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Cowboys’ Dominant O-Line Could be an Issue in 2018

The Cowboys’ offensive line has been considered one of the best in the NFL for the past few years. Most of this is due to the outstanding play of Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. The problem is not that their play is declining or their talent is diminishing, but that their health may not be able to keep up.

Zack Martin left the second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a knee injury. The good news is that there is no ligament damage; he was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee and bone. However, knee problems and offensive lineman have never been a good mix. Martin will not play in the last two preseason games, and aims to be back for week 1 against the Carolina Panthers.

Travis Frederick had been dealing with a ‘stinger’ since August 15th. He missed the preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals and has had several doctor’s appointments since then. A week later, on August 22nd he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the nerves. The Mayo Clinic says that for most people with GBS, the condition worsens for 2 weeks after the first signs and symptoms and plateaus within a month. Recovery usually lasts 6-12 months, but could take as long as three years. Jerry Jones was optimistic that Frederick would play week 1 before the diagnosis, but now Frederick says there is no timetable for his return.

The third and best of this trio, is Tyron Smith. He has looked like his future gold jacket wearing self in the first two preseason games, and says that he is “feeling great now” and is “in the best shape I’ve been in a while”. Unfortunately, that is coming from a 6’5″ 320 pound man who had bulging disk problems in 2016, and missed several games due to back, hip, groin and knee problems in 2017. If you had to think of injuries not to have as an NFL left tackle, at least 3 of those would be in the top 5. Dak Prescott would be the first to tell you Smith’s importance to the Dallas offense, considering Dak was sacked 8 times in the first game Tyron missed due to injury last year. It should be noted that 6 of those sacks were by Adrian Clayborn, the defensive end that Smith would have been responsible for blocking.

With Cameron Fleming added through free agency there is seemingly better depth at tackle than last year. He is a swing tackle that can fill in better than Chaz Green did in 2017. Second round draft pick Connor Williams will most likely be starting at left guard opposite Zack Martin (if healthy). Joe Looney started at center in the absence of Frederick against the Bengals, and looked as if he could benefit from a few more reps in the final two preseason games. La’el Collins is holding his own at the right tackle position, and seems to be feeling more comfortable with each snap.

All in all, the Cowboys offensive line is a force to be reckoned with…if healthy. But if injuries become an issue, especially with the three All-Pro lineman, Zeke will not be saying “feed me” as much and Dak will be running for his life. Jason Garrett better be praying for a healthy offensive line in 2018, or he may be finding himself getting his resume together in January.

 

 

UPDATE: La’el Collins limping with heavily taped ankle on 8/23/18. Yup, the only healthy Cowboys offensive lineman in rookie, Connor Williams.

BREAKING NEWS: LeBron James to Sign with LA Lakers

The cat is out of the bag on the first day of the NBA Free Agency Moratorium: The King will be taking his talents to Los Angeles. Klutch Sports Group, the agency that represents LeBron, released a statement on Twitter earlier today, “LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA finals MVP, fourteen time NBA All Star, and two time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to a four year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.”

This free agency was much less of a circus than the first time LeBron left Cleveland in the summer of 2010 with “The Decision”. This time there was no hour TV special with Jim Gray that sent the entire city of Cleveland into a whirlwind. This was something that LeBron obviously knew he wanted to do and there was no point in putting anyone (fans or teams) through the drama of a week long recruiting trip. Cleveland will also be much more understanding this time since LeBron delivered on his promise of bringing a championship to “The Land” with the memorable comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in 2015.

The question now is, who will be playing with LeBron? Paul George has already agreed to stay in OKC with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. There is no way LeBron made a decision to go to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011, if there were not wheels in motion to bring in All Star caliber talent like he did when he went back to Cleveland in 2014.

Could this push the Lakers to be more aggressive in trading for Kawhi Leonard by offering the Spurs something they can’t refuse? Will LeBron’s signing in LA attract any other free agents to the Lakers? Will Lonzo Ball, last year’s 2nd overall pick, be ready to play this season after tearing his meniscus?

As it stands now, the 2018 Lakers roster consists of Lonzo Ball, Thomas Bryant, Tyler Ennis, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, and a washed up Luol Deng making $18 million. That is hardly a group that LeBron looks forward to playing with at age 33. Look for the Lakers to be making some big trades and signing before the start of the season.

This is uncharted territory for The King. LeBron has never played in the Western Conference since he came into the NBA in 2003. The Eastern Conference has had, by all accounts, a much easier path to the Finals for the last 15 years, so it will be interesting to see LeBron enter a monster playoff field that should include: the reigning champion Golden State Warriors with the Hampton 5, the Houston Rockets with Chris Paul and the reigning MVP James Harden, and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Should be fun.

 

 

UPDATE: The Lakers are set to sign Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson & Rajon Rondo. The have renounced the rights to Julius Randle and may waive Luol Deng as well to spread the $36 million owed to him over the next 5 seasons to open up more salary cap space.

BREAKING NEWS: Mavs trade up for Luka Doncic

After Luka Doncic, the 19 year old Slovenian soon-to-be star, made it past the Sacramento Kings with the 2nd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks traded picks with the Atlanta Hawks. This allowed the Mavs to pickup who many believe is the 2nd best talent in this year’s draft. The Mavs will also have to give up next year’s first round pick (protected) to the Hawks, in addition to Trae Young who was selected with Dallas’ original 5th pick.

Luka Doncic is a 6’7″ wing player who was the youngest Euroleague MVP & Euroleague  Final Four MVP ever at 19 years old.

This is a breaking story. More information will follow.

Tavon Austin Traded to Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have added to their receiver arsenal by getting Tavon Austin from the Los Angeles Rams for a 6th round pick (192 overall).

Tavon had promising beginnings in his first four years with the Rams, but had a down year last year with only 13 catches for 47 yards. He did, however, have his best rushing season with 59 carries for 270 yards and a touchdown.

At 5’9″ it is doubtful that Austin will be able to replace the hole in the Cowboys’ receiving core, caused by the loss of Dez Bryant. Austin has a 1 year contract that will count $7 million against the cap.

This is a peculiar addition, to say the least, considering the Cowboys already have two slot receivers in Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer.

Jason Witten May Have Played His Last Game as a Dallas Cowboy

According to a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortenson reported around 11:15am on April 27:

The Dallas Cowboys’ future Hall of Fame tight end, Jason Witten, is planning to retire after 15 years in the NFL. He will join the Monday Night Football broadcast team as a lead analyst.

Witten has not made a final decision yet, and plans to meet with Jerry Jones before he does.

Witten is an 11 time Pro Bowler, and 4 time All Pro. He was the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012. He will retire at #4 on the NFL all-time catch list with 1,152 receptions.

Dallas Cowboys to Franchise DE Demarcus Lawrence

Adam Schefter tweeted today around noon:

“Cowboys and DE DeMarcus Lawrence will not reach a long-term deal before Tuesday’s franchise deadline, per source. Dallas has said it will place franchise tag on Lawrence if no long-term deal reached. So tag coming for Lawrence.”

This will set Lawrence up for a $17.1 million dollar year in 2018. The deadline for the franchise tag is March 6 at 4pm EST., so it will be finalized before then. Demarcus had 14.5 in 2017 (tied for 2nd in the NFL), which is over 60% of his career sack total of 23.5.

It was rumored that Lawrence was looking for “Von Miller money”, which is 6 years, $114 million with $70 million guaranteed. The Cowboys were obviously not ready to pay that price after one great year of productivity. Lawrence will need to prove himself again this year to receive a contract similar to that.

The down side of this deal is that the Cowboys have $16.4 million in cap room as it stands now. This means that they will have to move some money around in order to make room for Lawrence’s 2018 salary. If, however, Lawrence decides to sign with another team and the Cowboys do not match the deal, they will be compensated with 2 first round picks.

Dez Caught It…According to the NFL

One of the big issues on the NFL’s Competition Committee’s agenda this offseason was better defining what a catch is.

Kevin Seifert from ESPN’s NFL Nation tweeted the following this afternoon:

“The NFL competition committee appears to have unanimous agreement that controversial catch rulings involving Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson should have been ruled complete, according to Giants owner John Mara. So the committee is working on changing the rule to relax the “going to the ground” requirement.”

Pittsburgh Steelers TE, Jesse James, was not mentioned in this tweet, but one can only imagine that the AFC may have played out differently had Pittsburgh beat New England in week 15.

This does very little to soothe the pain Cowboy Nation still feels from the overturned catch in the 2014 NFC Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers. Tony Romo and the Cowboys could have been in position for their first NFC Championship appearance since the 1995-1996 season.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but ‘too little, too late’ rings more true with this ruling.

#dezcaughtit

Cleveland Cavaliers Turn Roster Upside Down at Trade Deadline

The Cavs have almost half a new team after Thursday’s shenanigans.

First, they traded away Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a protected 1st round pick to the LA Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. Clarkson is a young, quality starter who can pass and score with ease, but has some struggles on the defensive end. He is signed for the next two years at a not so cap friendly $13 million a year. Nance, on the other hand, is a show-stopping dunker, who can awe crowds with his posterizing slams.  Just ask Brook Lopez or Kevin Durant. If you haven’t seen him, wait until you see him in the dunk contest next weekend.

They weren’t done yet, no, not even close. Rodney Hood is coming to Cleveland from Utah, and George Hill is coming from Sacramento. Rodney Hood has a $3.5 million qualifying offer next season, and George Hill is under a partially guaranteed contract for the next two season. The Kings will get Joe Johnson, Iman Shumpert and a 2020 second round pick from Miami, while the Jazz will get Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose.

Finally, they traded Dwyane Wade back to the Miami Heat for a heavily protected second round pick.

To sum up….

The Cavs lost: Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose,
Dwyane Wade, and protected 1st round pick

The Cavs got: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr., Rodney Hood, and George Hill.

Every single player the Cavaliers got in this trade is signed through at least next year (or has qualifying offers). Not bad new Cavs GM, Koby Altman. Not bad at all.

The only question left to answer is, can the Cavaliers get everyone in sync in time for another playoff push? Who knows, but it will definitely be fun to watch it all unfold.

Mavs Get Doug McDermott for Devin Harris in 3 Way Deal

On the day of the NBA trade deadline the Mavericks look to get younger and bigger by trading away Devin Harris and a future second round pick to get shooting swingman Doug McDermott from the New York Knicks. Devin Harris and the second round pick will go to Denver, while the Knicks will receive PG Emmanuel Mudiay from the Nuggets.

Devin Harris was having a solid year as a backup point guard, but the Mavericks are young and deep at the PG position with Dennis Smith Jr., Yogi Ferrell, JJ Barea, and Seth Curry (season ending surgery). Harris was also a cheap expiring deal, that some may have thought could garner more than a 4th year role player.

Doug McDermott’s 39% 3 point shooting this year will help the Mavericks from long range, who are 15th in the league at 36%. McDermott has a $4.5 million qualifying offer next season. The Mavs must be looking to either pick that option up, or sign him to an long-term extension as part of the rebuild in Dallas.

 

BREAKING NEWS: Ezekiel Elliott Will NOT Play vs the Atlanta Falcons

It seems this saga has finally come to an end as Ezekiel Elliott’s brief 1 game injunction of his suspension is now over, and Zeke will begin his 6 game suspension this week. The Cowboys go to Atlanta to play the 4-4 Falcons. If all goes as planned, Zeke should be ready to join his teammates at AT&T Stadium for the game against the Seattle Seahawks on Christmas Eve.

The Dallas Cowboys will have to play without Zeke for 3 away games against the Falcons, Giants, and Raiders. They will miss him at home against the Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins.

 

TRADE DEADLINE ALERT: 7-1 Eagles May Have Got Even Stronger

While the Cowboys running game got weakened for the next 6 weeks with the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott to be enforced starting week 9 against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Philadelphia Eagles have traded away a future 4th round pick to the Miami Dolphins in return for Pro Bowl running back, Jay Ajayi.

Ajayi is in his 3rd year out of Boise State, and experienced a breakout season in 2016 with over 1,200 yards rushing. This was noted by three 200+ yard games, two of which were back to back. Ajayi, 13th leading rusher in the NFL, will most likely split carries with current starter LaGarrette Blount, who is 11th. This will definitely help an Eagles running attack, which is 5th in the league in rushing yards per game, who lost All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters for the season.

Ajayi will make the Cowboys life even tougher on November 19, when they host the Eagles at AT&T Stadium. The defense gives up 4.5 yards per attempt, which is 24th in the NFL.

4 Games In…3 Big Concerns

The first quarter of the 2017 NFL season is over; and while it’s still a very young season, there is much to be learned. These are my three largest concerns heading into week 5 of the season.

What’s going on with Dak?
His stats are actually pretty decent. Dak has 8 passing touchdowns and only 3 picks this year. I realize he only had 4 picks all of last year, but he only had 3 passing touchdowns through 4 weeks last season. I will take a 2:1 TD to INT ratio any day.
But something just isn’t right. He is having accuracy issues that he did not seem to have last year. There are times when it is difficult to decipher if Dak is throwing the ball away or actually trying to hit his target. This issue has been evident ever since he missed a wide open Dez in the season opener against the Giants. Is he losing confidence, going through a normal sophomore slump, or have we just replaced our all-time passing leader for a random 4th round pick? Time will be the ultimate judge, but it does make you wonder where would the Cowboys be today if he had the same issues last year. Would Dak be the Cowboys starting quarterback today, and would Phil Simms still have his job?
The Leary Effect
I’m completely sure Jonathan Cooper should have started over Chaz Green the first four games of the year. Cooper is simply better at left guard than Chaz Green. However, it doesn’t take a great NFL mind to notice our offensive line is not playing at the same level as last year. As sure as I am that Cooper is greater than Green, I am just as confident that Leary is greater than Cooper.
Was Leary the undervalued piece of our interior push last year? It’s hard to argue against that based off the first four games of the season. The only other change is La’el Collins replacing Doug Free at right tackle. Although Free brought a lot of experience to the table, Collins has handled his own against the NFL pass rushing elites.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the Defense’s Ride or Die
A significant DeMarcus Lawrence injury would provide a death blow to the Cowboys defense. Against the Rams, Goff was under pressure in different parts of the game, but Lawrence was the only Cowboy who registered a sack. DeMarcus has 7.5 sacks for the year, leaving the rest of the Cowboys with a grand total of 5.5 sacks. DeMarcus has been the only bright star on this defense outside of an injured Sean Lee. DeMarcus only needs 0.5 a sack to meet his season high sack total, and should easily have over 15 sacks this year. David Irving returns from his four week suspension against the Packers this week, and can give Lawrence a partner in crime. This will hopefully shift some of the attention on DeMarcus from offensive coordinators for the remainder of the season. Also, has anyone heard from our first round draft pick lately?

Ezekiel Elliott Gets Justice for Now with TRO…Will Play Beyond Week 1

Federal Judge Amos Mazzant has ruled in favor of Ezekiel Elliott with a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) for a preliminary injunction against the NFL. This means that Ezekiel Elliott will likely play for the entirety of the 2017 NFL season.

This timeline will be similar to Tom Brady’s ‘Deflategate’ case, in that it will likely not be decided on until after the season. Tom Brady did still serve his full 4 game suspension, mostly because of the way the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is written. Fighting and winning this injunction will be tough, but for now the Dallas Cowboys can focus solely on football.

Elliott’s 6 Game Ban Upheld for Now, But Will Play Week 1

NFL-appointed arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the league’s entire 6 game suspension of Elliott on Tuesday evening after denying his appeal, but in a strange twist of events, league officials confirmed that Elliott will be allowed to play Week 1 versus the Giants.

After Henderson’s ruling, an NFL spokesman told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that Elliott’s eligibility for Week 1 “was a question asked by the judge in court before a ruling came down. In deference, and as to not rush the judge, league attorneys agreed to permit him to play.”

Although Elliott currently remains suspended for Weeks 2 through 7, the star running back still has hope via the U.S. District Court in Sherman, Texas, where the NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit on his behalf, requesting the court vacate the suspension on grounds that the NFL’s process was unfair. At a temporary hearing today, the NFLPA requested Judge Amos Mazzant to allow a temporary restraining order (TRO) of the league’s ruling that would prevent enforcement of the suspension until the conclusion of the lawsuit.

