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Every week - typically on Friday - here at Inside The Star I pen 5 Bold Predictions for the upcoming Dallas Cowboys game. You can read, so you know that this is being published on Saturday, December 17th.
Considering that this is the last game that the 2016 Cowboys will play before Christmas, I wanted to spice things up a bit. Who am I? RJ Ochoa, Staff Writer for Inside The Star and the Host of Ocho Live.
Now we've all made a list - make sure you check it twice - and we know what we want for Christmas after getting clothes last week in the form of a loss against the Giants. We want a win, an NFC East title, a first round bye, and home-field advantage (that's what all the cool kids get every year). This is the time of year where gifts are exchanged, so considering the yuletide greetings who's to say we can't get what we want?
This week's 5 Bold Predictions will have a Christmas feel to them, and considering that they're being published with one less than nine days until December 25th (not to mention that today is the 17th... 1+ 7 = 8 aka Ocho)... this is officially the Ocho Days Until Christmas version of my 5 Bold Predictions. Let's roll.
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Dak The Halls: Prescott Has His Own Zeke Leap
This has been one of the longest weeks in recent history for Cowboys fans. The notion of processing a second loss on the season in the middle of December has been too much at times, but winning cures all.
Due to the nature of being the Dallas Cowboys Quarterback, Dak Prescott has been questioned quite frequently since leaving the field in New York. With the exception of that game, we have only ever seen Dak rise above adversity when he's faced it this season.
With a lot on the line, both individually and team-wide, Dak knows that this game against Tampa Bay has a lot riding on it. Look for him to do every single thing he can to win, even outside the pocket, and to copy his buddy Zeke with a leap of his own.
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Gavin Escobar Channels The Grinch And Triples His Season Total Catches
While they've certainly been very impressive, it's fair to say that at times we all think the Cowboys are a bit predictable on offense. Last week's drubbing in New York - an inability to score more than seven points - is proof that Scott Linehan needs to get more creative.
Look... Gavin Escobar is still a thing. He's there, just waiting and waiting and waiting to be used. It's been a minute, but more-seasoned members of Cowboys Nation will remember that Gavin Escobar was frequently compared to Jimmy Graham.
When the Buccaneers played Jimmy Graham and the Seahawks a few weeks ago, Graham had six catches. If the Cowboys get creative offensively and use Gavin in a similar fashion... six catches could be headed his way. As he currently has three, this would give him nine on the season and triple his current total a la The Grinch and his tiny little heart.
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Being Home For Christmas Provides A Big Time Advantage
When you're watching a Christmas movie there's always that part where somebody messes up, is driving aimlessly, and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" plays as they think about the gigantic mistake they made. You can count on
The Dallas Cowboys haven't played at home since Thanksgiving Day - think about that. That's 24 days, over three weeks, without playing a game in your home stadium.
I'm not trying to make excuses for how poorly the Cowboys played in New York, but it's definitely worth discussing this time they've been out of their hizzy. Since walking off the field against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, November 20th the Cowboys have been moving at an abnormal pace: Thanksgiving, Thursday Night Football, a mini-bye before New York.
Sunday against the Buccaneers will mark the first time that the Cowboys play back-to-back football games on Sundays since Weeks 10 and 11 against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, respectively. Normalcy is good. Being home, for Christmas, is good. It'll show.
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The Cowboys Sack Their Turbo Man Aka Jameis Winston At Least Three Times
The popular Christmas movie Jingle All The Way features a Dad trying to find his son the one thing he wants more than anything in the world - a Turbo Man action figure.
Turbo Man is this super awesome and popular dude, and the Dad has a bit of trouble in terms of finding one for his son. It's a great movie and there's an epic scene at the end where Turbo Man saves the day, blah blah blah.
A few weeks ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wore their color rush uniforms, and you know who they looked like? Turbo Man! Seriously!
@Jaboowins and the #Buccaneers tonight on #TNF.
The Dad in Jingle All The Way, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, ultimately gets his hands on a Turbo Man before the movie is over (if you haven't seen a 20-year old movie by now, I didn't spoil it for you). The Cowboys are going to follow Arnold's plan and get their hands on this version of Turbo Man - Jameis Winston. Three sacks coming up!
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God Rest East Merry Gentlemen: Dallas Locks Up The NFC East On Sunday
Tidings of comfort and joy... that sounds nice, but a division championship sounds a whole lot better in my humble and honest opinion.
I know that technically this prediction doesn't have 100% to do with the Cowboys/Buccaneers game, but a few things: oh well, it's Christmas, it involves us winning the division so no complaints!
Should the Detroit Lions manage to beat, or tie with, the New York Giants on Sunday then the Cowboys will have a win-and-clinch scenario when Sunday Night Football begins.
The Dallas Cowboys have been holding down the NFC East since they took hold of it in Week 5. While they missed an opportunity to stick a fork in the whole dealio last week, it kept us on our toes and let us fully appreciate the dominance that this season truly is. God Rest East you Merry Gentlemen (the gentlemen are our rivals, except the Eagles aren't Merry they're the opposite of Merry which I think is horrible). We're locking this thing up on Sunday night. Huzzah.
