Cowboys may yet hit the NFC East’s magic number

It’s a bit early in the season to bring out “critical” in describing a game, but let’s be honest here:

If the Dallas Cowboys are going to finish 7-9 or 8-8 and then rush off into the postseason as champions of the mighty NFC East, by gosh, there are certain home games that have to be won.

The St. Louis Rams are in town Sunday for a noon kickoff at the Big Yard.

Critical? Yes. And I would say this particular contest will be harder than you think, but no one needs that reminder. Even the most optimistic CowSheep is wise enough to know every game involving the Cowboys is a stomach pump.

Good local news, Part I:

Early returns indicate the division might be even worse than originally thought. The East is sinking deeper into least status. Skunky bad. A team that goes 4-2 within the division would only have to win four other times to reach the magic number of eight.

Yes, I’m making eight the East’s magic number, but again, that’s based on a very early look at the division.

Good local news, Part II:

The Chiefs.

Before any talk about the Rams here on Sunday, let us discuss the Chiefs on Thursday night.

Kansas City, of course, delivered that head-shaking bruise to the Cowboys last Sunday, and then had the NFL’s most difficult turnaround. A road game in Philly two practice days later.

The Chiefs were impressive in winning that one, and the record went to 3-0.

The obvious punch line: But they haven’t beaten anybody.

I resent that remark. The Cowboys are at least a somebody. Not great, but OK. Say, an 8-8 somebody.

The Chiefs flattered the Cowboys with a strong road performance on Thursday night. Maybe the Chiefs are much better than anyone thought, a flashback to Seattle in the Game 2 road loss by the Cowboys a September ago.

All of the above is the early good news in two parts.

Now, about the Rams.

Here’s a club that rallied nicely to take down Arizona in the opener, then went to Atlanta last week, fell quickly behind 21-0, trailed 24-3 at intermission, but the Falcons had to hold on tight to finally survive 31-24.

Jeff Fisher, the St. Louis head coach and defensive mastermind, is respected by all, but hopefully he will be totally distracted Sunday, waiting for a punt to hit Jumbo Jerry Tron. (It’s an old story from five seasons ago and the grand opening of the Big Yard. No need for a rehash, but it was funny at the time.)

Moving along this morning, let us go to The Man Who Watches Film for his breakdown of this matchup:

“Fisher and his defensive front seven will be a serious mental and physical challenge for the Cowboys’ offensive line, particularly young Frederick [Travis] at center.

“The recognition of Fisher’s multiple looks, and then blocking up on the different schemes, will dictate how Tony Romo fares in this one. Frederick had a bad game in KC. He’s got to be better against these people.

“Given time, however, Romo and the receivers will have some yards on what is a questionable Rams secondary.

“The Cowboys’ defense will deal with a stationary quarterback [Sam Bradford], who can really throw it out of the pocket, but he’s not going to Alex Smith you with the scramble like last week.

“The Rams have had O-line injury issues, so a key here will be seeing if the Cowboys’ front four can bring pressure without using the blitz. Keeping the ball out of the hands of the rookie, Tavon Austin, is recommended.

“Austin is a lightnin’ strike waiting to happen. And the Rams use him in a lot of different ways, not just as a slot receiver.”

Our thanks once again to our distinguished colleague, The Man Who Watches Film.

But gawd knows, we couldn’t close out this dispatch without a word on — cue the echo machine — the Cowboys’ run game.

Or lack of a run game.

Local media coverage has gone into overload this week on that topic.

It was interesting, however, that Shady McCoy, Eagles running back, slashed and gashed the KC defense Thursday night for 158 yards.

The Cowboys’ loss in Kansas City was being blamed locally on the 37 rushing yards, total, last Sunday.

Except McCoy’s fine output ended up the same way. With an L.

Five turnovers and five sacks killed Philly. Also the poor play of quarterback Michael Vick killed Philly.

I still say the Cowboys lost in KC because of two critical lost fumbles and the dropped TD bomb by Dez. And because Romo seemed to lose his aiming eye the deeper the game went.

But people, even friends, become hostile if you don’t join in the “run game” hysteria.

So, I’ll fake it.

Run the ball, Tony.

But just between us, look for Dez deep.

Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

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