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Let me start by saying that I'm very blessed.
I've been very fortunate to have attended 12 Dallas Cowboys games in my life. Four of them took place at Texas Stadium, six of them have happened at AT&T Stadium, one was at Soldier Field in Chicago, and the most recent four quarters of Cowboys action I saw live happened at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Where I haven't necessarily been so fortunate has been in my quest for victory. The Chicago game happened in 2014 and was a nice dubayoo on Thursday Night Football, but the only other victory happened in 2008 at Texas Stadium.
I am 2-10 all-time at Cowboys games. 1-9 at home, and 1-1 on the road. It's been tough cookies.
When the Cowboys host the Bengals this Sunday, like Michael Jackson once beautifully sang... I'll be there.
The good news? My lone victory in the Lone Star State happened on October 5th, 2008. It was Week 5, the Cowboys were 3-1, and the opponent they bested was the Cincinnati Bengals.
That's right. I own this team!
Thanks to the 2002 Divisional Realignment opposite conference teams meet once every four years, which means the Bengals travel to Dallas only once every eight years. Eight in Spanish is ocho. I am RJ Ochoa, host of OchoLive, and I am obviously the boldness needed for the Cowboys to win at home against the Bengals.
The score on October 5th, 2008 was 31-22 in favor of the Cowboys. So consider this a Bold Prediction that precedes my Bold Predictions... the Cowboys will beat the Bengals on Sunday.
How's that for bold?
Welcome to my 5 Bold Predictions. Let's roll.
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Jason Witten Will "Scamper" In For A Touchdown From More Than 15 Yards Out
There are few things in life that age as finely as Jason Witten. Old Man #82 is seemingly as efficient as he's always been, although it does seem as though he's averaging one weird penalty per game. Hey, no one's perfect.
Another thing that's glaringly obvious about Jason Witten is that he is... so... slow. It's actually kind of adorable.
A point in time existed where a 15-yard score from Witten wouldn't be that surprising, but now it is. Not only is Witten going to score his first touchdown on Sunday, but he's going to do it while moving ever so slowly into the endzone from at least 15 yards out.
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The Cowboys Defensive Line Will Out Sack The Bengals Defensive Line
Rod Marinelli's group of Defensive Linemen typically refers to themselves as the "rushmen." They've accumulated four sacks through as many games, and that is actually not as bad as Cowboys Nation expected. The Cincinnati Bengals "rushmen" come into town with nine sacks to their name. That's only 125% more than the Cowboys, no big deal.
There's a lot to consider here. Dak Prescott is far more mobile than Andy Dalton, and Ezekiel Elliott is far better in pass protection than either Gio Bernard or Jeremy Hill. Additionally the Cowboys are getting their best pass-rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence, back. This is going to make things particularly spicy, hopefully for Andy Dalton.
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David Irving Will Block A Field Goal
It was another game that I attended, last season's home contest against the Seattle Seahawks, when David Irving made his newfound presence on the Cowboys felt by blocking a Seattle Field Goal attempt.
We've already gone over how I'll be at the game this Sunday, but what we need to discuss is how David Irving has already come close to batting down a Field Goal attempt this season.
Take a look at 'ol #95 here. He is dangerously close to getting his mitt on that football. Are you paying attention, Cincinnati? This is happening!
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Dak Prescott Will Hit Brice Butler For A 40+ Yard Gain
The Bengals boast one of the finer defensive units in the NFL, but it seems to have a pretty obvious and glaring weakness... the deep ball.
Two weeks ago Denver's Emmanuel Sanders scored on a 41-yard play. His teammate Demaryius Thomas scored from 55 yards out. Last Thursday night Miami's Kenny Stills housed a deep bomb from Ryan Tannehill for a 74-yard score. Cincy can be had through the air in this regard.
It's made too much sense for Dak Prescott and Brice Butler to connect deep for a while now. We saw it happen in the Dolphins preseason game, for crying out loud. Butler's speed and athleticism are certainly on par with Sanders, Thomas, and Stills... couple that with Dak's big arm and we've got the recipe for a big-time gain in the air.
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Dak Prescott And Ezekiel Elliott Will Tame The Tigers By Gaining More Yards Than Any Other QB/RB Combo This Week
First of all, Sig and Roy do a great job (generally) of taming tigers. Bengals are tigers. Bam! Secondly, Sig and Roy do what they do where a big show is common - Las Vegas. Dak and Zeke are a Vegas-level show as far as the NFL is concerned.
The show is going to be filled with lights and action this week, folks. Dak, thanks to his big gain to Brice we predicted, and Zeke - currently leading the league in rushing - will combine for more yards than any other quarterback and running back duo across the NFL in Week 5. Lock it up and put it in a box. Siegfried and Roy are about to do a magic trick.
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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!