Judge Mazzant said he will make his decision on Elliott’s temporary restraining order by Friday at 6 p.m. ET.

NFL says “Ezekiel Elliott WILL Play Week 1”

As of Tuesday, September 5th at 6:30pm CST, there has not yet been a ruling for Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal case against the NFL.  **ARTICLE UPDATE: SEE BELOW

However, regardless of the NFL’s decision, the reigning rushing king will play week 1 when the New York Giants come to AT&T Stadium.

Mike Fisher from 105.3 The Fan tweeted earlier:

ALERT courtroom source to me: Judge Mazzant just askd if is onfield for this wk, even if HH rules. Answer: YES

The game will start at 7:30 local time, and will air on NBC.

GO COWBOYS!!!

**ARTICLE UPDATE BELOW

Elliott’s 6 Game Ban Upheld for Now, But Will Play Week 1

 

Dallas Cowboys 53 Man Roster 2017

These are the 53 players to make the cut for Dallas Cowboys for the 2017 NFL Season

QB: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore

RB/FB: Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Keith Smith

WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown

TE: Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim

OL: Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, La’el Collins, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green, Joe Looney, Byron Bell

DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford Benson Mayowa, Taco Charlton, Charles Tapper

DT: Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins, Brian Price

LB: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens, Kyle Wilber, Jayrone Elliott, Justin Durant

CB: Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Bene Benwikere

S: Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier

K: Dan Bailey

P: Chris Jones

LS: LP LaDouceur

 

Suspended: David Irving (DE), Damontre Moore (DE), Randy Gregory (DE)

IR: Thomas Duke (CB), Rico Gathers

Practice Squad: Lance Lenoir (WR), Brian Brown (WR), Blake Jarwin (TE), Dan Skipper (OL), Nate Theaker (OL), Kadeem Edwards (OL), Richard Ash (DT), Lewis Neal (DT), Marquez White (CB), Jameill Showers (S)

Notable Players to Miss the Cut: Cedric Thorton (DT), Joey Ivie (DT), Marquez White (CB), Robert Blanton (S), Mark Nzeocha (LB)

Who Will Make the Cowboys 53 Man Roster?

The deadline for the NFL 53 man roster is tomorrow, Saturday September 2nd at 3pm CST. There are several players that are on the borderline of making the team, which means some very tough and a couple of interesting decisions for Jerry and Stephen. At least, the specialists seem to be an easy decision, with Dan Bailey, Chris Jones & LP LaDouceur.

Let’s start with the offense.

Quarterback: It looks as if the Cowboys will have 3 quarterbacks on the roster again, with Moore & Rush backing up Dak.

Running Back/Fullback: Zeke be on the 53 man roster while suspended, but with his status changing almost daily I am securing him a spot on the 53. Darren McFadden looks to be the clear #2 RB. Rod Smith looks to make the roster, and being able to play RB, FB, and special teams will definitely help his chances. Considering the Cowboys had 4 RBs and 2 FBs last year, it would be a jump for them to go down to 4 backs total, especially with the Zeke question mark. Look for Alfred Morris to be on the team. Unfortunately for Keith Smith, both Rod Smith and Geoff Swaim can play his position, but there still may be room for him.

Wide Receiver: There is a lot of young talent in this group and it will be difficult to pick between them. Dez, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Brice Butler are locks to make the roster. I would throw Ryan Switzer in there as well. That is the number of wide receivers that were on the roster last year, but with Jerry saying he thinks Noah Brown will make the 53, look to have the Cowboys to have 6 receivers in 2017. Andy Jones was making a case for himself, but kept dropping balls.

Tight End: Witten, Hanna, and Swaim will be on the team. I can’t see any way that Jerry let’s any team have a shot at signing Rico Gathers. With Gathers recent concussion in practice, look for Gathers to be on IR, with the possibility of coming back to the team in mid-October.

Offensive Line: All pros Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick are back, and Lael Collins look to be the starting right tackle in place of Doug Free. Left Guard is still up for grabs, but Jonathan Cooper’s ability to stay on the field may have the oft-injured Chaz Green in a backup role. Joe Looney’s versatility to play multiple positions will keep him on the team. The Cowboys will probably keep Byron Bell for some added depth.

 

Now onto the Defense

Defensive End: Demarcus Lawrence looks to reclaim the Cowboys sack leader for the year title after a down year in 2016. Benson Mayowa looks to repeat as sack leader and Taco Charlton will have something to say about that as well. David Irving is suspended for the first 4 games, but will be back for the Packers game in week 5. Damontre Moore looked great in the preseason, and may have Charles Tapper on the practice squad.

Defensive Tackle: Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins and Tyrone Crawford will be a good 3 man rotation in the middle of the defensive line. Cedric Thorton and Joey Ivie have the possibility to both make the roster, but will likely be only one of them securing a spot. Richard Ash will likely not make the team, as he was mostly signed to give rest to starters in week 17.

Linebacker: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Damien Wilson will be on the team. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys put Anthony Hitchens on the IR to open up another roster spot. Kyle Wilber and Mark Nzeocha look to make the team, but this may be a position that the Cowboys look for a trade or free agent as well.

Cornerback: No real standouts at this position, but looks to be Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis. Marquez White is a big maybe. Another position that team management could look elsewhere for talent.

Safety: Byron Jones will start, the other position is up for grabs. Will is be Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, or Xavier Woods. Robert Blanton will likely be the odd man out at the safety position.

QB: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Kellen Moore

RB/FB: Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Keith Smith

WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown

TE: Jason Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim

OL: Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, La’el Collins, Jonathan Cooper, Chaz Green, Joe Looney, Byron Bell

DE: DeMarcus Lawrence, Benson Mayowa, Taco Charlton, David Irving, Damontre Moore

DT: Stephen Paea, Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Cedric Thorton, Joey Ivie

LB: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens, Kyle Wilber, Mark Nzeocha

CB: Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Anthony Brown, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis

S: Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier

K: Dan Bailey

P: Chris Jones

LS: LP LaDouceur

Takeaways from the Cowboys HOF Game

The Hall of Fame game is played  every year a week before the preseason starts, and is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. The antics going on before, during and after are more of a spectacle than game itself, and pretty much anything taken from the game should be taken with a grain of salt. Since there hasn’t been any football to watch in the past six months, let’s go ahead and do exactly that.

 

Rico Gathers

Rico Gathers showed off his athleticism and hands with 3 catches for 59 yards, including a 26 yard touchdown. Gathers was not playing against a top notch defense, but this is a big stride for him since he could barely get on the field at all last preseason. While he may not have the football acumen of the average young player (due to not playing organized football for almost a decade), his athleticism will be able to bridge some of those gaps. It may be a stretch to say he will be seeing the field a lot during the regular season, but a good preseason could earn him a spot on the 53 man roster this year. Being on that roster could do wonders for him by being able to soak up as much knowledge as possible, from Canton-bound TE Jason Witten.

 

Taco Charlton

The Cowboys’ first round draft pick this year was met with many questioning faces, not because it was a bad pick, but rather it was a surprising one. Many thought the Cowboys would go after a defensive back, but they instead took an inconsistent talent with a high upside. Taco might as well have not even showed up for this game. During the 16 snaps he was in, Taco was very rarely involved in the play, and when he was he almost always seemed to be caught out of position. I’m not going to be too quick to judge on this kid, but this pick definitely continues to be “big risk, big reward”. Let’s hope we come out on the right side of that reward.

 

Rod Smith

With both Ronnie Hillman and Darren McFadden looking awful (add that grain of salt considering the line they were playing behind), Rod Smith may be able to secure a roster spot for himself at fullback or running back. Smith got more snaps, rushes, and receptions than any other Cowboy running back for the night and looked like a competent NFL player. With Zeke’s status for the beginning of the season still in doubt due to his conduct off the field, the Cowboys will need to have a threat in the backfield with Dak. A good preseason could push Smith to as high as #2 on the depth chart, behind Zeke.

Chidobe Awuzie

Chidobe has been impressive during training camp, and continued that during the HOF game. He had a pass deflection that was inches away from being an interception he likely would have taken back for a touchdown. Add two tackles and always being in position to make a play, and Chidobe had a decent showing for his first game.

 

Jason Garrett

Another blown challenge in this game for Jason Garrett. While it may have be a good time for a challenge, considering it would’ve stopped the Cardinals from putting points on the board; it was obvious that the runner was down before he fumbled, both live and on the replay. I will, however, give Garrett the benefit of the doubt since the Cardinals were rushing to the line to snap the ball. Since starting his career off 12-19 on challenges, Garrett is 8-18 on challenges in the last four seasons. Let’s hope that Garrett’s Princeton education will intervene more on his challenge decisions in 2017.

NBA Free Agency 2017: Team Additions & Losses

These are what all 30 NBA teams gained or lost during the Draft & Free Agency. I tried to include only free agents that project to be relevant in the coming NBA season (rookies are italicized).

  • Atlanta Hawks
    • Additions: John Collins, Tyler Dorsey, Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli
    • Losses: Dwight Howard, Tim Hardaway Jr., Paul Millsap, Jose Calderon, Thabo Sefalosha
  • Boston Celtics
    • Additions: Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris, Shane Larkin
    • Losses: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller
  • Brooklyn Nets
    • Additions: Timofey Mosgov, D’Angelo Russell, DeMarre Carroll, Tyler Zeller, Jarrett Allen, Aleksandar Vezenkov
    • Losses: Brook Lopez, Justin Hamilton
  • Charlotte Hornets
    • Additions: Dwight Howard, Michael Carter-Williams, Malik Monk
    • Losses: Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli
  • Chicago Bulls
    • Additions: Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday
    • Losses: Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
    • Additions: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, Cedi Osman
    • Losses: Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson
  • Dallas Mavericks
    • Additions: Dennis Smith Jr., Josh McRoberts, Jeff Withey
    • Losses:
  • Denver Nuggets
    • Additions: Paul Millsap, Richard Jefferson Tyler Lydon, Vlatko Cancar, Monte Morris
    • Losses: Danilo Gallinari, Roy Hibbert, Mike Miller
  • Detroit Pistons
    • Additions: Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard
    • Losses: Marcus Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • Golden State Warriors
    • Additions: Nick Young, Omri Casspi, Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher
    • Losses: Ian Clark
  • Houston Rockets
    • Additions: Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, Troy Williams, Zhou Qi, Isaiah Hartenstein, Cameron Oliver
    • Losses: Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker
  • Indiana Pacers
    • Additions: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Cory Joseph, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Edmond Sumner
    • Losses: Paul George, CJ Miles, Monta Ellis, Jeff Teague
  • Los Angeles Clippers
    • Additions: Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Sam Dekker, Willie Reed, Milos Teodosic, Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell, Isaiah Hicks
    • Losses: Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, JJ Reddick
  • Los Angeles Lakers
    • Additions: Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Thomas Bryant, PJ Dozier
    • Losses: D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov, Nick Young
  • Memphis Grizzlies
    • Additions: Ben McLemore, Tyreke Evans, Ivan Rabb, Dillon Brooks, Kobi Simmons
    • Losses: Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen
  • Miami Heat
    • Additions: Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, London Perrantes
    • Losses: Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Willie Reed
  • Milwaukee Bucks
    • Additions: DJ Wilson, Sterling Brown, Bronson Koenig
    • Losses: Michael Beasley
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
    • Additions: Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, Justin Patton, VJ Beachem, Charles Cooke
    • Losses: Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Omri Casspi, Shabazz Muhammad
  • New Orleans Pelicans
    • Additions: Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark, Tony Allen, Frank Jackson, Dwayne Bacon, Peter Jok
    • Losses:
  • New York Knicks
    • Additions: Tim Hardaway Jr., Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Michael Beasley, Frank Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Ognjen Jaramaz, Nigel Hayes
    • Losses: Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
    • Additions: Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, Patrick Patterson, Terrance Ferguson
    • Losses: Victor Oladipo, Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis, Taj Gibson
  • Orlando Magic
    • Additions: Jonathon Simmons, Arron Affalo, Shelvin Mack, Jonathan Isaac, Wesley Iwundu, Derrick Walton Jr.
    • Losses: Jeff Green
  • Philadelphia 76ers
    • Additions: Markelle Fultz, JJ Reddick, Amir Johnson, Anzejs Pasecniks, Jonah Bolden, Mathias Lessort, James Blackmon Jr., Melo Trimble, Isaiah Briscoe
    • Losses: Gerald Henderson
  • Phoenix Suns
    • Additions: Josh Jackson, Davon Reed, Alec Peters
    • Losses: Leandro Barbosa
  • Portland Trail Blazers
    • Additions: Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan
    • Losses:
  • Sacramento Kings
    • Additions: De’Aaron Fox, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, Frank Mason III
    • Losses: Ben McLemore, Tyreke Evans, Rudy Gay, Arron Affalo, Darren Collison, Langston Galloway
  • San Antonio Spurs
    • Additions: Rudy Gay, Derrick White, Jaron Blossomgame
    • Losses: Jonathon Simmons
  • Toronto Raptors
    • Additions: Justin Hamilton, CJ Miles, OG Anunoby, Kennedy Meeks
    • Losses: DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph, PJ Tucker
  • Utah Jazz
    • Additions: Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefalosha, Jonas Jerebko, Donovan Mitchell, Tony Bradley, Nigel Williams-Goss
    • Losses: Gordon Hayward, George Hill, Shelvin Mack, Jeff Withey
  • Washington Wizards
    • Additions: Marcus Keene, Devin Robinson
    • Losses: Bojan Bogdanovic

NBA Draft Picks First Thoughts After Being Drafted

When getting interviewed after being selected, it is customary to be humble and politically correct on camera (unless you’re Lavar Ball). This is what the first 15 picks in the NBA Draft really wanted to say to Allison Williams in the green room.

  1. Markelle Fultz: “I’m the only consensus #1 pick who no one has ever seen play”
  2. Lonzo Ball: “This is exactly what I wanted…right Dad?”
  3. Jayson Tatum: “I’m finally done with controlling coaches. Wait, who is the Celtics coach?”
  4. Josh Jackson: “Shit, maybe I should’ve found time in my busy schedule to work out for the Celtics”
  5. De’Aaron Fox: ” Great, I’m in the only city in California that’s not by the beach”
  6. Jonathan Isaac: “I must be the MVP of the draft, because I’m going to Disney World”
  7. Lauri Markkanen: “Seriously, in Sweden Lauri is a man’s name”
  8. Frank Ntilikina: “Tony said that teammates share wives and girlfriends. Is that really true, because La La is hot!”
  9. Dennis Smith, Jr.: “My vertical isn’t the only thing that’s 48 inches”
  10. Zach Collins: “I wonder if they will let me start in the NBA”
  11. Malik Monk: “At least I don’t have to pay Coach Cal 10% since I didn’t get picked in the top 10”
  12. Luke Kennard: “I must be the first white shooting guard to go in the lottery that can’t even shoot”
  13. Donovan Mitchell: “In the NBA do we have to get our own hookers, or do the coaches still pay?”
  14. Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo: “My mom didn’t think I’d get made fun of enough for Edrice, so she stole my nickname from a cartoon baby”
  15. Justin Jackson: “Actually, its Justin, not Josh. Hey, you can still ask me questions!”

Quick Hits on Dallas Mavericks 1st Round Pick

The Dallas Mavericks had their first top 10 pick in the Mark Cuban era. With the 9th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft they selected Dennis Smith, Jr., a freshman point guard from NC State.

The Numbers:

6’2″ (6’3″ wingspan), 195 pounds, 48″ Vertical, 19 years old

18.1 PPG, 6.2 AST, 4.6 REB, 1.9 STL, 0.4 BLK, 3.4 TOV, 46% FG, 36% 3PT, 72% FT

Strengths:

Score first point guard, but also has the ability to find open teammates in drive and kick situations. His quickness and explosiveness is second in the draft, only to 5th pick De’Aaron Fox. He has a crossover that allows him to get an open jumper and get to the rim to score. His strength and frame will make sure he is not pushed around in the NBA and will allow him to finish in the paint. His athleticism and quick hands gives him the ability to be a pesky on ball defender.

Weaknesses:

Inconsistent shooter, will resort to taking bad shots when frustrated. 36% from behind the line is not a good sign, especially when the NBA moves the line 3 feet further than college. Also, 71% from the charity stripe for a point guard simply will not cut it in the NBA. Smith tends to pick up his dribble quickly when defensive pressure comes, and that forces him into turnovers. He tore his ACL in 2015 and missed his senior season of high school, but he seems to be completely healed and had no issues in college.

