Well that may be the most correct I've ever been about a prediction. The Packers utterly annihilated the Cowboys. Philips was clearly at a complete loss, and the players expended very little effort. The game wasn't close; the Packers dominated in every phase.
As everyone now knows, the game caused Jerry to finally put Wade out of his misery. There's not much else to say, other than the 2010 Cowboys are perhaps the most pathetic team in NFL history. This was the easiest cover I can remember.
1. Sometimes teams are so psychologically broken that they fail to rebound even from rock bottom. The big concern I had entering the game was the laughably pathetic showing the Cowboys had made against Jacksonville the week before. But I explained at length my reasons for thinking that the miserable Boys would fail to improve on that effort, and they incredibly turned in an even worse performance than I expected.
One of the real tricks to assessing football teams is deciphering the true meaning of an extraordinarily poor performance coupled with player discontent. We saw it last week with Dallas, and they followed up with yet more ineptitude. But we also had it weeks 2 and 3 with the Giants, who were first pummeled on national TV by Eli's big brother and then taken advantage of by the Titans the following week. The media had begun to call for Coughlin's head, and players were openly grousing -- the team looked on the brink of collapse. Yet the Giants rallied, won five straight, and are now perhaps the NFC favorite to make the Super Bowl.
The situations are difficult to distinguish. Obviously one could say simply that Coughlin is a better coach than Philips. But I wonder if it that's simple; after all, the Giants imploded last year after a 5-0 start, and there was credible talk that Coughlin's hard-charging style had irretrievably alienated his players.
Upon reflection, there were ample warning signs that portended the Cowboys absolute collapse against the spread. Most prominent was the catalytic event of Romo's injury. I wrote last year in the wake of the Eagles' inexplicable loss to the woeful Raiders of the importance of catalytic events re-orienting the makeup of a team. There, it was Antonio Pierce's harsh criticism of the Raiders, whom his Giants had just destroyed. Here, we had the opposite type of event -- a team that was teetering on the edge of the abyss, laboring under the daunting weight of inflated expectations and its owner/GM's despicable and preening incompetence. When Romo went down, the team deflated, and I witnessed a disturbing lack of effort for the next game and a half. That was what inspired me to pick against them this week, and I'm glad I did so.
On the other hand, the Giants had flown under the radar somewhat heading into the season, and they had a coach with credibility born of Super Bowl success. They were down, but they weren't dead. Hopefully the comparison between the early-season Giants, the Eagles-Raiders, and the 2010 Cowboys will help BadNFL Nation in future weeks sniff out the teams that we should leave for dead, and the ones that we should expect to bounce back.
2. The "Hilton 100" theory suffered two losses this week. While the Giants, who were the runaway leaders in both pick quantity and margin, beat the spread by 28+ points, the Chiefs and Jets both failed to cover, albeit by 1 point each. Thus, the theory is now 6-2 in the last 3 weeks, with a spread differential of about 13 in wins and a loss differential of 1. Still pretty impressive. And as Millman grouses, only fluke plays prevented both losers from covering.
3. Finally, I noted that I was going to monitor the "situation vs. scouting" clash on display in the Colts-Eagles game. Well, the post-bye week Eagles won but failed to cover by 1 point. The excessive citation of the bye-week stat caused me concern, and perhaps for good reason. We heard so much that week about Andy Reid's post-bye week success that I think there was little value in relying on that particular stat. Who knows -- but when I look for situations in the future, I'm much more inclined to seek out those that receive less media attention.