After a four-game suspension, Greg Hardy is expected to make his debut for Dallas this weekend against the Patriots.  (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

After a four-game suspension, Greg Hardy is expected to make his debut for Dallas this weekend against the Patriots. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Five things you have to know about the Cowboys, who will face the Patriots Sunday in Texas:

1. They are really struggling with injuries.

The Cowboys will be without quarterback Tony Romo (broken clavicle) and wide receiver Dez Bryant (foot) coming into this weekend, two of their offensive difference-makers. It’s a sizable break for the Patriots, as the quarterback had been playing well over the first two games of the season (75 percent completion rate, 551 passing yards, 3 TDs), while the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Bryant (who had five catches on seven targets for 48 yards before his injury) is a difficult cover for any opposing cornerback. On Sunday night, Dallas also saw linebacker Sean Lee — the Cowboys’ leading tackler — go down with a concussion in the first half. And then, running back Lance Dunbar left with a left knee injury on the opening kickoff of the second half. The extent of the injuries to Lee and Dunbar aren’t know quite yet, but it’s clear that this is a Dallas team that’s struggling with health as it comes into a Sunday showdown with the Patriots.

2. There’s uncertainty at the quarterback position.

In place of Romo, the Cowboys have turned to veteran backup Brandon Weeden. (They’ve also signed former New England backup Matt Cassel after the Bills cut him last month.) Weeded has had his moments — he looked every bit the quality starter as he led Dallas down the field for a game-tying touchdown late in Sunday’s game against New Orleans. But the 31-year-old also struggled mightily at times against an average Saints’ defense. Ultimately, the loss left the Cowboys with their first road defeat of the season, but it also stretched Weeden’s personal losing streak to 10 games, as he finished 16-for-26 for 246 yards and a touchdown. While it’s likely that Weeden will get the call Sunday against New England, it certainly wouldn’t be a shock if the Dallas coaching staff pulled the trigger and went to Cassel against his old team.

3. They should get some defensive help this week with the arrival of defensive end Greg Hardy and linebacker Rolando McClain.

The Cowboys defense will get a boost Sunday, as Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain are expected to be on the field with the team for the first time this season. The controversial Hardy, who was suspended for four games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy stemming from an incident last year with Carolina, will be permitted to make his Dallas debut against the Patriots. (During his ban, Hardy has not been allowed around the team but has had contact with the team’s medical staff.) Meanwhile, McClain, who was suspended for four games under the substance abuse policy, will also be back for Dallas. (The 26-year-old, who spent the 2014 season with the Cowboys, has been able to work out at Valley Ranch during his suspension.) The 6-foot-4, 255-pound McClain started 12 games for the Cowboys last season, and had 67 tackles, two interceptions and one sack, per Pro Football Reference. As for the 6-foot-4, 278-pound Hardy, he should provide support for the Dallas pass rush, as the 27-year-old has 27 sacks in his last 32 contests.

4. Jason Witten is still one of the best in the game at the tight end position.

You could argue that Jason Witten was Rob Gronkowski before Gronk. The 6-foot-5, 257-pound veteran, who had a nine-year stretch between 2004 and 2012 where he averaged 86 receptions and almost 1,000 yards a season, is still getting it done on a regular basis at the age of 33. Through four games this year, he has 25 catches on 31 targets for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s no longer the overwhelming offensive presence he used to be, but he still leads the Cowboys in receptions and receiving yards, and is tied for the team lead in touchdown catches. While it won’t exclusively be man coverage, expect the Patriots to try and utilize the likes of linebacker Jamie Collins on Witten, one of the longest and strongest defenders Witten could go against all season long.

5. They find motivation in Rocky III.

Prior to the start of the season, coach Jason Garrett wanted to provide motivation for a team looking to avoid any sense of complacency coming off a division title, so he showed them Rocky III. Garrett really hammered home the scenes where Rocky had become happy after winning the title, while Clubber Lang worked in grimy conditions and pulled himself up to beat Balboa. Of course, Rocky regains the eye of the tiger and beats Lang at the end of the movie, but the message was clear: you can’t afford to rest on your laurels. For what it’s worth, Garrett is a lot like Bill Belichick in the sense that he looks for motivational approaches that might be considered outside the box. Like Belichick, he took the whole team to see “Lone Survivor” a few years ago. He’s also found inspiration in the stories of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Adm. William McRaven. They might need some of that this weekend against the Patriots.

