Happy Thanksgiving Eve, Cowboys Nation!
Yes that's a real day.
About 24 hours from now we'll watch our Dallas Cowboys, fresh off of a victory in Miami, take on the 10-0 Carolina Panthers. How exhilarating!
The Cowboys are no strangers to big-time games against undefeated teams. On November 19th, 2006 they hosted the 9-0 Indianapolis Colts in Tony Romo's first start at home. Indy was unable to get to 10 wins as Dallas handed them the first loss of their World Championship season.
What's the old saying, doing something twice makes it a tradition? Well on December 19th, 2009 the Cowboys took on the 13-0 New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. With a game in Washington following their date against a team with no losses (like they've got on Thanksgiving) the Cowboys had an emphatic win against the eventual World Champions. A tradition was born!
We've got our own tradition going on here at Inside The Star. Every week, on the eve of gameday, I cook you up a batch of 5 Bold Predictions.
I know that this week is funky with Thanksgiving and all, but I am a chameleon and can adapt to anything!
As it is Gameday/Thanksgiving Eve, please allow me to present this week's rendition of my 5 Bold Predictions. Enjoy.
Jason Garrett's 1994 Thanksgiving Victory Will Be Mentioned At Least 7 Times
Thanksgiving comes with a lot of traditions: football in the yard, nice clothes, taking pictures with all of my aunts' phones, turkey, stuffing, Dallas Cowboys football, the list goes on and on.
Since Jason Garrett took the reins as the Dallas Cowboys Head Coach full-time in 2011 a new tradition has made its way into our lives. Death, taxes, and mentioning Jason Garrett's 1994 victory over the Green Bay Packers are the three unavoidable things in life.
On Thanksgiving 1994 Coach Garrett was called into action and had to quarterback the Dallas Cowboys against the Green Bay Packers. The Pack were one of the top teams in the NFL (what else has changed?) at the time and this was quite the tall task for young Jason.
The original Red Rifle rumbled his way through the game, though. He went 15/26 and threw for 311 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception... all in a winning effort.
You can bet your sweet potatoes that this will be mentioned at least seven times on Thanksgiving, but would we really want it any other way?
BOLD PREDICTION BONUS POINTS: I'm going to go a step farther here, for bonus points of course, and add one more tiny little detail. Not only will Garrett's Thanksgiving heroics be drilled into your brain, but there will also be at least four mentions that he was the first to rock the new "Color Rush" jerseys. How do ya like me now?!
Lucky Whitehead Will Return A Kickoff For A Touchdown
The Cowboys have been pretty fortunate with how the NFC East has played out this season. They've caught some breaks, and they're right in the middle of the race at Thanksgiving... a shocking thing for a 3-7 team.
As fortunate as they've been - they're about to get Lucky.
The last time that Lucky Whitehead had the chance to bring one out of the endzone, three weeks ago against the Eagles, he took it 79 yards. On Thanksgiving Lucky is going to hit the full hundred.
The breaks have gone completely in the opposite direction that we would have liked over the last two months. I'm not saying that we should root for or depend on breaks... I'm saying that we're going to make them go our way.
Everyone knows that winning all three phases (Offense, Defense, and Special Teams) is essential in an NFL game. The Cowboys are going to get a big play from Lucky #13 as a special appetizer for the Thanksgiving Feast they'll have after the game.
Lucky Whitehead scores his first touchdown on Thanksgiving Day against the undefeated Carolina Panthers.
Sounds awesome, doesn't it?!
The Dallas Cowboys Defense Will Hold The Panthers Under 20 Points
The Carolina Panthers have scored at least 20 points in every single game this season, but I don't call these bold predictions for nothing... I'm not here to punt.
Cam Newton and Co. have been on all kinds of offensive fire this season. Just last week Superman threw for five touchdowns. What on earth am I thinking here?!
I'm thinking that the Dallas Cowboys have held three out of their last four opponents to 14 points or less and that they're allowing 22.8 points per game across the whole season.
