The Cowboys are now faced with their most difficult portion of the 2008 schedule. If you have been listening to the national and local media I am sure you have heard that Dallas has no chance of winning this game! Most claim that Pittsburgh is just far too superior of a team to lose at home in December to the Cowboys. I must admit that Pittsburgh has an excellent team, but they are by no means unbeatable! I can even show you that they may be the Dallas of the north.
I keep hearing about how good Pittsburgh is! I believe and the numbers will show that Pittsburgh has the best defense in the league, but after that they have not shown much. When I began my research on this game I wanted to be as unbiased as possible. So I decided to look at the last five games from both teams, comparing opponent win/loss records, rush/pass yards both for and against, turnovers both for and against, sacks for and against. I then looked at scoring averages over the year, splitting them up into wins versus losses. I also looked at their season total numbers. I did all of these things to see if I could figure out exactly what happens to cause these teams to lose, and if there is a difference between the two teams. What I found was that I no longer am as concerned as I was about being able to win this game. This is a very winnable game!
First of all the notion that Dallas is winning because they have not played anyone is absolutely ridiculous. In the last 5 games Dallas went 4-1; Pittsburgh also went 4-1. Dallas played two teams below .500 records (49ers, Seattle), Pittsburgh played two as well (Chargers, Bengals). Pittsburgh's loss came to a 5-4 Colts team, while Dallas fell to a 7-1 Giants team. I might add the only Dallas loss was without Tony Romo! The combined records of the Steelers last 5 opponents was 23-27, while the Cowboys opponents were 23-26. As far as this blogger is concerned these two teams are dead equal when it comes to strength of schedule! If we were the BCS Dallas would be ranked ahead of Pittsburgh as their one loss was to the #1 team on the road, while Pittsburgh lost at home to a lesser team.
Now let's look at each team's defense over the last five. Dallas has given up on an average 89.2 yards per game on the ground, while Pittsburgh has given up 70.6. Edge Pittsburgh
Dallas has given up on an average 225.4 passing yards per game, while Pittsburgh has given up 189.4.
In the creating pressure (sacks) category Dallas has averaged 3.8 sacks per game, while Pittsburgh has averaged 3.4 sacks per game.
Edge slightly towards Dallas but really close to even
In the turnover Category Dallas has averaged 1.8 turnovers per game, while Pittsburgh has averaged 2.0 per game.
Edge slightly towards Pitt but really close to even
Now in these five games what was the scoring difference you ask? Well in these 5 games the Cowboys allowed 17 points per game average, Pittsburgh allowed 13.2 points per game average.
Edge Pittsburgh but much closer than anyone thought!
The third quarter though is where Pittsburgh's defense really clamps down, over the last 5 games they have averaged allowing only 0.6 points in that quarter! WOW! Through all the other quarters Dallas's defense holds their opponents at the same rate the Steelers do. This will be a key area to keep an eye on come Sunday.
On the offensive side of the ball the Cowboys have been running it on average of 91.6 yards per game, while Pitt averages 105 yards per game ( I would like to note that they rushed for only 55 yards against the worst rush defense in the league in the Colts).
Edge slightly to Pitt only because they have two quality running backs and Dallas does not know what it has yet with Tashard Choice
Dallas has averaged 225.2 yards per game passing (2 of these games was with Captain Ass Bag, since Romo has returned this ave. is now 290 ypg) while Pitt has averaged 238.6 per game.
Edge Dallas and it is not even close since the return of Romo, without Romo it is Pitt all the way. Fortunately Romo will be playing Sunday!
In the turnover category Dallas has averaged 1.6 per game (once again half of their turnovers were without Romo this average drops to 1.3 with Romo) Pitt has averaged 1.2 per game.
Sacks allowed Dallas has averaged 1.6 per game (have only allowed 1 sack since the return of Romo for an avg. of .3 per game) Pitt has allowed 2.4 per game (5 in the last 3 weeks for an average of 1.66 per game) on the year Dallas has allowed only 18 with Pitt allowing 36. Watch this very closely Sunday!
Edge Heavily in Dallas's favor
Scoring over the last 5 Dallas is averaging 22.0 points per game (27.6 since Romo's return) Pitt is averaging 22.8 over the last 5 (23.6 over the last 3).
Edge Dallas too much Romo
To take this scoring thing a little bit further lets look at what each team has done in their wins versus their losses:
- Dallas, in the 8 wins they have avg. 27.9 ppg while allowing 16.9 ppg
- Dallas in their 4 losses has avg. 19.0 ppg while allowing 31.5 ppg
- Pitt in their 9 wins has avg. 25.4 ppg while allowing 12.2 ppg
- Pitt in their 3 losses has avg. 13.3 ppg while allowing 20.0 ppg
I could go on and on with this all day long but I am sure you are all tired of looking at all of this. The point I am trying to make here is that Pittsburgh and Dallas are two of the most evenly matched teams. Dallas's strength lies with the Big O and Pittsburgh's strength lies with the Defense. At no point during my research have I seen anything that tells me Dallas cannot win and that Pittsburgh is superior. The keys of the game will be the following not necessarily in this order:
- Protect Romo
- Force their LB's to cover
- Score early and often
- Limit stupid Turnovers
- Spread them out create mismatches
- Contain Parker and Moore
- Pressure, Pressure, and more Pressure
- Put Big Ben in 3rd and long situations
- Mix up coverage's
- Enjoy the moment and have fun
I hope I have proven to all you Cowboy fans that this team is good enough to win on Sunday, and that Pittsburgh is nothing to be scared of! Also keep an eye out over the next day or so as there will be another installment of the 5 question preview coming!
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka
As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with
The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.
It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.
The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.
Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.
Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.
Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.
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