Bryant Sunday.

Advantage: Chicago

Overall the advantages go to Chicago. So how can Dallas win this game?

Game plan: Template Provided by the Packers in their 23-10 win.

  • The Green Bay Packers were able to harass QB Cutler by sacking him 7 times and forcing 4 INTs. That’s exactly the kind of pressure Dallas needs to bring. Coach Ryan has a little more time with a Monday night game, to put in extra stunts and blitzes to frustrate the Bears O line and cause Cutler to throw them under the bus again which he will do.
  • Having the Cowboys corners playing physical and tight on the Bears WRs will help make Cutler hold the ball longer too.
  • For the Cowboys to score against a very tough Bears defense, they will need a short field. That means the Dallas defense must produce a few turnovers in the game to set them up.
  • Dallas needs to commit to running the football and not be so quick to abandon it. The Packers ran Cedric Benson 20 times against the Bears. Dallas needs to give the ball to Murray 15-20 times because if Dallas attempts to pass every down, the Bears defensive line will be able to just go into “kill the QB” mode.

Without forcing at least 2 or 3 turnovers, I don’t see how Dallas wins this game.

NFL Power Rankings: WEEK 4. We Have a New Leader and a New Bottom

All 32 NFL teams ranked after week 3.    Previous weeks rankings.

The Twist: Each week my top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. I reflect the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs each week.

Most reliable and accurate NFL team Ranking: That would be this one. Last week all the “experts” had the Eagles ranked ahead of the Cardinals but this blog had the Cards at #8 and the Eagles #9.  After the Cardinals convincing 27-6 victory, I would say I had it right.

New Leader: The mighty 49ers fell into a trap game in Minnesota and lost their first game while the Falcons went to San Diego and beat the undefeated Chargers with ease. At 3-0 the Falcons assume the top position for now. Interesting that all three Falcon wins have come against AFC teams so far.

The Texans at #2 are also 3-0 and look very good but have benefited from a fairly soft schedule so far. The 49ers fall to #4 behind the undefeated Cardinals who are also 1-0 in the NFC West division.

New Bottom: I had the Chiefs at the bottom last week but they won in OT at New Orleans keeping the Saints winless. So the Saints must settle in at the bottom since the Chiefs found a defense worse than theirs.

Biggest Bounce Up: The Vikings moved up 11 spots to #18 after upsetting the top ranked 49ers. The Vikings are 2-1 and Petterson seems healthy.

Dropping like a challenge flag with replacement refs: The biggest drop was for the miserable and winless Saints. They fall 10 spots to 32. If you think they don’t deserve that spot, I agree but there are only 32 teams and I can’t put them at 33 or I would. I was convinced that the Chiefs were the worst team in the NFL but when they won at the Saints, what choice did I have?

Biggest Surprises after 3 games:

  • Good hand of Cards. The Cardinals are 3-0 and look like they are for real. I have them at #3.
  • Brady & Bunch losing record. The Patriots are 1-2. I have them ranked in the top 12 because I think they still will win their division.
  • Cheese Heads losing record. The Packers are 1-2.
  • The Ain’ts. Saints 0-3 is a big surprise. Didn’t realize their head coach meant so much to them. WOW.

WEEK 4 Rankings:   (0= no change)