I've also got this thing called a brain that's telling me Tony Romo is here, draining the clock like some Steph Curry 3s, and that the Kraken is about to be released against his former team.
Greg Hardy will face the Carolina Panthers for the first time, and he won't be alone. DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Jeremy Mincey, and Jack Crawford were all hanging out near Ryan Tannehill last week. Cam Newton is the new meeting spot.
This defense is going to stifle the Panthers in a way that they haven't been all season. Toss in the fact that the Panthers are going off of one true day of practice this week and I'm even more on board.
I hope you enjoyed life at 20 and above, Carolina. The ride is over.
Jason Witten Will Channel His Color Rush Poster For His 1,000th Career Reception
I was talking to my Dad the other night about just how incredible Jason Witten is... and how we don't fully appreciate it.
This dude is so freaking amazing that it's actually become boring.
"Oh Witten caught 10 passes?" No big deal. "Jason hauled in two touchdowns?" Seen it before. Hey, but remember that time he ran without his helmet! That was awesome!
Jason Witten is INCREDIBLE. He is currently sitting on 994 career receptions. These are the players in front of him:
That's it. Aside from those ten gentleman there is nobody, in the history of professional football, that has caught more passes than Jason Witten. Wow.
Six receptions is usually a mediocre day at the office for Jason, but on Thanksgiving it's going to be spectacular. Witten is going to re-create the pose he's got going on in the "Color Rush" poster with his 1,000th career reception that's reeled in for a touchdown! Huzzah!
Tony Romo Will Turn To Thanksgiving Day 2006 And Throw 5 Touchdowns
You already know how Romo took care of business against the undefeated Colts in 2006. What you might have forgotten was that one week later, on Thanksgiving, he torched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the tune of five touchdown passes (so basically what the Buccaneers did to the Eagles last week).
Romo was just entering our lives when he hit the cinco mark on Thanksgiving Day 2006. He's just re-entering our lives these days as we've got one game with him under our belts in the last two months.
Wouldn't it just be the coolest thing ever if he did it again? Against the 10-0 Panthers?
It's happening! Romo's tossing enough for the thumb against the vaunted defense of the Panthers.
Respect. The. Romo.
Neutral Perspective: Dak Prescott is NOT a 1-Man Army
It doesn’t take a lot to cause an overreaction in the NFL, and fans and the media alike can be very fickle. Thus, when the Dallas Cowboys were beaten by the Carolina Panthers in week one the discussions surrounding their title credentials began, and even more so because Dak Prescott and his Cowboys offense was only able to score 8 points. He left the stadium still looking for his first touchdown pass of the season and wondering what went wrong.
By all accounts, Prescott wasn’t great, and his quarterback rating of 81.1 reflects that. His performance left the fans concerned and some asserting there were no shades of the Prescott of 2016. Nonetheless, a quarterback has to be helped by his offensive line, and allowing him to get sacked six times shows that improvement is needed up front.
In week 2, against the New York Giants, Prescott started the game with a booming 64-yard touchdown pass to WR Tavon Austin on the first series of the game. It was a play four whole quarters of football in the making and made fans explode in celebration following the lackluster performance against CAR. Prescott's rating jumped to 95.4 and he wasn't sacked during the contest. Even still, he threw the ball for 10 fewer yards than in week 1 and was 1.5% less on his completion percentage too.
Prescott’s best defense is the Cowboys' lack of stand-out wide receivers. The loss of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant – neither of whom has adequately been replaced – is the biggest cause of this perceived fall from grace. Those departures have undeniably created a problem, but one that many great quarterbacks over the years have managed to overcome.
While the doom and gloom felt by Cowboys Nation after week 1 has abated some with a victory over New York, for a franchise that has enjoyed the often wow-worthy play of Tony Romo, Dak Prescott has a way to go yet, to say the least.
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The current situation is difficult for the Cowboys, but there are also psychological mitigations. One of these is their presence in a division with the reigning Super Bowl winners, the Philadelphia Eagles.
