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"Do you guys want to play a game on the court?" was the question the Spurs Employee asked my friend Aaron and I.
It was May 10th, 2016 and the two of us were at Game 5 of the Spurs/Thunder Series in the NBA Playoffs. San Antonio, my place of residence, was tied with Oklahoma City through four games. Tonight was pivotal.
As Aaron and I made way to our seats, an employee asked if we wanted to be on the court at the end of the first quarter for a mini game of sorts. Immediately after being asked, I turned to Aaron. It had been his idea to come to the game, this was his call. I told him I was with him 100% whatever he wanted to do.
"Uh... sure." Aaron said, "What all do we have to do?".
The employee explained the rules of the mini game and when we would have to make our way down to the tunnel (you know, the one the Spurs enter/exit from). After literally five seconds of digesting the idea, Aaron changed his mind. He told the employee we were good, and he walked away.
After I chased Aaron down I asked, "What?! We were going to go on the court! What happened?"
Aaron said that he changed his mind and "didn't want to miss any of the game." While that's a stance I can get behind, it's worth noting that the Spurs would go on to lose this game and that it would ultimately be Tim Duncan's last one in San Antonio. We could have been on the court for this, Aaron!
What's the lesson here? Never take any situation for granted. Always go for it. Always be bold. The Dallas Cowboys have what seems like a non-important game ahead of them (the Steelers play in the AFC so it really does mean less). It cannot be taken for granted.
America's Team has, stop me if you've heard this before, a chance to make a statement with this game in Pittsburgh. Go destroy one of the NFL's best. Put the league on notice. Take what's yours. Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Let's roll.
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4-11 Plays A Big Part In The Cowboys Offense
4 to 11 is quite the combination these days in the NFL. The rookie quarterback has developed some great - this word has become exhausting lately - chemistry with the Saucemaster and it's showing all over the field.
Cole Beasley is the only pass-catcher that Dak Prescott has a completion percentage above 80% when targeting. This connection is a big reason why the Dallas Cowboys Offense is averaging a poetic 411.5 yards per game.
#DakAndCole are going to hook up a lot in this game. The 4-11 connection is going to be big as the Cowboys continue their offensive yardage average by the same number.
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Maurkice Pouncey Has A Bad Snap That Results In A Fumble Recovered By The Cowboys
It's really weird to hear that NFL teams have problems at the center position, because the Cowboys have Travis Frederick and never have to worry about such things.
Maurkice Pouncey, the ball-snapper for the Steelers, is currently dealing with a right thumb injury. If this were any other player, save a wide receiver, it really wouldn't be a big deal. Just slap a cast on it and do your thing; however, this is quite a troubling issue for someone who touches the football on literally every play.
Maurkice's right thumb - his snapping hand - is not going to be 100%. At some point in this game it's going to ail him just a bit too much, and he's going to have a bad snap that the Cowboys fall on top of. Close your eyes and you can see it, too.
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Ezekiel Elliott Is Going To Rush For More Yards Than Any Running Back Has This Season Against The Steelers
When the Miami Dolphins hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers a few weeks ago, Jay Ajayi carried the ball 25 times for 204 yards. That's pretty impressive.
The last time the Dallas Cowboys visited Pittsburgh was December 7th, 2008. At the time the largest performance the Steelers had surrendered on the ground was a 73-yard day by New England's Kevin Faulk. All of that changed when Cowboys rookie running back Tashard Choice dropped 88 on Pittsburgh.
Just like Tashard rushed for more yards against the Steelers than anyone had that season, Zeke is going to do the same... it's just going to be a wee bit more impressive.
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Super Bowls X, XIII, & XXX Will Be Referenced
When the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers meet up it's arguably a clashing of the NFL's greatest two franchises. In 50 total, three Super Bowls have featured a matchup between the two clubs, that's incredible.
The pages of Pro Football History are filled to the brim with legendary Cowboys/Steelers tales, but obviously the Super Bowl memories carry the most pomp and circumstance. Dallas and Pittsburgh have indeed squared off three times with football's biggest prize on the line. The Cowboys lost Super Bowls X and XIII (I believe Super Bowl XIII to be the greatest game ever played) to the Steelers, but they secured victory in Super Bowl XXX.
Considering this is America's Game of the Week on FOX and that the color analyst on call, Troy Aikman, was the winning quarterback of Super Bowl XXX... you can bet your bottom dollar these iconic games will be mentioned.
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Sean Lee Will Have The Game-Defining Play On Defense
Many people believe that linebackers are forged in the steel mills of Pittsburgh, PA. A lot of those people believe that they play for the Steelers, or Penn State. Either way... Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania in general knows how to breed a good linebacker.
Sean Lee was in fact forged in Pittsburgh... literally. "The General" was born in Pittsburgh and attended Penn State - he's a linebacker down to the bone.
It really is amazing how unnoticed Lee's 2016 campaign is going. The best defensive player on the Cowboys is putting together quite the season, but part of the reason people haven't totally caught on is because he hasn't made his trademark big plays... that changes on Sunday.
This is the first time in his NFL career that Sean Lee will play the Steelers in Pittsburgh. He's going to make it a memorable event.
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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!
Monsieur Cook always strings together quite the nice set of bold predictions, and this one is no different. If you buy my Zeke bold prediction then Donny hit the nail right on the head here, plus it looks like we're going to have a party on defense.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #2
Hey @rjochoa here's a fun Bold Prediction. Anthony Brown picks a pass intended for Antonio Brown... Somehow...
Mauricio is getting creative! I dig it!
Anthony Brown has played lights out as a rookie in the Dallas secondary. Considering that they're still adjusting to life without Morris Claiborne and Barry Church, Anthony will need to have a big day with the NFL's best receiver on the other side of things. Get that pick, Anthony! Huzzah!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #3
This is a big plate for Dez Bryant to step up to.
Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are far and away the Steelers most potent weapons. It would take a pretty huge effort from Dez Bryant to have to top both of them in these three statistical categories, and the Cowboys gameplan doesn't really lend itself to that.
The only way I see this unfolding is if the game turns into a shootout of sorts, in which case the Cowboys are likely in trouble. Yikes!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #4
@rjochoa bold prediction: cowboys hold AB under 100 yards AND Leveon bell as well. And dak throws a long TD at some point
It seems like Chase and Zeke-and-Deztroy are hanging out, doesn't it?!
Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell are going to have to show up if the Steelers have any chance. The Cowboys still have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher on the season, but this is arguably the best one that they've faced. I do believe Dez gets a big play at some point, so maybe that optimism will spill over!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #5
A cowboy will score his first TD of the season (Swain, Lucky, Smith or Defense) @rjochoa
I really, really, really like this Bold Prediction from Tony.
Here's the thing... if Gavin Escobar can score a touchdown then anyone can. This really does feel like Jeff Swaim's week. Book it for the Swaim Train!
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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