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I love the National Anthem at football games. Absolutely love it.
One of my favorite things to do when I've got a case of writer's block is to stumble down a YouTube rabbit hole of my all-time favorite renditions of this glorious song (The best version ever is Beyonce's Super Bowl XXXVIII one).
My love for this song and how it relates to the NFL was born on Christmas Day 2006 (a day in which I learned that anything can happen). Let me set the stage for you.
My Dad and I were attending a Christmas Day game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles at the storied Texas Stadium. We were at our seats and stood when the PA announcer said a few Cowboys Cheerleaders were going to sing the anthem.
I stood there, hand over my heart, and took it all in. This was the first Dallas Cowboys game that I'd ever attended in person, and it was all so beautiful. The atmosphere was unlike anything I'd ever witnessed. The way the sun peeked in through the iconic hole in the roof and kissed the sidelines was like a painting. Needless to say, my emotions were running high.
The energy in my body simply could not be contained any longer. I had to get it out. My body was like a soda can when you shake it... and I was about to crack it open.
This particular crowd was hushed over and enjoying the National Anthem, so it was shockingly quiet. The only sound in the whole stadium was the collective voice of the Cheerleaders singing. Suddenly the Cheerleaders hit the line, "O'er the Land of the Free..." and held that note. When they did, I erupted.
It was like I dropped a lit match into a Texas Stadium-sized tub of gasoline. My roar ignited the crowd and we cheered in unison as "...and the home of the Brave!" came out to finish it.
My roar was so spontaneous and so bold that my Dad actually jumped. Sometimes that happens with boldness. It's unexpected, unplanned, and one tiny bit of it can cause a fire.
The Cowboys are that fire. This is that tiny bit. Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Let's roll.
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Jason Witten Has His Best Game Of The Season
When 'ol number 82 trots out as the starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, he'll be setting a Franchise Record.
Jason Witten is making his 204th start for the Cowboys on Sunday, which will be the most by anyone to ever wear the Star. Witten is currently tied for first with Ed "Too Tall" Jones with 203 starts, so it just feels like destiny that this would be his night.
Witten has played 25 games against the Eagles in his career. In that time he's caught 146 passes for 1,592 yards and 7 touchdowns. In 2015's two contests against Philly, Jason caught 13 passes for 99 yards.
This is a squad Jason Witten has dominated year in and year out. On this night - his night - he'll do it again.
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The Cowboys Defense Will Recover An Intended Lateral That's Ruled A Fumble
This is oddly specific, BUT THAT'S HOW WE ROLL WITH BOLD PREDICTIONS.
Look, weird things happen in division rivalries. Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz is being exposed to the bright lights that the Dallas Cowboys bring for the first time, and that's likely going to overwhelm his North Dakota roots.
Wentz, who has thrown literally three times as many career interceptions as Dak Prescott, is going to try and hit a screen pass in this game... I can smell it. It's going to fall short and whatever receiver it is is going to just assume it's incomplete, but Byron Jones is going to wisely snatch it up and score a possession for the Cowboys. Boo-ya.
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Lucky Whitehead Will Catch Two Passes
Guess how many career catches Lucky Whitehead has. Go ahead, guess.
The answer is one. Lucky Whitehead has caught a pass in an NFL regular season game only one time in the history of the world, and it happened the last time the Cowboys played (at Lambeau Field). I'm here proclaiming he's going to double that number!
Lucky is becoming a favorite toy of Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan (who is welcoming an old friend to town on Sunday). The 26 yards Whitehead picked up on a third down jet sweep at the end of the Packers game served as the catalyst for why Dallas won that game.
Linehan is going to get Lucky involved this game. Two beautiful passes are going to soar out of Dak Prescott's hand into Lucky Whitehead's ever-waiting palms.
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The Cowboys Defense Won't Allow A Single Touchdown From The Eagles Offense
The Eagles have scored four touchdowns in their last two games (at Washington and against Minnesota):
- 2 were kickoff returns.
- 1 was an interception return.
- 1 was a passing touchdown.