DraftKings DraftKings has your shot to play for FREE in the $1 Million Fantasy Football Contest THIS SUNDAY! First place takes home $100,000! FOR FREE ENTRY, CLICK HERE.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Coming off the Patriots’ bye week, Tom Brady joined Dennis, Callahan & Minihane on Monday morning and touched on a variety of topics, including next weekend’s opponent, the Cowboys.

Coming off the Patriots’ bye week, Tom Brady joined Dennis, Callahan & Minihane on Monday morning and touched on a variety of topics, including next weekend’s opponent, the Cowboys. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The shorthanded Cowboys dropped a 26-20 overtime decision to the Saints on Sunday night. Dallas is 2-2 as it attempts to keep pace without quarterback Tony Romo (broken clavicle) and star receiver Dez Bryant (foot injury).

Brady said he would prefer to see opponents at full strength, but injuries are a fact of life in the NFL.

“I think it’s always great to play against the best players and the best that they have,” he said. “But at the same time, football takes a toll. We have guys that are out, they have guys that are out. Obviously they have some of their very best, best players out, which is a bummer.

“I’ve never been down to that stadium. We haven’t obviously had much of a history with the Cowboys. It will be a fun game regardless. They went to New Orleans last night, I know it was a tough loss. They’ve had two tough losses. I think they’re a very good football team, especially on defense. We’ve got our work cut out for us. I’ve been studying them a lot the last three or four days. They went up to Green Bay last year at the end of the year and almost beat [the Packers] for an opportunity to advance to the NFC championship game. It’s a good football team. We’ve got our work cut out for us, no question.”

The Cowboys might be down another key player, as linebacker Sean Lee left Sunday’s game with a concussion he suffered in the first half.

“He’s a great player,” Brady said of Lee. “He’s got all those type of instincts that I remember from [former Dolphins linebacker] Zach Thomas, and he makes all those plays and tackles, always around the ball, he’s an interceptor, he just kind of knows where the ball’s going. He may be back, and we’ll certainly prepare as if he’s going to play. I know it’s a big blow when they lost him last night, but we’ll prepare for him to be there.”

With the Patriots off Sunday, Brady was able to watch games around the league and see how the other half lives.

“When you watch a lot of those games, it’s a different perspective, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “Because most all these days I’m getting ready to play. … It is fun when you get a chance to sit down and watch a bunch of games. I told you guys this before, but that Red Zone channel, it’s unbelievable. So, you kind of see all these different games and players and things that you just normally wouldn’t get to see. It’s a different perspective, it’s a lot of fun. You kind of see your competition in a way.

“There’s a lot of good teams, there’s a lot of good players. And it’s only Week 4. Like I said last week, we got off to a good start, but obviously our entire season’s ahead of us. We’ve got no more bye weeks going forward. We’ve got the same amount of time as everyone else from here on out. It’s a lot of football, it’s a lot of practice, it’s a lot of concentration, and we’re going to see how mentally tough we are. A huge one on the road against Dallas that we’ve got coming up. That’s where it starts for us.”

Asked if he has more confidence in his 3-0 Patriots after seeing the rest of the league in action, Brady said it’s a little early to make judgments.

“I have a lot of confidence in the guys that I play with, no question,” he said. “I think we have the best coaches. That’s just how I’ve always felt, being a part of this team and organization. All the guys that I’m out there with I have all the confidence [in] because we do it every day in practice. And I think we’re held to a real high standard. We’ve got high expectations that our coach sets for us. We go out there every weekend and we try to show it.

