This week is going to be exciting, for no other reason than that some changes have been made.
There's every reason to be more optimistic heading into Week 7 against the Giants, because the Cowboys have a new starting quarterback and have made several key personnel changes in their lineup. It gives cause for hope, simply because it's new – it's a departure from what we've seen the last three weeks, which obviously didn't work.
Will it be definitively better, though? I'm not sure I'm convinced.
Matt Cassel is an 11th-year veteran, and an experienced starter in this league. He's definitely not going to be fazed by the prospect of playing at MetLife Stadium against a Giants team that almost beat the Cowboys in Week 1.
But it's been a long time since 2008, when Cassel posted a quarterback rating of 89.4 and led New England to a 10-5 record without Tom Brady. It's also been five years since he earned a Pro Bowl selection in Kansas City, passing for 3,116 yards and 27 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 93.
Looking back to Cassel's recent seasons with the Minnesota Vikings doesn't inspire a boatload of confidence. During his time in Minnesota, Cassel made eight complete, full-game starts and completed roughly 61 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His average rating in those games as a pedestrian 82.4.
There were a couple of inspiring performances in that stretch. In 2013, he completed 26-of-35 passes for 382 yards and two touchdowns against a Philadelphia team that wound up winning the NFC East. He also had a workmanlike performance in the 2014 season opener, completing 17-of-25 for 170 yards and helping in a Vikings rout of the Rams.
On the flip side of that are several serious stinkers. The week after that Eagles win, Cassel went on the road against Cincinnati and completed just 48 percent of his passes for 114 yards and one touchdown – with three interceptions. In 2014, he followed up the Rams win by throwing four picks in a dismal outing against New England.
So we clearly have the capacity for both outcomes on our hands. Cassel has been good enough to compile a 33-38 career record, and his mark as a road starter sits at 16-17. That's far better than what we've seen from Brandon Weeden, but it's worth noting that 12 of those 16 wins came between 2008-10.
It's also fair to point out that Cassel's Minnesota teams went 5-11-1 and 7-9 during his two seasons there. He's bound to feel more comfortable throwing from behind the Cowboys' offensive line, but it remains to be seen if or when he'll have Dez Bryant back to help bolster the passing game. Brandon Weeden might not have been great during his three-game stint, but the help he received from the supporting cast – especially without Dez – wasn't stellar, either.
Which is why I have my doubts as we head into this next stretch of the season. I think Cassel will be an improvement over Weeden, but will it be enough of an improvement to rejuvenate the offense? Without Tony Romo and potentially without Dez Bryant, will Christine Michael or La'el Collins noticeably improve the running game beyond what we've seen so far?
There's just enough difference to feel optimistic. But as we prepare to enter Week 7, I'm not sure there's enough evidence for that optimism to lead to confidence.