The Dallas Cowboys kickoff their season today versus the New York Giants on the first Sunday Night Football edition of the year. We've had free agency, the Draft, training camp and preseason... but now it's real football. Finally, the wait is over.
It's that time of the year. That moment when all of Cowboys Nation is united with a new sense of hope. A new season, a new team, a new journey. The moment when we truly believe one thing to be true...
This is our year.
Season after season, we believe it. For some reason, we are 100% certain of it. No matter the circumstances. Because that is what sports are about. I've been watching football ever since I can remember. And as a young fan, I've never seen this team be in the NFC Championship Game. Let alone a Super Bowl.
But I don't mind. I never miss a game. I'm sure most of Cowboys Nation never do. This is what it's all about.
In 2014, the Cowboys fell short when they lost to the Green Bay Packers. Did Dez catch it? Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. But dwelling in the past is useless. In 2015 things weren't pretty. With Tony Romo being injured most of the season, the Cowboys never got it going.
A new era begun, the Dak Prescott Era.
And of course, we've dealt with the "Dak's sophomore slump" stuff just about everyday. But guess what? Dak Prescott doesn't care, why should we? Prescott will do nothing but improve. Dak took the NFL by storm as a rookie. A fourth-round rookie.
Just imagine what he will be able to do after a whole season starting on the biggest stage in sports: the Dallas Cowboys quarterback position. Hell, forget about starting. Wining 13 games and leading his team to the #1 seed.
Ezekiel Elliott will be on that field, too. As the whole suspension drama will be likely delayed until 2018, he'll be on that field the entire season.
The 2016 NFL rushing leader will be hungry. He will be ready to pick up first down after first down every time he gets the chance.
I don't care which defense this team is facing. There's no way you'll be able to stop Dez Bryant while also being able to defend Beasley and be ready for a run with Zeke at the same time.
Sure, this defense is not ideal. Not even close. But look at this team's defensive line... you can't tell me Irving, Moore, Collins, Mayowa, Charlton and company aren't promising names. This pass rush will get to the QB this season.
Jaylon Smith will join Sean Lee as a starter. The secondary saw some changes, too... positive changes. Claiborne, Carr, Church are out. Awuzie, Lewis, Woods are in. They may be young, but they will be good players.
This 2017 Dallas Cowboys is better than what we think it is. We look at the schedule and think it is a tough one. We see our opponents and think "Damn, I wish we weren't playing these guys."
But trust me, those teams are thinking the exact same thing when they see the Star on their way. This is no longer an 8-8 team. It hasn't been for a while.
The Dallas Cowboys are one of the league's finest now. They are an elite NFL team. They are legit Super Bowl contenders.
Tonight, when the Cowboys kickoff their season vs the Giants, you root for the 'Boys. It doesn't matter where you are watching from - if you're at the AT&T Stadium or on your living room - you get loud for them. You put on that jersey and get ready for the 2017 Dallas Football Cowboys.
Because you and I both know... All of Cowboys Nation knows...
THIS IS OUR YEAR.
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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