Rookie Season Expectations:

Smith will benefit greatly from having talented teammates and a good coach in Rick Carlisle, considering he had neither at NC State. He needs to learn how to use his athleticism to play defense and how to see the entire court as a point guard, so that he can hit open teammates instead of taking forced shots. Smith may struggle early fitting into a more complex offense, but should find his stride with the team by January. No doubt that Carlisle will have him shooting plenty of shots in practice to bring up that ugly free throw percentage. Don’t be surprised to see him in the dunk contest to show off that 48″ vertical.

Last Word:

Dennis Smith, Jr. was the biggest sleeper in the draft for many analysts, with some going so far as to say he could possibly be the best player in the draft when it is all said and done. However, while he does have a high ceiling, he does also have somewhat of a low floor. If Smith does not improve his shooting, defense and decision making, it will be very difficult for him to stay on the floor in the NBA. However, if he does improve those aspects of his game….watch out NBA.

2017 NBA Finals Snap Judgment

The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals 129-120, for their second championship in three years. This series featured an amazing amount of star power, including three of the best players in the NBA. Several aspects of the NBA are affected by this outcome, and it may change how the future of the NBA will look.

Warriors: From the outside, this team looks as if they could stay together for a long time to run the West. However, there are only three contributing players that have guaranteed contracts next year: Draymond, Klay, and McCaw. Durant has a contract for next year, but there is a player option in which he could decline it. Curry is an unrestricted free agent and has the freedom to sign with anyone. While it would be surprising to see Curry or Durant go anywhere, expect to see several different role players on the 2017-2018 Warriors. Also, Steve Kerr’s health will be a big deciding factor whether or not he is the head coach next year.

Cavaliers: The Cavs, on the other handhave guaranteed contracts with 7 of 9 contributing players. They are locked into their core, much to do with Lebron’s influence on the front office. Barring a trade, which is very likely, the Cavs roster will look eerily similar, just one year older. Ty Lue seemed to be outmatched in the coaching battle in the Finals this year, so don’t be surprised if Lebron has a new coach for the 2017-2018 season.

Lebron: Lebron is now 3-5 in the Finals. He saved face by not getting swept, but all G.O.A.T. discussions have been stopped in their tracks. While this Finals outcome may not have hurt his legacy, it definitely did not help it. Lebron seemed nonchalant throughout a good portion of the Finals, almost as if he had given in that the Cavs were not going to win. He had great series stats (averaging a triple double), but actually watching him was frustrating at times. From not stopping the ball on Warriors’ fast breaks to taking covered 3s with plenty of time left on the shot clock so as to not exert energy for that play, Lebron seemed content with losing this series. He seemed almost giddy to welcome Durant back to the Finals before game one, and to wish Kerr well before game two. He really didn’t seem locked in, and that is an ominous look for Cavs fans when Lebron can exercise his own player option after next season.

Durant: Durant was the Finals MVP, and no one in their right mind would question that. He played an unbelievable series, on both sides of the ball. Did he join a 73 win team to get a ring? Yes, but he was also the best player on that team. Would it have been more impressive to win a championship in OKC? Yes, but KD did not back his way into this championship, he went out and took it. 16-1 in the playoffs is nothing to laugh at. KD  could exercise his player option, take less money, and allow the Warriors more cap flexibility to sign Steph and role players. He could also, however unlikely this may sound, exercise his player option to leave the Warriors. For now, KD will enjoy his championship and leave those decisions to July.

Steph: Steph still does not have a Finals MVP, but it is obvious he is as important a piece to these championship teams as anyone else, if not more. Steph is an unrestricted free agent, but him leaving the Warriors for another team would be one of the most surprising decisions in NBA history. He was drafted by the Warriors in 2009, and became the franchise player shortly thereafter. Steph is still the best shooter that has ever lived, but next on his list has to be a Finals MVP trophy.

NBA: The stacked class for this year’s Draft and the abundance of players available in free agency will change the look of the league, but Adam Silver better hope for more competition. While seeing the Warriors and Cavs duke it out for three straight Finals has been entertaining, fans may check out if the playoffs are foregone conclusions with no parity. The Cavs may not have been the number one seed, but going 12-1 in the East is nothing short of a snoozefest. Missing Kawhi for the West Finals hurt the competitiveness of the Spurs, but the Warriors were undefeated through the first 15 games of the playoffs.

2017 Dallas Cowboys Draft Recap

The 2017 NFL draft is over, and it was actually one of the more exciting drafts in recent history. From several 1st round trades for quarterbacks to the best pre-selection speech ever given, by Drew Pearson. The season doesn’t start for four months, and we have to fill the football void in our lives somehow, so let’s dive into the Cowboys first 5 picks…

Round 1, Pick 28: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Image result for taco charltonTaco is a 6’6″, 277 lb defensive end, that had a decent junior season, and a good senior season. His combine numbers did not overly impress anyone, but his size did, and you can’t teach size. Taco has the God-given gifts to play in the NFL, but will need to work on his strength and quickness to become an impact player.

The 40-yard dash is not as great an indicator for a defensive lineman, but his 10 yard split was more telling than his complete 40. as the 3 cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Taco performed in the top 15 in both the 3 cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle for defensive linemen. The bench press doesn’t tell the whole story of strength for an NFL player, but Taco will definitely need to hit the weight room to make sure he does not get manhandled by NFL tackles.

The Cowboys needed a pass rush, considering they have been without one since 2014 when Demarcus Ware left for Denver. Taco will be able to control his own destiny with the Cowboys’ pass rush positions wide open due to inconsistent play and substance abuse issues. Some may have questioned taking Taco this high, but he was on draft boards anywhere from mid-1st to mid-2nd round, and the defensive back depth in this draft was much greater than the defensive line depth. Taco’s NFL career will be determined by how motivated he is to be great. Hard work should get him to the Pro Bowl, while apathy will have him frustrating teams and coaches alike.

Round 2, Pick 60: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado

Image result for chidobe awuzieMany analysts and Cowboys fans had their eyes on Kevin King or Sidney Jones in the 1st round for the Cowboys, but the Jones’ preferred the value of Chidobe Awuzie in the 2nd round. He has good size, and great speed. Back-to-back All Pac-12 teams, a nose for the football, and not being afraid to step up and put a hit on a runner makes it appear as if the Cowboys made the right choice in waiting.

At 6’0″ with a 4.43 40 time, and a 34.5″ vertical, Chidobe should be able to matchup with almost any receiver in the league athletically. He played more inside corner at the nickel position in college, but will need to learn to play outside as well. Awuzie’s willingness to deliver a hit will do well with Marinelli’s DB blitzes. While Chidobe can lay the smackdown every once in a while, he will need to learn to wrap up, since most NFL ball carriers know how to break away from lazy arm tackles he has been known to resort to at times.

The lack of depth in the Cowboys’ secondary will give fans the ability to see what Chidobe can do very early on. Week 1 will be a big test with the New York Giants and their talented receiving crew coming to Jerry’s World week 1.

Round 3, Pick 92: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan

Image result for jourdan lewis

Lewis was one of the best cover corners in the NCAA for the past two years, but his size may present an issue at the next level. Cornerbacks that are under 6 feet usually find themselves as career nickelbacks. However, this was a great value pick, since Lewis was passed over by many teams in the third round, most likely due to his pending domestic violence issue.

Jourdan is a physical corner, especially in the first five yards not letting receivers get a clean break. This skill will prove to be very important in the NFL, especially considering Lewis does not have great speed (4.54 40) at the cornerback position. He could prove to be very valuable to the Cowboys since they are often burned by good route-running receivers. Jourdan Lewis is eerily similar to former Cowboy, Pacman Jones. Let’s just hope these similarities end once he steps off the field.

Round 4, Pick 133: Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina

Image result for ryan switzer

This pick was somewhat confusing, considering this was not a big need for the Cowboys, and Switzer was probably not this high on anyone’s draft board. Switzer believes he is the best returner in the draft, which would fill another void the Cowboys have had for the past two seasons, when Dwayne Harris bolted for New York.

Switzer’s quickness was on display at the combine with the fastest 20 yard shuttle and the 2nd fastest 60 yard shuttle for wide receivers (3rd fastest overall in both). At 5’8″, one can assume that the Cowboys may be looking for a replacement for slot receiver Cole Beasley, who has 2 years left on his current contract and only a $1 million cap hit with a trade or release before the 2018 season.

Not too sure about the value of this pick, since these type of players may be dime a dozen, but only time will tell. Switzer will most likely only see playing time as a returner in his rookie season.

Round 6, Pick 191: Xavier Woods, S, Lousiana Tech

Image result for xavier woods la techThe Cowboys traded their 2018 5th round pick to grab what looks to be the best value pick of the draft for Dallas. This is another player with good quickness, that was displayed in both combine shuttle drills, as well as the 3 cone drill. Woods is a big hitting safety that can also track the football in the air to break up and intercept deep balls (5 INTs his senior year).

He does give off the look of former Denver Broncos safety, Steve Atwater, who could both cover in the pass and deliver bone-jarring hits on even the biggest of running backs. Unfortunately, sometimes the need to get a big hit got the best of Atwater, but Xavier seems very focused on disrupting passing lanes.

Woods is somewhat undersized at 5’11” at the safety position, but everything else points to him being the Cowboys’ “steal” of the 2017 draft. Also, with Barry Church and JJ Wilcox saying goodbye to Dallas this off-season, Xavier Woods could see the field more often than most 6th round picks do in their rookie season.

 

The rest of the picks were as follows:

Round 6, Pick 216: Marquez White, CB, Florida State

Round 7, Pick 228: Joey Ivie, DT, Florida

Round 7, Pick 239: Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State

Round 7, Pick 246: Jordan Carrell, DT, Colorado

The Golden State Social Justice Warriors

Less than one year from acquiring Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors have transitioned from a team that was almost impossible not to love, to a team that is almost impossible not to hate. Not because they are now becoming the ‘villains’ that superteam of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh became in Miami, but more so because they have become a group of whiny bit…babies.

Steph was the baby face of the league that every kid idolized, and now he would be more easily compared to an annoying little sibling that just learned how to tattle to mom and dad. Draymond was becoming one of the most unique and versatile players in the NBA, and now he grabs and kicks more male genitalia than a porn star during a weekend long filming. Steve Kerr was the genius coach who never had issues with any of his players, and now he is the ridiculous parent that believes their children can do no wrong. After listening to these three for more than a minute, one would start to believe that the entire universe is out to get the Warriors.

This annoyance has been building up since the tail end of the 2015-2016 season when Golden State was going for the record for most wins in a regular season. At that time, some of it was understandable from all of the daily pressure and the constant and inane questions from anyone and everyone. Where it really started to get out of control was when it seemed as if the Warriors thought that they could do no wrong, they were always right, and they should be treated special since they are the NBA’s hottest and most expensive ticket.

Neat the end of February after the All Star game, several Warriors start publicly complaining and borderline protesting for Shaq to stop making fun of JaVale McGee on his ‘Shaqtin a Fool’ bit. Kerr suggested that Shaq is picking on JaVale and making fun of him too much and it is negatively affecting JaVale. Seriously, watch this video and see if that sounds like a NBA coach talking about a NBA player, or, more like a parent in the principal’s office of an elementary school. JaVale McGee is a 29 year old man, if he wants Shaq to stop making fun of him for bonehead plays, he needs to stop playing as he is a six year old with ADHD in a church basketball league.

Less than two weeks later, the Warriors were in New York City for a game against the Knicks in which the home team was trying a new in game experience. The Knicks were going to have no in-game music or videos for the first half. Draymond called the experiment, “Pathetic”, “Ridiculous”, and “Disrespectful”. He also complained that it “changed the flow of the game”. I’m sorry Draymond, I forgot that the home team was supposed to make sure everything was hunky-dory for the visiting team. In no way should the home team ever use anything that could possibly create a, dare I say, home-court advantage. I think it was just last week that I went to go play basketball at the gym, but there was no pump up music as I brought the ball up the court or a kiss cam during long breaks. I was so appalled that I turned around and went right back home. Who do they think that I am, some degenerate that can just play a basketball without the sound of Mario collecting gold coins every time I hit a three? That honestly has to be one of the stupidest complaints I have ever heard from an athlete.

To round out the months of incessant crying, the Golden State Warriors are calling out the entire Oklahoma City Thunder organization for the way they handled Kevin Durant’s return to OKC on February 11, 2017. The Warriors were upset that their star player was “emotionally drained” after the game. They say the Thunder should have done more to ease tension before and during the game so that Durant would not have entered such a hostile environment. Really? The franchise player that an organization drafted leaves for the team that beat them in the playoffs and the Thunder are supposed to tell the fans to play nice? That’s insane! No organization or owner should act the way Dan Gilbert did when LeBron ‘took his talents to South Beach’, but they definitely do not owe former players warm welcomes when competing against them. Especially a player that did not even win a championship. The Thunder may have a warmer welcome for Durant a few years down the line, but the year after a franchise player leaves, do not expect the organization to be happy to see him coming through the doors with enemy colors on.

Kevin Durant may be the worst of all of them, constantly complaining about former players criticizing the current generation. Especially, when these players are being asked for their opinions by reporters, or are analysts themselves. This may come as a shock to KD, but even though millennials are used to getting participation trophies and being told they are the greatest thing that has ever happened to the world, that is not the job of an NBA analyst. While praise should be given out by anyone dissecting the game of basketball, so to should critique. Watching almost any sports program, it is obvious there is more positive than negative doled out from analysts, everyone wants to only focus on the negative. Maybe Kevin just wants to fit in as the new guy in town, and decides that since he has the largest media voice, he will defend everyone, no matter what, instead of looking at the situation and going back to his teammate with some constructive criticism.

All in all, the Warriors need to understand that they are just like any other team in the NBA. They are great players, great people, and extremely entertaining to watch play basketball, but hopefully the whining can decrease to a more manageable level. Pick your battles. “Disrespectful” may be an overstatement for, no music being played during the first half of a basketball. There is no special treatment, especially on the road, that the Warriors will receive for being a good. Perhaps Joe Lacob needs to invest in ‘safe spaces’ for the Warriors, so they do not get their feelings hurt on road trips.

Tony Romo’s Retirement is a Good Thing For Cowboy’s Fans

Nobody wants to see their favorite sports figure retire. These players become role models, idols, and sources of happiness (as well as sadness and anger) to the fans. Every sports fan, young or old, has a player that they feel a special connection with, even though we have never met them. We go through the ups and downs of the season with these players. We are elated when they are doing well, and frustrated when they have a down game. Not at them, for them. We want them to succeed, because they have worked hard over the off-season, and they DESERVE to win. We are in their corner no matter what. They can do no wrong in our eyes. If they throw an interception, either the receiver ran the wrong route, or the line did not cover all of their blocking assignments, or the weather would have caused anyone to throw an interception in those conditions. My personal favorite: “It’s third down, a long interception is the same as a punt”. I must have said that at least twice a season to defend bad throws. We even cry when they lose a big game in the playoffs. People ask, “How do you care so much about someone you don’t even know?”. Well, we do know them, they just don’t know us.

If you are lucky, you get to go through ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty years with this person. And when they retire, its almost as if they die. When is the best time to retire? Go out on top like John Elway with back to back Super Bowls, even if there is something left in the tank? Some may argue, if he came back he could’ve won a third. Or would it be better to hang on as long as possible, like Kobe Bryant, and be a shell of yourself on a team that is only going to the playoffs if they buy a ticket? Maybe there isn’t a right time. Michael Jordan retired three times, and is still probably considering another comeback.

For Tony Romo, it was April 4, 2017 that he decided to hang up his cleats. This was after almost three months of back and forth between being released and being traded. Every day was a new story, most of them probably false. The emotional roller coaster Romo was on, was also filled with countless fans wondering what jersey he will be wearing next season. We’ve loved him from his first completion, deep down the field to Sam Hurd. The ups and downs, the crazy plays, the injuries, and everything in between has filled our lives for the past 10+ years, and now it’s over.

