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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 Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next
Dallas may only be 1-1 on the season, but the Cowboys are officially tied for first-place in the NFC East, and fresh off a workmanlike victory over divisional rivals, the New York Giants. It was a game they should have won, and did win, but the takeaways so early in the season are that, although the offense has not clicked on all cylinders, the defense is getting high praise.
The Cowboys sacked New York’s Eli Manning six times and limited the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley, to a mere 28 yards rushing. It was also a night in which Dak Prescott not only out-gained Barkley by 17 yards on the ground, but torched the Giants’ secondary on a 64-yard touchdown strike to Tavon Austin which proved New York’s Safety Landon Collins wrong when leading up to this game he remarked that the key to a Giants’ victory would be getting Prescott to throw. When Prescott was made aware of the comment in a midweek interview he replied, "…challenge accepted," and the third-year veteran made good on his word leading to the 20-13 victory.
However, Prescott ended the night with just 160 yards passing yet the ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 showed no signs of rearing its head as Prescott moved seamlessly in the pocket and ran the ball well.
As we move ahead to the Cowboys meeting in Seattle, we take a quick check over to one of the most reputable online sportsbooks in the industry - Intertops according to the reviews - where we can monitor the line on this pivotal NFC clash as the week progresses.
Seattle boasts a talented quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson but one who will find the sledding tough if the Dallas defense continues to shut down All-World wide outs like Odell Beckham Jr. and contain future rushing stars like Saquon Barkley. Outside of Wilson, Seattle is not loaded offensively, with their biggest target, Doug Baldwin, ailing with a knee injury and a backfield which consists of two young rushers in second-year man Chris Carson and a first-round rookie in Rashaad Penny who dealt with nagging injuries throughout the preseason and looked unsettled in Seattle’s 27-24 loss to the Broncos.
The Cowboys defense has already proven its worth in Carolina with Cam Newton under center and again last week against New York. The unit is surrendering an average of 14 ½ points per game and is incorporating more blitz packages than we’ve come to expect.
The difference this year is that the players they have on defense are capable of getting to the quarterback quick enough so that the coverage linebackers and secondary aren’t alone on an island for too long. The one concern is the status of Linebacker Sean Lee, who checked out of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday night and brought to mind his hamstring issues of a year ago, but apparently it was in fact cramping, and not straining, of the hammy which allowed Lee to return.
The bottom line in terms of the Cowboys' upcoming matchup on Sunday afternoon is that they will get the Seahawks coming off a short week, as Seattle played on Monday night and should be relatively healthy for the contest.
Dak Prescott may not have the formidable offensive line that he has had in the past, nor a top-tier arsenal of receivers, but he does have the elusive Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and is capable of extricating himself from pressure situations when no target is available.
If the Dallas defense continues to play at the current level, it will not only be limiting the opposition on the scoreboard but putting its offense in good field position throughout. So check out Intertops, one of the most trusted and reputable online sportsbooks, to see where this line goes because a Dallas win and an ATS cover are just days away.
Taco Tuesday: Cowboys DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?
There has been quite a bit of talk about what a bad decision it was for the Dallas Cowboys to draft Taco Charlton with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Nearly everybody wanted someone different, not a player that needed time to develop.
Well, fast forward a year later and it looks as if the Cowboys made the right decision.
Don't look now, but Defensive End Taco Charlton is starting to live up to that first-round pedigree. In the first two weeks of the 2018 season, Charlton has already looked like a much improved player from what we saw a season ago. Imagine that, a little bit of time to develop and he's turning into a solid player.
I know I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself, especially suggesting that he is starting to dominate, but I can't help myself. I'm that excited about how much he has improved in one offseason. I may be alone here, but I have high hopes he could turn into something special.
In 2017, Taco Charlton failed to start a single game for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie. That's not really what you want from your first-round draft pick. To makes matters worse, in 16 games he only registered 25 total tackles, four QB sacks, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. As you can imagine, it didn't sit well with most Cowboys fans.
Luckily, it looks as if Charlton's offseason in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program has paid off. Already in 2018 he has accumulated six total tackles, one QB sack, one pass defensed, and recovered a fumble. If he keeps this pace up, we could be looking at #97 reaching double-digit sacks this year.
Now, I wouldn't call what Taco Charlton has accomplished so far this season dominating, but he is proving to be a starting quality DE along the Cowboys defensive line. It's a unit that has looked really good in the first two weeks of the season and is expected to be even better once Randy Gregory and David Irving are able to return to the field.
In the meantime, the Dallas Cowboys are happy to get plays like this from Taco Charlton.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
This is a play Charlton is expected to make. He was left unblocked, but we've seen players left unblocked before not make the play. So, it may not be as impressive as some QB sacks. But, I'll take the routine tackle any day over someone trying to make a splash play and failing.
If you're looking for an impressive play from Taco Charlton, take a look at what he was able to do against Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
In case you're wondering, that's Taco Charlton in OBJ's hip pocket 15 yards down the field in pass coverage. It looks as if that's where Eli Manning was wanting to go with the ball, but tight coverage by the Cowboys, and Charlton, across the board ended up resulting in a QB sack.
If you don't find that impressive, I don't know what will. A 275 pound DE covering arguably the best and highest paid wide receiver down the field is almost unheard of. I would count that as impressive.
What do you think of Taco Charlton's play so far in 2018?
A Look Around The NFC East: Week 2
The usually competitive NFC East got off to a shaky start last week, with half the division winning their season opener and the other half falling short.
Now entering week 2, the Eagles and Redskins have a chance to begin to distance themselves from the loser of the Cowboys/Giants game, and both of those 0-1 teams are looking to "save" their season. Yes, that sounds dramatic, but a home loss within the division to fall to 0-2 could be debilitating for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward.
Regardless, let's go around the division and see what each team has on tap for this Sunday.
The defending champs opened up their 2018 campaign just as we expected: with a home victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta sort of gave that game away last Thursday night, but if the Eagles can stack Nick Foles-led wins on top of each other they'll put themselves in a great spot to win the East when Carson Wentz returns.
The Eagles will be on the road this week for the first time, traveling to Tampa Bay to play the 1-0 Buccaneers. The Bucs pulled the upset of the weekend last week, defeating New Orleans 48-40. It's hard to imagine that "Fitzmagic" continuing against the vaunted Eagles defense, though.
Philly is a three point road favorite against Tampa Bay this Sunday.
My "sleeper" team in the NFC East, and pick to finish second in the division, looked rather impressive in their week one drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals. Of course, Arizona isn't a very good team, and will probably be picking top 5 in the draft next April. Still, it was a good showing for the Redskins to open the season.
Washington got Adrian Peterson going on the ground for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown, and Chris Thompson helped keep them on schedule offensively as well. Washington hasn't been talked about much this offseason, but is sitting at 1-0 with a game against the 0-1 Colts on the horizon.
Washington is a 6 point favorite against Indianapolis this Sunday, and has a good chance of starting 2-0 on the year.
New York Giants
Though we are just one week into the 2018 regular season, an important matchup is brewing within the NFC East. After falling to 0-1 with a home loss in their season opener, the Giants will travel to Texas to face the Cowboys on Sunday night football this week.
With both teams sitting at 0-1, neither can afford to put themselves into a nearly-insurmountable hole with a second straight loss. Since the merger 90% of teams who fall to 0-2 fail to make the playoffs, and it would be back-to-back seasons of missing out for both the Cowboys and Giants.
New York is a three point road underdog on Sunday, and it seems like most of the football world is leaning towards them and their weapons coming away with the victory.
Either way, this game will have massive implications on the 2018 season.
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