Donny is a very loyal Inside The Star reader and Bold Prediction submitter. 1,000 points to Donny! Also shout out to Donny's Uncle who is, hard to tell here, quite the fan of Ezekiel Elliott. 180 seems surprisingly doable, especially considering Zeke had 138 last week and is only getting revved up. As for Byron Jones - love the numerical detail to this by the way - Late Night Ice Cream as I've dubbed him is certainly due for a big play. Let's make it happen!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #2
The latest Tweets and replies from Diana Villalon (@villalon2009). Program Director~Christian~Sports Fan~Football~Basketball~Baseball~Boxing~ Olympic Sports~Marching Band Competitions. Texas
This falls right in line with our Rushmen logic! I love it when things just fall into place.
It sure is asking a lot for DeMarcus Lawrence, who is also dealing with back injury fallout on top of coming off suspension, to just show up and dominate. It should be noted that when last season's top pass-rusher Greg Hardy saw his first snaps in Week 5, a home game against New England, he put together a two-sack day. It's possible.
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Bonus Bold Prediction #3
Our Austin friend here has put together quite the Bold Prediction combo.
This is like one of those things in robbery movies where you have to dance through the maze of laser things or whatever. Is @ATXCowboysFan really Tom Cruise?
If all of these things happen we need to have a group hug and go in on some lotto tickets together. I'd say the most likely to happen here is the hundred yards for Zeke, and the least likely in this smorgasbord is a two-touchdown day for Cole Beasley. Byron is still looking for that first career interception, and Tyrone Crawford is coming off of a sack last week... I dig this!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #4
@rjochoa btw my bold prediction I got the Cowboys creating 3 turnovers at Andy daltons expense
Turnovers are obviously all the rage when it comes to bold predictions, and I can certainly get on board with that.
Assuming the Rushmen do get some work in, maybe thanks to Crawford and Lawrence, then Andy Dalton is indeed going to be flustered. Tyler Eifert very likely won't play, which means that Morris Claiborne will likely have help on AJ Green. We built Pick City, we built Pick City on Andy Dalton's tears!
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Bonus Bold Prediction #5
@rjochoa Morris Claiborne has 2 interceptions. And the defense gets 3 sacks.
Miguel read our mind! Morris Claiborne, ladies and gentlemen!
I wrote here at Inside The Star on Thursday that this game is perhaps the biggest challenge Mo has faced yet, that's a pretty fair statement in my opinion. Claiborne is going to need help whether over the top or from those Rushmen we've been so high on to truly shut down AJ Green, and that's all good. This defense plays team ball which means that the sum is greater than the parts. The sum is going to be impressive on Sunday, and two Mo picks as a cherry on top of three sacks sounds good to me!
Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett?
Training camp is always an exciting time for the Dallas Cowboys, with 2018's proceedings being no exception. A major difference this year is the hype carrying over to the Cowboys coaching staff, featuring newcomers at the positional level everywhere but running back, safety, and defensive tackle.
Experienced coaches like Kris Richard, Paul Alexander, and Sanjay Lal will have a big impact on the Cowboys development as a 9-7 team that's only gotten younger this offseason. Still likely in need of a playoff appearance to save the job of Head Coach Jason Garrett and his coordinators, one can't help but question Garrett's effectiveness with this year's team.
The Cowboys appearance on NFL Films' latest All or Nothing series offered Cowboys Nation a rare look inside this team's day-to-day activities, including Garrett's role as a motivator and leader to many coaches no longer with the team.
Garrett's walk through a proverbial hall of mirrors at The Star reflects much deeper though. Ultimately, it's the players that decide games on Sundays, and the Cowboys didn't have enough of their blue chip ones on the field together for 2017. Whether or not this changes in 2018, the Cowboys can do little to shake the truth that conditions must be perfect for Garrett to captain this team to success.
If having a future Hall of Fame tight end like Jason Witten around wasn't enough for Garrett, going all in on this team in their first year without not only Witten but Dez Bryant feels foolish.
This underdog status and youthful nature may very well bring the Cowboys back to their 2016 form. I've already mentioned mirrors however, and how about the smoke? Garrett's best year out of eight full seasons, that 13-3 campaign was surely not all 'smoke and mirrors', but it is now far enough in the past to expect improvement from the Cowboys head coach.
Garrett must overcome massive changes on the offense he once coordinated to see third-year Quarterback Dak Prescott put this team back in the playoff picture, or the Cowboys will only continue to change face even more dramatically for 2019.
Long gone are the innocent days of Garrett playing catch under the California sun with a rookie Prescott, who had no idea the impact he'd make on the entirety of this franchise so quickly. Now, the Cowboys may have to quickly separate this duo if looking to preserve a window of contention under Dak's rookie contract.
It truly will be fascinating to see the new points of emphasis this revamped Cowboys coaching staff brings to the team not only on the field in Oxnard but through their team meetings and into the regular season. As Garrett allows the likes of Richard and Lal to oversee important changes at CB/S and WR respectively, his overarching message of character, competition, and respect will still echo throughout the team.
Whether or not the slew of new players Garrett has to coach can inspire him to implement this message effectively, or if his days are numbered given the slack the Cowboys have already provided, is the most important story line for the Cowboys in 2018.
By most team's standards, a 9-7 season given the circumstances around the Cowboys a year ago is acceptable -- which it ultimately was for Dallas as they kept Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli.
