The Cowboys have lost six straight games and at 2-6, are clinging to hopes that center on winning at 3-5 Tampa this week. As they get there they've got to deal with ...
And more controversy.
And so many numbers that are working against them in their hopes of making the playoffs. But not all the numbers are "bad.'' To wit:
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS FACTS
This is the first time Oct. 26, 2008 that the Buccaneers have had a better record than the Cowboys ahead of the match-up. Dallas, with backup quarterback Brad Johnson (and ex-Buccaneer) defeated Tampa Bay 13-9.
This is the fifth time in Buccaneers history the club has started 3-5. None of the previous four teams made the postseason.
Since 1990, when playoff formats were last adjusted, 10/143 teams started 3-5 and made the playoffs.
This is the fourth time in Cowboys history the franchise has started 2-6. The other three seasons were 1963, 1988, and 2001. None of those teams made the playoffs and all finished with five wins or fewer.
Since 1990, there have been 92 teams that started 2-6. None of them made the playoffs.
Since 1932, when the first NFL Championship Game was played to commence NFL postseason play, only one team has even made the postseason after a 2-6 start: the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals, though the 1949 Buffalo Bills are worth mentioning for their 2-4-1 start after the season’s first nine weeks.
The Buccaneers are 20-21 against the NFC East at home.
Dallas is wearing their blue jerseys in Tampa Bay for the third time in the series. The Cowboys are 1-1 in their blue jerseys at Raymond James Stadium.
All time, the Cowboys are 63-65-1 all-time in their blue jerseys.
The Cowboys are 2-0 against the Buccaneers in the month of November.
The Cowboys are 3-2 in Tampa Bay. Here is the breakdown by stadium:
Tampa Stadium: 1-0
Raymond James Stadium: 2-2
The Cowboys are 58-56 all-time in early games on the road in the Eastern Time Zone.
Tampa Bay is 99-111 in early games at home.
This is the first time the Cowboys will make multiple trips to the state of Florida.
JASON GARRETT FACTS
Garrett joins Tom Landry (1960, 1988) and Jimmy Johnson (1989, twice) as the only Cowboys head coaches to post six-games-or-more losing streaks in club history.
Once a Buccaneer in the 2004 preseason, Garrett is 2-0 against his former team. The only other undefeated ledger Garrett owns is against the Indianapolis Colts (2-0) and St. Louis Rams (3-0).
Garrett is 4-5 against the NFC South with a 2-3 record on the road.
This is Garrett’s 12th game in his career at the bottom of the NFC East.
Garrett’s three-game losing streak after the bye week is the second-largest post-bye losing streak in franchise history. Wade Phillips’ five-game losing streak in 2010 is the longest.
The average margin of defeat through the six-game losing streak is 9.2 points, .7 points above his career margin of defeat of 8.5 from 2010-14.
Garrett is the only NFL head coach in 2015 to sustain a six-game losing streak and not be fired.
Sunday in Tampa Bay will be the ninth game without Romo since 2010, when Garrett finished his interim stint without the franchise quarterback for the final eight games. Garrett went 5-3. Since that time, he is 0-9 without Romo under center.
Garrett is 4-4 against rookie quarterbacks with a 1-3 record on the road.
Garrett has a 4-3 record when coaching his team in their road blue jerseys.
LOVIE SMITH FACTS
This is the third time in Smith’s career that he has started out 3-5. The other two seasons were 2004 and 2007 in Chicago. The Bears finished 5-11 and 7-9 respectively.
Smith is 2-2 against the Cowboys and on a two-game winning streak with a 0-1 record at home.
Smith is 9-12 against the NFC East with a 2-7 record at home.
Smith has a 12-9 record in November at home and is currently on a three-game losing streak, having yet to win such a game at Raymond James Stadium.
Last season, Tampa Bay had 12 takeaways and was tied for 17th-most in the league through nine weeks. This year, through nine weeks, the Buccaneers have 15, the seventh-most in the NFL.
This is the first time in Smith’s career that he has had a first-round quarterback drafted for him, though he worked with a former first-rounder in Jay Cutler from 2009-12 in Chicago.
Before the drafting of Jameis Winston, Smith was 14-9 with rookie quarterbacks. His best season with a rookie signal caller was 2005 in Chicago when Kyle Orton compiled a 10-5 record.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and Smith have connections to the 1996-2000 Buccaneers and also the 2009-12 Bears. From 2006-08 when Smith was the Bears head coach and Marinelli the Lions head coach did they ever face each other. Smith holds a 2-4 record against Marinelli.
