NFL Roundtable: There’s no "D" in Dallas
Each week we sit down with BetAmerica Extra columnists Ashley Anderson, James Scully and Scott Shapiro to discuss the latest news and trends from around the National Football League. This week they weigh in on the feasibility of an NFL bubble, Dallas' disastrous defense, and Rob Gronkowski's role in Tampa Bay.
We’ve seen a rash of positive COVID-19 tests around the league. Does the NFL need to create a bubble to successfully complete the 2020 season?
Ashley: I don’t think a bubble is necessary, or even possible for the NFL. The league seemingly had everything under control, until the Titans’ Week 4 outbreak, so it’s a matter of figuring out what went wrong with Tennessee to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again. I think players and personnel can steer clear of COVID-19 by following common health and safety guidelines. New England and Kansas City’s ability to postpone their game only a few days is an encouraging sign for how the league may be able to navigate the pandemic and still complete the 2020 season.
James: No. Positive COVID-19 tests were part of the condensed Major League Baseball regular season, forcing them to adapt at times, and the NFL is following the same blueprint. Nothing is guaranteed, but I’m optimistic the NFL can complete the regular season without a bubble.
NFL bubble sounds good but virtually impossible to execute.— Tedy Bruschi (@TedyBruschi) October 3, 2020
Scott: If teams follow the strict protocols set by the NFL, the 2020 season should be fine without a bubble. In an ideal world a bubble makes sense, but It is not realistic to expect franchises to house hundreds of players, coaches, and other team members for at least five months. Plus it is unlikely players would agree to it. Hopefully the league can avoid outbreaks like the one that has occurred in Nashville.
The Cowboys are 1-3 despite record-setting performances by Dak Prescott. What has been Dallas’ biggest downfall?
James: It’s been a combination of factors. Dallas has the worst turnover ratio (-7) heading into Monday, and giveaways have been a big part of why they’ve faced double-digit deficits the last three games. The defense is obviously bad, but it would be foolhardy to ignore how the offense keeps getting off to sluggish starts before rallying dramatically in the second half. Dallas has been underwhelming in all facets through the first four weeks.
Troy Aikman on @dfwticket said the most disappointing part of Sunday’s Cowboys loss was the lack of effort on defense. Pointed out previous Dallas defenses always at least played with great effort.— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) October 6, 2020
“To me, I’d be embarrassed as a player to put that kind of performance on film.”
Ashley: Nothing has been worse for Dallas than its defense. The Cowboys have surrendered 430.5 yards per game (third most in the league) and rank second-to-last against the run. Opposing offenses are converting 47% of the time on third down and on 65% of red zone tries, while Dallas has registered just one interception and one fumble recovery so far. Worst of all, the Cowboys have surrendered a league- and franchise-worst 146 points across the first four games.
Scott: Dallas’ biggest downfall has no doubt been their defense, which has been has been historically poor so far due to a combination of poor play and key injuries. The Cowboys have given up 146 points through four games. This puts them on pace to give up the most points in NFL history. They will need to play better for "America’s Team" to live up to expectations in 2020.
Rob Gronkowski has only caught nine passes over the first four weeks of the season. What do you expect from the veteran tight end now that O.J. Howard is unavailable?
Ashley: Gronk already played significantly more snaps than Howard, and I don’t expect his output to change much in the absence of his teammate. Gronk has only been targeted 14 times by Brady, and he failed to make a catch on his lone target against Carolina in Week 2. With receiver Chris Godwin out against the Chargers, Gronk still only saw three passes thrown his way, while Brady spread the ball around to several different receivers and tallied five touchdown passes, including one to tight end Cameron Brate. I expect Brate’s playing time and production to go up and Gronk to continue to be hit or miss in the passing game.
James: Tom Brady did a fantastic job spreading the ball around in Sunday’s comeback win, throwing touchdown passes to five different receivers, and Rob Gronkowski figures to become more involved in the passing game now that O.J. Howard is sidelined. The Buccaneers are still loaded with weapons, and Gronkowski has needed some time to shake the rust off after a one-year absence, but the future Hall of Famer can still be a valuable complementary piece.
Scott: With the injury to O.J. Howard, Gronk should be a bit more productive as a receiver. However, at this stage of his career the future Hall of Famer is much better at blocking, so look for that to remain his primary role in Tampa. Cameron Brate is likely to run a lot of the routes that Howard ran before getting hurt.