1. Falcons            (3-0)    ↑ 2
2. Texans           (3-0)   0
3. Cardinals      (3-0)    ↑ 5
4. 49ers             (2-1)    ↓ 3
5. Ravens          (2-1)    ↑ 1
6. Packers         (1-2)    ↓ 2
7. Bears             (2-1)     0
8. Cowboys       (2-1)     ↑ 7
9. Bengals          (2-1)     ↑ 4
10. Chargers       (2-1)     0
11.  Patriots         (1-2)     ↓ 6
12. Jets                (2-1)     ↑ 7
13. Seahawks     (2-1)     ↑ 1
14. Giants           (2-1)    ↑ 2
15. Eagles           (2-1)     ↓ 6
16. Broncos        (1-2)     ↓ 5
17. Steelers         (1-2)     ↓ 5
18. Vikings         (2-1)      ↑ 11
19. Bills               (2-1)      ↑ 6
20. Bucs             (1-2)      ↓ 2
21. Lions             (1-2)      0
22. Panthers      (1-2)     ↓ 2
23. Rams            (1-2)      0
24. Redskins      (1-2)     ↓ 7
25. Jaguars        (1-2)     ↑ 5
26. Colts             (1-2)     ↓ 2
27. Dolphins      (1-2)     ↓ 1
28. Raiders        (1-2)      0
29. Titans           (1-2)      ↑ 2
30. Chiefs           (1-2)      ↑ 2
31. Browns         (0-3)      ↓ 4
32. Saints           (0-3)      ↓ 10

Six Things I liked about the Cowboys Win Over the Buccaneers And a Few Concerns

In my Cowboys/Buccaneers preview blog I said I thought Romo would throw the ball 40 times. He threw it 39 times. And I thought the Bucs would give the ball to Martin 20 times. He had 19 carries. I also thought Romo would throw a pick (which he did and is getting pretty easy to predict) and he would get 300 yards passing. Romo finished with 283 yards passing.

Still a lot happened in this ugly game that was tough to predict and while it was a win, (score of 16-10) there were some negatives and some positives coming out of this game.


  • Finally a TD from a RB running the ball. DeMarco Murray ran the 11 yards for a TD which Dallas hasn’t had that happen since Murray did it last season in a blow out against the Bills. This is very encouraging and overdue.
  • Finally an interception. Sean Lee got the Cowboys first and only INT of the year. Lee seems at times to be making all the tackles so he will have to bring in the INTs too looks like.
  • Finally a nice punt return. Earlier I blogged looking at the numbers, and called out the Cowboys dismal 1 yard punt return average. Dez Bryant had a 44 yard return in the game giving us hope that things may get better there. It’s the first big punt return for Dallas in a long time.
  • Finally a takeaway provided by special teams. Orie Lemon just recently brought up from the practice squad, recovered a fumbled mishandled punt by the Bucs.
  • Defense- The Cowboys defense held the Bucs to just 10 points so that 16 points would hold up as a win. Even with turnovers by the offense, the Cowboy defense minimized the damage. The Bucs were held to just 3 points in the second half.
  • Special teams– In general the special teams had a very good game. Solid FG kicking, solid kick coverage and a nice 44 yard punt return.

Now for the things that will make Cowboys coaches and fans pull their hair out this season.


  • FLAGS- Penalties are getting ridiculous. No make that beyond ridiculous. They finished with 13 penalties for 105 yards. And everyone on the offensive line seem to jump offsides at least once in the game. It wasn’t just one player at all. It was a home game so can’t blame the crowd noise on the road. FB Vickers had a holding call in the red zone which killed a good chance to score a TD.
  • Romo turnovers– Romo threw yet another early game interception and then added two fumbles later in the game. Admittedly, Romo is not getting the kind of pass protection that he should get but still Romo must take care of the football.
  • Offensive Line– Coming into the season we all knew Jerry Jones was trying to get by on the cheap on his O line and it showed against the Bucs. They had numerous penalties, allowed 4 sacks, and the Bucs’ Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma in college) completely manhandled the line. McCoy made Cowboys guard Nate Livings his b—, …..lets just say lady.
  • Lack of Scoring– The Cowboys offense came into the game with a 15 point scoring average and stayed right on it with 16 points Sunday. Their lack of scoring is becoming a disturbing trend. The Cowboys have plenty of weapons on offense but so far it’s not coming together yet for a variety of reasons.
  • What’s up with Witten??- The usually reliable star TE Witten has had numerous drops in the last two games. Is it related to the serious injury he suffered in preseason? He just doesn’t seem like himself.

