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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 8:25 PM

The Dallas Cowboys head into Sunday afternoon’s game against the Baltimore Ravens knowing that their 2012 season will be defined by what they do over the next five weeks. They were on the verge of becoming a force once again in the NFC East after starting the season 2-1. Dallas was favored to move to 3-1 as 7-point chalk two Mondays ago against Chicago. DISASTER…in the form of a 34-18 loss! Now, at 2-2, Dallas is under no illusions about what needs to be done Sunday in Baltimore, and throughout a very tough five-week schedule stretch.


Sunday: at Baltimore (Dallas is an underdog of a little more than a FG)

10/21: at Carolina (Dallas will be a small favorite)

10/28: vs. NY Giants (huge rivalry game)

11/4: at Atlanta (Dallas will be an underdog)

11/11: at Philadelphia (critical divisional battle)

Should Dallas struggle vs. that slate, they’ll have a losing record in mid-November and will likely be out of the playoff picture unless the NY Giants and Philadelphia Eagles lose some stunners. But, if Dallas can get its act together and run through four of those five…they’ll have a winning record while inflicting losses on their most dangerous divisional opponents.

In a sense, THE SEASON BEGINS SUNDAY because Dallas spent their bye week preparing for the task at hand. There’s not much difference between 0-0 and 2-2 in the big picture. An opportunity has been wasted with that loss to Chicago. But, no harm no foul in the divisional race to this point.


Philadelphia 3-2

NY Giants 3-2

Dallas 2-2

Washington 2-3

The Cowboys are 1-0 within the division thanks to their upset of the Giants to start the season. That means they still control their destiny because they can beat and earn tie-breakers over the teams ahead of them. That obviously gets tougher with a loss to Baltimore…and would become quite a mountain climb with successive losses to Baltimore and Carolina what was supposed to be a well-timed bye.

Here are the main problems areas for Dallas to this point:

TURNOVERS: Dallas has lost the ball 11 times this season, while earning just four takeaways. A minus seven turnover differential is horrible for just one month of action. Note that this represents issues on both sides of the ball. Tony Romo has been too mistake-prone (eight picks) while the defense isn’t forcing opponents into mistakes.

THE RUNNING GAME: Dallas has rushed for just 49, 38, and 41 yards the last three times on the field, which is completely unacceptable. Romo has made it clear through his career that he can’t carry the full load on his own without imploding. The Cowboys must start producing on the ground or their season is already over.

HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS: Over the last three games, Dallas has been outscored 41-17 in the second half…and eight of those points came on a last second garbage time drive engineered by Kyle Orton. It was 41-9 before that. Clearly the Cowboys are taking the worst of it on the coaching end of things. The staff better have used their bye week wisely!

Normally, you take issues like that to Baltimore and you’re going to get waxed. But, the Ravens have failed to cover their last three Las Vegas pointspreads in a way that’s casting some doubt about their new fast break offense.

*Last week Baltimore could only beat Kansas City 9-6 despite having extra preparation time off a Thursday Night home game.

*Two weeks ago, Baltimore sputtered past winless Cleveland 23-16 as double digit favorites.

Dallas is better than Kansas City and Cleveland! And, they’ll be in position to score an upset if the Ravens keep trending in the wrong direction. It’s possible that BOTH of these teams are a few points worse in the Power Ratings than was originally though after Week One (when Dallas covered by 11 in an upset of the Giants, while Baltimore covered by 24 in a rout of Cincinnati).

Dallas-Baltimore is a prominent TV game Sunday, and therefore is glowing bright on the radar for the experts here at VegasSportsMasters. Check the home page of this website for big play bulletins in today’s marquee matchups (like the NY Giants at San Francisco and Green Bay at Houston!). Expanded descriptions as well as notes on recent hot streaks are available on the “buy picks” page.

Perhaps one of our legends is stepping out in Cowboys/Ravens. We can assure you that ALL of them are stepping out somewhere on today’s card with so many tasty opportunities.

Is this the beginning of the end for the Tony Romo era in Dallas? Or, is it the beginning of the beginning for a dramatic 2012 run through a tough schedule in a killer division? Don’t place any Las Vegas Sunday until you’ve checked in with our hot handicappers. The biggest names in the industry are waiting to hear from you!

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