As a Cowboy’s fan, and Romo fan as well, I’m glad it’s over. Not because I’m no longer a fan of Tony, I just don’t want to see him go out the same way Michael Irvin did. While it may not be 100% on Tony’s terms, this retirement is Tony’s decision. I can’t imagine watching Romo be carried off or have to hobble off a field to end his career. With no Star on his helmet, no less. This way, the last play of Romo’s career is a touchdown pass. It may have been a meaningless game, the Cowboys may have lost, but Romo got to go out on top. This also leaves the “what could’ve been” conversations, for decades to come. And nothing is more fun than wondering what would’ve happened if Romo had stayed healthy.

Am I being selfish? Should I want Romo to go to another team and compete for a Super Bowl? If I thought he could make it through a 16 game season, plus 3-4 postseason games, he would have my blessing. However, I, and anyone really looking at Romo’s health objectively, know that Tony playing in 20 NFL games is one step above impossible.

The biggest positive to Romo’s retirement from the NFL, is that we still get to see/hear him on Sunday’s. He will be the #1 color commentator on CBS, to go along with Jim Nantz. Personally, I see Romo more as a coach than a commentator (move over Jason Garrett), but I am excited to get to hear from two of my favorite Cowboy’s quarterbacks every week. Romo may not have had the most successful career compared to other Cowboy greats, but it will be hard to argue that he is not the more cherished in the hearts of Cowboy Nation.

Thanks for everything Tony, the Cowboys wouldn’t be where they are today without you.

Sports Utopia: 5 Fixes to the NFL Schedule

Sports is a way for people to escape everyday life, and immerse themselves into another world. The only problem is that sometimes this other world is not as perfect as it could be. Fixing these issues would create a Sports Utopia we all long for.

The NFL is, arguably, the greatest sports league in the world. However, there are five problems with the NFL schedule, for both the fans, the players and the league itself. This article will improve the experience for all three, so listen up Mr. Goodell.

1. Duration of the Season

The NFL will have a 18 game (20 week) regular season, beginning the Thursday before Labor Day and ending with Super Bowl Sunday the day before President’s Day.

Benefit to Fans: This will get rid of 2 preseason games. The fans hate them, and season ticket holders hate paying full price for two meaningless home games. Now there is only one home preseason game.

Benefit to Players: More rest. This will be apparent with points #3 and #4.

Benefit to NFL: Ratings boost. The NFL will be able to take advantage of 8 federal holidays (which will probably go down to 7 with point #5), instead of just 6.  When people have a day off from work, they socialize with friends and family and watch sports.

 

2. Bye Weeks

Each team will receive 2 bye weeks, one in the first 10 weeks and one in the second 10 weeks. No bye in first 2 weeks or last 2 weeks. Bye weeks must be at least 3 weeks separated from each other (i.e. If there is a bye on week 9, the other bye week would be week 12 or later).

Benefit to Fans: Not a huge benefit here for fans, other than more time for the star players of their teams to recover from injury.

Benefit to Players: More bye weeks = more rest = less injuries or more time to recover from injuries without missing games. Also, more time to spend with their families during the season.

Benefit to NFL: Less games without missing star players.

 

3. Thursday & International Games

Each team will have a maximum of one Thursday game and one International game, with a bye week coming before either of these games. There will be no Thursday game in weeks 2, 19, or 20. There will also be three other weeks with no Thursday game, two in early November (these two weeks will tie in with point #5), and the Thursday before Christmas (unless that is Christmas Eve, then it will be the week after).

Benefit to Fans: No more crap fest Thursday Night Football games.

Benefit to Players: This will get rid of one of the biggest complaints from players: increased chance of injury from not having proper time to heal after a game, when having to play 4 days later or travel halfway across the world.

Benefit to NFL: No more crap fest Thursday Night Football games. Also, less complaints from the NFLPA.

 

4. Playoffs

Playoff games will be on Saturday’s and Sunday’s at 3:00 pm EST and 7:30 pm EST.

Benefit to Fans: West Coast fans do not have to wake up early to watch a 9:00 am playoff game. Fans that go to church on Sundays do not have to decide between skipping church and missing the first half of the early game.

Benefit to Players: Players traveling on West Coast do not have to play a NFL playoff game when their body clock is at 9:00 am. Also, a benefit to the traveling team not having to get up early in the morning.

Benefit to NFL: Ratings boost. The Sunday night game is almost always the highest rated for the week. This gives at least two more games at this time slot.

 

5. Partnerships with Other Leagues

MLB Partnership: There will be no Thursday night game during the World Series, so long as there is no World Series game on a Sunday (this will take some scheduling help from the MLB).

NBA Partnership: There will be no NFL games on Christmas Day, so long as there is no NBA Game on Christmas Eve, if Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, Monday, Thursday or Saturday. There will be no NFL Pro Bowl or any other event the weekend before the Super Bowl. The NBA can use the weekend before the Super Bowl for NBA All-Star Weekend.

Benefit to Fans: Many NFL fans are also fans of other sports. This allows them not to miss big games that are occurring simultaneously. Also, the Pro Bowl sucks and nobody watches or cares about it.

Benefit to Players: Players will get to spend Christmas Day with their families. Also, the Pro Bowl sucks, and players do not want to participate (37 players declined to participate in the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl). Lastly, many NFL players are fans of other sports, and this will allow them to watch more big games.

Benefit to NFL: Ratings boost. The Sunday Night game between the Cowboys (5-1) and Eagles (4-2) in 2017 had lower ratings that World Series Game 5. The NFL’s premier team playing against a division rival in prime-time should NEVER have lower ratings than anything else on TV. Also, no need to compete with the NBA on Christmas Day, if it happens to fall on a Sunday. Just play those games on Saturday for Christmas Eve. Lastly, the Pro Bowl sucks and the NFL is trying to get rid of it anyway. This may create some type of mashup, in which NFL Pro Bowl players can maybe have an event at the NBA All Star Weekend.

Super Bowl LI Proves the Need for a New Kind of NFL Coach

Many things can be said about the game-play in Super Bowl LI, from the Falcons offense looking to be unstoppable through the first 38 minutes to Tom Brady channeling his inner GOAT to pull off what most people could only imagine as achievable theoretically. However, the biggest difference between the New England and the Atlanta was that the Patriots knew who their opponent was and the Falcons did not. The real opponent for both teams was the clock. The Falcons needed it to run as fast as possible, while the Patriots realized that each second was precious, with a 25 point deficit to overcome.

It seems strange that with all of the analytics used in sports nowadays, the degree to which each aspect of the game is individualized (I mean, there are actually separate coaches for inside linebackers and outside linebackers), and the number of times that clock management can affect the outcome of a game, that there is not a position solely dedicated to how to manage that clock.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking at the 2017 NFL playoffs, there were three close games, two of which were decided largely by late-game clock management. The first game was the Packers vs. Cowboys in the divisional round, and the second was the Super Bowl.

The clock mismanagement in divisional round was by the Cowboys, who were attempting to comeback from a 15 point 4th quarter deficit. For a two score comeback to occur, both the offense and the defense must play well, but clock management becomes crucial. The biggest misstep for the Cowboys came on their final drive. They received the ball with 93 seconds left in the game. In the final drive, two critical clock management decisions to look at are the spike on 1st and 10 from the Packers 40 yard line with 1:07 on the clock, and 2 plays later with a passing play on 3rd down with 44 seconds left. Perhaps a clock management coach looks at these situations and plays them somewhat differently. From using their final timeout or running a play on first down, so as not to ‘waste’ a down with a spike. That same coach may realize that a successful short pass and a successful run will likely have similar outcomes on 3rd down, but an incomplete pass stops the clock and a running play short of the line to gain keeps the clock running. That running clock may be just enough to make sure Aaron Rodgers does not have time to orchestrate a game-winning drive, and instead push the game to overtime.

In the Super Bowl, the clock mismanagement will be credited to the Atlanta Falcons, who needed only to hold on to a 25 point lead in the middle of the 3rd quarter. Reread that sentence, there is no typo. The Falcons had a four score lead with just over 17 minutes left in the game. There are once again two key plays that involve clock management, they may have swung the game and final score into the Falcons favor. The first was the catastrophic fumble with 8:31 left in the game, and the Falcons possessed a 16 point (two score) lead. Many will say of course you run when you know that a sack fumble is happening, but even not knowing that a pass is much riskier than a run in that situation, especially when your running back, Devonta Freeman, is averaging over 8 yards per carry at that point. The risk is way to high for a 3rd and 1 pass with a 16 point lead and 8:31 left on the clock, compared to the reward. A clock management coach realizes that and runs the ball. The second decision comes with just under 4 minutes left, again a pass play over a run, this time on second down on the New England 22. The play results in a 12 yard sack and the Patriots use a timeout. No big deal, still in field goal range to make it a two score game. 3rd down attempt #1 is a completed pass that doesn’t get a first down but gives them a better shot at a field goal, but there is a hold. Now they are out of field goal range and are forced to pass to get back into range. 3rd down attempt #2 is an incomplete pass and the Falcons are forced to punt without being able to run the clock. A clock management coach realizes that a field goal in this situation is practically just as good as a touchdown, since it pretty much guarantees that the Patriots will have to complete a successful onside kick if they score. Instead, the Patriots get the ball back with just under 4 minutes left, and Tom Brady becomes the GOAT of all GOATs.

Isn’t clock management the job of the head coach? Can’t the quarterback figure these things out? Two great questions, but in the heat of battle, having a numbers guy whose sole job is to analyze the game based on the amount of time left, could prove to be invaluable. Just ask Arthur Blank if he would’ve coughed up an extra $150k to have a clock specialist on the coaching staff.

This NFL Team will STOP the Cowboys from Winning their 6th Super Bowl in 2017…

Haha! No one will STOP dem boyz! Go Cowboys!!!!

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What QB Category does Dak Prescott fall into?

What QB Category does Dak Prescott fall into?

From the moment he was drafted, fans, analysts, players and coaches, have tried to figure out exactly how to classify Dak Prescott as a NFL quarterback. Some call him clutch, others say he is a game manager, there are those that see another scrambling runner, some even say he is fortunate being the benefit of circumstance, and of course there are a few who merely see another rookie quarterback. Is it possible that all of these are true, while also all being false at the same time? Maybe Dak is something yet to be seen in the National Football League.

Clutch QB

This may be the easiest category to put Dak in, considering he has three game-winning drives in the last 5 minutes through his first 14 starts in the NFL. Moreover, the two games in which he did not successfully complete that game-winning drive can easily be blamed on bonehead plays by his wide receivers. In week 1, Terrance Williams does not get out of bounds to allow Dan Bailey to attempt, an albeit long, game-winning field goal. In week 14, Dez fumbles with 2:25 left on the clock on what would have been a potential game-winning or game-tying drive. Not to mention, Dak also came back from trailing Minnesota and Tampa Bay in the 4th quarter, and being down 14-0 in San Francisco.

Naysayers of Dak’s clutchness will argue that to be able to have a game winning drive, he must first dig himself into a hole. Prescott has trailed in the 4th quarter in half of his first 14 games. This does seem worrying, until finding out that finding out that the top 6 quarterbacks in NFL history in 4th quarter comebacks are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, John Elway, Joe Montana, and Brett Favre. Not too shabby of a list.

Running QB

Moving from the easiest to the hardest category, the evidence of Dak’s running ability is both apparent and sparing. Anyone that has watched this kid play can see that he can be extremely elusive in the pocket and more than able to scramble for the first down when needed. Dak is also tied with Tyrod Taylor for most rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks, with six.

Sounds like a rushing quarterback so far. But, looking deeper, Dak rushes for less than 20 yards per game, and at 4.6 yards per carry, he is not even in the top ten YPC for quarterbacks. Dak’s longest run of the season so far is 18 yards; fourteen quarterbacks have longer runs in 2016. So, is Dak a running quarterback who misses opportunities from not having his eyes down field outside of the pocket, or is he an athletic quarterback that has the ability to run when all options have been exhausted? The latter seems to be the fairer description.

Game Managing QB

One of the biggest stigmas a quarterback can carry these days is being labeled a ‘Game Manager’. Just ask 2012 Alex Smith. Being a game managing quarterback means relying on team strengths to win games, whatever that may be. If a team has the best offensive line and league-leading rusher, a HOF route-running tight end, and a high caliber slot receiver that runs underneath routes; would it not be extremely selfish to rely completely on the quarterback’s talents to win games?

One of the best comparisons to the perfect game manager would be Isaiah Thomas. Yes, NBA Hall of Fame point guard, Isaiah Thomas. He would setup his teammates the entire game, because there was a wealth of talent on those Bad Boys Detroit Pistons teams. However, when two minutes were left in the game and the Pistons needed a bucket, Isaiah came through. Sounds eerily familiar to a game on October 30th when Dak had relied on his team in the first three quarters, and became the hero in the 4th quarter and overtime to give the Cowboys another W. Is Dak a game manager? Maybe, but make sure not to view that term negatively next time it is said, because many would also call 4-time Super Bowl Champion, Terry Bradshaw, a game manager. As a matter of fact, check out this list of the Top 15 Game Managing Quarterbacks and see how many collective Super Bowl rings are worn on their fingers.

Lucky QB


What would Dak do without the best offensive line, the league-leading rusher, an All-Pro receiver and a HOF tight end? Great question, fortunately it is one that does not have to be answered, at least not now. In the same way that these questions were not answered about Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger during their rookie seasons. Is Dak in a great situation? Absolutely!

Did this all fall into his lap? Absolutely not! He worked extremely hard during the summer to be the most prepared backup quarterback to Tony Romo that he could be, and when the opportunity to be the starter presented itself, Dak was ready. Not many rookie quarterbacks would have been able to do what Dak has done so far this season. Just look at Jared Goff. He could not even earn the starting job on a terrible Los Angeles Rams team, from a mediocre quarterback, until more than halfway through the season. Perhaps Dak Prescott is a fan of author Michael Korda, who said “Luck can often mean simply taking advantage of a situation at the right moment. It is possible to make your luck by always being prepared”.

Rookie QB


Everyone heard the cries of Dak hitting a rookie wall and contemplated putting Romo back in the starting role after the second loss to the Giants. Really? 11-2 and people are complaining? Are they forgetting the back-to-back 300 yard passing feats against Pittsburgh and Baltimore? Are they forgetting that through 14 weeks, Dak has the 3rd best passer rating and 2nd best QBR in the league? December 11th against the Giants was a division road game, in freezing conditions, against the second-best team in the NFC, and the Cowboys lost by 3 with a chance to win at the end.

If only Dak could do something to quiet his critics. Maybe coming out the next week and getting a huge home win against the hottest team in the NFL, while also posting the second best completion percentage (with at least 30 attempts) since the 1970 merger will do the trick. Dak is far from a typical rookie quarterback. Does he still make rookie mistakes? Yes, but from watching his composure during games, he looks more like a 10-year veteran quarterback than a rookie.

So maybe Dak is a clutch, running, game-managing, lucky, rookie quarterback. Or maybe, he is his own type of quarterback, and one that future quarterbacks will be compared to.

One thing that no one can argue is that Dak Prescott is a WINNING quarterback in the National Football League.

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 26, Buccaneers 20

Cowboys Nation received an early Christmas present Sunday night as they defeated the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26-20 behind Dan Bailey’s four field goals. This was a complete shift from last week’s loss to the Giants. The Offense found its legs with Ezekiel Elliott rushing for 159 yards and 1 touchdown and Dak Prescott doing his part to hush the critics with his outstanding performance going 32/36 for 279 and his own rushing touchdown. Dak looked to be having more fun throughout the game, even when he found the team down in the 3rd quarter. Prescott also did his best to silence the critic’s biggest issue with his performance completing several passes over 20 yards down the field to various receivers. The secondary’s outstanding performance from last week appeared to be lost this week. While the overall stats make the performance look like a job well done, the eye test looks completely different. The secondary continues to be exposed down field as Jameis Winston completed nearly a third of his passes for 18 yards or more.

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Offensively, this was a thing of beauty. Dak looked poised and comfortable at home, using his legs when needed and spreading the ball around as the defense allowed. The result? Seven different receivers catching a pass with Dez Bryant hauling in 8 and Jason Witten 10. Dez’ strong hands made a return as well as everything that touched his hands seemed to stick. Throughout this season, that has not been the case; as Dez has had trouble hauling in catches. The offense was able spread the field and take what the defense gave them the entire night. The only blemish on the night was the continued lack of discipline collecting 8 penalties for 91 yards, one of which costed them a touchdown. As they move forward toward the playoffs, they cannot afford to make these mistakes and give points back to the opposition.

