About a half an hour ago I got a text from a good friend of mine.
This is one of my oldest pals, a founding father of my fantasy football league, a guy who's wedding I was in... you get the picture, we go way back.
My friend, we'll call him Jason, is a pretty bold dude. He's a swashbuckler when it comes to fantasy football. "Hey man I'll give you Pierre Thomas for Matt Forte. It really makes sense for you. Pierre was born in November and that's five months after your birthday so it just fits." he's always trying to fleece somebody!
Every league needs that person and every guy needs a friend like Jason. He's someone who I can depend on, talk trash to, and always depend on... especially to be bold.
Aside from what I've already shared I should tell you that Jason is a big time Denver Broncos fan. He hails from the Rocky Mountain area so don't worry, he's not a bandwagon fan or anything. He's a Texas boy so he's seen his team play in both Houston and Dallas.
I've urged Jason to go catch a game in the extreme altitudes of Denver, Colorado... but things have just never worked out. Until now.
I got a text message at 10:40am on Friday morning that reads:
"So I may or may not have bought tickets to the AFC Championship this morning...."
That's the Jason I know!
His boldness is here is something I admire. His team has a ticket to the Super Bowl on the line so he got one to go see them try and punch it. Bravo, Jason!
Here's your ticket to this week's Bold Predictions. It's the probability of them, not the altitude, that's tall and intimidating. Let's go.
Peyton Manning Will Be Like Old Peyton Manning
If you read last week's Bold Predictions then you saw me give Peyton a deep dish of cold disrespect. Manning didn't exactly light the world on fire last week against the Steelers, and I still think New England will win this game, but Peyton looked unlike his 2015 self and that's promising.
The thing with this prediction is... why not, man? The dude that sits up in the top of the stadium when Peyton plays walked out of the NFL in a similar, although less disastrous, way that Peyton is trying to. In the land of fairytales and gumdrops... couldn't it happen again?
The Broncos are going to have to run the ball. That's been their M.O. as far as sustainable success this season. A strong run game coupled with their elite defense are their keys to success.
Well Peyton is going to have to put those keys in the ignition and make some plays. It sure would be great for the game if he could reach deep, deep, deep down in his barrel of talent and pull one out... just for old times.
Julian Edelman Will Break The Record For Most Catches In An NFL Game
The Broncos boast one of the NFL's top defensive units this season.
They're great at every level, and they can get some serious pressure on the quarterback.
Tom Brady is going to have to get rid of the ball very quickly on Sunday. Consider that New England doesn't have much of a run game and this becomes an even more likely thing. Get ready to see Tom throwing tons of screens and quick passes.
That's where Julian Edelman comes in.
Edelman is one of my favorite players in the NFL. You can actually see the effort that he gives and his never-going-to-quit mentality. He's going to do everything that he can to win this game for his team, and that's going to include catching a ton of passes.
The NFL record for most catches in a Playoff Game was set by Darren Sproles in January of 2012 against the 49ers. That was the epic clash between New Orleans and Alex Smith that you surely remember. Sproles finished the day with 15 catches.
The NFL record for most catches in any game period was set by Brandon Marshall, coincidentally, as a member of the Denver Broncos. It happened during the 2009 season against the Peyton-led Indianapolis Colts. Brandon took his place atop the record books with 21 catches.
Julian Edelman is going to break both of those. Boom.
Cam Newton Will Throw For Over 500 Yards
How great is the NFC Championship going to be?
Jason won't be there, but man this is going to be fun to watch.
There are those who think that this game will be a tight and low-scoring affair, but count me as someone who thinks we're going to see some fireworks in the battle for the George Halas Trophy.
To be able to raise that trophy at the end of the day is going to take a herculean effort by one of these teams, and by one of these players. Cam Newton is, certainly, this season's MVP. He'll need to be this game's if he wants to win.
The Cardinals are so much deeper than the Panthers offensively that it's, perhaps unfairly, going to fall onto the shoulders of Superman as it seems to have time and time again this season. It is for that reason that in order to go blow for blow with Arizona that Cam is going to have to air it out... to the tune of over 500 yards.
There have only been 18 500 (or more) yard games in the history of the NFL... and a big, round zero of them have come in the Playoffs.
Cam is going to make history.
Larry Fitzgerald Will Catch 4 Touchdowns
Is Larry Fitzgerald still running against the Packers in Overtime? Have they tackled him yet? What a finish to last week's game, am I right?!
Larry Fitzgerald is one of the greatest Playoff performers of all-time. In 8 career playoff games Fitzgerald has 53 catches for 912 yards and 10 touchdowns. That's insane!
Sure, 4 touchdowns in a tall order... even for the greatest wide receivers. Fitz has come close to that mark before, though. In fact he did it in an NFC Championship Game!
During the 2008 NFC Championship Game against the Eagles, Larry Fitzgerald had 9 catches for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns!
Fitz is going for four on Sunday.
The Coins Will All Flip
Last week in the game that Larry Fitzgerald finished off, we saw one of the more improbable things ever happen in an NFL game... and it had nothing to do with football.
Clete Blakeman, the referee for the contest, went to midfield to gather the two sets of captains before the overtime period began. He explained the rules and asked if everyone was good to go. Pretty standard, right?
Well in Clete's defense... we had just seen one of the most thrilling sequences in NFL History. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay packers converted two Hail Mary attempts to tie the game as time expired. It was quite exciting.
