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?!
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?
It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.
Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.
A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.
Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.
First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:
- Earl Thomas
- Landon Collins
- Lamarcus Joyner
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Adrian Amos
- Clayton Geathers
- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
- Glover Quinn
- Tre Boston
- Kenny Vaccaro
- George Iloka
- Jimmie Ward
- Adrian Phillips
Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.
With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.
Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.
Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.
The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.
Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?
Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors
What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.
Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?
As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.
Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.
Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.
That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.
However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.
Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.
Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.
The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.
Just something to think about...
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