Sunday, June 13, 2010

Football can't get here soon enough

With the NBA Finals deadlocked at 2-2 between Boston and the LA Lakers, that series very well could be going seven games but even if it goes the distance, it will be over in less than a week. Baseball is something that I tune into a game in the latter innings if it's competitive. I never skip out on that if it's involving the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or the Rays, or maybe the Braves and Dodgers. My Orioles have continued to tumble from the proud organization that they once were. Twelve Straight losing seasons. And getting worse not better. So I guess I've adopted the Yankees as my team for the nowadays. But like I say, Baseball doesn't really get interesting until fall, when Football is underway. I DO have the Tour De France to look forward to only because Lance Armstrong's intentions of being in it again. He finished 3rd last year, remarkable considering he was about to turn 38, and had been retired for 4 years. Clearly not what he had been four or five years before. Maybe this year he is better prepared to go after it than last but, age DOES matter now once you've hit that 35 mark. He is a year older. Personally, I think that he should have come back in 2006 and maybe '07 and then called it good instead of retiring on top in 2005, then coming back after FOUR years. I also look forward to the FIBA World Championships. How strong will our Team USA be this year without LeBron and probably Kobe? Plug in Durrant, and having D-Wade, D Will, and a maturing Kevin Durrant ought to be enough to still get it done. Great Redeem job in 2008, although that Gold Medal game against Spain was unexpectedly competitive(118-107) after having murdered the Spaniards by 37 a week earlier. But winning it after the embarrassment of 2004 and the upset loss to Greece in 2006 was better than losing.

So on to Football. The Preseason is only going to have 2 games each from what I understand, except that the Cowboys and Bengals will play in the Hall of Fame Game, so they play three games then. I don't think that the Cowboys have played in the Canton exhibition since the 1970s. I'll have to look it up. Then again, it's preseason. I remember them playing an exhibition game against the Bears in London in 1986. I remember them playing the then Houston Oilers(now the Tennessee Titans) in Tokyo in 1992 and playing the Detroit Lions in London in 1993.

The real season is what matters to me and most others. The Cowboys have a goal this year to not only win their division again(which they are favored) but to grab the NFC's number one seed, and homefield throughout. The last time they had the number one seed, they choked to a division rival that they were trying to beat for the third time. The Giants. That game, in my mind, is the most dissappointing loss in the history of the franchise. Because they were the better team and they were at home and they didn't win. They choked. They doubled the Giants in time of possession and yardage. The Giants didn't turn it over but the Cowboys only turned it over once and that was on the 4th and 11 play with 11 seconds left from the Giants 11 yard line when Romo had to go to the End Zone and it was intercepted when T.O. was quadruple teamed. Anyways, that team seemingly acted like a team that hadn't won a playoff game in over a decade. Now that they HAVE finally won a playoff game for the first time in this 21st century and they also dispelled the so called notion that it's impossible to beat the same team three times in a season(obviously not impossible if you're better than that particular team) they should have a little bit more mentally what it takes to handle being the number one seed. It's garbage anyways. The Saints lost THREE IN A ROW to end the regular season last year. And they just started from scratch where they STILL had the number one seed and were able to beat a Cardinal team with NO defense at home. And then, despite being outgained almost 2-1 by the Vikings, were able to survive that one in overtime and they were in the Super Bowl. Not calling it luck but I am saying that the Saints had NEVER EVER been a number one seed before this. But they were able to somehow make it. Lucky in some aspects but they DID earn it by not blowing it. And they DID out play the Colts. The Colts probably beat the Saints 13 out of 16 times if they were to meet every week in the regular season. But on that day, the Saints outplayed them, which happened to be the Super Bowl. And to even wonder if the Cowboys CAN do it is downright laughable. First off, anyone who gets in the playoffs has a shot. Second, if you give this Cowboy's team homefield advantage and all of the experience and motivational factors that will be there if they ARE there, would you bet against them, NO? I think the only thing that keeps Dallas out of the Super Bowl is if they somehow, have another 2008 where they listened to and believed all of the hype. They also lacked the discipline on such a combustionable team. And the injuries were devastating to a team that didn't even have their bye week until mid-November. And now they have gotten rid of some of that combustionable talent and replaced it with some less-selfish, team oriented guys. And ofcourse they can't forget the dissappointments of the past few years. And that 34-3 loss at Minnesota, that happened just when many, myself included, thought that they were going all the way. Hope everyone is healthy and signed and sorted out by the time it's kickoff time.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

If the Cowboys aren't motivated THIS time, then when?

