The last time these two teams faced off was in last years Wild Card round. The Carolina Panthers were the underdog team entering the game and they defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-16. This time around the Cardinals are the underdog.
Of course the last time these two teams played Carson Palmer was not dressed in a uniform for the game because Palmer tore his ACL during a regular season game against the St. Louis Rams. Ryan Lindley was under center for this playoff game. With Cam Newton and Carson Palmer being the first Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks to go head to head in a playoff game, this is definitely going to make for an exciting Sunday NFC Championship game.
What Does Each Team Need To do To Win?
The Panthers as you all know were looking to make history until that week 16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Cam Newton is the MVP in my eyes, but this team needs to do just one thing in order to win, finish. The Panthers scored 31 points in the first half last weekend against the Seattle Seahawks, but 0 points in the entire second half. That can't happen this Sunday in order for this team to advance to Super Bowl 50 and Cam Newton even said that. If the Panthers can just play the way they have been playing and finish in the end, they won't have any problem at all dabbing their way to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California.
The Arizona Cardinals survived a near comeback from Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last weekend, but now it's time to shake that off. I believe Carson Palmer got all the jitters out of his system, which means he is going to play his heart out. In order for Arizona to win, Palmer must throw 2 touchdown passes and have 0 turnovers. If Palmer can just be good enough for his defense to take over in the final quarter, they will win this game.
X-Factor (Panthers) - Cam Newton
X-Factor (Cardinals) - David Johnson
My Pick: Cardinals 27 - Panthers 23
It may be the Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots on Sunday and that may be exactly what Tom Brady and Peyton Manning say it is, but everyone knows it's another Manning vs. Brady classic. Even though Brady holds the record of 11-5 against Manning, every time these two have played in the playoffs the home team comes out on top. So why are we even discussing this? Manning and the Broncos are at home which means they should win, right?
What Does Each Team Need To do To Win?
The Broncos have the advantage in this game that is huge in the Manning vs. Brady rivalry, the fact they are the home team. The thing is Manning doesn't have to win this game for the Broncos, he just needs to be the on the field game manager he has been so great at this season. The defense led by former Dallas Cowboy DeMarcus Ware has been outstanding all season. The running game Coach Gary Kubiak brought to Denver has been the best thing for Manning's career. Manning just doesn't have to sit back and pick apart defenses anymore, he just needs to have 0 turnovers and make the plays, when plays need to be made. The Broncos need to hold Tom Brady in check and the running game is what will win this game. Denver needs to run the ball down the Patriots throats and that's when the Broncos will win this game. But the hardest thing to do in any level of sports is to beat a team twice in one season.
New England Patriots
It's a simple explanation, Tom Brady is still playing at an elite level and that's why this team is so good. Brady has played games this season with almost a new offensive lineman every week it feels like and with a new wide receiver in the game. Health has been the biggest problem for the Patriots this season and they still are recovering. The Patriots just have to play Patriot football and Brady needs to out play this Denver defense and then they will win this ball game.
My gut is telling me this one. I just would love to see Peyton Manning go out on top.
X-Factor (Broncos) - Von Miller
X-Factor (Patriots) - Tom Brady
My Pick: Broncos 27 - Patriots 26
Everyone enjoy the game Sunday because it will probably be for the last time, so in memory here is a video of the greatest game of all time that took place in the Manning vs. Brady rivalry.
To top off the list, the 2006 AFC Championship was not only a memorable Manning vs. Brady matchup but one of the greatest games of all time. Subscribe to the NFL YouTube channel to see immediate in-game highlights from your favorite teams and players, daily fantasy football updates, all your favorite NFL Network podcasts, and more!
Cowboys Next 3 Games Pivotal To Playoff Run
A popular way of evaluating a team's season is by breaking their results into quarters. Because teams play 16 games in the NFL, if you are able to finish 3-1 each quarter of the season then you will likely be in competition for a first round bye come January.
Through the first quarter of this season, the Cowboys accomplished that exact goal. Sitting at 3-1 wth the second quarter of the season to go, the Cowboys deserved to feel pride in how they started their year off.
With a home loss last week, though, the Cowboys are already behind the eight ball for their second quarter of the season. When you look at the upcoming schedule, however, you see a huge opportunity for the Cowboys going forward.
If Dallas is to make a playoff run, and Jason Garrett is to earn a contract for next season, these next three games are massive.