This team's shortcomings through a disappointing season was enough for the Cowboys to begin reevaluating the coaches below this trio though, leaving only their ninth year head coach to fall victim to the level of turnover NFL teams are experiencing on the fly right now.
The Cowboys roster has received this message loud and clear. Will Garrett's carry the same impetus, and will it truly matter for the 2018 season?
Is WR Cedrick Wilson the Player With Most to Gain in Training Camp?
Within the Dallas Cowboys' uncertain wide receiver core, is sixth-round pick Cedrick Wilson. Considered a draft steal by many, Wilson's name is often lost in the mix among Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley and third round rookie Michael Gallup. Just days away from the start of the 2018 training camp, Cedrick Wilson might be the player with the most to gain on the team.
Wilson comes from the Boise State Broncos, where he set the school record for receiving yards in a season with 1,511 last year. As a sixth-round rookie, the young 22-year old receiver has an uphill battle ahead of him to earn a spot on the Cowboys' 53-man roster.
It shouldn't come as a surprise if he emerges victorious in this battle, though.
You see, the lack of a #1 receiver has been one of the main story lines for the Cowboys and for good reason. Heading into the preseason, there is no clear-cut "#1." But even though there isn't a big name such as Dez Bryant, I'm sure we'll feel way better about the wide receivers once the season starts and the offense manages to sustain a good passing attack led by Dak Prescott.
Allen Hurns and Michael Gallup seem like the two front-runners for being the "X" receivers on offense, the position in which Wilson lined up at Boise State during his last year in college football. It's tough to imagine a sixth round rookie being the starting "X" receiver in his rookie season, but that doesn't mean he can't earn an important role at some point of the year.
In 2017, the offense struggled due to the receivers failing to create separation downfield. Wilson, although a raw route-runner, was a very dangerous vertical threat in Boise State and could be just that for the Cowboys down the road.
He needs to improve as a player, but with Sanjay Lal focusing hard at route-running with his receivers, Cedrick could become an important target for Dak earlier than expected.
In order to do so, the young wide receiver will have to find success in training camp. Wide receiver will undoubtedly be one of the most intriguing position battles on the team, with many young yet unproven talent.
There's too many receivers that will be fighting for a roster spot over the following weeks, so Cowboys Nation is bound to be disappointed with so many so-called "pet cats." One or two of these guys will be released and I bet it'll hurt, just as it happens every year.
In all seriousness, though, with his ability to stretch the field and be a vertical threat plus his experience as an "X" receiver, Cedrick Wilson might not only make the roster, but become a significant piece for this new-look offense in Dallas during his rookie season.
Will DeMarcus Lawrence Be Franchise Tagged Again in 2019?
The deadline for extending players under the franchise tag has come and gone last Monday, in a day in which none of the remaining tagged players reached an agreement with their respective teams. That includes Dallas Cowboy Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who's set to earn $17M in 2018.
The front office and the 26-year old defensive end failed to agree to a new contract before the season's start, but we saw that coming. After all, there was never a point in which we had the classic "X player and his team are close to a new deal" headline.
All of this makes the future of the Cowboys' promising "War Daddy" very uncertain. What lies a head of the player that put on an impressive show in 2018?
Since 2017 was Lawrence's breakout year, racking up 14.5 sacks trough the season, we have leaned towards the narrative of last season being his only good one. His performance last season was impressive and clearly his best one yet, but we tend to overlook 2015.
In his sophomore season, the only other year in which he has played 16 games, he finished the campaign with eight sacks and 35 tackles (55 combined). Really, the idea of 2017 being his only good year is not as accurate as we might think.
That being said, I think it's more likely that we see another great year from him this upcoming season than seeing a disappointing one. This, of course, will end up being the main thing that determines his future in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys front office really took a risk by tagging Lawrence this offseason. #90 was reportedly asking for an average of $17M per year in his long-term contract, which is Olivier Vernon kind of money.
So what if he puts a similar season or an even better one? Lawrence and his agent could end up asking for even more money. Perhaps in the 18 or 20 million dollars per year range. If that ends up being the case, the team will find itself in a tough position when trying to reach an agreement with its promising pass rusher.
Which leads us to the possibility of seeing the Cowboys franchise tagging Lawrence for the second consecutive season. Dallas will already be negotiating a contract extension with QB Dak Prescott, and things will get complicated. Even more if they decide to pursue a big-time free agent in March, such as Earl Thomas.
It would make sense, from a financial perspective, to hand the tag twice in consecutive years to D-Law. However, it shouldn't be the priority. If he plays like he did in 2017, the front office will be more than wise to extend him for good.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys will have approximately $50.6M. Seemingly, the team's cap woes will be over soon.
Fortunately, Lawrence didn't become a headache by threatening to holdout for offseason programs and even training camp. However, don't expect that to happen if he finds himself under the tag next year.
Careers in the NFL are short, so DeMarcus will surely want to get paid. If he keeps it up, he'll deserve it. As much as he deserves it, though, football is a cold business. If the Jones need to tag him, they will.
Do you think the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence in 2019?
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