It’s a win and Cowboy fans will take it. While a hard fought game was expected, the Cowboys have some things that they are going to have to address.

A Cowboys/Buccaneers Preview: These are not the 2011 Buccaneers, Just so You Know

Felix Jones ran for 108 yards against the Buccaneers defense in 2011.

The Cowboys rolled up the 2011 Buccaneers last year making them look more like mermaids than pirates. It was just too easy as they cruised to a 28-0 halftime lead and won 31-15. It was the last game Dallas won in 2011. RB Felix Jones ran for 108 yards with Murray out and this year it feels like Jones will not get 108 yards all season combined.

The Bucs lost their last 10 games in 2011 finishing at  4-12.  During that stretch, the Bucs had pretty much packed it in and quit playing. But in 2012 the Bucs brought in coach Greg Schiano from Rutgers, who has already been establishing a very physical and tough style of play.

In week 1, the Bucs punched Cam Newton and the Panthers in the mouth from the very start and won the game. In that game Rookie safety Mark Barron hit Panther WR Steve Smith so hard on the sideline that he actually quit talking smack….for a little bit at least.

Then last week the Bucs went to NY to play the bully on the block, Giants. These 2012 Bucs gave the Giants all they could handle and if not for some late  game heroics from Eli Manning (over 500 yards passing), they would have won it.

These 2012 Bucs have such bad attitudes that when Eli was trying to kneel down at the end of the game to run out the clock, their defense fired in and tried to create a fumble.

They weren’t able to get a fumble but they did manage to get Giants Coach Coughlin all bent out of shape and running on the field like a gym coach that had just been punked by some kids in the locker room. Bet you have already heard about all that mess.

Let’s have a look at the Cowboys next opponent that reminds me a little of the Seahawks that Dallas just played.


  • Against the Giants, the Bucs picked off Manning 3 times and held the Giants running game to under 100 yards. They also had 2 INTs against Cam Newton in week 1 and limited the Panthers running game to a dismal 11 yards rushing. Yeah that’s right only 11.
  • The Bucs managed 2 sacks on Newton but had no sacks on Manning last week.
  • Their strength on defense would appear to be stopping the run and while they have allowed a lot of yards passing in two games (over 800 yards), they have come up with 5 INTs.
  • Their ability to rush the passer looks decent but not over whelming. They do load up the box with 8 people often and blitz frequently.

Bottom line: It’s not going to be easy to get DeMarco Murray going in the running game against these guys. Don’t be surprised to see Romo throw a pick or 2 but also don’t be surprised if he has a big day in passing yards too like Manning did last week. The Dallas offense should be able to move the ball through the air as long as Romo has time to throw and he limits the picks. I think screen passes could be an effective way to get Murray involved early.


  • QB Josh Freeman has a 85.5 passer rating after 2 games which ranks him a respectable 20th among NFL QBs. Not exactly setting records but he has only thrown 2 INTs and appears fairly efficient passing the ball.
  • Rookie RB Doug Martin has been the work horse for the Bucs and they like to give him the ball about 20 times per game. He has 44 carries/161 yards in 2 games.  Martin is not a big threat to break a long run but he is effective at pounding the ball and wearing down a defense.
  • WR Vincent Jackson, who came over from the Chargers, has been the main guy that Freeman likes to throw the ball. He has 9 catches for 175 yards and a TD in two games. He is 6-5 and will need to be covered by defenders with some height to them especially near the goal line.

Bottom line: Bucs offense is old school as it pounds the football running Martin and then hits the play action pass to move the chains. First priority for Cowboys defense is to stuff the running of Martin and make the Bucs face a 3rd and long when they pass as opposed to a 3rd and short.  If they can run the ball, the Bucs can wear a defense down and make them weak in the 4th quarter.

Game Plan

Could be a good week to play Romo on your fantasy team. I think Romo will throw frequently (about 40) and have to go to “hot Read” with Bucs blitzes. Think pass on first down against the Bucs defense.

