FOX NFL Sunday Roundtable: Cowboys have the talent
This week, Czar probes the FOX NFL Sunday crew on the Super Bowl chances of the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
John Czarnecki: All the talk heading into tonight’s opener in New Orleans has been about the late hits and the fines taken by the Saints for leveling Brett Favre in last year’s NFC championship game. Will the Saints tone it down?
Jimmy Johnson: That’s the way the Saints play and I think you will see more of the same. I do think it’s going to be a great game, but I think the Saints will put a number on them.
Howie Long: If the Vikings were at full strength on offense, I would give them a significantly better chance of winning. Yes, the Vikings have come right out and called them cheap shots. I got to think the Saints want to finish the job on Brett. And do you think they are concerned about taking a 15-yard penalty?
JJ: Not at all. That’s why, even though he has started like 290 straight games, I think there’s a good chance that Brett doesn’t finish the season. Players are going to be coming after him and with his ankle and age, he may simply not hold up.
HL: I don’t think he’s going to make it through, either.
JJ: It’s gotten to the point with the Saints that it’s almost a badge of honor if they do make a late hit and take a penalty or a fine. I do believe they want that M.O. of being a team that will put you out (of the game).
HL: You have to believe that Brett knows this. Remember his interception at the end of that championship game? He only needed to run 7 yards for a first down. But I’m sure that distance looked like a mile to him, because of the beating he took. I do believe the Vikings will do everything they can tonight to protect him. It’s one thing to get out of New Orleans with a loss. It’s another to get out of there Week 1 with a loss and also no Brett Favre!
JJ: I look for a more conservative game plan out of Minnesota. I suspect they will run the ball a little bit more. One of the problems with that approach, though, is if Brees puts a lot of points on them early, they will have to shelve that plan. Brees is liable to come out smoking.
HL: The Saints have a chance of repeating, especially if they get home-field advantage like they did last season. It’s tough for teams to go down there and win a big game.
Czar: The Cowboys had a ragged preseason. Any concerns about this Super Bowl or Bust team?
JJ: The only thing that concerns me about the Cowboys is their history. Yes, last year they finally won a playoff game and won late in the season, and they did some good things. But their history is that they still turn the ball over and have too many penalties. That’s what the preseason looked like. As talented as they are, as good as they are on defense, they just scare me.
HL: Jimmy is right about that defense. They have three really good cornerbacks and two really good outside rushers and a great nose tackle. They can be pretty good. They definitely have some very good skilled people. Just look at their three running backs.
JJ: Marion Barber has tailed off a little, but Felix Jones has put on some weight and remains a big home-run hitter. Tashard Choice is a great third-down back. I think it makes sense to keep them all fresh. I do like Choice.
HL: Choice may be the most complete back on that team.
Czar: How do you think the Steelers will do Sunday with Dennis Dixon playing with Ben (Roethlisberger) suspended and Byron Leftwich hurting?
JJ: I kind of thought Dixon would end up being the starter, anyway. They wanted Dixon to be the guy while knowing they had a security blanket in Leftwich.
HL: With Dixon, in theory it helps them with protection. They can do some more things with him. This kid can make something happen when a play breaks down with his speed and running ability. What they like to talk about is that they are healthy on defense with getting Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu back. They simply couldn’t close out games on defense last season. Polamalu changes everything. These four games are going to be tough for the Steelers without Ben. What’s going to be acceptable for them?
JJ: I think they would feel good about going 2-2 in their first four games.
Czar: Based on the preseason, what are your initial impressions of Sam Bradford? The Rams host the Cardinals on Sunday.
HL: He throws the ball very well. I really like him, and he seems really even-keeled. He’s done some things in the preseason, like against the Patriots, where he hit a tight end on a seam route on the other side of the field. He knows what he’s doing. If they can keep him upright, I think he’s going to be a really good player. They are going to see a lot of eight-man fronts because teams will be geared to stopping Steven Jackson. He’s going to get some opportunities to make some plays.
Czar: The big late game Sunday has the Packers at Philadelphia, and a lot of people are saying the Packers are Super Bowl-bound. You buying that?
JJ: Well, their offense is really scary. They have a really good passing attack, and Aaron Rodgers is definitely an improving quarterback, but they really struggled on defense last season. They gave up 51 points to Arizona in their playoff loss. Granted, that was Kurt Warner, but you have to play a lot better than that to be serious about going after a championship.
HL: Can they go all the way with just a great offense? I say no. They have to get to the point where they are at least manageable on defense. You saw the Arizona game. They struggled all year against really good passing attacks. None of us know how good Kevin Kolb is going to be, but the Packers’ secondary will be minus two starters until Week 6. A couple of their linebackers are dinged and some of their defensive linemen are hurting; Cullen Jenkins has a calf (injury). They have been concerned about their defense in the preseason. It will be interesting to see how they hold up. They do take a lot of chances on defense that puts a lot of pressure on their secondary. They are always putting Charles Woodson on an island.
JJ: Maybe with the second year under defensive coordinator Dom Capers, they should know the defense better and may end up with some better results, but it’s hard when you have key guys resting. Resting, you know, is for the offseason.