This has long since put the Cowboys on the back foot in the futures betting markets, with an average moneyline price of +210 that makes them the least likely team to win the NFC East division. Unlike betting on individual games themselves, the futures market is a starker reflection of a team's form, rather than the more reactionary moneyline prices on individual games.
Criticism, from experts and fans alike, always intensifies after a defeat, and starting the season off at 1-1 isn't always enough to overcome said criticism. So too will the moneyline price of the Cowboys besting the Eagles lengthen, although the rewards for keeping faith in the Cowboys to do that – if they somehow do – will be all the more greater if they proceed to underachieve.
On this episode, we are joined by Jon Cassel, a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan, to discuss each team in the NFC East (Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles) going into the 2018 season. SUBSCRIBE to T2F for more football content! SUPPORT us through Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/Time2Football Follow us on social media!
Dak Prescott Needs Support Like Never Before
The likes of Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns aren’t going to be reaching the Hall of Fame, but they are more than capable of helping Dallas score more than 8 points in a game. Take away the opening-drive shot from week 2, the only TD pass Dak has thrown in 2018, and the Cowboys scored just 13 points against the Giants. It's hardly confidence inspiring, yet.
There have been numerous points so far where the Prescott of 2016 would have found the receiver, but for whatever reason, those throws just aren’t being made with any consistency right now. That is especially bad considering the breathing room that is given by an elite level running back, which can be found in the form of Ezekiel Elliott.
Zeke got the ball 15 times for 69 yards against CAR and 17 times for 78 yards against NYG, both of which have to be less than he would have liked. Yet, the Panthers were out to stop him, specifically, and the Cowboys offensive line couldn’t cope, which allowed Elliott to lack effectiveness and their quarterback to be put to the ground half a dozen times. The opening drive against the Giants certainly helped alleviate pressure on Prescott, but it's clear that the defense beat the Giants, overall.
These, however, are problems that an offensive coordinator needs to overcome, and Scott Linehan didn’t cover himself in glory either.
Ultimately, above all else, there seems to be a bit of disunity within the offense. The receivers feel unloved, the running backs face a lot of defenders on each play, and the quarterback must improve his accuracy.
These situations are where you need creative play calling and a unique approach.
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Spirit of 2016 Can Still Make an Impact
With every defeat, the next game is hugely important, in the mind if not on paper. If the Cowboys can step up and convincingly rack up some wins, then – as ever – it will start to go quiet.
One aspect that sometimes goes overlooked is the defense. Conceding 16 points against Carolina and 13 against New York should usually be more than low enough to secure a win. Thus, if the Cowboys keep up that level of performance, then they should win a lot more games than they lose. But that's because most offenses in the NFL are capable of scoring 20-or-more points a game. With the Cowboys defense performing as they have been thus far, the onus is on the offense the close out games.
There's a reason the quarterback position is regarded far above all others, and Prescott needs to carry the team with him to keep that winning feeling in the Cowboys’ locker room.
He needs to give the opposition’s defensive line more to think about, and make them fear the pass as much as Elliott’s or his own rushing ability. That will give his receivers more confidence and Elliott more space. If his offensive line isn’t doing its job then he and Linehan need to think of ways to get the ball out quickly and on target.
Doom and gloom often surrounds any first loss of a season, but if Prescott and Elliott can work together as they did in their first win of the season, then it’s going to be very hard to beat them, especially if their defense keeps playing to such high standards as they have.
Regardless, the Super Bowl is anything but a lock at this point, and the problems need to be fixed quickly, before "distant" becomes mathematically "impossible."
Can WR Brice Butler Help Improve Cowboys Passing Game?
In a somewhat confusing move, the Dallas Cowboys decided to re-add Wide Receiver Brice Butler to the roster in order to get something more out of the passing game, which to be honest has been pretty putrid in the first two games of the 2018 season. Something needed to be done, but I'm not sure that Butler is the answer.
I'm going to agree with my fellow Staff Writer, Jess Haynie, in saying that the Cowboys decision to reunite with Brice Butler makes no sense. Jess is actually much more polite than I would've been when I initially found out about this transaction. I personally hate the move and I'm not afraid to say it. But ultimately, it wasn't my decision to make and the only thing that really matters here is whether or not Butler can help improve the passing game?
