Turnover Differential Killing Cowboys

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

TURNOVERS HAVE TURNED COWBOYS
FROM A CONTENDER TO A PRETENDER

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

It's been a weird season thus far in the NFL, particularly in the NFC. The projected powers have struggled. Those next in line aren't able to play with much consistency. Some of the projected doormats have been better than expected. Talk about parity! There's more parity in the NFC right now than we've probably seen in any conference in any year of the modern era.

LAST YEAR'S PLAYOFF TEAMS:

*New Orleans has been feeling the effects of a Super Bowl hangover.
*Green Bay has been ravaged by injuries.
*Dallas has been hurt badly by turnover differential (the theme of today's piece).
*Minnesota had poor preparation in the offseason, creating a slow start.
*Philadelphia has been dealing with injuries, but holding its own.
*Arizona lost its start quarterback, and fell off the map.

THOSE READY TO STEP UP:

*Atlanta was seen as perhaps the best team in the NFC until they got routed by Philadelphia two Sundays ago.
*The NY Giants took over that spot in the mind of some, largely thanks to a weak schedule and short memories.
*Washington comes and goes with each passing week (and they pass so much you don't know if they're coming or going).
*Chicago showed early promise, but Jay Cutler kept getting his bell rung.
*San Francisco took some steps alright, but exactly in the wrong direction.

So, in tonight's Monday Night game on ESPN, we have a Dallas team that's been hurt by turnovers, hosting a New York squad that some pundits are suggesting have risen to the top of the NFC (kind of by default) just because their great game at Houston made everyone forget their horrible game at Indianapolis.

If the Giants win tonight, we'll talk more in the future about whether or not they've really become the class of the NFC. Right now, we want to outline the turnover situation for Dallas. Tonight represents a watershed game for the Cowboys. Either they jump back into the mix in their division or the Wildcard race (a bad start doesn't kill you when hardly anyone is having a great start!)...or they fall to 1-5 and pretty much kiss their season (and many on the coaching staff) good bye.

Here's why we're emphasizing turnovers...

*WEEK ONE
Dallas 1, Washington 0

The one was a doozy. You probably remember that an inexplicable play call at the end of the first half led to a fumble that was returned for a Washington touchdown. It was Washington's only touchdown of the game. Dallas would have won without that nonsensical play. And, they possibly would have won even with it if their own defense had been able to force some Washington miscues.

Note that total yardage was 380-250 for the Cowboys.

*WEEK TWO
Dallas 3, Chicago 0

Another statistical blowout (410-308) that was erased by turnovers. This time, it was more of a debacle...with two Tony Romo interceptions joining a fumble on the ledger. Dallas should have been 2-0 at this point in the season, but was instead winless and dealing with rumblings from the local and national media.

*WEEK THREE
Dallas 0, Houston 3

We have a winner! Dallas finally played a sharp, productive game on offense. And, the defense forced its first turnovers of the season. Dallas won total yardage even against an opponent that's known for piling up garbage numbers in losses. If wins were based on yardage, Dallas would be 3-0 and the talk of the NFC. They weren't playing like the Saints of last year...but they were doing a better job in terms of just moving the ball and slowing down opponents than others in the NFC through three weeks. Yet, they were 1-2 in the standings because of turnover issues.

*WEEK FOUR
Bye

A bye week gave everyone a chance to pat each other on the back. That set up a crucial matchup with Tennessee that could launch the rest of the season in one direction or the other. If the problems are fixed...Dallas is off to the playoffs after a start nobody would remember in December anyway. That's not what happened.

*WEEK FIVE
Dallas 3, Tennessee 0

Another disaster. Dallas drops its second home game of the year as roughly a touchdown favorite because of a 3-0 turnover debacle. We've been talking in our Wednesday stat reviews about Tony Romo's penchant for interceptions when he's trying to force things (and he's on pace for more than 20 this year). But, we should point out that the defense just isn't forcing anything! To this point, three of four opponents didn't cough up the ball once. The wins and losses are directly tied to the turnover record (1-3). Dallas would be 4-0 at this point if wins were based on yardage, posting a whopping 511-321 edge.

*WEEK SIX
Dallas 2, Minnesota 1

Well, that's better than 3-0, but it's a loss that was a punch right in the stomach. Dallas won yardage 314-188...basically making them the best 1-4 team ever! Seriously...how much hype would Jerry Jones and company be getting right now if they were 5-0 in an NFC that is seeing a slew of teams treading water. Wins aren't based on yardage. Turnover troubles trump yardage. Championship caliber teams don't make a lot of mistakes. And, they force many from opponents.

FOR THE SEASON
Dallas: 9
Opponents: 4

That -5 differential is third worst in the NFL, trailing only Jacksonville and San Francisco.

Are there any extenuating circumstances? They have played a challenging schedule. Though, maybe the Bears aren't as tough as they seemed at the time of that Week Two meeting. The NFC East doesn't have any weak links. That division draws the AFC South this year in non-conference action, which means Indianapolis is still down the road. It's not like Dallas is facing the sisters of the poor and being overly charitable.

And, three of the first five games have been on the road. The schedule evens up at three apiece with tonight's home game vs. New York.

Perhaps the single most important issue in that game is: CAN THE DALLAS DEFENSE FORCE TURNOVERS FROM ELI MANNING!!

If they can't, the season is toast. If they can, and then they can keep doing that in coming weeks vs. other opponents...what's happened so far will be just a blip on the radar.

JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his Texas and New York sources on this one to make sure he has the winner for NETWORK clients. Mindset is the key that determines the cover in most NFL matchups. If Dallas has already mentally thrown in the towel on the Phillips era...then we're likely to see a turnover loss that leads to another collapse this evening...and a dismal finish to 2010. Jerry Jones will be at the Super Bowl as a fan and host rather than participating owner. But, if the Cowboys are sick and tired of losing...this is a two-touchdown cover that will look like a replay of the Houston victory.

JIM HURLEY is confident he has this one gauged correctly from the Dallas perspective. He's releasing a MAJOR MOVE in tonight's game online. You can purchase this BLOWOUT COVER by clicking here. Or, call 1-800-323-4453 to sign up in the office.

Note, this is a GREAT day to sign up because so much is coming up this week!

TONIGHT: Giants/Cowboys on ESPN.

TUESDAY: Boise State hosts Louisiana Tech, and it's the start of THE NBA SEASON!

WEDNESDAY: Night one of THE WORLD SERIES featuring the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants, plus the first big schedule in pro hoops.

THURSDAY: Florida State/NC State in an interesting ACC affair...plus Game Two of the World Series...plus more NBA!

FRIDAY: West Virginia/Connecticut from the Big East...plus a monster NBA card.

Make your move with tonight's MAJOR MOVE...and start winning SEVEN DAYS A WEEK with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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