On paper, the Dallas Cowboys 2017 schedule certainly looks a lot tougher than what they faced a season ago. That's what happens when you finished dead last in the division one year and win the division the next. But, you won't hear the Cowboys complaining about their 2017 schedule. That's just not there nature.
I previously shared with all of you my 2017 win/loss prediction for the Dallas Cowboys. I thought I would follow that up by identifying the toughest adversaries the Cowboys will face in each game of the 2017 season. Let me know if you agree or disagree with who I identified as being the toughest adversaries the Cowboys will face this season.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
The Dallas Cowboys will open of the 2017 season against the New York Giants at home and see them once again in Week 14. The Giants are arguably the Cowboys toughest NFC East division opponent, which pretty much guarantees these games will be close and hard-fought, ultimately coming down to the final seconds.
Make no mistake, the Giants have a talented team, but I believe the toughest adversary they have on their roster is wide receiver OBJ. Beckham Jr. is one of the best WRs in the entire league and has to be accounted for on every single play. He will be a tough matchup for the Cowboys' young secondary, especially early in the season.
Von Miller, DE, Denver Broncos
In Week 2 of the 2017 season, the Dallas Cowboys will play their first road game against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are one of the more talented teams in the entire NFL, but the quarterback play is really the only thing holding them back from being a serious Super Bowl contender.
The toughest adversary the Cowboys will see against the Broncos is without a doubt defensive end Von Miller. Miller is arguably the best pass rusher in the entire NFL and I can almost guarantee that he will be matched up against whoever the Cowboys employ at the right tackle position. The Cowboys have to have a plan to help neutralize Miller from putting pressure on Dak Prescott and disrupting the passing game if they want to win this game.
David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
In Week 3, the Dallas Cowboys will play their first back to back road game of the season when they take on the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are a talented team, but they also have quite a few aging players in key positions that could hinder their performance in 2017.
It's no secret running back David Johnson is the key to success for the Cardinals, which makes him the toughest adversary against the Cowboys. Johnson is one of the best all-around RBs in the league and the one player the Cowboys' defense has to keep in check. Fortunately, the defense should be prepared for Johnson after practicing against Ezekiel Elliott.
Wade Phillips, DC, Los Angeles Rams
After back-to-back road games, the Dallas Cowboys return home to take on the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4. This should be one of the most winnable games on the 2017 schedule for the Cowboys, but nothing is a given in the NFL.
The Rams are in the middle of a rebuild, so there's not a lot of individual players Dallas should really have to worry about. I thought about going with Todd Gurley or Aaron Donald here, but I think the toughest adversary is going to be former Cowboys head coach and current Rams defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips.
Phillips is switching the Rams defense from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4, but LA has quite a bit of high draft picks invested on that side of the ball. You can bet Phillips wants to stick it to the team he was the last head coach of, especially since he feels he didn't get a fair chance with to begin with.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
If there is one team on the Cowboys' 2017 schedule I'm tired of seeing, it's the Green Bay Packers. Just about every time these two teams square off there is a controversial call that ultimately decides the outcome of the game, but let's hope it's different Week 5.
The toughest adversary the Cowboys will see from Green Bay is 100% Aaron Rodgers. There simply isn't another player on the entire Green Bay roster that is more important to the team than Rogers. They are going to win or lose by how well Rogers performs in 2017.
San Francisco 49ers Defensive Front
Coming off their bye week, the Dallas Cowboys head out on the road once again to take on the San Francisco 49ers. Like the LA Rams, the 49ers are in the middle of a rebuild with very little talent on either side of the ball that should concern the Cowboys.
The 49ers have invested quite a few of their high draft picks in their defensive line, which likely makes them the toughest adversary for Dallas. Arik Armistead, DeForest Buckner, and Solomon Thomas were all high draft picks and could give the Cowboys talented offensive line some trouble. But, it's nothing the Cowboys' OL shouldn't be able to handle.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins
In Week 7, the Dallas Cowboys play their second back to back games of the 2017 season when they travel to Washington to take on the Redskins. They will play each other once again in Week 13. Just like every other NFC East division game, it's guaranteed to be a hard-fought battle that comes down to the very end.