This game will be about pace. If Dallas makes it a shootout by scoring early and going with a no huddle offense early, then it will favor them for sure. When the Giants made it a shootout, the Bucs ran out of bullets.

However if it becomes a low scoring grind it out physical type of game, then it favors the Bucs who play that kind of football well. Cowboys need to take the ball away more than they give it away this week.  Must account for Jackson in passing game.

Cowboys Progress Report After 2 Games: A Look at the Numbers

The most important numbers in an NFL football game are the final scores. But the stats do serve a role in showing you how things are going and in helping to identify areas of weakness.  Focus on improving those areas and you have a chance of impacting the bottom line which would be the final score and winning the game.

Think of it as a progress report after 2 games:


Excellent: Pass defense– The Cowboys set out to improve here after last season and they have so far allowing just 160 yds./game ranked 3rd in the NFL.

Needs Improving: Sacks– The Cowboys have 5 sacks which puts them pretty much in the middle of the pack in the NFL (10 teams with more than 5 sacks). Not bad at all, but could be better when you consider they have Ware, better corners than last year and blitz quite often.

Needs Improving: Rush defense– The Cowboys defense is allowing 132 yds./game which ranks them 23rd in the NFL. Not good. Last year Dallas was pretty solid here but so far in 2012, it hasn’t been a strength. LB Sean Lee leads the NFL in tackles but where are the other 10 guys?

Needs Improving: Scoring– Most important stat for a defense is points allowed and Dallas has allowed an avg. of 22 points/game. That ranks 13th in the NFL and when you consider that about 13 points were due to turnovers and a blocked punt, it’s not bad. However, the Cowboys allowed 21.7 points a game in 2011 and expectations are to improve on that in 2012 with the additions in the secondary. Needs to get better.

Failing: Takeaways–  The Cowboys have only produced one take away on defense and that was the fumble that Lee forced in the Giants game. And Dallas is one of only 9 teams in the entire NFL without a single interception so far. Given the additions of Carr and Claiborne, that is disappointing. It’s time the Cowboys start making the other team turn the ball over.


Excellent: Passing yards– Dallas ranks 6th in the NFL in passing yards with 268.5 yards/game. Like last year, the passing game is productive.

Needs Improving: Rushing yards– The Cowboys are producing 96 yards rushing/game which ranks them 21st in the NFL.  This stat doesn’t mean as much in the NFL as it once did but still, I think the Cowboys improve their chances of winning when they rush for more than 100 yards a game. Murray is the go to guy for this area so the Cowboys need to make sure he gets enough carries.

Failing: Scoring- So far Dallas has averaged a disappointing 15.5 points a game ranking them 29th in the NFL. That is dead last in the NFC and puts them down there with the win-less Jaguars, Titans and Raiders. How is that for company? In 2011, the Cowboys scored an average of 23 points a game. This has got to improve!

Failing: Turnovers: While the defense has failed to produce turnovers, the offense has had a fumble and 2 interceptions leaving the Cowboys at a -2 deficit in the very important takeaway category. To win games, Dallas needs to protect the ball better.


Excellent: FGs– 1 for 1. So far so good.

Excellent: Kickoff coverage– opponents have averaged 20 yards per return.  Dallas ranks in the top 10.

Excellent: Punt Coverage– Opponents have averaged about 6 yards per return.  Dallas ranks in the top 10.

Failing: Kickoff returns– averaging just 21 yards a return and had a fumble Sunday. When you consider that Felix Jones usually fields a KO about 3-5 yards deep in the endzone, it’s clear that Dallas is barely getting to the 20 and maybe not even that far often.

Dwayne Harris may represent a better option but maybe Jerry doesn’t want to remove Felix. STORY  .

This area represents a huge opportunity for improving the Cowboys field position.

