The score was 23-20, Pittsburgh. In a game without Ben Roethlisberger, they seemed minutes away from pulling out the win against the division rival Baltimore Ravens. With 2:29 left in the game, they sent kicker Josh Scobee out to do what he does and make it a 6-point lead.
"He's going to miss it." was the text that I sent my cousin.
No harm no foul. The Baltimore Ravens would go four and out, and with 1:06 left Scobee would be given a chance at redemption. All would be forgiven if he could just kick this one through the crossbars.
"He's going to miss again." I typed into my iPhone.
"No way. I'll bet you my jeep." my cousin responded ever so confidently.
You are all welcome to take a ride in my new jeep, which I have affectionately named... "Scobee Dobee Doo".
Calling for an NFL kicker to miss a field goal is bold, and calling for that same kicker to miss consecutive field goals is even bolder. If you've read my bold predictions before then you know that I'm not here to punt. This is four down territory.
The Dallas Cowboys will roll into the Superdome in New Orleans tomorrow on NBC's Sunday Night Football. They're coming off of a loss, Brandon Weeden is the quarterback, you know the drill.
What you don't know is what's going to happen. That's what I'm here for. Welcome to the Week 4 version of Getting Bold With RJ Ochoa. Each week I carefully anticipate five things that could happen but are on the wild side of reasonable. Shall we get started?
1. Drew Brees Fails To Top 200 Yards
One of the most talked about topics all week long has been whether or not the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees, will even play on Sunday. News broke on Friday indicating that all signs lead to Brees slinging the rock, so the Cowboys will indeed be squaring off against the former Super Bowl MVP.
Don't you worry your pretty little face, though. Mr. Brees has a sore rotator cuff that caused him to miss last week's game against the Carolina Panthers. What's a rotator cuff, you ask? Only this super important part of your shoulder that is essential for the throwing motion. It's not like a quarterback needs that, right?
Drew Brees will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday... and rightly so; however, he's going to be very limited come Sunday. Couple that with a very angry Dallas Cowboys defensive front that has spent the week hearing all about their failures against the Atlanta Falcons and you have a recipe for disaster down in the Bayou.
I expect Sean Lee to be running around like Bobby Boucher in the Bourbon Bowl during this game, wreaking all kinds of havoc on Drew. I very much believe in Morris Claiborne this year, and I think he's going to help limit Brees' productivity deep downfield. It's going to be a tough day at the office for New Orleans as Brees... my bold prediction here is that Drew will fail to surpass 200 yards - which has not happened since December 2nd, 2013.
2. Gavin Escobar Scores 2 Touchdowns
During Training Camp, we had NBC5 in DFW's Pat Doney on Cowboys Cast. Among other things we talked about potential breakout players this season. Pat raved about how great Gavin Escobar looked in camp and how uncoverable he was. When trying to compare the third year player from San Diego State to another NFL tight end... he said that Gavin shared similar traits to Jimmy Graham.
The Superdome is no stranger to the talents of Jimmy Graham. The basketball player-turned-NFL superstar dunked touchdowns over the goalposts so many times that the NFL had to outlaw the rule! Unfortunately for Saints fans Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks after last season so they haven't seen the usual performance of high-flying antics from a big tight end this year.
It's no secret that Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys need to push the ball downfield more. In the absence of Dez Bryant and Tony Romo, someone is going to have to step up. That someone is Gavin Escobar.
#89 had what should have been a touchdown called back in Philadelphia two weeks ago, but I am predicting two scores for Gavin in this game. I believe that the Cowboys are going to be able to move the ball effectively on the ground and find themselves in the red zone needing a big target. There are no Saints who can cover Escobar, and he's going to give them a painful reminder of the same type of plays that they used to love so much. Gavin is scoring twice, book it.
3. Cole Beasley Has A 100-Yard Game
While I fully believe that the Cowboys are going to allow Brandon Weeden to throw more downfield, he's still going to have to check a lot of things down. The defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, Rob Ryan who Cowboys fans know well, is a big fan of exotic blitzes. He's going to bring some serious heat at Brandon come Sunday.
Unless Brandon Weeden is a fan of getting hit very hard, he's going to have to get rid of the ball quickly - that's where Cole Beasley comes in. He's one of the shiftier players on the entire roster, and he's going to really shine in this game.
Get ready to hear constant comparisons to Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots because Cole is going to demolish New Orleans in the middle of the field. My bold prediction for the beautiful golden mane of Beasley is 9 catches for 114 yards.
4. The Cowboys Defense Forces 4 Turnovers
This defense has had to endure a lot of criticism all week. They've had to put up with chatter about how they let the game slip away, and how Julio Jones ran all over them. They are very angry.
