History has been somewhat kind to the Dallas Cowboys when they are coming off a bye week. Since the in-season break started in 1990, Dallas has gone 15-7 after the week off.
For the most part, the Cowboys have been able to cure what ails them, but they haven't won a game coming off the bye since 2009 and there is reason for concern that that trend won't change this week when they travel to Baltimore to face a Ravens team that hasn't lost at home in about two years. Stranger things have happened and, at least this season, you never know which Dallas team will show up.
Just about every facet of the team has things to work on and areas of which to improve. Here are some things for Cowboys fans to look for this week.
Tony Romo has been the topic of conversation since his five-interception performance Oct. 1 against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. He may not be the most polarizing athlete in American sports, but there are definitely people on both ends of the spectrum, one side damning him and the other defending him.
He deserves both because when he shoulders too much of the load, bad things seem to happen because he's forcing the ball into areas he shouldn't. But, his style of play has also saved the Cowboys at times when it seemed they were done.
In order for Romo to relax and do what he does best, he needs a running game to support him. Dallas is 29th in the league in rushing with a 67.8 average over the first four games. It looked like DeMarco Murray was picking up where he left of his injury-shortened 2011 season with a 131-yard performance against the defending Super Bowl champ New York Giants.
He hasn't seen the century mark since then.
It's hard to blame it on the line because they've been playing with the same five on the offensive line since the first quarter of the first game. Several have pointed to new fullback Lawrence Vickers being the problem and not opening up holes.
Blame can be spread to a number of reasons or players, but blame doesn't fix the problem. The Baltimore defense gave up more than 200 yards rushing last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. This could be Murray's week to get back on track.
The offense and defense should get a pick-me-up this week with the return of two starters. Center Phil Costa and nose tackle Jay Ratliff should return to their respective sides of the ball against the Ravens.
Costa should bring some stability to the center of the line for the 16th ranked offense (29 in rushing, fourth in passing) in the league. Ryan Cook has done a decent job while Costa was on the mend, but it looks like Cook is the one trying to work through injury.
While Dallas has the best pass defense in the league, they are middle-of-the-pack in rush defense at 15. They've also recorded just nine sacks and grabbed one interception. The defensive line has not been able to get a consistent push to force the opposing quarterback to make poor decisions. Ratliff's return could be just the thing to turn those numbers around.
John Ingle is a graduate of the Midwestern State University Mass Communication program with an emphasis in journalism. He is a lifelong Dallas Cowboys and football fan dating back to the late 1970s and covered the Cowboys as a journalism intern during two training camps at MSU. Follow him on Twitter @inglejohn1973.
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