Failing: Punt returns– Averaging a pathetic 1 yard per return. That ranks 31 out of 32 teams in the NFL. Last year this was a weak area for Dallas and so far it is again. Like to see Dwayne Harris get an opportunity to contribute to the team in this area that lacks productivity.

Failing: Punt protection– Had a punt blocked for a TD in Seattle. Happened against the Jets last year too. This kind of thing shouldn’t happen and represents a huge momentum changer in a game like it was Sunday.

If Dallas wants to get over that 8-8 hump in 2012, these are some of the areas that they must improve.

Enough Complaining. I Like the NFL Replacement Refs and Here is Why.

Fox sports I beg you to never put a “rule analyst” on my TV ever again!

All the frustration with the NFL’s replacement officials came to a crescendo Monday night during the Falcons and Broncos game in Atlanta. A plethora of complaints including no calls, missed calls, errors spotting the ball were heard and even a brawl almost broke out on the field.

“I’ve seen monkey-shit fights at the zoo that are more organized than this.” –Movie “The Replacements”

That quote comes from the move “The Replacements” which was about the 1987 NFL players strike when professional players were replaced by NFL “wannabes” temporarily. Now that was something to moan and groan about NFL fans. The quote was a description of the product on the field and perhaps could describe what happened Monday night in Atlanta.

My question for NFL fans is, would we have been willing to delay the start of the 2012 NFL season to allow the NFL and the officials to hammer out their labor differences? After what happened with the players lock out last year? No, I didn’t think so. So perhaps it could be worse.

Understand that I’m not interested in defending the replacement refs at all but I do think they are doing a decent job considering the difficult situation they were thrown in. I suppose my expectations have never been very high for them which leads to less disappointment.

Unfortunately the term “replacement” insinuates that we are settling for a mere substitute which I think leads to an abundance of scrutiny and second guessing that may not have been so prevalent with the regular officials.

And Monday night it didn’t help matters that rules analyst Mike Pereira, a former official, is second guessing every call and just basically aggravating the crap out of everyone and only getting us all worked up. I think his role to second guess and interpret calls is a horrible idea. It makes me crazy listening to him say that the refs should have put the ball on the 25 yard line instead. blah blah blah.  Do we really need a rules analyst? It’s about as enjoyable as listening to a back seat driver.

It’s a safe guess that Pereira (former VP of officiating) is not on the side of the scabs. Mike tweets (while drinking a cocktail BTW) and serves as a back seat driver to the referees at the game. HERE

So anyway I think Pereira’s mission is to make us all think we can’t survive in life without the regular unionized officials that are evidently genetically engineered to call NFL games. No one else can possibly learn to do it unless they have the right DNA recipe or something. Replacements are just mortals right?

Now indulge me as I get a little philosophical. NFL fans, like our society in general, have developed over the top expectations for all occupations.  For example, just let some teen mess up our order at the drive thru and it is on! Which is an attitude that has got us to the point now, of reviewing every stinkin’ play by video and dragging a game out for 5 hours like our very existence is dependent on the outcome of the game.

A lot was made this week of replacement refs that have favorite NFL teams on Facebook and fantasy players etc. So are we to believe that the regular officials (who are evidently genetically engineered to call NFL games) don’t indulge in any NFL games away from officiating? Really? Well that’s difficult to believe. Can robotic officials be very far in the future?

Why do I like the replacements?:

So here is why I think I like the replacements. They do occasionally make mistakes which I can actually relate to, they are real NFL fans too, and they remind me that even if my favorite teams loses, life goes on.

Replacement refs also remind us that no one has guaranteed us fairness in life or a level playing field and no one can guarantee a perfectly officiated mistake free football game either. Like the coaches and players, officials will make mistakes.

So NFL fans lighten up, laugh, and just roll with it when the mortal replacement refs screw things up for your team. Afterall, no one likes a know it all anyway.

And for Pete’s sake, keep Mike Pereira off my TV!