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The defense had its moments and the defensive line looked fantastic. The Bucs rushed for only 52 yards and Winston was sacked 4 times, fumbled once and threw 3 interceptions. David Irving continued to be a force collecting 2 sacks and hitting Winston 5 times. While the defensive front continued to excel, the secondary continued to show its weakness. The absence of Morris Claiborne again was apparent as Winston was able to continually find his way down field. The Buccaneer offense wasn’t able to do much, but when it did, they made it count. As mentioned earlier, the stats weren’t impressive as Winston only completed 17 of 35 for 247 yards for a Passer Rating of 55.3, but when able, he found the open receiver down field. This is something that will need to improve as the opposition’s talent increases.

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Overall, the team played well enough to end the longest win streak in the league and at least for now, the QB controversy is squashed. Dak is back on top and Ezekiel Elliott now holds the record for the most TDs ever by a Cowboys rookie. The Cowboys need to push on as a win this week against Detroit will clinch the NFC East and a first round bye.

Keys to the Game Scorecard:

  • Avoid Turnovers: The Cowboys won the turnover battle 4-1. The only turnover came on a lost Jason Witten fumble
  • Take what the Defense Gives You: Dak didn’t force anything. Rather, he fed the open receivers and ran himself when needed.
  • Move the Chains: Dallas had 24 first downs to Tampa Bay’s 16 and held the ball for 13 more minutes.

Prediction:

Buccaneers: 10

Cowboys: 24

Result:

Buccaneers: 20

Cowboys: 26

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 7, Giants 10

Is this the rookie wall we all keep hearing about? For 12 weeks, we’ve been hearing non-stop about how Dak Prescott can’t be doing what he’s doing, that he can’t keep this up. After an average performance in Minnesota against a very good Vikings secondary, and whatever you want to call last night, is this it? Are the critics and history right? Twitter blew up throughout the game with pleads for Tony Romo. After the game, Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett both said they are comfortable with Dak Prescott as the QB of this team going forward. How true will that be if Dak has another catastrophic performance against a solid Tampa Bay defense this coming Sunday Night? Prescott finished the game 17 of 37 for 165 yrds, 1 TD, INTs and a Passer Rating of 45.4. That brings his rating vs the Giants to 58.6 compared to his rating against all other teams of 114.3. Is Prescott hitting the rookie wall or are the Giants his kryptonite?

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The Cowboys offense missed a lot of opportunities Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. The running game was there most of the night and Ezekiel Elliott did his part rushing for 107 yards on 24 carries. However, the story is most definitely the play of QB1, Dak Prescott. Dak was awful. There is no way to sugar coat it. Poor decisions and poor throws throughout the entire game made it impossible to move the ball with any type of regularity. This team has been pretty consistent in 3rd down efficiency throughout the year, yet only converted one 3rd down out of 15 tries. There were also 0 red zone appearances. Now, this isn’t all on Dak, the Giants defensive front was getting to in the backfield on nearly every drop back. What has saved the offensive drives in prior weeks was Dak’s ability to use his feet. Last night, Dak had 1 rush for 1 yard. The ability to extend the play to find the open man simply was not there and the numerous stalled drives were a result.

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The bright spot of this game was the defense, led by Sean Lee’s 18 total tackles. This defense provided 3 takeaways and held the Giants to 260 total yards, 61 of which were on one play. That one 61 yard TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr was the one mistake this defense made on the night. The Cowboys were playing man defense so Sean Lee followed the running back, leaving the middle of the field wide open. Brandon Carr couldn’t keep up and the Safety took a horrible line and whiffed on the tackle about 10-15 yards from scrimmage. Two mistakes, one play.

Dec 11, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  New York Giants defensive end Romeo Okwara (78) sacks Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in the 1st half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

This game was about as even as you can get. One minute difference in time of possession, 260 total yards of offense for both teams, 3 turnovers for both teams, 1 big play resulting in a TD for both. The difference? The Giants made a 39 yard field goal, the Cowboys 55 yard attempt hit the cross bar. Looking forward, the Cowboys now have to make a decision. Learn and move forward. Or sulk and continue the slide. Tampa Bay has something to play for and has won 5 straight. They will be poised and ready. Will the Cowboys?

Keys to the Game Scorecard:

  • Avoid mental mistakes. Mental mistakes this week weren’t penalties, rather poor execution. Dez fumbling the ball, Dak throwing 2 interceptions (1 was his fault) and a couple dropped interceptions.
  • Play your game. The Cowboys stuck to their game plan and Zeke rushed for over 100 yards. Poor execution by the QB1 was the game changer.
  • Pressure. Eli Manning was sacked 3 times for a loss of 26 yards. He fumbled one, which the Cowboys recovered and should have had more than the one interception. Defense played perhaps their best game yet.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 35

Giants: 17

Result: WAY OFF

Cowboys: 7

Giants: 10

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 17, Vikings 15

A wise man once said, “A W is a W”. That has never been more true than right now. In what was, without question, the ugliest game of the year played by the boys in blue, they somehow figured out a way to escape with a win. Four fumbles, two were recovered by the Vikings, 10 penalties for 78 yards all seeming to come on big plays:

  • 43 yard scamper by Ezekiel Elliott: Holding by Doug Free – Drive ended 3 plays later with Lucky Whitehead lost fumble
  • Interception by Anthony Hitchens (@ MIN 39): Illegal Use of the Hands by Orlando Scandrick – Drive resulted in a Vikings punt
  • 7 yard run by Ezekiel Elliott: Clipping by Gavin Escobar. Instead of 2nd & 3, its 1st & 24, drive resulted in Dallas Punt
  • 11 yard reception by Jason Witten on 3rd & 8: Holding on Ezekiel Elliott, drive resulted in a Dallas punt 2 plays later.

Dallas did everything they could to lose this game. The Vikings defense played as expected and held this offense to 264 yards. Dak Prescott finished the day 12/18 for 139 and a touchdown for a rating of 108.3. I should note that over 50 of those 139 yards came on 1 play to Dez Bryant. What kept the Cowboys mistakes from dooming them was the failures by the Minnesota special teams. Punter Jeff Locke had a miserable day, averaging only 32 yards per punt and more than one of those punts shooting backwards for a big Dallas gain. Adam Thielen lost the ball on this punt return which led to a Dez Bryant touchdown on the next play.

The offense faced its toughest test of the year against this Vikings defense. The Vikes built their secondary the way the Cowboys built their Offensive line and it showed. Dez was able to capitalize on their one mistake for a massive reception that fell short of the end zone by 1 yard, but other than that one mistake, the secondary held the Dak Prescott in check.

Dak continued to play smart but was again taken by surprise when he was put under pressure and had the ball knocked out of his hand. If there is a knock on Dak, this is it. Perhaps it is due to the comfort generally afforded him by this offensive line. We all say how comfortable he looks in the pocket, but maybe it’s too comfortable. Dak has 4 times as many fumbles as interceptions. Sam Bradford happens to be the closest to this stat among active starting quarterbacks with 7 fumbles and 3 interceptions. Zeke had a steady game and should have broken the 100 yard mark but had a 43 yard run negated by a holding penalty, he finished the day with 20 carries for 86 yards and this TD.

Defensively, the Cowboys played well. They gave up a total of 87 rushing yards and 231 passing. Bradford completed 32/45 for an average of 5.5 yards per reception, which would rank him 54th among the 59 Quarterbacks who have attempted a pass this year. This was a result of the offensive Vikings offensive line which forced Bradford to catch and shoot the entire game.  The Cowboys played safe, made tackles and kept the offense in front of them, which led to 3 field goals until the last two minutes of the game when Sam Bradford looked like the former 1st overall pick and led the Vikings down the field with no timeouts to find the end zone and pull within 2 with 25 seconds left. Bradford and the Vikes went for 2 but Bradford’s pass sailed out the back of the end zone. With all the mentions of bad calls or over calls, the refs flat out missed one on this play which sealed the win for the Cowboys. The Cowboys pass rush got home and slapped Bradford in the jaw just after he released the ball, this should have resulted in a penalty and retry of the 2 pt conversion, instead, the pass is incomplete and the Vikings are forced to try an onside kick. Jason Witten recovered the onside kick and Dak kneeled the ball to end the game and the Cowboys win their 11th straight game.

For all the miscues by the Cowboys that kept the Vikings in this game, they found a way to pull this one out. The better team won, but didn’t deserve it. I’m going to chalk it up to being the 3rd game in 12 days, but A W is a W.

Keys to the Game Scorecard:

  • Protect the ball. 4 fumbles, lost 2. Dak continues to be taken by surprise whenever someone gets close and dropped another one, which was recovered by Zeke on a crucial 3rd and 1.
  • Run the ball. 140 yrds rushing as a team. 86 by Zeke. Zeke did have a 40 yard run that was negated by a holding by Doug Free. So, 126 yrds*!
  • Get pressure on Sam Bradford. Bradford was sacked twice for a loss of 15. He was able to get the ball out within 2 seconds on nearly every play. This kept the offense limited to little crossing routes.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 24

Vikings: 13

Result:

Cowboys: 17

Vikings: 15

GAME PREVIEW: Cowboys (10-1) @ Vikings (6-5)

Game: Thursday Night 11/30/16 7:25pm

Location: US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN

The Cowboys can clinch a playoff spot this weekend with a win and either a Tampa Bay or Washington loss. It all starts Thursday night in Minnesota at Sun Devil Stadium, a place where the Cowboys haven’t won a regular season game since their Super Bowl XXX run in 1995.

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The Cowboys offense has yet to be hindered this season, even after taking on the league’s best. They will have to do that again this week as the Vikings defense has remained solid. Their secondary, led by former Cowboy Terrence Newman, is comprised of four 1st/2nd round draft picks and is currently ranked 4th in the league in passing yards per game. Xavier Rhodes is excelling in his 3rd year alongside this year’s second rounder Mackensie Alexander. This young group of playmakers also has the 3rd most interceptions in the league with 12. It’s safe to say the Dallas passing attack is meeting its biggest challenge to date. The Cowboys are ranked 4th in the league with 407.6 yards per game and 3rd in points per game with 28.7, whereas the Vikings are only allowing 307 ypg and 17.5 ppg. Strength vs Strength. Who’s stronger? So where can the Cowboys make their biggest impact? The running game – big surprise, I know. The Vikings are 14th in rush yards allowed per game (100.2) but allowed 153 rushing yards to Bears RB Jordan Howard back at the end of October. If the Cowboys can avoid allowing this secondary to make them one dimensional, Ezekiel Elliott should be able to move the ball well enough to secure the team’s 11th win in a row.

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The Vikings offense, on the other hand, is not so well put together. Sam Bradford is throwing for 7 yards per attempt in an offense that is ranked dead last in yards per game and 24th in points per game. Bradford isn’t throwing too many interceptions (3 on the year) but that’s probably due to the fact he’s been sacked 26 times, tied for 12th most in the league. Bradford is not the QB that will burn you with his allusiveness, so getting to him and forcing him to go down is key. He is an accurate passer but will dink and dunk his way down the field instead of taking chances with the long ball. The Cowboys weakness has been it’s secondary with numerous injuries to key starters. This week, Barry Church is coming back with his cast bubble wrapped, but JJ Wilcox is set to be out with a thigh contusion. Morris Claiborne is still out with no set timetable for return, other than Jerry’s “end of season” estimation. The Vikings running game is flat out abysmal, embarrassing or whatever other term you can assign. They are averaging 2.8 yards per carry, which is dead last in the league by .6. The Cowboys run defense has been solid this season, allowing only 81.8 yards per game (3rd in the league).

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) hands off the Ezekiel Elliott (21) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

This is a winnable game. Strength vs strength, weakness vs weakness. Who is stronger? Can Dak continue to protect the ball and find the open man? Will Zeke break 100 yards for the first time since November 13th?  We shall see on Thursday night.

Keys to the Game:

  • Protect the ball. The Vikings secondary can take the ball. The Cowboys have done well not to allow that. They will face perhaps their biggest test this week.
  • Run the ball. The whole in the Vikings defense is their front 7. Exploit their weakness and take what their strength gives you in the pass game. Don’t get pretty, just play your game
  • Get pressure on Sam Bradford and force him to throw the ball. The Vikings can’t run the ball, so shut down Bradford and their offense won’t be able to score.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 24

Vikings: 13

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 31, Redskins 26

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys rolls out to pass during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

When you lose the battles of yardage, time of possession and collect 0 turnovers, you are supposed to lose. That is exactly what happened on Thanksgiving Day. Kirk Cousins threw for 449 yards (almost 100 yards more than the entire Cowboys offense) and 3 TDs for a passer rating of over 120, DeSean Jackson burnt the secondary worse than my turkey (thanks broken meat thermometer), the Redskins held on to the ball for 7 minutes longer than the Cowboys. Yet somehow, the Cowboys won that game and it wasn’t really as close as the score would lead you to believe. The Cowboys won this game thanks to the kickers, the one area of the game that the Cowboys won. Dan Bailey didn’t miss anything and Dustin Hopkins did. Two missed field goals (43 and 55 yards) in the first half which left the Redskins chasing those points the remainder of the game. They also failed to convert a 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter thanks to Sean Lee’s interception. I don’t know about the rest of you, but its games like this that remind me just how good Dan Bailey is and how bad our kicking game was before Mr. Bailey graced us with his presence.

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Offensively, the Cowboys could do pretty much whatever they wanted. The Cowboys punted on 2 their 9 drives converting 4 into touchdowns and 1 into a Field Goal (46 yards). Dak Prescott ended his day completing 17 of 24 passes for 195 yards with 1 TD and a Passer Rating of 108.9. Dak completed 2 passes over 20 yards, the longest pass went to Dez in the 4th quarter for 26 yards. Ezekiel Elliott ran for only 97 yards, the second straight game he has been held to under 100.  I say ‘only’ due to the fact that on the first drive alone he ran for 47. Going into this game I expected Zeke to eat to his fill but somehow, the team only rushed for 163 yards. The Cowboys were able to play nearly error free football on offense the entire game and as a result walked away with their 10th straight win.

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Redskins’ rookie running back, Robert Kelley, was asked this week about the Redskins/Cowboys rivalry and he said, ‘Nobody here likes the Dallas Cowgirls’. Kelley was beat up by said ‘Cowgirls’ the entire day finishing the day with 37 yards on 14 carries for an average of 2.6 ypc and a long run of 8 yards.  Kelley was obviously feeling pretty good about himself at the time of his comments as he had averaged over 100 yards over the previous 3 weeks. The Cowboys defensive line continued to hold the opponent’s run game in check while failing to get anything resembling a pass rush. Kirk Cousins was able to drop back 53 times without being sacked even once. Cousins completed 41 of those 53 passes for 449 yards, 3 TDs and no ‘official’ interceptions (Sean Lee intercepted a pass on a 2 pt conversion attempt). DeSean Jackson finished the day with 118 yards and Jordan Reed had 95 yards. The Cowboys secondary was exposed yet again allowing over 400 yards through the air for the second time in 3 weeks. Good news is, safety Barry Church is set to return to practice on Sunday ahead of Thursday’s matchup with the Minnesota Vikings.

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Keys to the Game Scorecard:

  • RUN! The Cowboys ran for 163 yards as a team, far less than they could have. The Redskins were burnt on the first drive but quickly got things together, holding Zeke to 50 yards over the remainder of the game.
  • Don’t let DeSean Jackson get behind you. DeSean Jackson finished for 118 yards, 67 of them coming on 1 catch when he got rookie CB Anthony Brown to bite on a small hitch in which he turned into 10 yards of separation.
  • Dominate time of Possession. 35:00-25:00. Well, I was close on the split, just in the wrong direction. The Redskins held the ball for over 33 minutes vs the Cowboys 26.

