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Sunday, December 13th, 2015. You remember that day, even if you don't know it.
The Cowboys were in Green Bay for a date against the Packers, the final score of which isn't important, and it was their first visit to Lambeau Field since Dez Bryant heroically caught a brilliant pass from Tony Romo near the end of a game 11 months earlier.
There would be no Tony Romo this time, only Matt Cassel. There would also be Inside The Star Staff Writer RJ Ochoa (hey I know him!) in attendance, that's me! That's right. My Dad, some friends, and I ventured to one of the NFL's most iconic venues last December to watch America's Team (a trip that I wrote about here).
On gameday we decided that we needed breakfast so we went to IHOP. We feasted, in the middle of tons of Cowboys and Packers fans, and headed to the car so we could head to Lambeau. On the way we passed some little kids playing a friendly game of "Simon Says."
My Dad's best friend David was feeling good about this game, and he felt like letting the world know how good he felt. One of the kids began a new command, "Simon Says..." and David interrupted him.
"SIMON SAYS 'GO COWBOYS!'"
The kids screamed out, "NO!" but the damage was done. The world knew. The Cowboys are the best.
The world will be reminded this Sunday of that same sentiment. Simon Said the Cowboys had no shot this season, but here they are at 4-1... and they want more.
Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Let’s roll.
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Ezekiel Elliott Catches DeMarco Murray's 2014 Performance Through Six Games
The Dallas Cowboys enter Week 6 of the NFL season with the league's leading rusher at their disposal. This statement is as true today as it was two years ago at this exact same time.
When DeMarco Murray finished his sixth game in 2014 (a contest the Cowboys won in Seattle) he had 785 yards to his name. As it currently stands rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has 546. It's no secret that the Packers Offense has the ability to put points up, and the Cowboys will look to neutralize that with their best defense - their offense.
Ezekiel Elliott is the key to beating Green Bay, both offensively and defensively. This means that he's going to have a huge day on the ground. 240 yards, the last time an NFL RB had this many in a game was Doug Martin in 2012 with 251, would put Zeke ahead of DeMarco's 2014 through this point. It's happening.
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Dak Prescott Will Have A Better Performance Than Brett Favre's Last One At Lambeau Field
In August we celebrated the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016, and among its members was legendary quarterback Brett Favre.
The career of "The Gunslinger" is quite the tale, but he's pretty relevant this week. First off, he came out and said that Tony Romo should let Dak Prescott keep playing. This
makes sense since this is the exact thing Brett Favre did with Aaron Rodgers is as stupid as it sounds. Stay classy, Favre.
Brett Favre is also extremely relevant this week because at halftime of this game he'll receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring. Good for you, Brett; however, the last time Favre was on this field as an actual player was not so good.
He was 16/29 for 212 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. Dak Prescott is going to easily top that.
Also, it should be noted that the only stadium Brett Favre never won in was Texas Stadium. Huzzah.
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Dan Bailey Amasses More Yards Via Field Goals Than Eddie Lacy Does Rushing
So much is made about the "Dez Catch" from 2015's Divisional Round at Lambeau, but there is another Cowboy besides Bryant that has a score to settle from that day - Dan Bailey.
That day Dan Bailey attempted the only field goal that he's ever kicked at the historic Lambeau Field, and he missed. That's right. Just like Favre never won at Texas Stadium, Bailey's never hit a 3-pointer in Green Bay.
Cowboys Nation held their breaths regarding Bailey last week because his back tightened up just before the San Francisco game. All signs at this point are positive, and he's going to be a big factor on Sunday... bigger than Eddie Lacy.
I've written before here at Inside The Star about how Eddie Lacy completely owns the Cowboys, and I believe that trend is going to halt. Eddie is going to have such a low day on the ground that the yardage added up from Dan Bailey's field goals are going to be more impressive. How do you like them apples, Eddie?
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Lucky Whitehead Takes A Jet Sweep Over 20 Yards
Death, taxes, and one Lucky Whitehead jet sweep play every Cowboys game.
Lucky has had a jet sweep in each of the last three games and they've gone for 3, 8, and 9 yards respectively. The Packers know this, but they also know that Ezekiel Elliott plays for the Cowboys and are far more concerned with that threat.
While Whitehead has yet to hit even the double-digit yardage mark when it comes to the jet sweeps he runs, he's going to double that with a run to the outside of at least 20 yards due to the lack of attention there since the bulk of it will be focused on Zeke. Vamonos!
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Rookie DT Maliek Collins Gets His First Career Sack
Three of the most impressive members on the 2016 Dallas Cowboys Roster are rookies: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Anthony Brown. Only one other rookie has even played snaps on the season - DT Maliek Collins.