Smith is 1/15 Super Bowl-losing head coaches to coach elsewhere after his conference championship-winning stop. Among that 15, only Dan Reeves and John Fox are the only ones to have taken a different team to the Super Bowl and still lost.
Smith is just 1/4 minority head coaches that have won AP Coach of the Year. The other three are Ray Rhodes, Marvin Lewis, and Ron Rivera.
MATT CASSEL FACTS
Cassel is making his first start in the road blue jerseys. He second backup quarterback this season to wear them since Brandon Weeden on Oct. 4 at New Orleans. Here is how other Cowboys backups have fared in the road blues:
Steve Walsh: 1-0
Jason Garrett: 1-0
Glenn Carano: 1-0
Kevin Sweeney: 1-0
Steve Beuerlein: 1-0
Craig Morton: 1-0
Randall Cunningham: 1-1
Steve Pelluer: 1-1
Roger Staubach: 0-1
Brandon Weeden: 0-1
John Roach: 0-1
Brad Johnson: 0-1
Gary Hogeboom: 0-1
A win Sunday would mean Cassel would be the first Cowboys backup quarterback to win with the blue jerseys since Sept. 18, 2000 when Randall Cunningham helped Dallas defeat Washington 27-21.
Cassel is 0-4 against the NFC South with a 0-2 record on the road.
With a start against Tampa Bay, Cassel will have played against all 32 NFL teams. Though not having started against Kansas City, Cassel did relieve an injured Brady on Sept. 7, 2008 in a 17-10 win.
Cassel has faced his former head coach in Buccaneers defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier just once on Oct. 2, 2011. Cassel led the Chiefs to a 22-17 win going 18/29 for 260 yards, a touchdown, and a 102.7 passer rating. Cassel was sacked three times.
With a loss last Sunday, Cassel joined Brandon Weeden as the last backup quarterbacks to go 0-3 in since Ryan Leaf in 2001.
Last week, Cassel threw a 67-yard interception to Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks. It was Cassel’s eighth pick-six and the 25th most league-wide since 2008.
Last week was Cassel’s 22nd game with a 100-plus passer rating. Cassel is 17-7 in such games.
Cassel has not put together consecutive 100-plus passer rating games since 2011 when he had three from Sept. 25 to Oct. 9 with the Chiefs, who went 2-1 during that stretch.
The last time Cassel lost three straight starts or more was in Kansas City in 2012 when he lost five consecutive before being benched for good after a loss to the Bengals on Nov. 18.
JAMEIS WINSTON FACTS
Winston is the 17th quarterback taken from Florida State. Among that group, with a 3-5 record, he is the seventh-winningest. The last Seminole quarterback taken in the draft, E.J. Manuel, has a 6-10 record through 2.5 seasons.
Winston is the fourth Florida State quarterback to have played for the Buccaneers. The other three were Gary Huff (1977-78), Casey Weldon (1993-96), and Brad Johnson (2001-04).
Through his first eight games, Winston has a better passer rating than Peyton Manning did through his first eight career games: 84.0 to 64.5. Winston also has three more wins as Manning was 0-8.
Winston has a higher completion percentage than Andrew Luck after his first eight games: 57.7 percent to 56.6 percent.
Winston has as many interceptions as Tom Brady did through his first eight starts in 2001: seven.
Winston has thrown less interceptions in the past five games than Cowboys backups have in the last five: four picks to five picks.
With only 14 sacks through Week Nine, Winston is tied for the 10th-fewest in the league.
The Titans in Week One were the only team to drop Winston four times this season. Tennessee is tied for the seventh-most sacks this season with 22.
Winston has targeted second-year receiver Mike Evans 73 times, the most of any of Winston’s targets. Receiver Vincent Jackson actually has a better catch percentage with hauling in 21/40 of his targets from Winston.
Winston is currently tied with Bruce Gradkowski and Josh Freeman for the second-most wins as a Buccaneers rookie quarterback with three. A win over the Cowboys Sunday would tie him with Doug Williams and Shaun King for the most wins for a rookie quarterback in club history.
Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will call the game for the NFL on FOX. The Cowboys are 2-0 with this pairing:
2013 – @WAS, 24-23 – W
2014 – @WAS, 44-17 – W
With Lynch doing the color for their games, the Cowboys are 3-1.
Burkhardt was the inaugural play-by-play announcer for Compass Media Networks “America’s Team Radio Network,” that was auxiliary to the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network broadcasts, from 2011-12. Burkhardt’s partner was ex-Cowboy quarterback Danny White, who still does color for Compass.
The Buccaneers are 4-12 when Lynch, a former Buccaneer safety who helped the team win Super Bowl XXXVII, calls their games.
Tampa Bay is 0-4 when Burkhardt calls their games.