“It’s tough to win. I’ll tell you, there’ s a lot of good teams, a lot of good players. And again, it’s only Week 4. So how these teams are looking right now [is] far different from how they’re going to look two months from now. It’s up to us to determine the fate of our season. It’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of practice. We’re going to see what we’re made of.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

On youth sports and how it affects people as they get older: “What I remember from being in youth sports, everything was really localized. There was no travel teams. Well, there was a couple, but you really had to be the top, top kid to go on those teams. My parents always exposed us to different things, different sports. It was basketball when it was basketball season, it was baseball when it was baseball season. I didn’t play football ’til I was a freshman in high school. A lot of soccer. And there were just some [football] camps. But I just played in the neighborhood in our street with all the kids that we grew up with.

“It’s just different now, experiencing it with my own kids. All the organized activities that you put them in. I made a comment for a while now, I hope my kids are late bloomers in whatever they do because they’re going to be exposed to so much at such an early time that, yeah, you do worry about what their motivation may be as they get older or if they feel like they’ve been in something for so long and it’s been hyper-intense and hyper-focused for so long, I think that can wear out a young individual, a young teenager. It’s just hard, because all the parents are doing it, it seems. The competition, it feels like it starts so early for these kids, whether it’s to get into college, or to get into the right high school, or the right elementary school.

“I don’t know how it’s taken a turn, but sometimes it’s nice just for kids to be kids. At least that’s just from what I remember when I was growing up. I think that was a great opportunity for the kids to develop lots of parts of their personality. And certainly for me that’s what I found, ultimately I found something that I loved to do at a young age. The more you’re exposed to, I think the better opportunity is for all kids to figure out what they really want to do in life.”

On hosting “Saturday Night Live” 10 years ago and if he would every consider doing it again: “It was a great experience. It was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. They’ve never asked me again. … I’m not sure. Certainly I would consider it. It’s a lot of fun. It’s like some things in life where the first time you do it is sometimes the best time to do it. It was great because there were no expectations. So I just went into it completely blind. There’s some very talented people, and they take things very seriously. I think the great part for someone who’s like a non-actor going is they just want you to have fun and smile and have a good time. I think that’s usually a great way to go about things in life, period. But certainly in that kind of venue it would be probably more challenging if you were an actor and they were expecting you to be a good actor up there. For us as an athlete it’s just, ‘€˜Enjoy yourself.’ ”

On if he or Peyton Manning was better as an “SNL” host: “I’d take Peyton in that one.”

DraftKings DraftKings has your shot to play for FREE in the $1 Million Fantasy Football Contest THIS SUNDAY! First place takes home $100,000! FOR FREE ENTRY, CLICK HERE.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar
The Dolphins -- who lost to the Jets Sunday to drop to 1-3 on the season -- now face a massive challenge to try and make the 2015 playoffs. (Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

The Dolphins — who lost to the Jets Sunday to drop to 1-3 on the season — now face a massive challenge to try and make the 2015 playoffs. (Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it’s starting to get late early when it comes to the NFL playoff picture. Especially if you’re four games in and you’re already below .500.

Since the NFL adopted its current playoff format in 1990, only 25 teams have gotten to the playoffs after starting the season 1-3 or 0-4, an average of one team a year. Here’s the list of the 25 teams that turned the trick in that span, and how far they got in the playoffs. It’s clearly not an impossible feat — after all, the 2001 Patriots bucked the trend and won the Super Bowl, while two other teams made it all the way to the conference championship. But a slow start certainly doesn’t give you a lot of margin for error heading into the final three-quarters of the season.

1990 – New Orleans, Wild Card Playoffs
1990 – Philadelphia, Wild Card Playoffs
1991 – New York Jets, Wild Card Playoffs
1992 – San Diego, Divisional Playoffs
1993 – Green Bay, Divisional Playoffs
1993 – Houston, Divisional Playoffs
1995 – Detroit, Wild Card Playoffs
1995 – Philadelphia, Divisional Playoffs
1996 – Dallas, Divisional Playoffs
1996 – Jacksonville, Lost AFC championship
1997 – New York Giants, Wild Card Playoffs
1998 – Buffalo, Wild Card Playoffs
2000 – New Orleans, Divisional Playoffs
2001 – Patriots, Won Super Bowl XXXVI
2002 – Tennessee, Lost AFC Championship Game
2002 – Atlanta, Divisional Playoffs
2002 – New York Jets, Divisional Playoffs
2002 – Pittsburgh, Divisional Playoffs
2004 – Green Bay, Wild Card Playoffs
2005 – Chicago, Divisional Playoffs
2007 – San Diego, Lost AFC Championship Game
2008 – Minnesota, Wild Card Playoffs
2011 – Denver, Lost in Divisional Playoffs
2013 – Philadelphia, Wild Card Playoffs
2013 – Carolina, Lost in Divisional Playoffs