Collins has played well so far, just not to the elite level of his rookie classmates. This is going to change on Sunday in Lambeau Field. The Cowboys Defense has been all about surprises this season as far as who steps up, and while that man has been Collins at times it's going to happen in a collision with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #1
Remember, if you want YOUR Bold Prediction featured here, tweet it at me! It’s that simple! Here are this week’s contributions, thanks to all those who shared!
Donny is a fantastic guy and long-time contributor to our weekly Bold Predictions, so kudos to him on that.
Here we're saying that Dez Bryant is not only going to play, but he's going to hit a hat trick of touchdowns and that one of them wins the game. Goodness, this is spicy! Additionally the Cowboys Defense has six sacks on Rodgers, two interceptions from him, and Ezekiel Elliott crosses the 200-yard mark.
This is quite the hodgepodge of Bold Predictions. At this point it's not too farfetched to say that Dez plays, and Zeke crossing 200 amazingly seems so easy these days. If the Cowboys Defense balls out to this level then we need to make some more room around here because the bandwagon is going to be trying to join us in full force!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #2
@rjochoa Bold Prediction: Jason Garrett goes for a 2pt conversion when it is not necessary #AgainstTheOdds #GamblinGarrett
I love this, and it makes a lot of sense when you really think about it.
Jason Garrett has shown a new sense of boldness in 2016, and he hasn't played that hand in the last two games... mostly because he hasn't had to.
The Packers present a tough test for the Cowboys, and that might require something different. Thankfully it appears Coach Garrett is willing to be different.
Bonus Bold Prediction #3
@rjochoa Bryon Jones gets a pick of tip ball. Dez get a TD. Dak runs it in to for TD. #BOLDpredictions
Dez Bryant catching a touchdown isn't the strangest sight in the world, although it's been a while since it happened on a consistent basis, and obviously this is contingent on him playing. Should Dez suit up then I have no doubt that he hauls one in for six.
Dak Prescott has a rushing touchdown in three games this season, that's 60% of the time. Those are pretty good odds on anything in life so I like where Chris' head is at! In terms of Byron Jones... we've been looking for The Senator to snag an interception ever since he first put on the Cowboys uniform as he has zero for his career. He's due. It's time. Bring it!
What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?
For many years, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the face of the Dallas Cowboys defense. However, that's quickly changing. The young duo consisting of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have taken over the linebacker position by dominating the field from sideline to sideline with their explosive talent. As a rookie, Vander Esch filled in for Lee at the weak linebacker position when the veteran went down injured and never gave the job back.
Currently, uncertainty surrounds Sean Lee, who took a pay cut earlier in the year to stay with the franchise he's played for since the beginning of his professional career in 2010. What will his role be in a young fueled defense in the upcoming season?
As we've all been able to see throughout his career, Sean Lee is one of the best in the game when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that's not very often. His injury proneness led him to a position change years ago, when he was moved from the MIKE (middle linebacker) to the WILL (weak side linebacker) position. Now, those two spots are taken care of.
Where does this leaves Lee? The main question is whether or not he'll move to the strong side. Many question if this would be the correct call, given that he could be at even more risk of suffering yet another injury in a position that leads to more contact. The other option would be for him to be Vander Esch's backup at WILL.
Lately, it seems like the Cowboys will indeed move him to the strong-side. After all, it only makes sense to have your best three players on the field at the same time. On minicamp, the Cowboys have been playing the veteran at SAM, letting him get reps and grow comfortable in what seems to be his new job.
But even if Sean Lee starts lining up on the strong side, what can we expect from him next season? The way the NFL offenses operate now leads to teams sending their nickel packages to the field more often than not. For the Cowboys 4-3 defense, that means three cornerbacks, two linebackers. When that's the case, it will be Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith who we see out there, not Lee.
Damien Wilson was the team's "starter" on the strong side, and he only managed to get 286 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. That represents 28% of the team's total snaps. Even if Sean Lee becomes the starting strong side linebacker, we likely won't be seeing him as much.
Even still, I'd expect Sean Lee's experience to play a big factor when the team needs Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to catch their breath. Lee could jump in and play a few snaps at any LB spot and do a good job at it.
After all, we can't forget that despite his injuries, Lee is a remarkable player on defense. He should still be one of the smartest linebackers with extraordinary instincts. There's a reason why, before Vander Esch arrived to America's Team, the defense crumbled without him. Last year, despite losing the starting gig, Lee still had 118 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception. The longtime veteran can still play.
It will be odd for Cowboys Nation to watch Lee on a completely new role. It's also hard to put the finger on what his production will look like at the end of the year. If there's one thing we know though, is that the veteran will work hard every practice trying to get the most playing time he can. We should be excited about the team's top three linebackers.
Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long
Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.
“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”
Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.
But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.
Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.
"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com
If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.
Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."
The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.
Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.
Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?
Who is the Cowboys best player?
As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.
"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein
Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?
For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.
Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.
Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.
I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.
So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.
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