I would be willing to bet my new jeep that Rod Marinelli has not been too kind to them either. He wants these guys to be getting after the ball all the time. He wants turnovers, and he's going to get them.
Given the status of Drew Brees, he's going to be delicate. Tyrone Crawford is going to come to play on Sunday, and he's going to be getting in Drew's face all day... forcing him to make quick and poor decisions.
If you took some perspective away from the Falcons game then you know that the second half was an aberration. Look for the Dallas Defense from the first two games of 2015 to show up in the Superdome, and look for them to be so ready to play that they force four turnovers.
5. Darren McFadden Throws A Pass
The name of the game isn't "reasonable" predictions, it's "bold" predictions, baby!
If you're a college football fan then you probably remember the days of the "Wild Hog" formation. In this formation, during his days as an Arkansas Razorback, Darren McFadden was known to sling the rock as well as run it. He actually has 7 passing touchdowns to his name in terms of his time at Arkansas.
The Cowboys will be across the field from one of the more creative NFL head coaches we've seen in the last decade, Sean Payton. They're going to need to surprise these guys as Payton has had the Cowboys' number a lot over the years.
I believe that the Cowboys will, as they always do, look to do everything possible to win. That includes getting a little bold themselves. Watch out for Darren Mcfadden taking a pitch to the outside, stopping to set his feet, and launching it downfield. How's that for bold?!
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook
Let me start this article with a strong opening statement: The Cowboys will be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. There's been a lot of talk about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But when we break it down, the current setup will most likely play out better for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.
The Dak Stats
Certain quarterbacks shine when they have that go-to playmaker. We're talking about guys like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Dez Bryant. But other QBs do better at reading the defense and quickly adapting to what is given. Dak Prescott is the latter breed of QB.
Let’s do a quick numbers exercise to prove this.
When Prescott is targeting 8 or more receivers throughout the game, his passer rating jumps from 86.1 (targeting less than 8) to 104.5. He passes for almost 50 yards more per game and his touchdown to interception ratio drastically improves from 21-13 to 24-4.
Most importantly, when he targets at least 8 different receivers, the Cowboys are 14-2. When he targets less than 8, the team is just .500 at 8-8.
Without a doubt, Prescott is much better at adjusting to what the defense is giving him. He just isn’t one of those guys who can successfully "force" the ball (like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees). Not feeling the pressure of having to get the ball into the hands of the star playmaker will give this offense a new kind of depth in 2018.
Yes, losing Jason Witten hurts, much more so in my opinion than not having Dez.
Questions Still Loom
This is still the Cowboys' biggest concern on offense. There is some great depth. We have Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, and the young stud out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz. But between the three who have any NFL experience, there are only 9 catches between them. I must say that Dalton, with his 4.75 40-yard dash, has a legitimate shot at seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie campaign and could become an impact player with his size (6’5”, 244-lbs) and speed.
But despite the battle for TE being wide open, and debates about whether or not the team needs a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys are still expected to give the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East. Here are the odds on the defending NFC East champions and how (although early) it is expected to shake out:
- Philadelphia Eagles -167
- Dallas Cowboys +350
- New York Giants +650
- Washington Redskins +750
NFC East Week 1 Predictions
The Cowboys open the season in a difficult road game against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been listed as 2.5-point favorites (follow the Cowboys NFL Odds here all season long) which isn’t surprising considering they are a tough team playing at home. You might be thinking, "crap, we're opening up as underdogs?" Don’t worry too much; it actually bodes fairly well because the lines-makers generally give a 3-point advantage to the home team. This means that they actually handicap the Cowboys to be a half-point favorite on a neutral field and a 3.5-point favorite in Arlington.
The Redskins open their season in Arizona against the Cardinals. The line is set at a pick ‘em (meaning there is no point spread; it's anyone's game). But, looking at the 'Skins and Cardinals, I think Washington gets disappointed in Week 1 and starts their season with a loss.
The Giants get to test their new offensive line and see if they were right in continuing to place their faith in Eli Manning against the best defense in the league. The Jags are 3-point favorites at MetLife stadium. This means the Jags are actually 6-points better. I do think that the Giants will be vastly improved this season, but they are also going to open with a loss.
The Eagles don’t have it easy either, but they will probably pull out the win at home as 4-point favorites against the Dirty Birds on Thursday Night Football. Their defense is just too good. Atlanta's road offense scored just 21 points per game last year while Philly scores 28 on average at home. The Eagles' home defense has been downright nasty, only allowing 12 points per game in Philadelphia.
This will be a two-horse race for the division between the Eagles and Cowboys. And even if the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will wildcard into the playoffs.
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