That brings us to 2015. Keeping in mind that the league has averaged one playoff team a season that has started with something as bad a 1-3 record dating back to 1990, here’s the list of the 12 teams that can finish the week no better than 1-3 through the first four weeks of the 2015 season: Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and San Francisco. (Seattle is 1-2 going into its Monday night game against Detroit. In addition, Tennessee is 1-2, but was inactive this weekend because of the bye. As a result, the total could stretch to 14 by the end of action on Monday.)

DraftKings DraftKings has your shot to play for FREE in the $1 Million Fantasy Football Contest THIS SUNDAY! First place takes home $100,000! FOR FREE ENTRY, CLICK HERE.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady apparently spent part of his bye week doing a little scouting of New England’s next opponent — the following picture was posted to his Facebook account on Sunday evening during the Dallas-New Orleans game.

Back at it tomorrow… All eyes on the Cowboys

Posted by Tom Brady on Sunday, October 4, 2015

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Brandon Weeden has taken over for the injured Tony Romo in Dallas. (Getty Images)

Brandon Weeden has taken over for the injured Tony Romo in Dallas. (Getty Images)

Part of Bill Belichick‘s job is to never overlook any aspect of an opponent, even if that opponent is significantly undermanned.

When Dez Bryant went down in the Week 1 with a foot injury and Tony Romo was lost to a shoulder injury in Philadelphia the next week, it was widely assumed the Cowboys offense would sit with them. But the Cowboys held on for the win in Philly behind Brandon Weeden and raced out to a big lead against Atlanta before falling apart in the second half in Week 3.

As the Patriots get ready for the Cowboys this week in the heart of Texas, they will be taking apart film on Weeden.

In his first starting assignment after taking over for the injured Romo, Weeden showed early on against Atlanta that he could put points on the board. The quarterback, who will turn only 32 on Oct. 14, completed 13-of-14 passes for 164 yards as Dallas jumped out to a 28-14 lead. The most efficient part of his game was handing the ball off to Joseph Randle, who had three rushing touchdowns in the first half.

“I thought he did a good job for them last week,” Belichick said of Weeden. “It obviously didn’€™t quite work out there but they moved the ball, they scored a lot of points. He did a good job of getting the ball to his outlet receivers, used the backs well.”

But Weeden and the Cowboys went ice cold in the second half, completing 9-of-12 in the second half, with two sacks as the Falcons outscored Dallas, 22-0, to take a 39-28 win.

“They had a lot of production. He’€™s an experienced player,” Belichick said. “They have a great offensive line. They have good skill players. They have really good backs, a lot of depth in their backfield. I think he’€™s done a good job of utilizing those guys. They’€™re a good football team. I know they’€™ve lost a couple key players, but they’€™ll be getting some more guys back next week, and they’€™ve got a lot of players to work with. It’€™s going to be a big challenge for us. They’€™re very good in the kicking game, tough team defensively, and a lot of explosive players on the offensive side of the ball. It will be tough.”

If things don’t work out with Weeden, the Cowboys will turn to former Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel, acquired by the Cowboys in the week after Romo’s Week 2 injury. The Patriots beat Cassel in Week 2 of the 2014 season when Cassel started for Minnesota.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Michael Hoomanawanui

Michael Hoomanawanui

Before moving onto preparing for the Cowboys, Bill Belichick gave some props to a player he dealt away last week.

The Patriots head coach gave props to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui on Sunday during a conference call after he dealt the veteran to the New Orleans Saints for defensive end Akiem Hicks.

“[He] had a lot of position versatility, smart guy. We won a lot of games with him,” Belichick said.

Of course, Belichick wouldn’t have felt comfortable pulling the trigger on the deal if he didn’t feel Michael Williams, acquired in a deal with Detroit in August, hadn’t worked hard to get up to speed.

