While the same few teams have dominated the AFC since about 2000, the NFC has been a revolving door at the top over the same time span.
Most recently, it was the Atlanta Falcons which rose to the top and won the conference, defeating the Green Bay Packers in impressive fashion during the NFC Championship Game.
Since we consider the Dallas Cowboys to be legitimate contenders in the conference, and to challenge for a Super Bowl, it's important to know your "enemies" around the league. The Cowboys will see all of these teams during the regular season, giving them a chance to get acquainted before playoff time.
So, here are the top 3 threats to a Cowboys NFC Title run.
The defending NFC champions who held a 25 point lead in the Super Bowl, Atlanta only improved their roster during the offseason. Adding former Cowboys defensive lineman Jack Crawford was nice, but signing former Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe was the icing on the cake.
Their already impressive young defense got younger and more dynamic through the draft as well, selecting UCLA EDGE Takkarist McKinley in round one and LSU LB Duke Riley in round three.
But, what we all know the Falcons for is their incredibly high powered offense. Last year's MVP Matt Ryan is still at the helm, with Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman ready to take the league by storm once again.
The Cowboys face the Falcons in Atlanta this year on November 12th.
Green Bay Packers
While the Falcons have become an offensive juggernaut over the last couple of years, these next two teams have been eternal thorns in the Cowboys' side. Ending both the Cowboys' 2014 and 2016 seasons in dramatic fashion, Aaron Rodgers and company are nearly locks to be back in the postseason once again.
Similar to Atlanta, the Packers showcase a prolific offense led by a top-tier quarterback. Unlike Atlanta, the Packers don't have the weapons around their quarterback or the horses on defense to truly be considered better than the Cowboys at this point.
In my opinion, at least.
For once, however, the Cowboys won't have to go to Lambeau field this year! It's about damn time the Packers come to Dallas for a regular season game, as they will on October 8th. Hopefully Dallas can set the tone for the rest of their season, and potential playoff re-match on that day.
New York Giants
You knew it was coming, didn't you?
Sweeping the Cowboys in 2016, and giving Dallas their only 2 legitimate regular season losses, the Giants will be back and ready to challenge for the NFC East crown in 2017.
Adding wide receiver Brandon Marshall and Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram to their already impressive passing weaponry, quarterback Eli Manning should be able to shred defenses week in and week out.
That is, of course, if they can somehow muster up a running game, and get Manning some protection. Neither of which is guaranteed at all, for what it's worth.
Defensively, the Giants gave the Cowboys fits last season. Hopefully with another year of preparation under their belts, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and quarterback Dak Prescott can whip up something to beat the Giants next season.
It's highly likely that the Cowboys/Giants meeting on December 10th will be for the inside track to an NFC East title, making the season opener between the two just as important.
Time to see What Darius Jackson can do as Zeke’s Backup?
I hate to say it because I really like Rod Smith, but I think it may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to reevaluate the running back position as it pertains to Ezekiel Elliott's primary backup. Smith just hasn't been good this year, which is why I think it may be time to see what Darius Jackson can do if given the opportunity.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting the Dallas Cowboys move on from Rod Smith or demote him right now, but I would promote Darius Jackson from the practice squad to the active roster as insurance in case something were to happen to Zeke. It just seems the right time to make that move after #21's injury scare Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Eagles.
You may have forgotten, but Ezekiel Elliott had to spend some time in the medical tent Sunday against the Eagles. He was luckily able to return to the game not long after, but it did shine a spotlight on Rod Smith and the lack of depth behind him.
Despite how much I like Rod Smith, and I do, he just hasn't been the same player this season as he was last year as Zeke's fill-in. He is just not running with any kind of authority and has been too apt to run east and west instead of north and south. I think it's one of the reasons why the Cowboys have continued to give Zeke such a heavy workload, despite him being banged up.
Now, Rod Smith did look a little better against the Eagles, but I still believe it would be wise for the Cowboys to promote Darius Jackson to the active roster. Having more depth at such a physically demanding position is just smart football.
With the Dallas Cowboys playoff spot all but secured, it might be time to start thinking about lightening Ezekiel Elliott's workload just a little bit. Whether it's Rod Smith or Darius Jackson, the Cowboys have to find someone who can step in and be productive.
Rod Smith has had his opportunities this year, but hasn't really been able to capitalize like we believed he could. It might be time to turn to Darius Jackson, a fan favorite, who unfortunately just hasn't been able to prove what he can do as of yet in a meaningful game. I think it's time we change that.
As much as I like Rod Smith, I might like Darius Jackson just a little bit more. I think he is kind of like a poor man's Ezekiel Elliott. He is just as athletically gifted and can be a threat as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He just needs the opportunity to prove it.
There's really no way of knowing if I'm right or wrong about this, but I believe he is worthy of a roster spot on game day if nothing else. I'd rather have him and not need him then need him and not have him.
Do you think it's time to see what Darius Jackson can do?
Cowboys Lassoing NFC East Title as NFC Dark Horse
Well don’t look now but the Dallas Cowboys are in control of their division and anything short of a catastrophic collapse will see them hosting the first round of the playoffs. Dallas strengthened their grip on the NFC East by knocking off a divisional rival and the reigning Super Bowl champions with a 29-23 overtime win over the Eagles.
Those who have a favorite online sportsbook and wagered on the Cowboys were ecstatic to see Dak Prescott hit Amari Cooper for a 15-yard touchdown pass in overtime, thus covering the 3 ½ point impost that oddsmakers hung on Dallas.