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WEEK12 PREVIEW: Redskins (6-3-1) @ Cowboys (9-1)

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A lot has changed since the last time these two teams met in week 2. One team left 1-1 and the other 0-2 and they have lost a combined 1 game since. The week 2 matchup featured a Cowboys rookie backfield that was just beginning to come into its own and a Kirk Cousins that was the focal point of everyone’s laughter. The interception by Barry Church 6 yards into the end zone spelled disaster in the 4th quarter as the Cowboys drove down the field to score the game’s last touchdown to secure a 4 point lead. Just to put everyone back in the mindset after that game, here is my opening paragraph:

After the Cowboys win in Landover, one thing is for certain: the Redskins have issues. Kirk Cousins threw for 364 yards and 1 TD, but should have had 3 more easy ones as Jamison Crowder and DeSean Jackson both had breakaways well past the Cowboy secondary only to be over thrown. Redskins Running Back, Matt Jones, had a good game as well rushing for 61 yards on only 13 carries. Why Jay Gruden doesn’t run more is beyond me. Not saying Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is perfect, but he did try to be less predictable with an onside kick in the middle of the game, which caught both teams off guard when the ball didn’t travel the 10 yards required. I want to feel good about this win, I do, but watching all the blatant missed opportunities by Washington makes it difficult.

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Fast forward 10 weeks and the Redskins appear to have righted the ship. All those missed opportunities aren’t missed anymore as the Redskins rank 3rd in the league in passing yards per game and 9th in scoring. Kirk Cousins has a 98.8 passer rating on the season and only 4 interceptions since week 2. The Cowboys secondary had a hard time containing DeSean Jackson and will be even more hard pressed this week without Barry Church and Morris Claiborne helping cover the talented receiving core of this Washington team. The Skins rushing attack is no slouch either, ranking 10th with 117.1 ypg. This team will score, but to win, they need to score over 24 points per game as their defense is among the bottom feeders of the league allowing 23.3 points per game.

The Redskins aren’t the only ones to have improved since week 2. The Cowboys star running back has gone from averaging 67 ypg to 121 ypg since and Dak Prescott has earned the starting quarterback job over a healthy Tony Romo. The Cowboys put up over 100 yards rushing on the top ranked Ravens rush defense last week and will look to continue that domination this week vs the 22nd ranked Redskins D.

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This game will be decided by which high powered offense can beat the weaker defense the worst. The Redskins vaunted pass attack vs the injured Cowboys secondary or the Cowboys vicious running game vs a bottom feeder Redskins front 7? What the Cowboys have going is their strength also keeps their opponents strength off the field. The Cowboys need to run the ball well and punish this Redskins defense by way of numerous 7-8 minute drives in order to prevent their own weakness from being too exposed.

Keys to the Game:

  • RUN! Get the Offensive line moving downhill and wear the Redskins defense out. The longer the Cowboys have the ball, the less time Kirk Cousins has to throw to DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder.
  • Don’t let DeSean Jackson get behind you. With Morris Claiborne and Barry Church still out, look for the Redskins to attack this Dallas secondary early and often. We saw different Redskins WRs behind the coverage on numerous plays in the week 2 matchup only to have Cousins overthrow them
  • For the sake of having a 3rd key: Dominate time of Possession. This needs to be as lopsided as possible. 35:00-25:00 or more.

Prediction:

Redskins: 24

Cowboys: 31

For more information on The Landry Letters Blog, please visit www.thelandryletters.com

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 27, Ravens 17

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 20: Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown after catching a pass from Dak Prescott during the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Cowboys have won 9 straight for the first time in franchise history. Let that soak in… Staubach, Aikman, Romo or any of the 5 Super Bowl teams never won 9 in a row. Despite starting slow and throwing the ball more than they have at any point this season, the Cowboys took over the second half and the offensive line opened the holes needed to mount several big drives. The last 2 drives combined for over 14 minutes powered by Dak Prescott who completed 13 passes in a row that spanned the final 3 drives. Overall, Prescott completed 27 of 36 for 301 yards (second straight 300 yard game) for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions resulting in a Passer Rating of 127.2. Over this 9 game winning streak, Prescott has a Passer Rating of 116.4. Zeke Elliott was held to only 97 yards against the number 1 ranked run defense in the NFL who had allowed an average of 76 yards per game so far this season.

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While the offense was pretty bland yet again in the first half (punting on their first 3 drives), they were able to spread the ‘sauce’ around in the second half, scoring on their final 5 drives and covering 367 of their 417 total yards over those drives. The Ravens were cocky and arrogant as they took the lead quickly and began mocking the Cowboys by throwing up the X after the Terrance West TD run in the first quarter and copying Zeke’s ‘feed me’ motion as they amassed 71 yards on the ground in their first 2 drives. Dez Bryant said after the game, those antics go unnoticed by the team who is only focused on doing their job. Regardless, the antics stopped quickly half way into the second quarter when the Cowboys began to find their groove.

zeke-ravens

As well as the Cowboys have been playing in the second halves this season, there are several areas they can improve defensively. Sunday marked the 3rd game in a row without a takeaway after stealing 9 through their first 6 games. Down the stretch, against their divisional foes, that has to change if they are going to continue this streak and secure the division. Sean Lee acknowledged this after the game, “The good part is we came back, we rallied, we played better. But we have to get turnovers. If we get turnovers and get the ball back to our offense, these games can be a little bit easier because of how well they’re playing.” Another area in which they can improve is in eliminating the big plays. The Ravens first TD drive was a result of 3 big runs of 20, 16 and 18 yards.

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The Cowboys are playing very well, but with 3 of their final 6 games coming against divisional rivals in the strongest division in the NFL (.688 win pctg), it will be no easy task. The Redskins come to town on Thursday afternoon fresh off their 42-24 rout of Green Bay on Sunday Night behind Kirk Cousins’ 145.8 Passer Rating. The time to enjoy their 9th straight win is over. The quest for their 10th begins today.

 

ROMO TO COWBOYS: “Give me a chance…”

Thursday afternoon, SI.com broke the news that Tony Romo had reportedly requested a chance to win his job back from the rookie sensation, Dak Prescott. Unfortunately for him, the Cowboys rejected his proposal, and the veteran instead conceded the team to Prescott in an emotional press conference on Tuesday.

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The Cowboys have clearly chosen to ride the hot hand of Dak Prescott for the rest of the year, but no rookie quarterback has ever won the super bowl as a starter. Did the Cowboys make a mistake by not allowing Romo, a 14 year veteran, to at least try to win his job back? We will find out soon enough. Please comment and give us your thoughts.

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For more details on Romo’s rejection, check out the Sports Illustrated article here.

 

 

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 35, Steelers 30

The Cowboys are on a historic pace. For the first time since 1975, they have won 8 straight games. Let that sink in for a minute. Neither Tony Romo nor Troy Aikman ever won 8 in a row. This team is clicking on all cylinders and as a result, we finally have an end to the quarterback controversy. Jerry Jones said after the game that Tony Romo will be active next week…as Dak Prescott’s backup. “I think the longer (Prescott) plays like this, the more we have a chance to have another win,” Jones told reporters. “Everybody here wants to do only really one thing, is win… to be able to come out of here with a win just obliterates any thought about any of the issues that you might have as to who’s out on the field.” Controversy squashed.

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Dak Prescott finished 22 of 32 for a season high 319 yards and 2 touchdowns for a passer rating of 121.7 bringing his season average to 106.2. The only 2 games he has not broken the 100 mark is game 1 against the Giants (69.4) and against the Eagles (79.8). Dak continues to keep the game moving forward at his pace. He has settled down and refuses to force the ball to any one receiver. Dez Bryant played for his dad who passed away Saturday from an “unspecified illness” and made his father proud catching 6 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown on a 50 yard bomb from Prescott. Dez isn’t the player we have been used to seeing over his career, but he has the ability to dial it up at any moment. His hands aren’t as solid as they have been and seeing Antonio Brown on the other side further brings in to question just how ‘elite’ Dez really is. As Dak and Dez play more together, the timing will come on those fades in the end zone, but even on the 50 yard TD, he bobbled the ball for several steps before finally reeling it in. Down the stretch, Dez needs to find his hands and become the man that he was in 2014 in order for this team to make a deep push in the playoffs. Having this offensive line ‘Parting the Red Sea’ for Ezekiel Elliott helps alleviate some of the pressure as Elliott rushed for 114 yards on 21 carries resulting in 2 touchdowns as well as taking an 83 yard screen pass to the house for another. Watching this offense have their way with defensive fronts in the second half is a thing of beauty and something you don’t see anywhere else in the NFL.

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This game showed the holes in the defense. Antonio Brown caught 14 of his 18 targets for 154 yards and 1 touchdown, proving that an elite receiver will get his catches regardless of coverage. Big Ben Roethlisberger was back to his Hall of Fame form completing 37 of 46 for 408 yards, 3 touchdowns and a passer rating of 125.4. The bright spot of this defense? They held Le’Veon Bell to just 57 yards on the ground on 17 carries. He did get another 77 through the air however and with Barry Church and Morris Claiborne still out for a few more weeks, look for teams to put the ball in the air even more. I will give Leon McFadden some credit, though. On the fake spike play that fooled the entire defense, it was McFadden trying to cover one of the most elite receivers in the NFL in Antonio Brown. Big Ben made a perfect throw and Brown scored, but he showed some hustle, so here’s an atta boy!

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Allegiances aside, this was one of the best games, if not the best game in the NFL this season. It had 7 lead changes, 5 big plays over 30 yards and 3 touchdowns scored in the final 2 minutes. It also had a massive teaching moment for my 2 boys (ages 8 and 9), when at the end of the game I was able to show them why going for 2 after every touchdown is a bad idea and horrible strategy. Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin, failed to attempt an extra point and also failed to convert any of the 4 2 point conversions. As such, instead of trailing 35-34 and only needing a Field Goal, they were forced to score a touchdown. Not only that, but it’s anybody’s guess at how those last 2 minutes would have played out had he not tried to go for 2 on every touchdown. My oldest boy, Mason, goes for two in Madden every time and refuses to see the downside. He gets it now. Thanks Mike Tomlin!

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 35, Browns 10

They are who we thought they were. This game went exactly as expected. The Cowboys came out hot, scored Touchdowns and punted twice. The Browns, on the other hand, had 33 yards in the second half. This no name group of orphans on the Cowboys’ Defense continuously steps up and embraces the ‘next man up’ mentality. Even without S Barry Church and CB Morris Claiborne, the Browns only had 222 total yards and were 1-9 on third downs. As Defensive Coordinator, Rod Marinelli, would put it they were “solid, didn’t break, off the charts”.  Coach is a man of many words.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott throws in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Dak played solid as well, completing 21 of 27 for 247 yards and 3 TDs with a career best 141.8 passer rating. What impressed me the most about Dak was his ability to reel Dez back in after a couple of missed Pass Interference calls. Dez was fuming as he went to line back up and Dak got him to keep his cool and focus. Dez finished with only 1 catch for 19 yards, but said, “At the end of the day we got that W”.

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Back in the spot light this week was the future Hall of Famer himself, Jason Witten. Witten recorded his first 100 yard game since 2013 with 8 catches, 134 yards and 1 TD. This game wasn’t flashy, in fact, the longest run was 15 yards. Exactly the game that we needed, methodical, consistent, and about 30 minutes shorter than all the other games. Get in, get out and get home with the W. Zeke only rushed for 92 yards on 18 carries, but the stats were skewed as the majority of the starters sat most of the 4th quarter. The last drive of the game took 7:48 seconds, included 2 4th down conversions and 2 QB kneels from the victory formation inside the red zone.  The Cowboys eclipsed the 400 yard total offense for the 6th straight time, setting yet another record. The biggest stat of the day was Time of Possession. The Cowboys controlled the ball twice as long as their opponent (39:39-20:21) which allowed them to keep the clock running.

Defensively, Maliek Collins recorded his first 2 career sacks and after the game said he should have had a third. This team is the first “Team” we’ve seen. Nobody flashy, just a team of hard working guys who are in the right place and don’t beat themselves.

Things to Note:

  • Dak Prescott is the third rookie quarterback with a seven game winning streak since the 1970 NFL merger joining Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh 2004) and Kyle Orton (Chicago 2005)
  • Ezekiel Elliott is the third player in NFL history to rush for 87-plus yards and seven touchdowns in first career games, joining Eric Dickerson (1983) and Adrian Peterson (2007).
  • Sunday’s win gave the Cowboys their seventh straight win – the longest winning streak during a single season since winning seven during the 2007 regular season, and tied the second-longest win streak during the regular season in team history.

Keys to the Game Scorecard:

  • Feed Zeke: Zeke sat the majority of the 4th Finished with 18 carries, 92 yards and 2 TDs. Finished as a team with 168 rushing yards with Alfred Morris gaining 56 yards on 17 carries.
  • Play Smart: David Irving was ejected for fighting 5 plays into the game, and that was it. No turnovers, no sacks allowed. Only 4 penalties for 38 yards.
  • Stay Healthy: No new injuries. Dak, Zeke, Witten, Tyron all got a break in the 4th quarter to prevent any unnecessary risks.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 34

Browns: 6

Result:

Cowboys: 35

Browns: 10

Pretty close again! The Browns converted 1 of those field goals into a TD and the Boys got all TDs. Dan Bailey was 0/0 on field goal attempts.

GAME RECAP: Cowboys 29, Eagles 23

Moment Not “TOO TALL” For Witten, Cowboys

jason-witten2

On a night where Jason Witten breaking Ed “Too Tall” Jones’ record for Consecutive starts by a Cowboy looked to be the only good thing to happen, it was none other than Witten himself to secure the game winning catch in OT. The future Hall of Famer had been held to just 1 catch for 11 yards when Dak scrambled and found him WIDE open in the end zone. Throughout the game, Jason Garrett continued to have out of body experiences, diverting from his usual vanilla play calling with trick plays and 4th down conversions in OT. Punter Chris Jones flashed his speed on a fake punt running 30 yards and picking up the first down before stepping out of bounds. Cole Beasley showed off his arm by over throwing Terrence Williams on a screen- WR pass. With all the drama and endless headlines, Dak Prescott was yet again the main story. Prescott finished with 287 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, completing 19 of 39 passes. Through 2 and a half quarters, Dak looked to be opening the door for Tony Romo’s return. The return of Dez Bryant might have had something to do with it as he targeted Bryant 14 times while only completing 4 and leaving Cole Beasley completely out of the equation. Dak repeatedly forced the ball into bad situations instead of taking what the defense was giving him.

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Facing a 10 point deficit in the second half, the game plan went out the window and Dak became the player we have become accustomed to. He spread the ball well, got Cole Beasley involved and Zeke started finding holes. In overtime, Dak completed all 5 of his passes and marched the team 75 yards down the field to win the game on a Romo-esque type scramble to Romo’s best friend. This was the game that Dak finally looked like a rookie, but under the lights in prime time, against a division rival for sole possession of first place in the division and first place in the NFC (at least till tonight when the Vikings play the Bears), he was able to turn it on and get it done. The entire team is rallying behind the rookie passer unlike anything we’ve seen, and it is getting harder to argue that this is still Romo’s team. This, a night that was Dak’s worst, might be the night that solidifies his spot as leader of this offense.

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Defensively, the game ball goes to Sean Lee. Lee was, yet again, everywhere the entire night finishing with 11 tackles, 2 of which were for a loss. The play of the game came with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  Wentz passed short right to Darren Sproles only to have Lee immediately bury him for a 6 yard loss. This took the Eagles out of field goal range and forced a punt, keeping it a 7 point game. The following drive was 90 yards ending in the game tying touchdown to Dez Bryant. The defense stepped up and made plays when it counted even after losing Morris Claiborne (groin) and Barry Church (fractured arm). The Eagles final 4 drives resulted in a lost fumble and 3 punts. The Cowboys bend but don’t break D came through again and to date have not given up more than 23 points in a game and is 4th in the league in points allowed (18.6/game). This no name group of ‘orphans’ is playing as a single unit and having fun doing it.

Keys to the Game Scorecard:

Find a way to get in the backfield: 3 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss and 1 fumble recovery by Tyrone Crawford.

Run: The Eagles stacked the box and begged Dak to beat them. As a result, Zeke only rushed for 96 yards and Dak played poorly under pressure for the majority of the game only completing 48.7% of his passes.