This is the first time since Oct. 20, 2013 that the pairing of Burkhardt and Lynch will call a Buccaneers game.
FOX will air its eighth game in the series between these two teams. Here is the Cowboys’ record broken down by network:
The Cowboys are 116-108 on FOX, including playoffs.
BILL VINOVICH FACTS
Vinovich will make his second appearance of the season in a Cowboys game. Dallas is 6-2 when Vinovich referees. Here are the results:
2004 – @CIN, 3-26 – L
2004 – WAS, 13-10 – W
2005 – PHI, 33-10 – W
2006 – Colts, 21-14 – W
2012 – @CIN, 20-19 – W
2013 – @DET, 30-31 – L
2014 – @NYG, 31-28 – W
2015 – NYG, 27-26 – W
Dallas has had fewer penalties than their opponents 5/8 times:
2004 – CIN: 4/20; DAL: 7/46
2004 – WAS: 8/69; DAL: 1/13
2005 – PHI: 8/54; DAL: 5/48
2006 – Colts: 5/35; DAL: 7/53
2012 – CIN: 8/70; DAL: 6/49
2013 – DET: 8/61; DAL: 2/31
2014 – NYG: 5/30; DAL: 7/63
2015 – NYG: 5/44; DAL: 3/35
Vinovich leads the league with an 8-0 home team record in 2015:
Bill Vinovich: 1.000
John Parry: .875
Walt Coleman: .750
Ed Hochuli: .750
Gene Steratore: .625
Ron Torbert: .625
Jeff Triplette: .625
Terry McAulay: .625
Carl Cheffers: .625
Pete Morelli: .571
Jerome Boger: .556
Tony Corrente: .429
Brad Allen: .428
Clete Blakeman: .375
Craig Wrolstad: .375
Walt Anderson: .333
John Hussey: .250
However, home teams have fewer penalties half the time with Vinovich:
Brad Allen: .857
Craig Wrolstad: .750
Jeff Triplette: .714
Terry McAulay: .625
Carl Cheffers: .563
Ed Hochuli: .500
John Parry: .500
Bill Vinovich: .500
Walt Anderson: .500
Clete Blakeman: .500
Jerome Boger: .444
Tony Corrente: .429
Pete Morelli: .426
Ron Torbert: .375
John Hussey: .250
Gene Steratore: .250
Walt Coleman: .250
With Vinovich, the Buccaneers have compiled a 4-3 record:
2005 – WAS, 36-35 – W
2006 – @ATL, 3-14 – L
2006 – @CAR, 10-24 – L
2012 – SD, 34-24 – W
2013 – BUF, 27-6 – W
2014 – @WAS, 27-7 – W
2015 – @Texans, 9-19 – L
Tampa Bay has had fewer penalties than their opponents 2/7 times with Vinovich:
2005 – WAS: 6/41; TB: 2/15
2006 – ATL: 8/83; TB: 8/99
2006 – CAR: 9/70; TB: 9/71
2012 – SD: 1/5; TB: 1/5
2013 – BUF: 11/114; TB: 8/76
2014 – WAS: 9/67; TB: 11/101
2015 – Texans: 6/58; TB: 10/84
Vinovich is tied for the fifth-most sacks per game with three. Here is how he compares to the rest of the league:
Jeff Triplette: 5.8
Walt Anderson: 5.8
Clete Blakeman: 5
Jerome Boger: 3.8
Bill Vinovich: 3
Brad Allen: 3
Terry McAulay: 4.8
John Hussey: 4.8
Ron Torbert: 4.8
Carl Cheffers: 4.6
Ed Hochuli: 4.5
Walt Coleman: 4.5
Tony Corrente: 4.4
John Parry: 4.3
Gene Steratore: 4.3
Pete Morelli: 4.3
Craig Wrolstad: 4
Vinovich is lenient when it comes to offensive holding, only calling 2.3 per game, tied for second-fewest in the NFL:
Jeff Triplette: 4.4
Jerome Boger: 4.3
John Parry: 4.3
Tony Corrente: 4.1
Terry McAulay: 4.1
Craig Wrolstad: 3.9
Carl Cheffers: 3.9
Walt Anderson: 3.7
John Hussey: 3.6
Ron Torbert: 3.6
Pete Morelli: 3.4
Ed Hochuli: 3
Walt Coleman: 2.8
Clete Blakeman: 2.6
Bill Vinovich: 2.3
Brad Allen: 2.3
Gene Steratore: 2.1
With Vinovich, Dallas has won 2/6 of their challenges compared to their opponents winning 3/6 challenges. Replay Assistant is 2/7 on challenges with only two of those decisions favoring Dallas.
