Trouble in Big D?

Cowboys will fall short of expectations, but don’t blame Tony Romo


Photo by Ron Chenoy | USA Today
Even with Tony Romo’s solid play, the Cowboys haven’t had a winning season since 2009.

The answer is: Two. No, the question isn’t, “How many brain cells are rattling around Riley Cooper’s dome?” Nor is it, “How many more murders will Aaron Hernandez be linked to?” Nor, “How many replay challenges will Andy Reid lose in the first half of his first game with Kansas City?” (For the umpteenth time, Andy, you don’t get a free pizza every time you throw the red flag!)

Rather, the question is: How many playoff victories has America’s Team tallied in the last 17 NFL seasons? No joke: Since winning Super Bowl XXX in January 1996, the Cowboys are 2-7 in the postseason (with the first win coming in December 1996!). To give this some context, the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick won two playoff games in eight days back in January.

The point is: Nobody fears the Cowboys anymore, least of all Vegas oddsmakers, who put Dallas’ 2013 win total at 8½. And even that seems inflated considering the Cowboys haven’t enjoyed a winning season since 2009, going 6-10, 8-8 and 8-8 the last three years. Just a thought, but perhaps owner Jerry Jones should borrow his plastic surgeon’s scalpel and use it to carve up his team’s roster—and coaching staff. With that, let’s resume my NFL season win-total recommendations with the NFC East. (Reminder: I’m using the best available odds from the LVH, William Hill, Cantor Gaming and Station Casinos.)

Cowboys (8½ wins): Minutes after Dallas beat the Dolphins in the Aug. 4 Hall of Fame Game, a buddy sent the following text: Was wondering how the Cowboys won, even in the preseason. Then I realized Tony Romo never touched the football! Yep, now that Norv Turner and Romeo Crennel have lost their head-coaching gigs, looks like most of the cheap-shot zingers will be aimed at Dallas’ polarizing signal-caller. In Romo’s defense, he’s never had a QB rating below 90.5 for a season; he’s passed for more than 4,000 yards in each of his last four complete seasons; and his career touchdown-to-interception ratio is better than those of Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning.

Sorry, but the problem with the Cowboys isn’t Romo, who won at least nine games in each of his first four years; it’s his coach, Jason Garrett, who is in over his head. And that problem isn’t going away anytime soon. Neither is a brutal schedule that sees Dallas playing six of its first nine games on the road. The play: UNDER (-135, William Hill).

Eagles (7½): Want to know the real reason new Philly coach Chip Kelly didn’t kick Riley Cooper to the curb in the wake of the wide receiver’s racist rant? Because a couple of days prior, fellow wideout Jeremy Maclin suffered a season-ending knee injury. See, Kelly actually needs Cooper—the same Cooper who in three NFL seasons has all of 46 catches and five TDs. Now is when I remind you—amid all the Chip Kelly-is-the-second-coming-of-Jimmy Johnson nonsense—that Johnson went 1-15 in his first season in Dallas. Kelly won’t be that bad, but he’s also not getting the Eagles (4-12 last year) back to .500—not with a schedule that starts with three games in 10 days, followed by three straight on the road. The play: UNDER (-125, Station).

Giants (9): New York’s victory totals in the Tom Coughlin/Manning era (starting with 2005): 11, 8, 10, 12, 8, 10, 9, 9. In other words, I’d bet on Alex Rodriguez uttering a truthful statement and producing clean urine just once in the next 18 months before I’d touch this win total. That said, the Giants’ roster remained relatively intact from last year, and their toughest non-divisional road game is at Chicago (in early October), so I’m inclined to think at worst the G-Men are looking at 9-7. Also, you have to go back to 1994-96 for the last time New York went three straight seasons without posting double-digit victories. The play: OVER (+110, William Hill and Cantor).

Redskins (8): With the possible exception of the Kirk Cousins Fan Club—which consists of Kirk Cousins and his blood relatives—every Redskins fan is impatiently awaiting an answer to the question, “When will Robert Griffin III play?” Methinks they should be more concerned with this question: “How long will RG III remain upright?” For those keeping score, that’s now two knee blowouts for a quarterback who’s as reckless as he is electrifying. And if you believe Griffin will change his ways, well, now might be a good time to stop puffing the magic dragon.

Yes, Washington closed 2012 on a seven-game winning streak (after a 3-6 start), but only one of those victories came against a playoff team (Baltimore). This year, five of the Redskins’ eight non-divisional opponents were in the playoffs last season, and four of those contests—Green Bay, Denver, Minnesota and Atlanta—are on the road. Don’t be surprised if Cousins is asked to win some of them. The play: UNDER (+120, LVH and Cantor).

Best Bet: Eagles-UNDER

Next Week: NFC North


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