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Bonus Bold Predictions
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!
@rjochoa bold prediction: jj Wilcox gets a pick and cowboys win on strength of zeke 2 TD game
@rjochoa bold prediction; BJ and Brown with a pick each, Beastly with 2TD, Zeke with 200yds and 2TD. Dak 300yd night 3TD, Witten 75yds 1TD.
@rjochoa BOLD PREDICTION: Anthony Brown get his second pick of the season. This one being returned for 6Pts.
@rjochoa ok I've been thinking long I've got my prediction Zeke will catch his 2nd receiving TD and Beasley will throw one too TWill
Was Sunday A “Wake Up Call,” Or Were Cowboys Exposed?
Entering last Sunday's game in Indianapolis, the Dallas Cowboys were riding high. Having won five straight games, including key victories over the top seeded Saints and division rival Eagles, everything seemed to be breaking right for the Cowboys heading into the home stretch.
Their defense was playing like one of the best in football, and after firing Paul Alexander and trading for Amari Cooper their offense was clicking just as they'd hoped. They needed (and still need) just one win to officially close out the division and clinch a home playoff game in January.
Instead, the Cowboys got absolutely demolished by the Indianapolis Colts. Of course, there's no shame in losing a road game to an 8-6 team in the NFL, but the way in which they lost certainly deserves some shame. Not even the 23-0 score can encapsulate the complete butt-kicking Dallas received at the hands of the Colts, and it was the type of loss that can sometimes make you question the blueprint.
The Cowboys, however, are not looking at it that way. Multiple leaders in the locker room have spoke this week about how they "needed" to lose like that. Running back Ezekiel Elliott called the loss embarrassing, but also said it is better for Dallas in the "grand scheme of the season."
Clearly, the leaders and coaches are calling the putrid performance a wake up call, something that will galvanize them and reset their win streak heading into the postseason. But is this really the case, or was the shutout defeat more of a sign of things to come?
Obviously it's too early to say for sure, but I do think it can be a little bit of both.
No, the Cowboys are not the class of the NFC, despite beating what can be called the best team in the same conference a couple weeks ago. There probably will prove to be some drop-off from the top 3 seeds in the conference and the Cowboys, if for no other reason than Dallas will have to go on the road to play those teams in the playoffs. It's really hard to win on the road in the NFL, especially with the increased wackiness of 2018.
The Cowboys offense is far from perfect or prolific, though if clicking they now have the skill talent to drop 30+ points any given Sunday. Their defense is talented, has a high ceiling, but is still very young and inexperienced. Though they've played elite level games before, they've also had some stinkers against the Colts and Titans during the same season.
All of this can be true. The Cowboys can be a team deserving of the playoffs, a team we should not be panicking over, but still a very flawed football team. They can be a team that if "hot" could make a run through the postseason, but also will have to answer some tough questions about coaches and players during the next two offseasons.
After all, who isn't greatly flawed in today's NFL? Hell, we just saw the beloved Rams lose two straight games.
Is it Too Late For Dallas to Fire OC Scott Linehan?
Grab your pitchforks and your torches, it's time to run the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan out of town. His playcalling has been absolutely atrocious season and it's time for him to hit the road, even if there are only two regular-season games left on the schedule.
It's completely unorthodox for an NFL team to fire an offensive coordinator this late in the season, but just last week we saw the Minnesota Vikings do just that when they parted ways with John DeFilippo. It was definitely a bold move to make considering the Vikings are still in playoff contention, but it was something they believed was in the best interest of their team.
I believe if the Dallas Cowboys want to do what's best for their team right now and not later, then they should go ahead and cut ties with Scott Linehan. His predictability and un-creativeness as a play caller is holding back a talented offense, which is hurting the overall team as a result. He's been given every opportunity to turn things around, but enough is enough.
I'd personally be on board with Jason Garrett taking over the playcalling duties. He has the experience and held the position with the Cowboys from 2007 until Linehan was hired. I'd even consider giving Kellen Moore a shot as the OC. He knows the system and has worked closely with Quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless, the Cowboys need to find some way to increase their offensive productivity.
Right now the Cowboys offense is the 26th scoring offense in the NFL and are averaging just 19.7 points per game. To make matters worse they are the 31st ranked Red Zone offense in the league. I don't know about you, but I think that is completely unacceptable with the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Firing Linehan has been a long time coming. The Cowboys flirted with the idea earlier this season during the bye week and should've pulled the trigger then, but for some reason or another decided to let him stick around. They are definitely still paying for that mistake now.
The Cowboys mistake not to replace Linehan could mean yet another early exit in the playoffs, something we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Scoring just 19 points a game isn't going to get them very far, which is truly unfortunate considering the talent they've acquired this season.
Unfortunately, as much as we would love to see Scott Linehan tarred and feathered and run out of town, I just don't see the Cowboys doing that before their season is officially over. But, in no way should he be allowed to retain his position beyond this season. He clearly isn't the answer any longer.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should fire Scott Linehan?
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
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