“I think Mike has done a good job coming in here and learning what we’€™ve asked to him to do in a relatively short period of time, and I think he’€™s got a good future in front of him,” Belichick said. “But again, all that being said, it wasn’€™t like we were looking to move on from Hooman, but you have to give up something to get something. So that was really more of the nature of that trade. I don’€™t think it was necessarily a commentary on, I mean, I feel good about our tight end situation, but again, if you want to get something, you have to give up something, and sometimes that’€™s what you have to do.

“I think Mike has done a good job, and I’€™m glad that we have him, and he’€™s learned. He wasn’€™t playing that position at Detroit. He was playing more of the tackle position, so it’€™s been a transition for him as far as learning what to do and re-acclimating his technique and so forth to the tight end position. He’€™s done a good job of that. It’€™s certainly a credit to him that he’€™s come as far as he has in the past few weeks in terms of making a position change and that type of thing. That’€™s been good, no question about that.”

As Chris Price noted, Belichick has been a wheeler dealer of late, not afraid to pull the trigger on trades if it adds a veteran for depth, even if that veteran is headed for free agency at the end of the season.

“I’€™d say that’€™s definitely true,” Belichick said. “Yeah, no question about it. It’€™s worked out that way. We felt like we could make some moves that would help us, obviously, and we’€™ll see how it all turns out. We felt some players that we’€™ve acquired ‘€“ all those guys you mentioned ‘€“ at the time we did it we thought they would be beneficial for us and they’€™d be productive for us. Some of those guys have, and we’€™ll see how it goes with this new group.”

Last year, the Patriots acquired linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers, both of whom left the Patriots after winning a Super Bowl.

“I just think they worked out,” Belichick said. “I don’€™t think it’€™s been any, like a big conscious effort on our part, like this is what we’€™ve got to do. If it works out and it’€™s something we feel is beneficial, and obviously you can make it work with the other party, then ‘€¦ You know, we haven’€™t been afraid to trade here through the years, whether it be during the draft or preseason or regular season or whatever it is. I don’€™t think there’€™s ever been a conscious effort to avoid them or for that matter run to them and say well, we’€™ve got to do it.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Christian joins the boys to discuss bye weeks and when the ideal time is to get one. The guys ask him about a permanent team in London and his opinion on if it would work. Then he gets into the Pats and if any team in the AFC East will step up.
Greg and Chris discuss the debacle that is the Miami Dolphins in the midst of getting beat pretty badly in London by the Jets a week removed from getting destroyed by the Bills. Where does Miami go from here?

[0:09:04] ... Given all away elected atlas. 6177797. Of 937. Little note from Chicago Jay Cutler is playing and starting so. The Jimmy Claussen disaster tour week number two will not happen as long as Cutler stays in ...
[0:09:46] ... To go watched the best team in the NFL which is my New England Patriots that everything is electric around that team. When you wake up and aren't actually Christmas Day. That's how would it in the ...
[0:13:04] ... of stupidity before we. Before we take a break and not bringing Christian Fauria anarchists. Lost that where. That bill. House. That's one off article by memory. Speaking of carpal stupidity you familiar with mark Kelly. ...
[0:16:08] ... when he gets home it's just. 6177797937. Welcome back we'll talk to Christian Fauria and we'll find out what Christian thanks if you were player what he'd want to play in London. On a regular basis. ...

Curran calls Greg and Chris to discuss the struggles of the Dolphins and Colts along with the state of Pats durng their bye. He gets into the defense and how they've performed, specifically the secondary and Devin McCourty.

[0:12:18] ... Beat up your safety to compete in folks think about this weather. Rodney Harrison. Bob Sanders tort all the Malo Earl Woods who will be able to say Q for the Packers. It read. Go Earl Thomas you ...
[0:14:14] ... Thinking Frank Gore. With going to be some kind of remedy or Trent Cole and kind of a remedy at 030. Big serious. Narrow. Personnel decisions. And that bitten by crippling elephant fun the gun on ...
[0:15:36] ... and Annika and he will regret. Well just started to look better David Carr. That all the things work if you don't have a system in place organization and waits. I mean offensive system at an ...