Skip to main content

Writer's Blocks: What Can We Learn This Week?


FRISCO, Texas – Pardon the aviation pun, but it feels like we're in a bit of a holding pattern this week.

Outside the NFC East, the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints are two of the Cowboys' biggest recent rivals. Along with the Seattle Seahawks, they're two of the best teams in the NFC in recent years, and they always seem to play the Cowboys a lot – and typically with high stakes. That's what's sitting behind us.

Inside the NFC East, there's obviously the Philadelphia Eagles. They seemed to struggle in the first two weeks of the season, but it turns out the Detroit Lions might be decent, and all of a sudden the Eagles have the same record as the Cowboys – highlighted by a win against the Green Bay team that won here last week. That's what's waiting up ahead of us, on Oct. 20.

In between two things, we've got nothing. The Cowboys are playing another oh-for team, which we've already seen three times this season. It's a game they need to win, because this is the NFL, but it's not a game that's going to get the casual observer's blood pumping.

So that's where I'm at in Week 6. Tell me if you think I'm a crazy person.

1. It sounds harsh to say, but we aren't going to learn anything new about this team in Week 6 – not anything good, at any rate.

Yes, it's the NFL and every game matters. The Cowboys absolutely need to take their preparations seriously or they run the risk of getting embarrassed Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. Insert all that typical stuff here.

When you move past that, though, what can the Cowboys show us about themselves that we didn't already know? They are capable of beating a winless team with an inexperienced quarterback and a talent level that doesn't quite measure up to theirs?

We know that already. We watched them beat New York, Washington and Miami with little difficulty. They are a talented enough team that they are capable of beating the NFL's lesser opponents without breaking too much of a sweat.

Now comes another New York team. And if the Cowboys approach it the right way, they should be able to grab a win. But after two-straight losses to NFC contenders, it shouldn't change our opinions too much on the troubling trends we've seen. That's going to come the week after, with Philadelphia coming to Texas.

Look at this week like homework. You need to do it or you won't be ready for the test, but this isn't what's going to decide your course grade.

2. That said, I'll maintain the important position that this isn't college football. There's not a room full of coaches and administrators trying to decide who has the best resume at the end of the season.

Conventional wisdom says you need to get to 10 wins to guarantee yourself a spot in the playoffs. Beating the Jets would give the Cowboys four wins, which is a nice pace for Week 6 of the season. It doesn't matter even slightly that none of those wins would have come against a good team – just beat the people the league schedule puts in front of you.

The Eagles are obviously coming on Oct. 20. But after the Cowboys' bye week, they'll have games against Minnesota, Detroit, New England and Buffalo. Those four opponents are a combined 14-4-1 right now. And to be sure, some of them will undoubtedly drop games between now and when they play the Cowboys. But they'll still provide a steep challenge.

We might not learn how good the Cowboys are in New York this weekend, but we'll find out in short order.

3. I've said this a few times this week already, but it honestly doesn't bother me that Jason Garrett says he believes in Brett Maher. In all honesty, what other choice does he have right now?

The Cowboys assuredly don't feel good about the fact that their kicker missed twice on Sunday, and has missed several times in recent memory. Dating back to last season, Maher is 12-of-19 in his last 12 outings – which is a paltry percentage of just 63 percent.

And yet, looking around at the market of available kickers is hardly inspiring. The Patriots just signed Mike Nugent and Younghoe Koo, and the Titans just snatched up Cody Parkey.

Blair Walsh is available, but he hasn't kicked in a game since the end of the 2017 season, when he missed a 48-yard game winner for Seattle. Theoretically, perhaps the Cowboys could lure 41-year-old Sebastian Janikowski out of retirement. He hit 81.5 percent of his kicks for Seattle last year – although he missed three extra points.

The best option is probably Kai Forbath, who worked out for the Patriots last week. He attempted five kicks for Jacksonville last season, and he hit four of them. The lone miss was from 56 yards.

His career percentage is a healthy 85.7 percent, but that number has dipped from 100 percent in 2016, to 84 percent in 2017, to 80 percent last year.

It's possible he'd be an upgrade over the current situation, but I'm not sold that it's a guarantee. On top of that, the Cowboys shouldn't need their field goal kicker to defeat the New York Jets, so this feels like an opportunity to build his confidence.

4. With that said, you can only tolerate so many misses, and the Cowboys are running out of winless teams to take advantage of.

If the problems persist in the next couple weeks, they'll have to do something about it. I'm just not sure they're quite there yet.

5. Spare me the hand-wringing about Kellen Moore's stolen signals.

From the minute the story came out, it sounded absurd. The fact that, 10 years on, the Cowboys' offensive coordinator would be using the same signals in a different offense with different personnel is utterly ridiculous.

It seems even sillier after the Packer game, where Dak Prescott threw for 463 yards against a better secondary than the Saints. Maybe Green Bay should've spent less time watching their upcoming opponent and more time watching 10-year-old college tape.

Fortunately, by Thursday, Moore had a chance to address it himself.

"It made a good story," he said. "Clickbait, right? You guys know a little bit about that."

I've got to give Moore credit for this: it's probably because I didn't talk to him very often during his playing days, but he's a much funnier dude than I expected. And in a world full of middle-aged football coaches who don't know what an app is, I appreciate Moore's familiarity with clickbait.

That's exactly what this was.

6. A fun quirk of the NFL, I guess. Once every four years, a handful of NFL teams get to make the same trip twice. It's a bizarre byproduct of the New York Giants and Jets sharing a stadium.

The Cowboys are one of the lucky few this year, as they travel up to MetLife this weekend to play the Jets, only to return in three weeks for a Monday night tilt against the Giants. They did it in 2011, too, as they opened the season on the road against the Jets and returned for the season finale against the Giants.

The Buffalo Bills actually did it twice in a row. They opened this season at the Jets, and came back in Week 2 for a road game against the Giants.

I guess it will be a fun audition for the trip to play the Giants. But given that the Cowboys literally do this every year, I'm sure they know what to expect. At the very least, I suppose we'll see if the stadium looks better draped in green banners rather than blue.