With all of the questions surrounding the Cowboys receivers, Butler's addition just adds another one. Unfortunately, we are two games into the 2018 season and the receiver position still remains the biggest unknown. No one has really stepped up their game and with the exception of Tavon Austin's touchdown catch last week, there hasn't been any big plays in the passing game.
I don't really know how Brice Butler is supposed to improve things. Is he supposed to be the "go to" receiver now? Is he any better than what the Cowboys already have on the roster? Or, will he end up being more of a progress stopper? Like I said, he just adds more questions to be answered.
I for one don't see any upside in adding Butler. Yes, Quarterback Dak Prescott has a bond with him, but nothing ever really materialized there when #19 was here previously. He showed flashes, like he has at all of his stops in the NFL, but his inconsistencies couldn't convince the coaching staff to play him more. So, what's changed?
The obvious answer here would be the subtraction of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten in the passing game. That's quite a bit of production missing that has yet to be accounted for. But again, I am still not buying into the Butler addition as a solution.
I know it sounds like I'm slamming Brice Butler pretty hard, but there was a time when I wanted to see him on the field more. Like many of you, the past few seasons I wanted to see him receive a promotion over Terrance Williams, but unfortunately that never happened. But, that was then and this is now.
Personally, I would much rather see Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, or Michael Gallup be worked more into the offensive game plan. I just feel that we have already seen what Brice Butler has to offer and it just wasn't good enough for him to stick around before. It's time to move forward, not back.
There is a reason Butler was a free agent. I mean, he wasn't even good enough to stick with Arizona Cardinals, who probably have more problems at WR than the Cowboys. But who knows? Maybe I'll end up being wrong and he'll finally play up to his true potential and talent. Wouldn't that be great?
Now, this is just one person's opinion, but I just don't see Brice Butler improving the passing game for the Dallas Cowboys. I think the only way that happens is if Dak Prescott reaches the next phase in his development. Until then, I don't see things improving much. But, that's an article for another time.
How do you feel about the Dallas Cowboys reuniting with Brice Butler?
Despite Seattle’s Record, Sunday Is No Cakewalk For Cowboys
As Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a game-ending pick six on national television Monday night, all of Cowboys Nation was suddenly giddy.
Somehow, the team which looked completely lost and inept offensively to open the season was now staring down a chance at a 3-1 start if they could take care of back-to-back winless teams.
The first of those winless foes being the Seattle Seahawks.
Though the last 5 years or so have conditioned us to believe that Seattle is a defensive minded, physical football team, more recent history suggests they’ve fallen off quite a bit. No longer are prime Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor patrolling their secondary, or are waves of top tier defensive linemen cycling through during the game.
Now, the Seahawks are defined by a shaky offensive line, a lack of playmakers on the perimeter, and Russell Wilson hero-ball.
It’s an odd, and typically ineffective formula for winning games, but it’s the one the 0-2 Seahawks are currently stuck with.
Despite all of this, however, Sunday’s game will be an important test for the Cowboys. Though they were favored by 3 points last week, this game is the first time in 2018 that Dallas is truly “expected” to win. Ironically, they come in as Vegas underdogs, but it’s difficult to find informed football analysts who are on Seattle this Sunday.
This, of course, has more to do with how poor Seattle has played to open their season, but they’ve still been incredibly competitive in both losses, losing both games by just one possession.
Going to Seattle and getting a win is a task teams have dreaded for years, even before Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom brought the Seahawks back to relevancy.
Now when you add in factors such as this being Seattle’s home opener, and that they will be desperately fighting to avoid a potential season-killing 0-3 start, this is shaping up to be a very tough test for the Cowboys.
The young Cowboys need to handle their business the next two weeks and take advantage of 0-2 conference foes. These games will be huge down the stretch for potential playoff tie breakers and give them a chance to “fatten up” before entering the more challenging parts of their schedule.
Like two match ups with the Philadelphia Eagles, and running the rest of the NFC South gauntlet during the later months of the year.
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