Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/23/11

 

Garrett will have to out coach Sparano in this one

As a Cowboys fan I never tire of the Thanksgiving Day tradition. Dallas has taken part in playing on Thanksgiving since 1966, six years after they became a franchise. In that time Dallas has amassed the best record, .640, on Thanksgiving for any team that has played more than 10 games. Entering this game Dallas is on a three game win streak and ranks in the top half of the league in all offensive and defensive categories. All that being said that does not give Dallas the automatic win.

When Dallas of the southwest comes to visit they will bring a lot of experience for playing on Thanksgiving. Most of the coaching staff was on the Cowboys at some point and know what it takes to prepare for a Thursday game after playing on Sunday. Also since the league has started playing more Thursday games outside of the Thanksgiving tradition, teams and players have a little more experience in the short turn around. That plays against the Cowboys.

A reason why the Dolphins will win is Miami has made a recent surge behind the play of QB Matt Moore. Moore a former practice squad player for the Cowboys has two QB ratings over 130 in the last three games. Another reason why Miami will win the game is the coaching staff and players. Several of the coaches, front office, scouting, personnel, and players were with the Cowboys. They all know the strengths and weaknesses of key players like Romo, Ware, Spencer, and Felix Jones.

Then we have history. Miami has a history of winning on Thanksgiving. They are 5 and 1 all time on the holiday game. Out of that only one game was against Detroit, and that was one of the five victories. The most famous game with the Dolphins the 1993 game where Leon Lett touched a blocked field goal giving possession back to the Dolphins. Not only did he allow the Dolphins to take another kick and win the game, but he also taught a generation of players to not touch the ball on a blocked kick unless you were returning it for a TD. I remember that snowy day as I went from elation to devastation as the field goal was made and Dallas lost.

However, my one piece of advice to all the Cowboys players is to not become Leon Lett, but to become Jason Garrett. Another game in Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving day lore happened the year after Leon had his massive blunder. Dallas was hosting the Brett Favre and the 6-5 Green Bay Packers. Jason Garrett had to start the game because of an injury to Troy Aikman and the second string QB Rodney Peete. No one expect Garrett, a third string QB who was a free agent signee of the New Orleans Saints, to do anything but hand the ball off to Emmitt Smith. At the end of the day Garrett had thrown for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. Cowboys fans remember that game with a smile on their face. In complete adversity Garrett stepped in and won the game for Dallas.

Garrett is the reason why Miami will NOT win this game.

Jason Garrett is making this Thanksgiving Day game his Super Bowl. His approach and desire to win will rub off on the team and barring the catastrophic, Dallas will emerge the victor. My prediction is Dallas 27 Miami 20.

Injuries – (not a complete list)

The Cowboys –

·          Mike Jenkins, Jon Kitna, Tony Fiammetta, and Miles Austin are out.  Dallas has been playing without Jenkins, Fiammetta, and Miles for awhile so it should not be devastating.

The Miami Dolphins – No significant injuries

Fantasy Focus

  • Tony Romo – Romo will be facing the 24th ranked pass defense but that alone will not be why you should start him. I expect Garrett to go for broke in this game and give the fans a win and a show.
  • DeMarco Murray– Murray did not have a great game against Washington. They stacked 9 players in the box a lot to stop the run and put pressure on Romo but I don’t see Miami doing the same. They don’t have the same level of players in the secondary or as pass rushers.
  • Felix Jones - Felix will get some carries. I would expect him to get about 10 -14 carries/touches. His speed could loosen the defense and allow Murray to have a greater game.
  • Dallas WR’s – I would start all three Dez, Laurent and Witten.
  • Dallas D/ST – Ryan will not allow the defense to falter and while he may have to start undrafted free agent Barry Church in place of starter Gerald Sensabaugh, Church has enough game experience to get the job done. DeMarcus Ware will be facing off against former Cowboy Marc Colombo some as they move Ware around, but he should get the better of either tackle in the long run. I would expect Dallas to have a better day than last Sunday. I’m starting them.
  • Dolphins – I would not start any Dolphins with confidence. Yes there is a good chance they could gain a lot of yards and some scores, but guessing exactly who is the trick.   

Moore or Less

This game will come down to two major things, how Moore plays and how well Dallas adjusts to whatever Tony Sparano throws at them. Sparano knows key elements of this team well and is a smart play caller. His issue over the years has been talent not coaching and could have been a key element in bringing in Moore to QB. Regardless of how this game looks on paper it won’t be an easy win, but in the end Dallas should win the game. Yeah so the title is a bit misleading, but in reality I can’t see why Miami should win this game. They have some advantages, but overall I think Dallas has a more talented team. The only way they will lose is if they give the game away like they have done in the past.

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Injuries – (not a complete list)

The Cowboys –

·         RB Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins, and Miles Austin are out. It looks like Sean Lee will try to play, but I am not sure how effective he will be.

The Buffalo Bills – NT Kyle Williams, LB Chris Kelsay, and LT Demetrius Bell are all out and could help Dallas in the running game as well as pass rush.

The Marv Leavy plan

Three things the Bills will need to do on offense will be run the ball, exploit the Dallas middle Linebackers, and triple team DeMarcus Ware. The rest of the Dallas line has proven that only Ware can really pressure the QB so stop Ware and you stop the pass rush. For Dallas they will have to stop the run. Recently they have let running backs cut back and use the high pressure Ryan Defense strength against them. This and the injury to Sean Lee has cause Dallas to bring in Barry Church to the box. Church made some solid stops in the last game against the Seahawks, but he is not the answer. If Lee can play he can fill this position. However, I would really like to see Bruce Carter have his breakout game. The Cowboys need someone to cover former Cowboy Scott Chandler and Carter can do it. Its only a matter of does he know the defense well enough.

The Jimmy Johnson plan

On offense the Cowboys need to get ahead and stay ahead. They need to control the clock by running the ball and make solid plays in the passing game. Finally they need to NOT TURN the ball over! This will be huge since Buffalo has been so good at getting the ball on defense. They intercepted Tom Brady 4 times in their meeting with the Patriots. Dallas will not win if they cannot hold onto the ball. They cannot expect a repeat of their victory in 2007 when they turned the ball over 4 times but won. The Bills key is turnovers. If they win that battle they win the game.

Prediction

Dallas can win this game. They are at home. They have a running game and Romo has a good set of receivers. If they have the protection they can put up some points on the Bills and their 27th ranked defense. The Bills are allowing 21.8 points per game and Dallas is allowing 21.9. I can see this going down to the wire with Dallas winning 31 to 27.

Fantasy Focus

  • Tony Romo – Romo has been held in check as of late either by design or plan. I expect this week for him to break out.
  • DeMarco Murray– Murray should have another great game. I expect over 100 yards rushing and maybe some TDs. I am starting him over Darren Sproles and I get return yards.
  • Dallas WR’s – With Miles Austin out, Dez Bryant will have to be the primary target. That will not mean that Laurent Robinson should not perform well. Witten’s day depends upon coverage and the receiver’s performance. Bryant should have had a TD in his last game, he will have 2 in this one. I am starting Dez because I am a homer.
  • Dallas D/ST – Ryan is getting his butt kicked and he will have to do more with less in this game. The Bills have thrown 10 ints this season. Dallas will need to get several to win. If you get dinged for points then this may be a week to sit Dallas. Something may need to happen for Dallas to win and the defense could be the spark.
  • Bills – I would start Jackson because he has ran well and Dallas has not stopped well. If you think the Dallas offense will turn the ball over then I would start the Bills D.  

Buffaloin or Buffaloed

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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