The Buccaneers have won 1/5 challenges with Vinovich. Opponents are 2/3 on challenges. Replay Assistant is 1/6 with three of those calls benefiting Tampa Bay.
Vinovich has actually been a full time referee since 2004, but he had to retire from 2007-11 due to a heart condition. In the interim, he served as Ed Hochuli’s replay official until a clean bill of health in 2012 helped put him back on the field.
In 2007, Bill Vinovich officiated a first round game in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament between Virginia Tech and Illinois. Virginia Tech won 54-52.
Sunday marked the first time in Darren McFadden’s career that he has carried the ball at least 20 times through three straight games.
The last time McFadden had two games of 100 yards rushing in a season was 2012 when he did it three times. Unfortunately, McFadden missed four games that year for Oakland.
McFadden hasn’t completed a halfback pass since Sept. 23, 2013 when he hit Raiders tight end Marcel Reece for a 16-yard touchdown in a 37-21 loss to the Broncos.
Jason Witten’s ninth-highest yards per reception came against Tampa Bay on Dec. 17, 2011 when he caught four passes for 77 yards, which is 19.25 yards per reception.
With Romo being out of the lineup, Witten’s targets per game has dropped from nine to seven per game.
Through his first 22 games, Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans has 100 catches for 1,589 yards and 13 touchdowns. Through his first 22 games, Dez Bryant had 83 catches for 1,181 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Evans has already matched his output of 100-yard games with three this season.
In road blue jerseys, Bryant has caught 39 passes for 499 yards and five touchdowns.
With a minimum of 15 attempts, Dan Bailey (16/16), Stephen Gostkowski (19/19), and Josh Brown (19/19) are the only perfect field goal kickers this season. However, Bailey and Gostkowski are still perfect on their extra points.
Bailey is 18/22 on field goals inside two minutes in the fourth quarter and also overtime.
The only other kicker to get a personal foul this season is Cleveland’s Travis Coons.
Buccaneer cornerback Sterling Moore, a Cowboy from 2012-14, has an interception and two forced fumbles this season. That is more than he compiled in his entire three seasons in Dallas (one interception, one forced fumble).
Ex-Cowboy defensive tackle Henry Melton, now a Buccaneer, has one sack through eight games. Last season in Dallas, he had three.
Cornerback Mike Jenkins is another former Cowboy, one of the club’s two first-round draft selections in 2008. This is his second time to face Dallas. His first meeting was with the Raiders on Nov. 28, 2013 in a 31-24 Thanksgiving Day loss. Jenkins forced a fumble from Dez Bryant.
Despite being seventh in the league in turnovers, the Buccaneers have yet to return a takeaway for a touchdown.
The Buccaneers are 1/8 teams to have yet to return a turnover for a touchdown in 2015.
The last time the Buccaneers returned an interception for a touchdown was on Nov. 16, 2014 when cornerback Jonathan Banks picked off Robert Griffin III for a 19-yard touchdown return.
Tampa Bay is tied for the sixth-most holding penalties in the league with 16.
The Cowboys defense has been the beneficiary of nine holding penalties, tied for sixth-fewest in the NFL.
Greg Hardy has 3.5 career sacks against the Buccaneers. In fact, they were the last team he played against before Carolina deactivated him for the remaining 15 games in 2014.
Hardy’s four sacks through four games is his best four-game start to a season.
Through Weeks 5-9 of 2015 with Hardy back, the Cowboys have amassed eight sacks, tied for 19th-most in that span. Recall that Dallas had a bye week in Week Six.
Despite pick plays not being a staple of the Cowboys offense, their three offensive pass interference calls this season are tied with Tampa Bay for the fourth-most in the NFL.
Romo has a 4-0 record against Tampa Bay. The Panthers (4-0) and Rams (4-0) are the only other NFC teams Romo has defeated multiple times without a loss.
The Buccaneers are 1/5 teams the Cowboys have an undefeated record against in the postseason. The only other NFC team with Tampa Bay are the Atlanta Falcons.
Dallas is 3-5 on 11/15. Here are the results:
1964 – PHI, 14-17 – L
1976 – BUF, 17-10 – W
1981 – @DET, 24-27 – L
1987 – @NE, 23-17 – W-OT
1992 – Rams, 23-27 – L
1998 – @Cardinals, 35-28 – W
2004 – PHI, 21-49 – L
2009 – @GB, 7-17 – L
The Cowboys have three birthdays to celebrate on Nov. 15:
Larry Cole, DT, 1968-80 – 11/15/1946
Jorge Diaz, OG, 2000 – 11/15/1973
Brooks Bollinger, QB, 2008 – 11/15/1979