'Boys Are in Trouble

Dallas, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys were talking about gearing up for a playoff run after opening with three impressive wins.

Now they're simply focused on salvaging their season with injured quarterback Tony Romo not expected to return until mid-November.

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After a humiliating loss their last time out, the Cowboys will again be without Romo Sunday when they try to get their season back on track against the NFC South-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Texas Stadium.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made the Cowboys -1 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on the Buccaneers +1 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Coming off a 13-win season, Dallas (4-3) had high expectations for 2008. It opened with wins over Cleveland, Philadelphia and Green Bay, but has since lost three of four. It's only victory in that stretch was a lackluster performance at home against Cincinnati, the NFL's only seven-loss team.

Facing a St. Louis team that opened the season 0-4 last Sunday, Dallas lost 34-14 as Romo sat out with a broken pinkie on his throwing hand. The two-time Pro Bowler said Wednesday that he doesn't expect to play again until Nov. 16 at Washington.

That's bad news for the Cowboys, who are in third place in the NFC East and already have equaled the number of losses they had all last season.

"It's like we've been riding a wave. Now, the wave is gone. We're just like everybody else," linebacker Bradie James said. "No matter what the talent is, publicity, whatever goes on here, it doesn't really matter.

"Now it's time for us to come together, not only find solutions, but find a cure, and really the only thing that cures that is winning."

Last week's loss was especially disconcerting, as the Cowboys scored a touchdown on the game's first possession before allowing the Rams to reel off 34 consecutive points.

"We lost a game we should have lost, period," defensive end Marcus Spears said. "The season is still prevalent, a lot of things left to still be accomplished. Right now, we've got to get better."

The Cowboys hope to see some improvement from Brad Johnson, who will make his second start in place of Romo. The 40-year-old Johnson made his first start since 2006 last week, finishing 17-for-34 for 234 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Johnson, who played for the Buccaneers (5-2) from 2001-04 and led them to their only championship in Super Bowl XXXVII, may have trouble again this week as Tampa Bay is second in the league with 12 interceptions.

Dallas would also like to see more production from running back Marion Barber and wide receivers Terrell Owens and Roy Williams.

Barber has rushed for 255 yards and one touchdown in his last four games after running for 285 and scoring four times in his first three contests. Owens has been held to eight receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown in his last three games after catching 17 passes for 264 yards and four scores in his first four.

Williams, who was acquired from Detroit on Oct. 14, was held without a catch last week in his Dallas debut.

It may be difficult for the Cowboys to fix their offensive woes against a Tampa Bay team that ranks eighth in total defense (303.3 yards per game) and fourth in scoring defense (15.3 points per game).

"We can accomplish our goals, but we can't accomplish them if we don't play better," Dallas coach Wade Phillips said.

While the Cowboys are in danger of losing three straight games for the first time since Nov. 7-21, 2004, the Buccaneers are off to their best start since also winning five of their first seven in 2005.

After an impressive 27-3 win over division rival Carolina in Week 6, Tampa Bay defeated Seattle 20-10 last Sunday night.

The Bucs had a 402-176 advantage over the Seahawks in total yards, and limited Seattle to seven first downs.

"I think the defense played great," Tampa Bay safety Sabby Piscitelli said. "But the biggest thing was the offense kept us off the field."

Jeff Garcia had another stellar game last week, completing 26 of 37 passes for 310 yards and a touchdown, and coach Jon Gruden said the four-time Pro Bowler will continue to start.

"He was hot," Gruden said after Sunday's win. "He ran a no-huddle offense. He did some things on his own, the play selection. He was great I thought."

Garcia lost his starting job earlier this season, but has passed for 483 yards and two touchdowns in starting the last two games over Brian Griese. He'll be facing a Dallas secondary that is depleted by injuries and has only two interceptions on the season.

Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman is recovering from sports hernia surgery, five-time Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams will miss the rest of the season after breaking his right forearm last week and cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones has been suspended by the NFL for again violating its personal conduct policy.

Bucs running back Warrick Dunn, who has rushed for 226 yards in his last three games, left last week's win with a back injury, but Gruden said he expects him to play against the Cowboys.

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
DALLAS is 2-2 against the spread versus TAMPA BAY since 1992
TAMPA BAY is 3-1 straight up against DALLAS since 1992
3 of 4 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
DALLAS is 1-0 against the spread versus TAMPA BAY over the last 3 seasons 
DALLAS is 1-0 straight up against TAMPA BAY over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at DALLAS since 1992
DALLAS is 2-0 against the spread versus TAMPA BAY since 1992
DALLAS is 1-1 straight up against TAMPA BAY since 1992
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at DALLAS over the last 3 seasons.
DALLAS is 1-0 against the spread versus TAMPA BAY over the last 3 seasons 
DALLAS is 1-0 straight up against TAMPA BAY over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
TAMPA BAY
[FB] B.J. Askew missed last game %27?%27 - Hamstring - 10/05/08
[QB] Jeff Garcia is expected to start - None - 10/08/08
[LB] Barrett Ruud left last game, %27?%27. - Knee - 10/05/08
[S] Sabby Piscitelli missed last game %27?%27 - Elbow - 10/03/08
[WR] Joey Galloway missed last game %27?%27 - Foot - 10/05/08
[QB] Brian Griese left last game, %27?%27. - Arm - 10/05/08
[RB] Carnell Williams is expected to miss first 6 games. - Knee - 08/28/08
DALLAS
[S] Pat Watkins missed last game %27?%27 - Shoulder - 10/05/08
[G] Kyle Kosier expected to miss - Foot - 10/06/08
[CB] Terence Newman is downgraded to expected to miss - Groin - 10/08/08
[SS] Roy Williams is downgraded to expected to miss - Forearm - 10/06/08

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Posted: 10/22/08 3:05 PM

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