After asking for a side of the coin which Green Bay preferred Blakeman tossed it in the air like Aaron Rodgers had just done with his Hail Mary... for the coin to not flip at all! How is this possible? What are the odds?!
Al Michaels was totally right when he said on the call that if Clete tried 100 times, he would never be able to do that again. It was just another crazy element to a crazy game of football.
So look for all the coins to flip this weekend. If not look for Clete Blakeman to be around the corner somewhere nearby.
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
Without Looming Suspension, RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Shine In 2018
NFL Films typically does a good job of exposing some truths around NFL teams. Whether through "Hard Knocks" or Amazon's new "All or Nothing" series, these documentaries do an excellent job of giving fans an inside look of their favorite teams.
If anything was revealed through the Cowboys' All or Nothing series on their 2017 season, it's that Ezekiel Elliott's suspension weighed heavy on his mind all year.
The Pro Bowl running back did not look, act, or play like himself while awaiting decision on his incoming suspension. And, once it was finally announced he would serve the six games, the entire team collapsed in Atlanta.
Despite the clear and detrimental effects Elliott's suspension had on the Cowboys' season, Zeke still put up more-than-respectable numbers; rushing for almost 1,000 yards and averaging a league leading 98.3 yards per game.
Now, Ezekiel Elliott enters a season with no doubts about his own availability. Scott Linehan gets to coach an offense that knows they will have their best player for the entire season barring major injury. And, Jason Garrett can lead his team without addressing questions about Elliott's future day in and day out.
Of course, these effects aren't quantifiable. We can't sit here and say that without the pressure of court appearances and suspensions that Elliott will be worth "X" amount of more yards and "Y" more touchdowns.
But I do believe we can say, without question, that playing with a clear mind and without a looming suspension will breed the type of production we saw from Zeke his rookie year.
We can say that Elliott has had a weight lifted off his shoulders, and could be looking for revenge on a league he feels did him wrong.
And, for the Cowboys sake, I hope this is true. Because they are going to need Ezekiel Elliott to be even better than he ever has been if they hope to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2018.
Cowboys en Español: El Regreso de Randy Gregory
A sólo días de que los Dallas Cowboys aterricen en Oxnard, California para dar inicio a su training camp como todos los años, el equipo recibió excelentes noticias respecto a la selección de segunda ronda del 2015: Randy Gregory. Después de pasar todo el 2017 suspendido, el ala defensiva ha sido oficialmente reintegrado por la NFL.
Gregory, quien tuvo muchos problemas debido al uso de marihuana, ha pasado los últimos meses rehabilitándose para poder volver a vestir la estrella y volver al emparrillado. Los Cowboys, quienes siempre apoyaron a su joven jugador, sin duda estarán felices de verlo de vuelta en el equipo por motivos más allá que el football americano.
Sin duda alguna, antes de estar emocionados y felices por verlo en el campo intimidando a quarterbacks rivales, deberíamos estar alegres por el logro personal de Randy como un ser humano. Realmente hizo un esfuerzo consciente en un lugar en el que muchos se hubieran rendido y dejado sus sueños de ser parte de la NFL. Pero no lo hizo, y ahora, todos sus esfuerzos han valido la pena.
El siguiente paso en su lista por-hacer, es volver al campo y poco a poco, ganarse su puesto en el equipo y después, la titularidad. La última vez que vimos a Gregory en el campo, fue contra Philadelphia, en el final de temporada del 2016.
En este juego, Gregory mostró muchos destellos de lo que sería capaz de hacer semana tras semana en la liga y porque valió la pena nunca dejarlo ir, lo cual no hubiera tenido sentido hacer, dado que los Cowboys no les costaba nada (literalmente) mantenerlo en el equipo.
Sean Martin escribió un artículo recientemente en el que analiza este partido a fondo.
El potencial de Gregory es inmenso, suficiente incluso, para aventurarse a decir que se convertirá en el defensive end (ala defensiva) derecho antes de lo esperado. El reto más grande para el jugador de 25 años será regresar a una condición física óptima para la NFL.
Afortunadamente, a diferencia del 2016, Gregory no estará regresando a media temporada. Su llegada toma lugar justo a tiempo para el training camp, dándole tiempo para regresar a la forma en la que tiene que estar.
Una vez ahí, ¿qué tanto le tomará ganarse un rol más importante que el de Tyrone Crawford y Taco Charlton? A pesar de que prácticamente no lo hemos visto jugar en Dallas, sabemos el potencial que tiene para convertirse en un defensivo de suma importancia para los Cowboys.
Un año después de ver la mejor temporada en la carrera de DeMarcus Lawrence, los Cowboys tendrán el potencial de una estrella similar en el lado derecho de su línea defensiva. Gregory tiene una montaña que escalar para cumplir las expectativas de los aficionados, pero no será una sorpresa si lo logra.
Vaya, no olvidemos que si no fuera por sus problemas fuera del campo, hubiera sido seleccionado en el Top 10 del Draft del 2015. Tiene el potencial de conseguir diez sacks por temporada.
Con un poco de suerte, no nos equivocaremos en tenerle fe al jugador que ha tenido un gran viaje para llegar a este punto. El punto de ponerse el casco e ir a trabajar con su equipo.
Incluso si sólo llega a ser un jugador de rotación, sin duda será importante para el éxito del equipo. Entre DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, Randy Gregory y el resto del talento que los Cowboys tienen en la línea defensiva, el equipo podría tener un frente de muy buena calidad.
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