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Cowboys Mailbag: November 18, 2011

/ Editor's Note: Each weekday,'s writers will field two questions from the fans. Click here to email your question now. **

Everett Keys - Springfield, IL: How much of a problem do you expect the absence of fullback Tony Fiammetta to be on Sunday? Might we find out that he is truly the difference maker for this running game?

Rob: He's one factor. He's not the only one. It's DeMarco Murray turning two-yard gains into four. It's a bigger, more experienced offensive line opening clearly bigger holes. It's a healthy Tony Romo and his receivers putting defenses back on their heels by winning battles downfield. I still think they can be effective without Fiammetta on Sunday, but the Redskins' 29th-ranked run defense is a little misleading. They've been behind a lot, and teams are averaging 4.3 yards per carry against them. That's not great, but that's not getting shredded, either.

Josh: I think he will be missed, though if they don't run the ball well against Washington it will probably be tough to say that being without Fiammetta was the only factor. I'm interested to see if the coaches decide they need to call up Shaun Chapas. They say they've liked the way John Phillips has done in the role, but the difference has been stark when a true fullback has been in the lineup. Clearly they don't think Chapas is as good as Fiammetta, though, or he would've been on the team from the beginning of the season.

Kelly Lemons - Hickam Air Force Base, HI: I've seen a lot of renewed optimism following this 44-7 blowout of the Bills, but we're less than three weeks removed from a shellacking by the now-hapless Eagles. Don't you guys think everyone has jumped on the Cowboys bandwagon a wee bit early?

Rob: I agree that they can't get ahead of themselves. There are three very winnable games ahead, but a five-game win streak is very difficult no matter who you're playing. A lot of the Cowboys' inconsistency at the start of the season stemmed from playing better teams. This is indeed an easier stretch, but this league is full of surprises, too. That's why this is the toughest challenge yet for Jason Garrett this year: send the message that it's about improving to 6-4 this week, not 8-4.

Josh: Well, I think it's natural that people are feeling a lot better after this thing following back-to-back wins and a blowout against a pretty good Buffalo team. But you mentioned the Eagles game, and I know that had a lot of folks ready to jump off a building. That's just how a lot of fans are, I guess. I don't know if we'll ever have a real good handle on what to expect from this team. I do think they're on their way to becoming a playoff team, but I reserve the right to change my mind if they slip up in one of these next three games, which are, believe it or not, very losable.

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