Unbeaten in New Jersey
Two of the Cowboys' next three games will be played at MetLife Stadium, and if they are to make the playoffs, they have to go unbeaten in the state of New Jersey.
After two straight losses the Cowboys have the perfect "get-right" game against the winless Jets on Sunday. Then, following their bye week, the Cowboys go back to East Rutherford to finish their season series with the Giants.
These have to be two victories.
The Jets have been an absolute disaster this season, and while Sam Darnold returns from his illness this week, they are still 7.5 point home underdogs to the 3-2 Cowboys.
Not only are the Giants a conference and divisional opponent, but they are one of the Cowboys' only remaining "gimme" games on the schedule. Following their game against the Giants the Cowboys go through a gauntlet of sorts, facing the Vikings, Patriots, Lions, Bills, Bears, Rams, and Eagles before finally seeing the Redskins.
That's 7 straight games against teams with winning records, including 5 against teams they are directly fighting for playoff positioning with.
Yeah, it's not going to get any easier.
Battle for First Place
Sandwiched between these two games in Jersey are the Philadelphia Eagles. As it stands right now, both Dallas and Philly sit at 3-2. So regardless of what happens this week in their respective games, this match-up will be for early control of the NFC East.
I don't have to tell you how important a game with the Eagles is, especially one the Cowboys will have at home.
Going 3-0 over these next three games would put the Cowboys in an excellent position before they must face one of the toughest second half schedules in all of football.
Cowboys en Español: Problemas Defensivos al Frente
Los Dallas Cowboys fueron aplastados por la ofensiva de los Green Bay Packers toda la primera mitad durante el encuentro de la semana 5 de la temporada. Fue un tal Aaron quien los dominó, pero no el "Aaron" al que los Cowboys están acostumbrados. Esta vez, Aaron Rodgers apenas y tuvo un juego decente en Dallas. Sin embargo, fue porque el corredor Aaron Jones corrió para 107 yardas y cuatro anotaciones terrestres, además de sumar 75 yardas por la vía aérea. Tal juego por parte de su corredor le dio a los Packers una victoria con marcador de 34-24 y un récord de 4-1.
¿Qué salió mal en este partido para Cowboys? Lo más sencillo y sinceramente lo principal fueron las entregas de balón. En la NFL, es casi imposible entregar el balón tres veces y salir victorioso. Después de lanzar tres intercepciones, la derrota de Dallas era casi inevitable.
Sin embargo, la defensiva tampoco funcionó. Hasta ahora, los Cowboys han tenido una unidad defensiva comandada por Rod Marinelli y Kris Richard que ha estado lejos de cumplir con las expectativas. Aún después de sostener a los New Orleans Saints a solo 12 puntos, ha sido un cuerpo defensivo que nos ha decepcionado.
El mayor problema, en mi opinión, viene en la línea defensiva. A pesar de que muchos han criticado mucho al ala defensiva DeMarcus Lawrence por su "ausencia," dichas críticas han sido un poco exageradas. Si bien no ha aparecido tanto en la ficha de juego, Lawrence ha forzado a equipos contrarios a mandarle doble cobertura para cuidar a sus mariscales. El hecho de jalar a dos ofensivos solo para bloquear es de gran ayuda para el resto de la defensiva. ¿El problema? El problema es que no lo han capitalizado.
Robert Quinn sorprendió desde su regreso de suspensión, convirtiéndose rápidamente en uno de los líderes en sacks y presiones. A pesar de ello, el interior de la línea defensiva ha sido deplorable.
La lesión de Antwaun Woods ha sido una muy dolorosa, pero la verdad es que Maliek Collins tampoco ha hecho mucho desde su puesto. Al pelear contra el juego terrestre, los tackles defensivos de Cowboys han ganado pocas batallas en las trincheras. Trysten Hill, el novato de segunda ronda, ha demostrado no estar listo para ser titular en la NFL. El equipo de Marinelli ha sufrido por no querer invertir en un buen tackle defensivo.
Estos problemas en el frente defensivo han repercutido a la actuación de un dúo de linebackers de quienes se esperaba mucho. Leighton Vander Esch y Jaylon Smith no se han visto del todo bien y en parte ha sido su culpa. Contra Packers, Vander Esch pudo haber tenido la peor mitad de su carrera en la NFL. Jaylon Smith ha tomado ángulos equivocados.