This team is predicated on its defense and special teams carrying it, the offense is the weakest link. That's a horrible recipe for success to have when you're facing the Dallas Cowboys who are going to dominate the time of possession.
The Philly Offense is going to be on the field sparingly, and when they are Rod Marinelli's group is going to make sure it's always in a failed attempt to score.
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Cole Beasley Will Have More Than Twice As Many Yards Than The Top Eagles Wide Receiver Does
There's a lot pomp and circumstance concerning the Dallas Cowboys Wide Receivers this week, and there should be. It's very likely that Dez Bryant will play for the first time since the last time the Cowboys were on Sunday Night Football, a Week 3 contest against the Chicago Bears.
No disrespect to Mr. Throw Up The X, but through six games the best receiver on the Dallas Cowboys is Cole Beasley. The Saucemaster has been on all kinds of fire this season, and as quarterback Dak Prescott's favorite weapon that is only going to continue in this game against the Eagles.
The Cowboys Defense is going to do a great job of limiting the Eagles playmakers throughout the contest, and Cole is going to do an even better job of doubling them up in the yardage department.
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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!
@rjochoa Wentz throws picks and two TDs. Dak three TDs no turnover. Zeke over 150 yards again. Dez makes big catch. #boldprediction
Chris here thinks that Carson Wentz is going to double up on interceptions and touchdowns, eh? Well Wentz is coming off of a game where he threw two interceptions so I like that a lot. Ezekiel Elliott has crossed 130 yards in four consecutive games (an NFL record for a rookie) so I'll sign up for 150 yards as well, and there's no way Dez Bryant is leaving the stadium without a big catch on the night. Bam.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #2
@rjochoa want to get my bold prediction in before I forget: dez 3 tds.
When the Cowboys visited Philadelphia in 2014... Dez Bryant exercised his will against the Eagles with a three touchdown performance. The win propelled Dallas over their division rivals and they never looked back.
Three touchdowns is a lot, and Dak Prescott has only thrown for as many in a single game one time through six total games. Dez is definitely going to find the endzone, a hat trick of times sure would be sweet. I know Triple X (xXx) would approve.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #3
It really is amazing that through all the incredible things Ezekiel Elliott has done that he hasn't caught a touchdown.
Zeke is far more likely to hit a hat trick of touchdowns than anyone else on the team, especially if he hauls one in as a reception. The gameplan on Sunday is going to be to ride Zeke and run him down Philadelphia's throat. If that happens into the endzone three times... so be it!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #4
@rjochoa #BoldPrediction We've all seen @tfrederick72 running routes and the sweet catches. However TD will come via fumble recovery.
This. Would. Be. INCREDIBLE.
Close your eyes and imagine the situation here for a second. Dak Prescott rolls out, he hits Terrance Williams, Terrance runs towards the endzone, Terrance is hit, the ball is jarred loose, it's spinning on the ground waiting for someone, Travis Frederick lands on top of it and everything is beautiful.
This is one of my all-time favorite bold predictions.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #5
@rjochoa BOLD PREDICTIONS dak has his first 300+yds, 3+ td passing game, Zeke goes for more than 150 and defense has 3+ take aways, 3+ sacks
Dak Prescott has yet to throw for 300 yards in a single game, but Joshua here must be hanging out with Chris because they're both anticipating Ezekiel Elliott surpassing 150 yards on the ground.
150 for Zeke seems fairly easy (how awesome is that?), but I have a hard time seeing 300 for Dak... especially if Zeke is indeed running wild. It's definitely conceivable that the defense could rally for three sacks, and boy oh boy three turnovers would be delicious.
Travis Frederick’s Return Named Cowboys Biggest Reason For Excitement
Overall, Cowboys Nation feels to be in a positive mood during this year's offseason. Despite early angst over lack of action at the start of free agency, and concern over the Cowboys' draft strategy, most within the fan base seem to have high, yet realistic, hopes for the 2019 season.
Most seem to believe the NFC East will be a two team race, with the last two champions battling for the crown once again down the stretch of the season. Others can see the potential for a dark-horse candidate in Washington, but still believe the Cowboys roster has the edge.
