Over/Under for 2012



Archer By Todd Archer

When January rolls around, the Cowboys will be in the playoffs. It'll be a wild-card spot, but it will be the Cowboys' first postseason berth since 2009.

There. I said it. They'll go 10-6, which means after a loss to the New York Giants on Wednesday night, they'll go 10-5.

I'll admit I felt better about this pick in the offseason than I do now after seeing Miles Austin effectively miss training camp for the second straight summer, Jason Witten suffer a lacerated spleen, Jay Ratliff miss the offseason and all but a handful of preseason snaps because of foot and ankle injuries, Dez Bryant deal with knee tendinitis, and an offensive line that will not have taken a snap together the opener.

Got all that?

But we also live in a little bit of a cocoon and believe the Cowboys are the only team with major issues or injury questions.

You have to go on three premises to get to 10 wins. The first is that about half the playoff teams change year to year. The Cowboys are on a two-year dry spell, so you can say they're due. The second premise is that every team in the NFL "starts out" at 8-8. Get a couple of good breaks and you can go 10-6. Get a couple of bad breaks and you go 6-10. The third is the Cowboys will split their six NFC East games.

The Cowboys were 8-8 last season when just about everybody wanted to call it a rebuilding year.

They should be better on defense with the additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. They should be better in the second year of Rob Ryan's scheme. The offensive line could (not should) be better with bigger guards in Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau and the flipping of tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free. Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan might be the biggest addition.

Now look at the schedule. Playing the NFC South gives you winnable games against Tampa Bay and Carolina. I'm not a believer in the Panthers just yet. The Cowboys have New Orleans at home -- and in 2010 you can say they should've beaten the Saints on Thanksgiving with a team that finished 6-10 and Tony Romo as a spectator.

They play the AFC North. Cleveland should be a win. Do you believe Cincinnati is a playoff team in back-to-back years? I don't.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore will be tough outs, I'll give you that.

Then there's a trip to Seattle against a rookie quarterback in his second game and Chicago, a team with a new offensive coordinator, at Cowboys Stadium. Both are winnable games.

Add it up and 10-6 isn't so farfetched, provided those premises hold true.


Fitzsimmons By Ian Fitzsimmons

This has to be the easiest Hot Button question -- ever. The answer: Take the under!

The Cowboys come into the opener against the defending Super Bowl champs with an offensive line that has never -- I repeat, NEVER -- taken a single snap together as a unit, and the Giants have arguably the NFL's best pass rush.

Hello 0-1!

Now most of you are saying "Well, Fatsimmons, that's just one game. And the question is, 'Will they win more than 8.5 games?'"

My response: How important is one game and how long does it take to develop chemistry on the offensive line?

Six-time Pro Bowl guard and three-time Super Bowl champion Nate Newton of ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM said that it takes hundreds of reps. That's a minicamp and an entire preseason worth of time.

When you factor in one missed twist or stunt because of a lack of communication, that can get a quarterback knocked out. And without a quarterback, you can't win in this league.

Last season, there was only one quarterback in the NFL that was sacked more in the final seven weeks than Tony Romo. One. That's it.

Why should we have any faith that this year will be different?

Starting center Phil Costa was one of the worst in the NFL last year, and he starts this season with back issues. You have two new guards -- Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. Tyron Smith goes from right tackle to left -- a position he's never played. He'll be fine over time, but time is something the Cowboys don't have as JPP, Tuck, Osi and Mathias Kiwanuka are waiting. And Doug Free hasn't exactly been a wall since returning to the right side.

Once again, time will tell if this bunch is better, but it hasn't had any time together. Games are won where the big uglies get after it.

The guys attempting to keep Romo upright aren't the only reasons I believe the Cowboys are, at best, an 8-8 team. The anchor on the D-line (Jay Ratliff) and Romo's security blanket (Jason Witten) are injured.

Want more? Miles Austin has hardly had any meaningful reps with Romo since Week 2 in Oxnard. And perennial preseason Pro Bowler Kevin Ogletree is now being counted on as the third wide receiver?

A nine-win team? The over? Please.

How important is the opener? Just one game? It's the difference in the over or the under for your Dallas Cowboys.

Now excuse me, I have to call my guy in Vegas. Give me the under.


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