Get Dez started early: This was definitely the focus of the Cowboys game plan and to a fault. Dak was obviously forcing the ball to Dez instead of reading the defense and getting the ball to the open man. Dez did finish with 4 catches on 14 targets for 113 yards and a TD.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 24

Eagles: 10

Result:

Cowboys: 29

Eagles: 23

BREAKING NEWS: It’s always been Romo’s team

AMERICA’S TEAM AGAIN

This has been a very exciting year for Cowboy Nation. The Cowboys are 5-1 on the season, the offense is humming along like a well-oiled machine, and surprisingly, the make-shift defense hasn’t been too shabby either. “America’s Team” appears to be well on their way to actually earning the nickname after decades of habitual disappointment.

But what has been the root of their success? Well, unless you’re oblivious to all social media, it’s pretty clear that the bulk of the fan base gives credit to Dak Prescott for the Cowboys’ miraculous resurrection – which is not unwarranted. Dak has emerged as the clear future of the Dallas Cowboys, touting a passer rating of 103.9 with 1,486 yards and 7 touchdowns. What’s more impressive is that he takes care of the football, with only 1 interception (albeit 4 fumbles) through 6 games. He’s clearly a guy with a knack for managing football games and piling up the W’s, which is why football pundits and arm-chair quarterbacks across the nation are screaming at the top of their lungs: “Do NOT sideline the Dak-Attack for old-man-Romo!”

Aug 19, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) on the field during the third quarter against the Miami Dolphins at AT&T Stadium. Dallas won 41-14. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

FOOTBALL PUNDIT-MANIA

It didn’t take long for a majority of the football “experts” to abandon Tony at the train station and load up on the Dak-Express. Troy Aikman, Steven A. Smith, Phil Simms, Skip Bayless and even Brett Favre are all in favor of Romo donning a headset for the remainder of the year (just to name a few examples). But the sports-media giants are not the only publications chiming in on the debate… With the controversy garnishing nationwide attention, even publications like The Wall Street Journal have tried to capitalize on the hysteria by throwing their opinion into the mix.

WARNING: At this point in the article, I need to ask everyone to take a minute to relax and search for that happy, zen-like place in your mind. Why do we need to relax, you ask? Great question – thanks for asking! It’s because I’m about to step away from the Dak-mania crowd and go full Romo-sexual, which apparently is a very unpopular thing to do. According to recent polls, 78.35% of you have either 1) Renamed your dog (or son) after Dak Prescott, 2) Stopped listening to Carrie Underwood because she once dated Romo, or 3) Re-purposed your Romo jersey as floor mop – But please folks, try to remain calm. We’ve got some important facts to discuss…

Well guess what? The majority of the pundits are simply dead-wrong. Yes, that’s right – I’m talking like forecast from The Weather Channel kind-of-wrong. I mean, Skip Bayless once claimed Tim Tebow was going to take the Jets to a Super Bowl! Are you kidding me?

The problem is most sports commentators, much like stock market analysts, don’t really aim to be “right”. They only try to make the safest bet and avoid being “wrong”. For example, in early 2007, Blackberry, Ltd. was plowing through the competition in the telecommunications industry. The success of the Blackberry cell phone had led the company stock price from $2.00 in 2002 to $230 in 2007. Market analysts at the time declared the company was unstoppable and encouraged investors to continue “riding the wave”. Well, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen a Blackberry in quite some time. Of course, Apple, Inc. released the iPhone in 2007 and quickly brushed Blackberry aside as they gained the bulk share of the cell phone industry. The analysts had been short-sighted and encouraged investors into what appeared to be the safe-bet due to the recent success of the stock. Hopefully you see where I am going with this. To be clear, I’m not saying that Dak is about to fall off into oblivion as Blackberry did – We’ve certainly found the future face of the franchise with Dak. I’m just pointing out that pundits and analysts are notoriously sheepish, and that the ability of the competition should be considered whether you’re making investment decisions or deciding which quarterback to start.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’ve got some real juevos, shares of Blackberry, Ltd. can currently be swiped up at the low, low price of around $7.00 a share…

NO R.E.S.P.E.C.T

Few people realize or give any credit to Tony’s actual accomplishments. In our “what have you done for me lately” society, fans and critics alike seem to dismiss his top-tier ability because he hasn’t been able to lead the Cowboys to new championships. But the stats can’t be ignored or pushed aside. When it comes to passer rating, Tony Romo comes in at 3rd on the list (All-Time). Yup, that’s 3rd in the entire history of the NFL, not just among active QB’s. Just to list a few names who fall below Tony: Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Ben Rothlisberger, etc, etc…

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I can already hear the Romo-Haters now: “Oh wow [sarcasm], he’s 3rd all-time in passer rating, but Romo can’t seem to close out games, that’s why he’s a loser!” Well, the haters are incorrect once again because our boy Tony happens to hold the 2nd highest 4th Quarter Passer Rating OF ALL TIME. Again, that’s an all-time stat (see above list for QB’s who fall below him).

To be honest, Romo has significant standing in practically every major category of the all-time stats, but he never gets credit for his entire body of work – only the memorable losses seem to come to the minds of the pundits when they form their opinions.

2014 RING A BELL?

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) carries the ball against the Chicago Bears in the third quarter at Soldier Field in Chicago, Thursday, December 4, 2014. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

Probably one of the most over-looked reasons for starting Romo when he is fully healthy is due to the success the Cowboys had in 2014. With DeMarco Murray in 2014, the Cowboys were able to bruise their way into leading the league in time of possession (54.69%), which kept the mediocre defense off the field as much as possible. In 2016, the Cowboys have looked very similar with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, coming in at 2nd in the league in TOP (55%). This not only limits the vulnerability of our defense, but it significantly opens up the down-field passing game for the quarterback. Dak Prescott has been the biggest benefactor of this, and I firmly believe it’s one of the main reasons that he’s had success this year.

But Tony Romo has more capability to push the ball down-field in the passing game than Dak Prescott does. If there has been any “flaw” in Dak’s performances this year, it’s that he has preferred to check down to the third and fourth pass options and hasn’t really challenged the defensive backs that he’s faced. Dak may have gotten away with this during the first 6 games, but we’ve played some very mediocre teams with a 17-24 combined record – he won’t get away with that kind of strategy down the stretch or in the playoffs. With Romo at QB, he’d be able to stretch the defense down field which would create gaping holes more frequently for the run game. He did it in 2014 for DeMarco and he’ll do it again for Zeke, if afforded the opportunity.

PLAYOFFS! PLAYOFFS?

Admittedly, Romo’s early playoff resume doesn’t exactly impress. As a matter of fact, one of the most common arguments I hear from Romo-haters is that “Tony is a choke-artist in the playoffs.” The “choke-artist” label for Romo first surfaced after he botched the snap on a game-winning field goal during the 2006 playoffs against the Seahawks. I can understand why this debacle would be permanently ingrained into the minds of the fan-base, and the Cowboys’ successive playoff appearances in ’07 and ’09 did little to restore his image either, but he certainly can’t shoulder all of the blame. The 2014 playoffs, however, are a much different story.

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Every time I hear someone accuse Romo for the Cowboys’ quick exit from the 2014 playoffs, I have to question their knowledge of the game. After leading the ‘Boys to yet another 4th quarter comeback win against the Lions in the NFC Wildcard game, Romo was brilliant again against the Packers. He may have only thrown 19 passes, but he connected on 15 of them for 191 yards, 2 touchdowns and a Passer Rating of 143.6 (which is the 25th best PR in playoff history).  Many will remember the game as the “Dez Bryant Catch/No-Catch” game, but the truth is, if DeMarco Murray had never fumbled in the 3rd quarter (leading to a Packers’ FG), or if the Dan Bailey field goal at the end of the 2nd quarter wasn’t blocked, the “Dez Bryant Catch/No-Catch” would have never even happened. Instead of going for it on that 4th and 2, the Cowboys would have just kicked a field goal for the win.

I understand that toying with the starting quarterback of a 5-1 (potentially 6-1) team is a scary proposition for any NFL fan base, but with how the league is shaping up this year, the Cowboys have a very real opportunity to make a deep run in the playoffs and contend for their sixth Super Bowl ring. Dak has been outstanding, and he’s certainly solidified his role as the future of the franchise, but let’s not lose sight of the forest through the trees. This IS and ALWAYS HAS BEEN Tony Romo’s team.

Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo celebrates a touchdown runby DeMarco Murray during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

WEEK 8 PREVIEW: Eagles @ Cowboys

Game Time: 7:30 (NBC – SNF)

Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX

Line: Dallas, -4.5

In a league begging for conversation topics, I was really trying hard to find something to spotlight in this game. And not because there are too few, it’s quite the opposite here in Dallas.  In this Sunday Night Football matchup between league rivals, you have a 5-1 Cowboys team facing off against a 4-2 Eagles team, both of which are starting rookie quarterbacks. Add the fact that Cowboys’ long time quarterback, Tony Romo, actually practiced for the first time since training camp on Thursday and you are pretty much guaranteed to see and hear plenty about the QB debate during the national broadcast. Is this Dak’s last game? This game will tell us. If the Cowboys win by 14, Dak has a rating of 100+ and Zeke rushes for 150, it will be really hard to pull him. A Cowboys loss, on the other hand, makes it really easy for the front office and coaching staff to put Romo back in and let him get a shot at a ring. Needless to say, there are plenty of story lines leading into Sunday Night.

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On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys will look to stop the run and force Carson Wentz to move his feet. When Wentz can hang in the pocket, he can deliver a nice pass. However, when he is forced to move while throwing, he tends to throw flat footed and rely on his arm causing the ball to sail. Last week we saw the defense rush 3 and drop 8. The Packers didn’t have a running back for most of the game, so this made sense. This week, the Eagles have two in Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles, both of which can hurt you. That said, the Eagles are ranked 17th in the league in rushing with 111/ypg. On paper, this Eagles offense doesn’t look like a 4-2 team. Their defense, however, is a whole ‘nother story, allowing only 307/ypg (5th in the league) and 14.7 points per game (3rd in the league).

Offensively, Dak and Zeke have this team rolling and Dez Bryant is coming back. The Eagles will need to pick their poison and are going to really need to think about their choice. Their run defense is ranked 24th in the league allowing 4.5 yards per carry and their starting defensive tackle, Bennie Logan, is might not suit up. If that happens, Zeke is going to have a field day. The only way to stop this from happening is to load the box, leaving 1:1 with Dez outside. This might be the day Dak posts his first 300 yard game.

Oct 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Keys to the Game:

Find a way to get in the backfield: Doing this will give the running backs less room to move and force Carson Wentz to move his feet. Over the last two weeks, teams have been able to do this and Wentz has looked more like a rookie. The Offensive line isn’t as good as the Cowboys have faced in the first 6 weeks, so if there was a matchup that allowed a rush, this is it.

Run: The Eagles defense as a whole ranks in the top 5 in the league in yards per game and points allowed, however, the run defense is ranked 24th. Feed Zeke. Force the Eagles to stop him and by doing so freeing up the receivers. Zeke or Dak should have a big game, which one depends on the Eagles preference.

Get Dez started early: With Dez set to start for the first time in 4 weeks, look for him to get some early receptions in order to kick off the dust. If the Eagles decide to shut down Dez, look for Cole Beasley to have another big game.

Prediction:

Cowboys: 24

Eagles: 10

The New Look 2017 NBA: Southeast Division (Part 6 of 6)

Atlanta Hawks

Image result for atlanta hawks dwight howard

Starting Five: C: Dwight Howard PF: Paul Millsap SF: Kent Bazemore SG: Kyle Korver PG: Dennis Schroder

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 4 seed; Out; Out

The Hawks lost Al Horford and Jeff Teague, and replaced them by moving Schroder from the bench to the starting lineup and signing a hometown hero, Dwight Howard. Both of these seem like downgrades to me, which will make their playoff hopes even more difficult in an improving Eastern Conference. Dwight Howard is one of the greatest physical specimens that the NBA has ever seen, but between the ears he isn’t much more than a college player on the court. Because of that immaturity, Howard requires a coach that can get him to make the best choices for the good of the team, all the while making Howard think it was his own idea. Stan Van Gundy has to be at the top of that list, since he actually accomplished that in Orlando, but I’m not sure how many other coaches could. Budenholzer will have a shot at it, and will definitely be an upgrade over any of the previous nine head coaches he has played for in his career (except Van Gundy).

Schroder is not a huge downgrade from Teague, and they have a seasoned veteran backup point guard in Jarrett Jack. Jack has been known to come up big in late game situations, just ask the Golden State Warriors, who have been on both sides of his antics. Atlanta’s biggest issue this year will be their lack of shooting. Kyle Korver’s three point shooting of 39.8% last year was almost ten percent lower than the year before. While I assume the Hawks see that stat trending back to his norm this year, they do not have anyone else on the roster that shoots over 35% from long range. What would surprise me more, the Hawks making the playoffs or Dwight Howard actually being an enjoyable teammate? Definitely the former, and that says a lot since Dwight Howard seems to be one of the toughest guys to get along with in an NBA locker room.

Charlotte Hornets

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Starting Five: C: Cody Zeller PF: Marvin Williams SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SG: Nicolas Batum PG: Kemba Walker

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 5 seed; Out; Out

The Hornets were tied for the third best record in the East and they’re a young team, of course they are going to get better this year. Not so fast, losing your second and third leading scorers in Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin, and not replacing them with anyone of significance, will not be very helpful. No, Marco Belinelli is not a player of any significance. The biggest issue this year for the Hornets will be their lack of depth. They have one of the worst second lineups in the league.

MKG will be back this year after two shoulder injuries, and will be a great counterpart to Nicolas Batum on the wing. Those four long arms will make passing through this defense very difficult. The dire playoff hopes for the Hornets are due to the front office, and there really are not any trade chips they can use to improve apart from future draft picks. I want to see Charlotte back in the postseason, especially after the exhilarating series with the Heat last year, but I see the more experienced Bulls and youthful Bucks edging them out.

Miami Heat

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Starting Five: C: Hassan Whiteside PF: Josh McRoberts SF: Justise Winslow SG: Josh Richardson PG: Goran Dragic

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 7 seed (if Bosh is healthy); Out; Out

The 2016-17 Miami Heat will be difficult to watch, think back to the 2007-08 Heat team when Wade was injured and they won 15 games. Okay, it may not be that bad, but it will be closer to that than the 48 wins they had last year. As if losing Dwyane Wade wasn’t enough, now it looks as if Chris Bosh’s career may be over. Bosh keeps saying he is not done yet, but that seems to be more wishful thinking than an actual medical opinion. Bosh is a great competitor and truly a pro’s pro, but no Heat fan (or hater) wants to see the unimaginable happen to him.

Hassan Whiteside will now get to see how it feels to get paid as a superstar, without any of the talent. Get ready for the boos and chants whenever he does not play up to that near $100 million contract. Justise Winslow will also get to find out how hard it is to play on the wing in the NBA when there is not a future Hall of Famer on the other side. There aren’t many teams I enjoy seeing suffer more than the Miami Heat, so I may DVR a few games here and there this season just to watch one of the
worst teams in the NBA lose.

Orlando Magic

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Starting Five: C: Nikola Vucevic PF: Serge Ibaka SF: Aaron Gordon SG: Evan Fournier PG: Elfrid Payton

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 8 seed; Out; Out

The Magic have a multitude of raw talent and athleticism, and if I had to start a football team with an NBA team, they would probably be my choice. Orlando will be a scary place to play this season because opposing players will feel like Monday morning NFL players the day after the game. With a frontcourt that consists of Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka, and Aaron Gordon, slighter guards may choose to pull up for a mid-range jumper more often than not.

The trade to send Oladipo to the Thunder in exchange for Serge Ibaka seemed to benefit both teams, but it was somewhat confusing when the Magic signed Bismack Biyombo two weeks later. They are essentially the same player, except Ibaka has a better jumper and Bismack is more aggressive on the offensive boards. Orlando has a good spread of talent among every position, with each position possessing complementary skills to the other, but they are very inexperienced. This may be a team that can make it to the second round of the playoffs, but not for at least two years.

