Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Cowboys' next opponent. This week, that opponent is the Cleveland Browns.
The Opponent: Even if you hate Jerry Jones' center of the universe approach to running a team, you have to at least admire the stability. The Browns shake up the organization every few years, bringing in new football geniuses and coaches and get the same results no matter who is in charge. Another change is coming as the team's been sold and former Eagles exec Joe Banner will run the show after evaluating who to keep fromt he current crop. That should guarantee effort, at the very least.
The Line: Cowboys -7.5, which suggests Vegas thinks the Browns are the right team for the Cowboys to face to gather some momentum for the stretch run.
Last Game: The Browns were on their bye last week and lost 25-15 to the Ravens in Week Nine. It was a fairly cynical game plan by coach Pat Shurmur that kept the Browns in the game without much reason to believe they could win it, until he decided to go for it on his own 28 in the fourth quarter instead of punting and hoping the team could keep playing defense. The Ravens kicked a field goal and put it out of reach.
The Coach: The end of the previous paragraph tells you most of what you need to know, but Shurmur has also veered wildly in the other direction at times this season. Most coaches are somewhat predictable, good or bad, but Shurmur's been unpredictable and he's lost. That's not a good combo for staying in a job.
The Offense: There are some good signs here. Trent Richardson has all the beastly qualities you'd like in a tailback, Josh Gordon is already a dangerous outside receiver (albeit one with shaky hands) and Brandon Weeden can get it out to him. But Weeden makes way too many mistakes for the team to generate any kind of consistent threat at this point. Whether he gets a second season will depend on just how big a shakeup is in store, but the other two rookies are definitely keepers.
The Defense: Joe Haden's a really good cornerback and D'Qwell Jackson is a fine middle linebacker, but there isn't much else here to excite. They aren't awful, mind you, they just lack the kind of playmakers that make for a threatening defense. A capable pass rush would help, but there aren't any candidates in the house right now.
Key Matchup: DeMarcus Ware vs. Joe Thomas - The Cowboys can still win the game if Thomas keeps Ware from wreaking havoc on Weeden this Sunday. If Ware is able to get the better of him a handful of times, though, we're likely to see the kinds of mistakes that have sunk Weeden in other games this season. They are both awfully good at what they do, which should make it fun to watch regardless of who comes out on top.