A todo esto, le sumamos que hay muchos linieros ofensivos llegando al segundo nivel debido a un pobre trabajo de los tackles defensivos.
En resumen, la defensiva frontal de Cowboys fue dominada contra Green Bay y no ha sido convincente el resto de las semanas.
Si Dallas va a llegar lejos esta temporada, necesitan que la defensiva despierte. Hasta el momento, ha sido lo más decepcionante del año.
A pesar de las críticas tras un partido en el que Dak Prescott lanzó tres intercepciones, los Cowboys están clasificados como el equipo #1 en ofensiva según DVOA (estadística utilizada para evaluar si una jugada fue exitosa o no tomando en cuenta escenarios específicos). Ezekiel Elliott no está jugando mal, a pesar de las conclusiones precipitadas de muchos al ver que solo acumuló 62 yardas. El total es bajo, pero lo consiguió en 12 acarreos (promediando 5.2 yardas).
Sinceramente, los Cowboys han sido mejores de lo que su récord indica. Mientras muchos están eliminándolos por el resto de la temporada, este equipo podría estar 5-2 en un abrir y cerrar de ojos previo a su semana de descanso.
Es una temporada larga en la NFL.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Carries Have Decreased Three Straight Weeks, Here is Why
All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott had his first 100-yard performance in a Week 2 win on the road against the Washington Redskins. After 48 yards on 11 carries in the first half, Elliott had only 36 yards in the second half until a 27-yard run pushed his overall total to 111 yards on 23 carries. Exactly the kind of yardage and attempts you would expect from your bell cow. However, the last three weeks have been a little different as his carries have diminished each game. It hasn't been from a lack of commitment to the run game per se, but sometimes certain game situations force you to adjust your gameplan.
When the Miami Dolphins came to town in Week 3 they were considered by many to be the worst team in the league. That all sounds good on paper but games are played on the field, and as we all know, every team gets fired up for the Dallas Cowboys. The first half saw the Cowboys score ten quick points on their first couple of possessions but they wouldn't score again before halftime. The one bright spot was Elliott who ran for 86 yards on 13 carries as the Cowboys led 10-6.
The Cowboys jumped all over Miami with back to back touchdowns from Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott to start the second half pushing the lead to 24-6. Elliott wasn't really needed much after that point and his last carry came with under nine minutes remaining in the game. This allowed rookie Tony Pollard to take over the fourth quarter with 74 yards on 8 carries, and keep Elliott fresh for a showdown with the New Orleans Saints a week later.
In all, Elliott ran for 125 yards on 19 carries, extremely productive and not taxing on the body. Pollard running for 103 yards himself allowed Elliott to stay on the sidelines and rest up for the next game.
In Week 4 the Cowboys faced the Saints on the road in prime time. Unfortunately for Elliott, this would be a game where his offensive line would get manhandled for four quarters. This put the Cowboys in quite a few second/third and long situations because Elliott seemingly saw gold helmets in his face immediately after taking each handoff. He would only rush for 35 yards on 18 carries, less than two yards per attempt.
In these situations when an offense can't muster anything on the ground you simply stick with it just to keep the defense honest and not become one-dimensional. The flow of the game, in this case, dictated that Elliott wouldn't see a lot of touches with his offensive line getting dominated.
This past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers could've been a monster day for Elliott considering he would be going up against the 26th ranked run defense, but like the previous two weeks, the flow of the game forced a different scenario. The first half saw the Cowboys invade Packers territory on three consecutive drives, but one stalled due to a sack and the other two ended with interceptions. Elliott had 60 yards on 10 carries in the first half but the Cowboys found themselves in a 17-0 hole.
That deficit quickly ballooned to 31-3 in the second half and virtually took Elliott out of the game. He had only two carries after halftime and finished with just 62 yards on 12 carries. Early turnovers put the Cowboys behind so much that the only way to get back in the game was to air it out the rest of the way.
Given the way the previous three games have unfolded no one should be overly concerned at this point about Elliott's carries going down. The Cowboys simply adjusted to what was happening on the field and in these cases. Elliott was either not needed or taken out of the gameplan.
This Sunday against the New York Jets the Cowboys will be facing a good defensive front seven. I would still expect Elliott to be used early and often to establish what the Cowboys do best which is run to set up the play-action passing game.
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