Washington Wizards

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Starting Five: C: Marcin Gortat PF: Markieff Morris SF: Otto Porter Jr. SG: Bradley Beal PG: John Wall

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; Out; 5 seed

The Wizards are as dysfunctional as they are talented. It is never a good sign when your two stars can’t stand each other, on or off the court. John Wall hates to see to his counterpart in the backcourt making $10 million more per year, while missing an average of 20 games per season. That’s right, hometown DC may have lost the Durant sweepstakes, but they did find someone to give a max contract to. Beal now has 125 million reasons to stay healthy and play a full 82 for the Wizards through 2021. With Wall’s speed and Beal’s sharp shooting, they can definitely be one of the best backcourts in the NBA, but that has yet to be seen. Hopefully Scott Brooks can get them to play nice on the court, like he did with Durant and Westbrook in OKC.

The frontcourt is not void of drama either with Markieff Morris upset that his twin brother isn’t able to fill the top bunk at home. Hopefully, the Morris twins got plenty of family time in over the summer so the will be able to finish the season without an episode of separation anxiety. Ian Mahinmi was a good pickup in the offseason. While he will never be a starting center in the NBA, he is a very capable backup. The key to the Wizards making the playoffs will really depend on health. Even if they stay healthy, don’t plan on seeing them in the second round, mostly because of lack of maturity and cohesiveness.

The New Look 2017 NBA: Central Division (Part 5 of 6)

Chicago Bulls

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Starting Five: C: Robin Lopez PF: Taj Gibson SF: Jimmy Butler SG: Dwyane Wade PG: Rajon Rondo

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; out; 8 seed

Its not quite clear yet if Wade is going to Chicago to retire at home or to try to keep winning, because if he wanted to win, Chicago isn’t exactly the best option. Wade gets to play in front of family and friends while making a lot more than the Heat were willing to pay him. Since the Chicago winters are about 60 degrees colder than in Miami, he might be joining Lebron on that midseason sabbatical.

Team chemistry is going to be a huge obstacle for the 2017 Bulls. Who knows how Fred Hoiberg plans to deal with Rondo and Butler going back and forth in practice, the locker room, and games. Street gangs in Chicago will be watching games together in suites at the United Center before this group of players begins to even resemble a cohesive team. This may be the push the front
office will need to put Jimmy Butler on the trade block, where they will definitely get offers from either Minnesota or Boston.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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Starting Five: C: Tristan Thompson PF: Kevin Love SF: Lebron James SG: Iman Shumpert PG: Kyrie Irving

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 3 seed; 1 seed

The only question if the Cavs are going to be the number 1 seed in the East, is how much does Lebron want it. After six straight finals, the gold medal in the 2012 Olympics, and finally bringing home the hardware for his hometown, he may have a sense of accomplishment that battles with his competitive drive. It’s easy to come back and try to succeed after failed attempts, but after Lebron has reached his goal, it is going to be much harder to have the same determination. After the free agency move the Warriors made, to go get KD to try to beat him, Lebron may want to prove that it doesn’t matter who is put against him, Lebron will persevere.

The most interesting storyline to watch, is what will the Cavs do with Kevin Love? Kyrie is showing that he is definitely going to be a star in this league, so that really leaves three possibilities for Love. Is he going to continue to be a corner distraction, or will they find another way to integrate him into the offense? The best option would probably be a trade if they can find a trade partner. Will the Lakers go after Love in an attempt to lure Westbrook in 2018? The Cavs could use some young talent, considering Kyrie will probably be the youngest one on their 12 man roster.

Detroit Pistons

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Starting Five: C: Andre Drummond PF: Tobias Harris SF: Marcus Morris SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope PG: Reggie Jackson

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 4 seed; Out; Out

Having your best player be an exclusively low post player was the first ingredient in the recipe to be holding the Larry O’Brien trophy in June…15 years ago. Times have changed and Andre Drummond being the franchise player for Detroit pretty much guarantees the Pistons won’t be a force in the East anytime soon. Stan Van does have a very similar to the Magic team he took to the Finals with Dwight Howard in 2009, they play a 4 out 1 in type of offense. The difference between these two teams is that the East is a lot stronger today than it was in 2009, and these Pistons are more likely to miss the playoffs than make the Finals.

Unfortunately, the biggest worry for the Pistons is that Reggie Jackson thinks he’s the best player on the team, when he’s probably number three. Having your sixth man think he’s the best player on the team is usually a positive, because it will bring you extra points off the bench for 20 minutes per game. However, when your starting point guard thinks that, it turns into the pickup game at LA Fitness where the 35-year-old Uncle Rico tries to relive the glory days, and the only time anyone ever touches the ball is off a rebound. Detroit was one of only four teams with less than 20 assists per game last year. That has a lot to do with each player trying to get his, due to the fear of not getting the ball again if he passes.

Indiana Pacers

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Starting Five: C: Al Jefferson PF: Thaddeus Young SF: Paul George SG: Monta Ellis PG: Jeff Teague

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 8 seed; 3 seed

In 2011, “The Decision” made everyone absolutely sure that the ‘superteam’ the Miami Heat created with Lebron, Wade, and Bosh were shoe ins to win the NBA title. The Dallas Mavericks came in and ruined the party with Dirk being the only All-Star on the team. There are a lot of similarities between the 2011 Mavs and the 2017 Pacers.

Both teams picked up a center from Charlotte (Tyson Chandler & Al Jefferson) that came straight out of high school and had an injury issue coming to the team. Both teams have high scoring shooting guards (Jason Terry & Monta Ellis) that can take over a game at any time and have the stones to take the last shot. Both teams have a defensive-minded guard (DeShawn Stevenson & Rodney Stuckey) that has a dangerous enough 3 ball to keep opposing defenses from doubling off of them. Both teams have superstars (Dirk & Paul George) that analysts wonder if they will ever have a chance at a championship (PG13 was because of injury).

Does this mean I am picking the Pacers to sweep the Cavs in the second round (as the Mavs did to the title defending Lakers in 2011) and go on to beat the Warriors in the Finals? Not exactly, because Nate McMillan is nowhere near the level of coach that Rick Carlisle is. However, I won’t be shocked if the Pacers go to the Eastern Conference Finals, NBA Finals or even win it all. With 100:1 odds to win the NBA Finals, they may just be best value pick out there. The Pacers had the best offseason in the East by adding Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, and Jeff Teague to a team that has the 3rd best two-way player in the league in Paul George (only Lebron & Kawhi can compete with him). Myles Turner is also going to be one year better, and with his rookie season under his belt he will be a great big coming off the bench in his second season. Watch out for the 2017 Pacers.

Milwaukee Bucks

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Starting Five: C: Greg Monroe PF: Jabari Parker SF: Giannis Antetokounmpo SG: Tony Snell PG: Matthew Dellavedova

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 4 seed; Out; 7 seed

The Bucks have a great future to look towards with their two young rising stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Giannis is one of those once in a generation type talent, a 6’11” freak of an athlete that can play any position on the floor. His game is complimented perfectly by Parker, who is one step above Tim Duncan in excitement and athleticism. Parker is a very fundamental player, who has a sweet J and can post up on the block. Both need to improve their shooting from three (25%), and need to be at 80% from the charity stripe.

I also like what the Bucks did in the offseason, strengthening their bench at almost every position with Miles Plumlee, Mirza Teltovic, Steve Novak, Jason Terry. The Delly contract might be borderline insane (4 years, $38 million), but it might also be the new era of the NBA where Mike Conley has the largest contract in the league. Players were overpaid left and right this offseason, and Delly, Mr. All Heart & Hustle himself, jumped at the chance to make nearly $10 million a year. Dave Chappelle never knew how famous the POTUS was until Monica Lewinsky became a household name for doing….a thing. Well, I don’t think I ever truly knew how good Lebron was, until an Aussie that used to pass him the ball and dive at opponents ankles is making $10 million dollars a year. This contract screams JJ Barea on the T’Wolves from 2011-2014, but I’ll keep my mouth shut and watch.

This should be a decent season for the Bucks, I see about a 10-game-jump in wins, somewhere in the 42-45 range and a playoff
berth. Hopefully, they can find a trade partner to dump at least one of their big men, since they are very deep there, and could definitely use some help in the backcourt. In the playoffs, I see probably what happened to them two years ago to Chicago. Pushing a superior team more than they thought they would, butultimately falling short. The Bucks, similar to their neighbors in Minnesota, have a couple more years until they actually make some noise in the playoffs, but they will be an exciting team to watch.

The New Look 2017 NBA: Atlantic Division (Part 4 of 6)

Boston Celtics

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Starting Five: C: Al Horford PF: Amir Johnson SF: Jae Crowder SG: Avery Bradley PG: Isaiah Thomas

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 2 seed; 7 seed; 4 seed

It’s really hard to make a deep run in the playoffs without a top 20 player, and the Celtics don’t have a top 20 player. They need to make a trade to become a contender. If you’ve heard or read Bill Simmons in the past five years, you probably understand that it is a grammatical crime to create a sentence with Danny Ainge without also including the fact that he has been collecting assets. Well newsflash Bostonians, assets don’t win championships. It is time for Ainge to cash in those assets for a franchise player. Isaiah Thomas is a good player, maybe even very good, but he is a number 3 on a championship team. Maybe a number 2 if it is a very solid team, but there is no way you can hold the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the year with Isaiah Thomas as your franchise player.

Jimmy Butler may be the most likely option for a trade. Russ may have been in talks as well had he not signed the extension with OKC. The positive about getting Russ, is that you can’t overtrade for a superduperstar. No one is going to say, ‘you gave up too much for Russ’, but they may say that about Butler. Boston has the Nets first round draft pick for the next two years, and those are nothing to sneeze at. 2017 and 2018 are supposed to be high talent drafts, and the judging by the outlook in Brooklyn, those should be top 10 picks, if not top 5. They probably only have to give up one of those picks to get Butler, but they will also have to give up one or two players (Thomas, Bradley, Brown). As the Celtics are assembled right now they are probably a second round exit, but Butler could make them contenders for the Finals. The upside for Butler, is that he could be plugged into a system more easily than someone like Russ. Boston needs to take advantage of the weaker East before things change (which may be sooner than later) and cash in these ‘assets’ for a chance at a championship.

Brooklyn Nets

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Starting Five: C: Brook Lopez PF: Trevor Booker SF: Bojan Bogdanovic SG: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson PG: Jeremy Lin

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: Out; Out; Out

When you look at the Brooklyn Nets roster, only one word comes to mind…Who?.  It sounds more like a casting call for ‘The
Bachelorette’ than an NBA roster. Let’s play a game; I’m going to list 5 players on the Nets and 5 guys from this season of ‘The Bachelorette’. Let’s see how many you can get right.

1. Alex Woytkiw 2. Caris LaVert 3. Grant Kemp 4. Justin Hamilton 5. Joe Harris 6. Jordan Rodgers 7. Evan Bass 8. Greivis Vasquez 9. Chad Johnson 10. Trevor Booker.

If you got a 10 out of 10 it means one of two things. Either you watch ‘The Bachelorette’ or YOU WATCH ‘The Bachelorette’. Even the biggest of Nets fans wouldn’t know all of those players, and the last one, Trevor Booker, is a starter! For the record: 2,4,5,8,10 are Brooklyn Nets.

I can’t believe this team won 21 games last year, and I don’t see them winning that many in 2017. The biggest issue for the Nets is that they don’t even have any hope for the future. A string of ill advised trades made sure they won’t have any good draft picks until at least 2019. At least players that sign with the Nets have a nice place to live, because all the losing is sure to get them down. The only thing the Nets can hope for is a stint of Linsanity or maybe the NBA will adopt a golf like scoring system where lowest score wins. Move over Philadelphia, Brooklyn is coming in to plant their flag as the worst team in the league.

New York Knicks

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Starting Five: C: Joakim Noah PF: Kristaps Porzingis SF: Carmelo Anthony SG: Courtney Lee PG: Derrick Rose

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; Out; 6 seed

The Knicks would be contenders for the Finals in the East, but I can’t imagine a season with this roster without a significant injury or two. Seeing Noah and Rose on a team other than the Bulls will be strange, but this may be just the change of scenery both of them needed. Derrick Rose was not happy when he came back after missing the majority of 3 seasons because of
injury to find out he had to battle with Jimmy Butler for control of ‘his’ team. Now, of course, Carmelo is in New York, but Rose would rather player on Melo’s team than give up his team to Butler. For Joakim, there was not a player that hated the coaching change of Thibs for Hoiberg more than him. He saw his defensive minded team of which he was the glue, turn into a team that tried to live and die by the three ball when there were only two good long distance shooters, at best. While Jeff Hornacek was a shooter as a player and still loves the long ball, Noah is going to love his business first approach.

Melo will be in heaven with the best team, and most talent, he has ever played with. Every other time he has had a big name teammate, it was either way past their prime or they were injured for the majority of the time played with Melo. Probably his best teammate has been JR Smith, and not to take anything away from JR, but it is hard to be successful when that is your
right hand man. Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the Knickerbockers, but not quite yet. He had a great rookie season, but he needs to make sure to learn from all of the veterans around him. Hopefully, he can see that he will still be a number three option, which will allow him to work on his defense and passing game. This will help him tremendously in his career if he can take advantage of not being needed as a scorer. Most young scorers don’t get this opportunity, and are forced to ignore other aspects of their game to focus solely on scoring because of their team’s great need.

The key to the Knicks success will be resting during the regular season. Just like 2016, the 3-6 seeds in the East will most likely be interchangeable, so the Knicks need to worry less about getting a high seed and more about making it to May with a healthy roster.

Philadelphia 76ers

Starting Five: C: Nerlens Noel PF: Jahlil Okafor SF: Robert Convington SG: Gerald Henderson PG:Jerryd Bayless

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: Out; Out; Out

It’s four years, and counting, that the 76ers will not be playing their first round draft pick for at least part of the season. First Nerlens Noel, then Joel Embiid, then Jahlil Okafor, and now Ben Simmons. The bad luck is incredible. It looks like Ben Simmons is going to play it safe, and wil most likely miss the entire season. Now that Simmons is out, still look for Noel to be dealt. Why trade a big guy when they just lost a big guy to injury? Well, Simmons was also a ball handler, and if you don’t have anyone to bring the ball down the court, it makes the game a lot tougher. Also, Noel is in the last year of his rookie deal, and the 76ers will probably not want to sign him to a big deal when most of their depth is in the front court.

Joel Embiid is getting talk to be in the running for rookie of the year. Somewhat strange to win this two full seasons after being drafted, but 2016-2017 will be the first time he can actually suit up for an NBA game. The more playing time Embiid gets, the better shot he will have, so Noel leaving or staying will definitely sway votes. Noel has already proven to be a solid center in this league, but Embiid has a bigger upside, the question is whether or not he can stay on the court. The 76ers have shown over the past five years that they are risk takers, so this is another reason you can look for Noel tobe gone by the trade deadline.

The 76ers also have somewhat of a decision to make at point guard, with solid backup, Jerryd Bayless, and Sergio Rodriguez,
who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010. While Sergio may be the better PG, it may take him some time to adjust to the NBA game from playing in Europe for five years. Look for Bayless to start while that happens. With such a young team, having experience at point will payoff this year. Philly has a good shot at doubling, maybe even tripling, their wins from last year, while also becoming more of an NBA team and less of a circus sideshow. When you win 10 games, that isn’t such a huge feat, but it will be great for the 76ers for remember what winning feels like at least 25% of the time.

Toronto Raptors

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Starting Five: C: Jonas Valanciunas PF: Patrick Patterson SF: DeMarre Carroll SG: DeMar DeRozanPG: Kyle Lowry

Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 1 seed; 5 seed; 2 seed

Jonas definitely showed his worth to the Raptors last year, when he went down in the second round. Toronto barely squeaked by a Heat team that decided it would be better to play without any big men, than start Amare Stoudemire again. Jonas will have to keep up the dominance from the playoffs, when he was the best player on the team and carried the Raptors when Lowry & DeRozan couldn’t make a shot, for the Raptors to make another deep playoff run. He will also have to up his minutes played to over 30 mpg since Bismack Biyombo went to Orlando, and the Raptors replaced him with rookie Jakob Poltl and the less-than-impressive Jared Sullinger.

Since the Raptors have lost more than they gained in the offseason, they will need to develop that young talent during the regular season, to make sure there is a reliable bench for the postseason. The East seems to be coming back to at least competitive with the West, so 2017 will be much tougher on Toronto than when they made their first conference finals in franchise history. DeRozan not being in a contract year and the East improvements will also contribute to the Toronto decrease in Wins, but they can still claim the number two seed in the East.

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