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.
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
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