So while Cowboys fans may not think they need a singular reason to look forward to the Fall of 2019, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski gave them one this week.
NFL Brent Sobleski @@brentsobleski Twitter Logo NFL Analyst The offseason can be as thrilling for NFL fans as the regular season. Player movement constantly refreshes rosters-whether through free agency, the draft or trades. Significant changes inject excitement into franchises, personnel and fanbases. A one-time league doormat can become the league's "it' team simply through a string of acquisitions.
Brent identified the biggest reason for each team to look forward to 2019, with the return of center Travis Frederick being the Cowboys' submission. There's no question that when healthy, Frederick is one of the best centers in the game, and anchors an offensive line many still consider to be at the top of the league.
"A full year with wide receiver Amari Cooper and re-signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal are both reasons for the Dallas Cowboys to be excited. However, the return of Travis Frederick to man the middle of the offensive line is far more pertinent."
Frederick missed all of the 2018 season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that I am not nearly qualified enough to discuss. What I do know is that it can be very serious, and it kept Frederick out for the entire year.
The Cowboys offensive line suffered during the early part of 2018, largely due in part to Travis Frederick's absence. Yes, Joe Looney filled in and played as well as anyone could have hoped for, but the disconnect in communication across the offensive line was clear without their usual center. Especially during the first couple months of the season.
If Frederick is fully back and healthy, his presence alone will take the Cowboys offensive line back towards their peak. Combine his comeback with a healthy Zack Martin, and a now bulked up Connor Williams, and the interior of this line has the chance to be special.
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Make Pro Bowl Debuts this Season
Every year, the Dallas Cowboys send quite a few players to the Pro Bowl. This year, the Cowboys sent eight players to the Pro Bowl with Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones being selected to their first Pro Bowl squad.
There is a lot of talent on this year's roster and the Cowboys will likely send someone to the annual all-star game that hasn't been there before. Here are three I think will make a push for Pro Bowl recognition in 2019.
Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback
In the first half of the season, Chidobe Awuzie got picked on a bit. His coverage was always pretty good, but he allowed a ton of receptions. Awuzie allowed the ninth highest passer rating in coverage, the 12th most receptions, the 10th most yards, and tied for the sixth most touchdowns allowed weeks 1-9 of 2018.
In the second half, including the playoffs, Awuzie was much better and showed a higher level of comfort. His passer rating allowed dropped 50 points and was the 17th lowest in the league among corners who played at least 197 coverage snaps. He allowed fewer receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the 10 games over the second half than he allowed in the first eight games of the season.
Awuzie is one of the tougher players on the team. He plays with a similar edge that DeMarcus Lawrence does on the defensive line.
After spending part of his rookie season injured and rotating in, Awuzie found his stride in the second half of 2018 and was one of the Cowboys better cover players. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Cowboys 2017 second round pick looks to be an ascending player that could make some noise for postseason awards.
Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner
The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2019 NFL Draft looking to find a gadget player they could use on offense, but just as important, they wanted a player who could contribute in the return game. They got him in Rookie Tony Pollard.
Over the course of three seasons and 87 returns, Pollard averaged 30 yards per kick return and returned seven kickoffs for scores. In 2017, Pollard averaged an insane 40 yards per return. He's an incredibly dynamic player with the ball in his hands and though he wasn't used much on punt returns, shows an ability to make people miss and read his blockers.
As Stephen Jones said, "he's got a little Alvin Kamara to him." As a ball carrier, Pollard averaged 7.7 and 7.1 yards per carry over his final two seasons at Memphis. He was dynamic as a receiver as well averaging more than 12.4 yards per reception over three seasons in college.
With Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys may not give Pollard enough snaps and touches to have an Alvin Kamara like rookie campaign (120 carries for 728 yards, 8 touchdowns and 81 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns), but if he's given half that workload, plus what he could do on returns, he'll make noise for Pro Bowl consideration.
Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
It was a bit surprising to go back and look at which linebackers made the Pro Bowl and not see Jaylon Smith's name. As good as Rookie Leighton Vander Esch was, Jaylon Smith might have been better. By standard metrics -- tackles, interceptions, tackles for loss -- Vander Esch totaled more. Advanced metrics like defensive EPA (expected points added) and playmaking EPA, favored Jaylon Smith's season.
Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch
Jaylon Smith didn't rack up the tackles like Vander Esch, but he was far more impactful over the course of the season. That's not to diminish Vander Esch's contribution to the Cowboys success in 2018. It's important to show Jaylon Smith his due, though.
Smith recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended to go along with his 120 combined tackles in 2018. And that was just his second full season back from the devastating knee injury he suffered in college.
Another season removed from the injury should make Jaylon Smith more confident and more explosive in 2019, which should lead to another outstanding season for the Dallas Cowboys Middle Linebacker.
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Don't let anyone tell you that Pro Bowls don't matter. They do. Sure, All-Pro awards are the more highly coveted recognition, but to the players and to their agents, Pro Bowl selections matter. It's not as exclusive, but in a league with 1,696 players being one of 88 is still a really nice honor. To be a Pro Bowl player mean's you're in the top 5% of NFL players.
Obviously, we'd all prefer none of the Dallas Cowboys play in the Pro Bowl. Because that would mean they'd be preparing to play for that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys have always provided quite a few participants to the Pro Bowl game, but if the participation was zero in 2020, it wouldn't be all bad.
Will “Rumored” Position Change Help Keep LB Sean Lee Healthy?
Rumors and speculation. That's the point of the offseason we have reached with the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL. That's not necessarily a bad thing because it means players are staying out of trouble, but it's still a slow time nonetheless.
Today, I'd like to dive into some of the rumors and speculation surrounding the Dallas Cowboys right now. I thought I'd start off with Linebacker Sean Lee, and his "rumored" position change heading into the 2019 season. I think it's something worth discussing, as it is just about anything involving General Lee.
If rumors are correct, the Dallas Cowboys are considering a position change for Sean Lee in 2019. He's been their starting weak side linebacker (WILL) pretty much ever since they went to a 4-3 defense, but could be making a move to the strong side (SAM) to replace Damien Wilson. If true, this is interesting on so many different levels.
Sean Lee was initially moved to WILL in the Cowboys 4-3 defense years ago in order to hopefully protect him from the reoccurring injuries he was sustaining year after year. The thought was he would be better protected by not having to fight through so much trash or take on as much contact on the weak side. This was true to some degree, but unfortunately the injury bug continued to bite.
With that in mind, it seems strange the Cowboys are considering moving Sean Lee to SAM since it's considered to be a more physical position to play than he's use to. There is a lot more physicality and contact involved playing on the strong side, which you would think would make him more susceptible to the problem that's plagued his entire career, injuries.
The thought process of having Sean Lee switch to a more physical position seems like a strange one on the surface. A player who has struggled to remain healthy his entire career moving to play a more physically demanding position seems odd, but not if you were to look beyond the obvious.
Yes, the SAM LB position is more physically demanding, but doesn't receive a lot of playing time in the Cowboys 4-3 defense. Damien Wilson only played 30.72% of the defensive snaps in 2017 and 27.93% in 2018. Playing less snaps could actually play in Sean Lee's favor and potentially keep him healthy. That would make the move a win-win for No. 50 and the Cowboys.
A healthy Sean Lee playing SAM would be an upgrade over Damien Wilson. It would also give the Dallas Cowboys arguably the best starting 4-3 linebackers in the entire NFL. You may disagree, but I challenge you to find a better starting trio. I don't think it's possible.
Of course, all of this is just a rumor we are forced to speculate about right now, but it's still interesting to discuss nonetheless. I don't know how all of this will play out in the end, but I can't really think of any reason why Sean Lee shouldn't get the first crack at replacing Damien Wilson as the strong side linebacker in 2019.
Maybe, just maybe this will be the move that will finally keep him healthy.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of Sean Lee making a position change?
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