Have you ever been on a car trip in America and seen a train majestically traveling on its tracks? I’ve seen them wind through snow covered Sierra Mountains and across the plains in the midwest, and have always taken them in with awe as they reliably travel their routes.
Contrast that imagery with the path both the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens have traveled this NFL season. These are two organizations that long ago left the tracks and appear headed for certain doom.
Both have their reasons, the Cowboys lost starting quarterback Dak Prescott to a season ending injury early in the campaign, and the Ravens have had Covid-19 sweep through their team like ants at a summer picnic. But, despite these problems, good teams, even a team that was great last season, as were the Ravens, overcome setbacks.
These two teams have succumbed to their problems like the Metrodome in Minnesota during a snowstorm.
This was supposed to be a good year for both these teams. The Cowboys were one of the teams talked about during the preseason in high terms with anticipation that new head coach Mike McCarthy would be the answer to the puzzle Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett had begun to put together.
Baltimore had the best record in football last season, the league MVP running their offense, and although they were upset by the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs, that set of circumstances is exactly the formula the Denver Broncos parlayed into a Super Bowl appearance seven years ago. Instead, the Ravens come into action tonight riding a three game losing streak and only flicking postseason hopes.
Somewhere along the line, even before he was sidelined with Covid-19, Lamar Jackson lost the rhythm that had him named the MVP last year over another quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. In 2019, Jackson appeared capable of deciding from any of three options that served John Harbaugh’s team well; pass the ball for big gains, hand the ball off for big gains, or simply run for a touchdown himself.
This year, that once dynamic formula, seems to have been reduced to duck and cover. The Ravens offense has been out of sync since their mid-October bye week. One has to wonder what they did during that week off? Whatever it was, it didn’t serve their team objectives well. They went into their bye week with five wins and a single loss, they came out of their bye week with a home loss to AFC North Division rival Pittsburgh and have gone downhill since. The Ravens have won only one of their five games since their open date, and last week erased any realistic hopes of catching the Steelers in their division with a second loss this year to Pittsburgh.
And yet, they are favored by 9 points tonight.
Did their opponent miss their flight to Baltimore?
No, their opponent is the Cowboys, who are as reliable as a train that fell off their tracks weeks ago. In a division race, the NFC East, the Cowboys were in position to take over first place on Thanksgiving with a win against the Washington Redskins. It would have been only their fourth win in 11 games, but that would have been good enough in a division that has no team with a winning record.
The Cowboys had nothing to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. Favored over the Redskins, they were drilled by the visitors 41-16. Now, with both the New York Giants upsetting the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and the Redskins ending the Steelers bid for a perfect season yesterday, the Cowboys don’t look like the team that is going to come out on top in the NFC East. No, they look a lot more like a squad destined for the cellar.
So, who do you like tonight?
We’ve got a choice between a team regaining the services of the reigning league MVP and needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive laying a point spread of nearly double-digits. Or, a Dallas team that has a lot better chance of gaining a high draft choice than a playoff berth.
Lay the nine points and take the Ravens.
Take the nine points and hope the Cowboys porous defense doesn’t get shredded.
No, that’s nuts.