The Cowboys are about to enter their fifteenth season since they last won the Super Bowl or were even IN the Super Bowl. That '95 season where the Cowboys were able to cash in on having homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and the Super Bowl was being played at the old Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, where they hadn't lost in over FIVE years(beating up on the Cardinals who were in their division at the time) They were the number one seed that year and didn't even have to face conference rival San Francisco who had gotten beaten by the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys homefield advantage over Green Bay was tremendous. In that playoff game the Packers and a young Brett Favre played the Cowboys evenly through three quarters. But the Packers defense was on the field a LOT and in the 4th quarter the Cowboys and their monstrous offensive line wore them down and out. The Cowboys offense as a whole was able to impose their will on any and every defense and the Packers defense was no different. Favre, playing valiantly, was basically(with nowhere near the imposing running game of Dallas) forced to throw on every down and the pressure to score every time his team had the ball did him in. Plus the artificial turf was in Dallas' favor as well when the two would meet. Anyhow, the Cowboys in their new stadium, still possess a great homefield advantage(beating the Eagles a combined 58-14 in a span of 6 days) and would definitely have the advantage over the Favre led Vikings if they were to meet in Dallas. Favre STILL to this day has never won in Dallas(0-9 lifetime) and the Vikings, a tremendous home team in '09 were only 4-5 away from there including the choking against the Saints. I think that Minnesota beats New Orleans by two touchdowns had they gotten homefield advantage. By the same token I think that the way Dallas was playing heading into their game at Minnesota, had THEY hosted the Vikings, it would've been a different story than the 34-3 pasting that they wound up taking.

Now, the Cowboys know how vital homefield advantage is. They would be overwhelming favorites to go all the way with the much coveted number one seed. And this Cowboys team would be much better, more efficient than the one that had the top seed three years before. That 2007 team had an offense that was high octane but only really a so-so defense. When the offense had a subpar day, was off their game, they could lose. That's what almost happened that year at Buffalo. They barely held on to beat a mediocre Redskins at home that year despite T.O. catching FOUR touchdowns. They were also pushed around by an average Detroit Lions team ALL GAME LONG but were bailed out by Witten's 15 catches, including the winning touchdown with 18 seconds left and a Jason Hansen(normally reliable Lions PK) missed 40 yard kick. This version of the Cowboys has an offense that's more sound and disciplined, less selfish, and capable of lighting up the scoreboard still but a more methodical unit. A methodical unit that spells less turnovers, time consuming drives, and more glaring leadership and field general skills from Tony Romo. Reminds me of those Troy Aikman teams of 1992-96. The defense is TWICE as good as it was in 2007. That to me is what would spell the difference THIS time around if the Cowboys were to be in a similiar postion to what they were in in '07. And then the extras factors. Hunger: The Cowboys, just as they were feeling really confident after drilling the Saints on the road, shutting out the Redskins on the road, and then just DESTROYING the Philadelphia Eagles(who had been hot before running into the buzzsaw of Dallas) in consecutive weeks, might have gotten a little overconfident heading into Minnesota. I think that the at least half of the Saints faithful was hoping for the Cowboys to lose so that they wouldn't have to face the them again. Sure some probably wanted a Saints-Cowboys rematch from the month before. But my feeling is that the Vikings AT HOME posed as THE hurdle for the Cowboys to get to the Super Bowl. I really believe that they would've beaten the Saints again because of how their defense could get to Brees and push the Saints defense around as they did in their December meeting. But the Metrodome was a big advantage for the Vikings, who didn't lose there during the year, as I mentioned before. The Cowboys could almost taste it but wound up tasting something else, blood and spinal fluid in their mouths that is, as their season suddenly ended. Motivation: The Homefield advantage plus the Super Bowl being in Dallas. You think that they want to sit back and let someone else in the conference be in the Super Bowl. Especially if there's very little doubt as to who would WIN if the Cowboys were to make it to the Big Show. That alone should motivate them to no end. Favre will be back this year for probably his final go. But he will be 41 on October 10, and he's never won in Dallas. Plus the Vikings are just average on the road anyways. So that's what I see happening if the Cowboys don't miss out on getting the number one seed in the Conference because they ARE better than the 2007 team. No question. They would know what to do this time to avoid choking at home, especially to a divisional opponent that they know and know well. And what I didn't mention yet also, is that against the Vikings this past January, Dallas had opportunities early to score points before the defense ended up giving up a long touchdown bomb from Favre to Sidney Rice and then they never seemed to recover. Dallas moved the ball all day on offense but it seemed that when they would get 2/3 of the way to where they needed to get(the endzone because they were behind) something would stall the drive. If it wasn't a turnover, it was a holding penalty. And if it wasn't either of them, it was a sack. The yardage was fairly even. The defense however was out there a little too often from the offense bogging down or running into problems EVERY time they would get a drive going. But mainly the defense didn't recover from that early TD bomb after at first, they were containing Favre and company. Plus the missed scoring opportunities early. One thing that Dallas needs to work on so that they can maybe go from eleven wins to 13, is to respond better offensively when they maybe aren't on track yet early in a game. When they go out and push it across the goal line, get points, cash in on early opportunities, they are well on their way to winning. But there are games that were lost and those that weren't lost, they were fortunate to win, where the Cowboys offense either didn't get off to a fast start and started pressing or even worse, was when they had opportunities to score early and somehow failed and were REALLY pressing and getting frustrated. It's a long game and that's their potential downfall is when they start to press on offense and get impatient or frustrated when they either blow early scoring chances or just plain get off to an off target start. One final thing to add for the motivation thing, still speaking of that Vikings game: Up 27-3 in the final couple of minutes, the Vikings tacked on a final touchdown. I'm CERTAIN that had that been Tony Romo and the Cowboys in that situation, that they take a knee and get out of there with an impressive win as it already would've been. And I'm not sure whether you point that one at Favre or the coach. But I think that the Cowboys (especially veteran linebacker Keith Brooking) are still feeling that part of a bad taste in their mouths as well. What goes around comes around.