The Cowboys have now won five consecutive games, with three of those over divisional opponents Philadelphia (twice) and Washington. But before we celebrate, we must consider that there's still a mathematical possibility of either Philadelphia or Washington stealing the division crown away from the Cowboys.
The Giants' only hope is an outside shot at a wildcard berth if they win outright but they've been eliminated from contending for a division title due to their 1-4 record against NFC East teams.
Essentially, all the Cowboys must do is win one of their three remaining games in order to celebrate a division crown. If Philadelphia or Washington loses any of their three games they will be out due to tie breakers that go in the Cowboys’ favor.
As of this moment, the Redskins are a disaster with no one under center to captain their rudderless ship, and the Eagles must defeat the Rams in LA, which would be considered a stunning upset seeing as any reputable online sportsbook is offering the Rams as 9 ½ point favorites as of this writing; then they must win at home against Houston and on the road against the Redskins.
Of course, the Cowboys are counting only on themselves to reel in the division title and with games at Indianapolis, home against the Bucs, and wrapping their season in New Jersey against the Giants, at least one win seems likely.
The addition of Amari Cooper to the Dallas offensive arsenal has been a game-changer as the former Oakland Raider hauled in 10 of 13 targets for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner last Sunday against Philadelphia. He was the top-tier receiver Prescott had been lacking and his presence on the field improves both the passing game and running game by virtue of his dynamic playmaking abilities. Ezekiel Elliott has eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards in four of the six games since Cooper has been on the Cowboys roster.
Furthermore, Dallas has averaged 24.4 points per game over their last five wins with Cooper in the lineup, which is more than five points improved from where they were prior to their winning streak without him in a Dallas uniform.
In addition, Prescott has morphed from a game manager at 202 passing yards per game to a game breaker as evidenced by his 285.7 passing yard average in six games with his new target at his disposal.
Ultimately, the Cowboys will be tasked with turning all of this good mojo into a deep run into the postseason. We can now confidently say that there is one other team to consider besides the Rams, Bears, and Saints as this year’s NFC entrant into the Super Bowl. However, Dak Prescott will need to eliminate turnovers and interceptions if Dallas is truly going to contend against the powerhouses they will face in the playoffs.
Last Sunday, Prescott caught fire in the fourth quarter and ended with 455 yards passing, connecting on 42 of 54 passes with three touchdowns, but his two interceptions were converted into nine points by Philadelphia. As we move forward, Prescott will need to lead right from the get-go and understand that one poor decision can cost his team what is now a realistic shot at a championship season.
Cowboys en Español: Sí, Amari Cooper Lo Valió
Cuando los Dallas Cowboys sorprendieron a la NFL mandando una selección de primera ronda por el receptor Amari Cooper de los Oakland Raiders, la respuesta fue muy dividida. Al final de cuentas, Cooper estaba pasando por una temporada bastante mala junto a su equipo. Sus números iban en decline y muchos habían perdido la fe en la ex-estrella de la universidad de Alabama y cuarta selección global en el NFL Draft del 2015.
Pero sorpresa, sorpresa. Desde que se unió a las filas de los Dallas Cowboys, Amari Cooper ha demostrado que la decisión que tomaron los Jones fue una muy buena.
En esta liga, es muy complicado justificar el deshacerse de un pick de primera ronda.
Estamos hablando de la oportunidad de tomar a un novato joven con muchísimo potencial para convertirse en un jugador calibre All-Pro en algún punto de su carrera. No es fácil renunciar a una posibilidad así en esta liga. Sin embargo, Amari Cooper no ha hecho más que justificar el trade por parte de los Cowboys. Si continúa así, al final de la temporada podríamos estar hablando de que Dallas pagó de menos por él.
Es importante recalcar que Amari Cooper tiene 24 años de edad. Para el NFL Draft del 2019, los mejores prospectos en esta posición tienen a lo mucho cuatro años menos. A.J. Brown de Ole Miss tendrá 21 años cuando pise el emparrillado por primera vez en la NFL.
Y no, ninguno de estos receptores está cerca del nivel de talento con el que cuenta Cooper.
¿Qué tan grande ha sido el impacto de Amari Cooper?
Desde la semana 9, cuando los Cowboys consiguieron a Cooper, este ha tenido 30 recepciones. 23 de las cuales han resultado en un primer down o en un touchdown. Es el receptor con más atrapadas en tercera oportunidad. Podríamos hablar de las grandes estadísticas que el wide receiver ha conseguido vistiendo la estrella individualmente. Pero realmente, ha tenido un impacto en la ofensiva entera.
Desde su llegada, los Cowboys son el tercer mejor equipo en porcentaje de pases completos, el segundo en yardas después de la recepción y el tercero a la hora de convertir terceras oportunidades y mover las cadenas.
Simple y sencillamente, ha tenido un impacto que ningún otro novato del 2019 hubiera tenido en este equipo. Si, los Cowboys tendrán que pagarle una extensión cara en el futuro, pero cuando este sea el caso, lo habrá valido.
Amari Cooper es el ejemplo perfecto de porque la NFL es un deporte de equipo. Con los Raiders, todos lo tachaban como un jugador que ya no era bueno e iba para abajo. Pero bajo los Dallas Cowboys, se ve como un jugador que promete mucho para esta joven franquicia que necesitaba un verdadero #1 en la posición de wide receiver.
La ofensiva de los Cowboys tiene mucho talento. Es cuestión de mejorar en zona roja para que Dallas sea una amenaza bastante considerable en los playoffs de la NFL.
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