- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
I don't know how an NFL offense with Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Roy E. Williams could look any worse in a two-week period than what the Cowboys have shown against the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins. Sure, they won Sunday because Shaun Suisham picked a bad time to miss his first field goals of the season -- and let's face it, the Redskins are awful -- but a 7-6 win does not make for an exciting game, or productive one in fantasy football. It was unwatchable. A week earlier, the Packers' defense looked like the '85 Chicago Bears against Romo's crew, and, as we know, it's not even close.
But you know what? I'll still be relying on some of these Cowboys this and every week, until further notice. Simply put, this can be a very good offense when clicking. Maybe the joke's on me.
It's tough to explain what's wrong with the Cowboys, because in a way everyone is to blame. Clearly, this is a struggling offense with an identity crisis but plenty of individual talent to be worth quite a bit in fantasy football. Yes, Romo still makes occasional ridiculous, uncatchable throws, but he's not alone on that front. I see it every week with Donovan McNabb as well. I do realize Romo was dealing with a painful back injury Sunday. I'm one of his bigger proponents in fantasy football. Same with Barber, who has clearly lost a step, though he nearly ran for 100 yards on Sunday. The Cowboys can create space for running backs, and if you give any big body like Barber 20 carries, he can do damage. The wide receivers are problems, but clearly they have the ability. Williams seems scared to get hit. Austin seems scared to get open. And they thought it was all Terrell Owens' fault!
Romo can turn things around quickly, though, starting on Thanksgiving against the Oakland Raiders, and while I can't say he'll make my top-10 rankings at quarterback, I can say I'll continue to start him on the team I have him on. It's either Romo, Kyle Orton or a free agent such as Matthew Stafford on that team, so maybe that's faint praise. The point is, he shouldn't simply be tossed aside like he's JaMarcus Russell or even Jason Campbell. Romo was drafted to be my starter, and he has delivered four games of 20 or more fantasy points this season, which ties him with Brett Favre and Tom Brady, and is more than either Drew Brees and Kurt Warner have had this season. The problem is that when Romo is bad, he just looks really bad. He hasn't been Jay Cutler bad -- Romo has only seven interceptions this season -- but fantasy owners seem to think he has. Even in the past two weeks, as his team was close to getting shut out, Romo managed a few late touchdowns and 19 fantasy points. That's something, at least. In a way, we should be thankful it hasn't been worse.
I'm not here to bury Romo, despite his recent performance. On the contrary, I feel I need to defend him and remind people just how good he can be. I've been doing that quite a bit lately when it comes to the hasty reaction many fantasy footballers have had to their quarterback play. It wasn't just Cutler, either. Warner was buried before his 30-point fantasy game a few weeks ago. Eli Manning was a smart play Sunday, but not too many smart people obliged. OK, so Romo hasn't been great the past fortnight. Really, his fantasy numbers belie his actual performance. It's difficult to call his remaining schedule positive for fantasy potential, though I wouldn't be so scared of him facing teams such as the San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. I still trust Romo and Barber and, to a degree, Austin, because the upside is just so great. We've seen what Romo can do when this offense clicks; he's eighth in the NFL in yards per game, and while he hasn't made many plays of late, he hasn't been his old turnover-prone self either. Barber just needs enough touches to be a RB2. That's not top-10, but he already has torched the Giants this season, and can run all over the Oakland Raiders. Look what rookie Bernard Scott just did to them. I'm surprised at the relative ease cornerbacks have had stopping Austin since he emerged, but all that means is offensive coordinator Jason Garrett must adapt his offense to what defenses allow. Austin quickly became overrated in fantasy, but we know what he's capable of.
The Cowboys have been pretty unwatchable the past two weeks, but I'm actually expecting things to improve quite a bit Thursday against the Raiders. It doesn't mean Romo, Barber and Austin are terrific options in fantasy football, but they shouldn't be dismissed either.