Judging from the actions of coach Wade Phillips, WR Terrell Owens and CB Adam Jones, the Cowboys are either unraveling in Week 6 or playing an inside joke. This much seems clear: After losing to the Redskins and nearly the Bengals, they aren't the same team that won their first three games decisively.
Phillips was so incensed by a reporter's suggestion that Dallas "stunk" against Cincinnati that he stalked off in mid-news conference. Owens went from complaining one week about his number of chances per game to crying in front of the media over the loss of a family member the next.
But the most threatening issue facing the Cowboys is the tenuous status of Jones, the troubled defender who has been arrested six times and been involved in incidents that required police intervention 12 times since his NFL career began in 2005. Police were summoned to a Dallas hotel recently when Jones allegedly scuffled with his bodyguard, Tommy Jones, in a restroom.
The NFL is investigating the latest matter, and it's not unreasonable to believe Jones could be suspended again. So much for focusing on today's game in Arizona, where the rejuvenated Cardinals are 8-2 at home under coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Around the league
Big game in San Diego tonight, where the 2-3 Chargers try to rescue their season against the team that snuffed out their past two seasons, the Patriots. Much will be made of the discord between Chargers C Nick Hardwick and New England DE Richard Seymour, whom Hardwick called a dirty player after January's loss. But the bad blood runs much deeper and could play a role tonight. ... Speculation on Patriots RB Laurence Maroney is that he's either hurt (shoulder) or on the way to being a first-round bust. He had 26 rushing yards on 10 carries against the 49ers last week and was kept on the sideline for 20 straight plays in the first half.
After trading barbs publicly with owner Al Davis, former Raiders coach Lane Kiffin called QB JaMarcus Russell a week after he was fired to talk about today's game against the Saints. Said Russell: "He's got a lot of off time on his hands, so he would pay attention to the defense I would have to go up against [and] leaves me a text message or a voice mail here or there." Take that, Al. ... The Steelers pay OT Max Starks nearly $7 million as their transition player this year, but he has been the third tackle all season and didn't even get into last week's game against the Jaguars when LT Marvel Smith went out with an injury. Smith was replaced by Trai Essex.
The Eagles are never going to be a running team under Andy Reid, but their ground game has hit the skids this season, and the loss of RB Brian Westbrook (fractured ribs) certainly won't help. The Eagles are averaging 3.5 yards per carry, the fourth lowest in the NFL. The only years they averaged less than 4.3 per attempt under Reid resulted in his only two losing seasons. ... Under new coach Mike Smith, the Falcons rank second in rushing offense and fourth in rushing defense, but in the past two games they've given up touchdown passes of 44, 25, 56 and 44 yards.
A groin injury to starting Cardinals CB Rod Hood likely will give first-round pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie his first NFL start today - against Owens. ... New Rams coach Jim Haslett released WR Eddie Kennison on Tuesday, then scrambled to re-sign him when Dane Looker was sidelined after a medical test showed an abnormality in his brain. ... WR Koren Robinson might start at split end for the Seahawks, who have lost Deion Branch (heel) again.