© Eric Hartline | 2015 Sep 20 | USA Today

Cowboys Breaking: Moves Toward Surviving Half A Season With No Romo

In this four-part series, we examine the fallout of Tony Romo's broken clavicle. From how it happened to how the team will look to survive and thrive without him. ... including breaking news on Cowboys QB transactions ...

SURVIVING HALF A SEASON WITHOUT ROMO

When a nuclear blast occurs like Tony Romo fracturing his collarbone, the explosion and shock wave cause a tremendous amount of damage within the blast radius. There are immediate and catastrophic results here. However just as dangerous and sometimes moreso, is the nuclear fallout; the radioactive dust that enters the atmosphere and then falls back down to earth. Sometimes, due to atmospheric changes, the fallout can cover an immense landscape, far beyond the reaches of the blast itself. This might just be a fitting description of the landscape around the Dallas Cowboys fanbase, following Romo's broken left clavicle in Sunday’s 20-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Romo is expected to be sidelined 8 weeks with the injury, according to what the team tells our Mike Fisher, which means Dallas will have to survive the fallout for 7-9 games and hope when they emerge from their shelter to have enough of a season left to make a run to the playoffs.

The game itself wasn’t pretty, as Dallas was already short 6 of their 22 starters on the day. WR Dez Bryant was lost to a broken foot in Week One and is out anywhere from 5-11 additional weeks. Star rookie pass rusher Randy Gregory was lost for a month in the same game due to a high ankle sprain. Ron Leary hurt his groin and was missing at least this start. Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain were just entering Game Two of identical four-game suspensions and star corner Orlando Scandrick is out for the season with a torn ACL.

In this, Part Two of our Nuclear Fallout Series, the Cowboys options at the quarterback position in an effort to survive their version of nuclear winter will be examined.

The results are in and as expected, Romo is going to miss the next eight weeks rehabbing his broken left clavicle. Romo broke the same collarbone in 2010 during the seventh game of the season. That year was so lost though, there was no reason for the team to bring Romo back. This year, it appears there is plenty on the line.

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Romo’s eight-week time frame (and his IR/Designated-to-Return tag, which is coming today, as reported on 105.3 The Fan) would have him returning the week of Thanksgiving, setting him up for two games in five days, and then an extended rest. Obviously nothing will be determined until the calendar approaches his return, but that could be a tricky navigation that warrants keeping him out one more week.

There is a great deal of interest in another potential transaction: Who comes off the street, if anyone, to join the QB room.

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And don't forget about Kellen Moore on the practice squad ...

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Do look for a transaction. But do not look for a trade. (You can see the complications of, say, Robert Griffin III here). No, Brandon Weeden will take over as the top guy, and it will be very interesting to see how he’ll fare with opposing defenses having a chance to prepare for him. It’s a huge difference between coming into a game as an injury replacement, and having a team prepare their game plan around stopping you. For what it’s worth, Weeden has been lights out when entering a contest midgame since joining Dallas.

He’s 13 for 15 for 185 yards and 3 touchdowns against 0 interceptions in those scenarios. The question mark comes in when a team has a chance to prepare for him, like Arizona did in 2014.

In that performance, Weeden was just 18 of 33 for just 183 yards and two picks against one score. Dez Bryant did drop two passes in that game and Arizona’s defense was stout all season, but neither masks Weeden’s bad performance. There will be good defenses on the upcoming schedule and to make matters worse, Bryant won’t be available for the majority if not all of them. ... and Weeden's "beauty'' will be up for the judges to debate ...

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It’s still too early in the season to form concrete opinions on the level of play of Dallas’ next seven opponents to handicap Dallas’ record once Romo returns. The important thing is that given the current state of the teams around the NFC, it will not take a herculean effort for the team to still be in the playoff hunt once their leader returns to the captain’s chair.

As witnessed yesterday, the Eagles offense is lost right now, and although they presumably can correct a lot of it; they seemed to have over-invested at both RB and CB and under-invested at the guard position. Good teams don’t blow big leads and the Giants have done it back-to-back to start the season. Washington’s defense looks formidable, but franchise dumpster fires rarely catch a spark that lasts an entire season.

The Cowboys goals might have shrunken from home-field advantage, but winning the NFC East certainly seems doable by just winning a couple games while Romo is out. The 3 rivals playing each other almost guarantees as much.

Even though rematches against the Giants and Eagles are in the slate of games he’ll miss, the early season wins means that neither has a chance to hold a head-to-head tiebreaker should it come down to that. Here’s a look at the schedules for the NFC East and the other 3 division leaders while Tony Romo is expected to be out.

DALLASWashingtonNew YorkPhillyGreen BayArizonaAtlantaCarolinaSeattle
Week 3 vs ATL @ NY Giants vs WAS @ NY Jets vs KC vs SF @ DAL vs NO vs CHI
Week 4 @ New Orl. vs Eagles @ Buffalo @ WASH @ SF vs STL vs HOU @ Tampa vs DET
Week 5 vs New Eng. @ ATL vs SF vs New Orl. vs STL @ Detroit vs WAS BYE @ CIN
Week 6 BYE @ NY Jets @ PHI vs NY Giants vs San Diego @ Pittsburgh @ New Orl. @ SEA vs CAR
Week 7 @ NY Giants vs Tampa vs DAL @ Carolina BYE vs Balt @ TEN vs PHI @ SF
Week 8 vs Seattle @ New Eng. @ New Orl. BYE @ Denver @ CLE vs Tampa vs IND @ DAL
Week 9 vs Philly BYE @ Tampa @ Dallas @ Carolina BYE @ SF vs GB BYE
Week 10 @ Tampa vs New Orl. vs New Eng. vs MIA vs Detroit @ SEA BYE @ TEN vs AZ

Based on the way Arizona has started the season, combined with how they looked in 2014 before losing Carson Palmer, it’s extremely difficult to envision Dallas remaining in the race for a bye without doing the unthinkable and thriving without Romo. The defense just might be up to the task of being a dominant force once the pass rushers return in a few weeks, so never say never.

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THE OFFENSIVE LINE WAS OFFENSIVE

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THE BEST OFFENSE IS A GOOD DEFENSE


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