The Redskins continue to improve their roster and become a more complete team, but their toughest adversary for Dallas has to be quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins will have nearly an entire new set of starting WRs, making the Redskins best chance of winning in 2017 coming from the QBs arm and the connection he develops with his receivers.
Tyreek Hill, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs
After back-to-back road games, the Dallas Cowboys finally return home to take on a talented Kansas City Chiefs team in Week 9. The Chiefs were a controversial call away from being one of the final few teams left the playoffs in 2016, and have a roster packed full of talent.
With the team as talented as the Chiefs, it was a little difficult narrowing down the biggest adversary for the Cowboys. But, I finally decided on second-year WR/KR Tyreek Hill. He is dangerous anytime the ball is in his hands and can score from anywhere on the field. He will be a difficult matchup problem for both the Cowboys secondary and special teams units.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
The Dallas Cowboys will head out on the road in Week 10 to take on a very talented Atlanta Falcons team. The Falcons have one of the best offenses in the entire NFL and a young defense that shows a lot of promise.
I personally believe the toughest adversary for the Cowboys against the Falcons is none other than wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones is one of the best WRs in the entire NFL and when healthy can take over a game by himself. This will be a tough matchup for the Cowboys young secondary, but hopefully they can come up with a game plan to limit Jones' effectiveness.
Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
The Dallas Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11 and 17 of the 2017 season. This NFC East divisional matchup is always entertaining because these two teams truly hate one another. The Eagles are a very talented team, but not when you compare their roster to the Cowboys.
I think the toughest adversary in this matchup is defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Cox has developed into one of the better DTs in the entire NFL and is effective in both the running and passing game. I would be surprised if he has matched up with Zack Martin very often, instead he will probably be playing against whoever the Cowboys insert at left guard.
Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers are one of the more confusing teams to analyze on the Cowboys' 2017 schedule. They have a balanced blend of veterans and youth throughout their roster and are talented enough to give the Cowboys some trouble.
The Chargers have a talented pass rushing duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, but I still believe the toughest adversary for the Cowboys is quarterback Philip Rivers. This Week 12 matchup will ultimately come down to how Rivers performs and if the Cowboys defense can do enough to keep him out of the end zone. Rivers may be one of the older players on the roster, but he still has plenty left in the tank.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders
In week 15, the Dallas Cowboys travel to Oakland to take on a talented and playoff caliber Raiders team. This team is built much like the Cowboys, which should make for a very entertaining/close ballgame.
The Raiders were able to lure Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to become their featured back and it is a gamble that could pay off huge in 2017. A year away from the game could have benefited Lynch, because he is entering that age were players bodies start to break down. If he returns to anywhere near "Beastmode", the Cowboys defense could have their hands full.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
The Dallas Cowboys play their final home game of the 2017 season against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16. Hopefully the Cowboys have secured their playoff spot by now, but if not this game could have huge implications to their playoff hopes/seeding.
It would've been too easy to go with one of Seattle's talented defensive players, but I think the Cowboys' offense can do enough to put points on the board. I believe quarterback Russell Wilson will be the toughest adversary in this matchup. If the Cowboys defense can fluster and limit Wilson's productivity, they should be able to put enough points on the board to win this game.
Share your thoughts on who you think the toughest adversaries are on the Cowboys' 2017 schedule in the comment section below.
Will 2019 be the Storybook Ending to Jason Witten’s Hall of Fame Career?
It's old news now, but Jason Witten will suit up for the Dallas Cowboys once again in 2019. After less than a year in retirement, he will return to the field with the hopes of chasing down that ever elusive Super Bowl ring that has eluded him, and the Cowboys, for nearly two decades. If successful, it would be the storybook ending to an impressive Hall of Fame career.
I may be in the minority here, but I actually wasn't too excited to hear Jason Witten was going to end his retirement and rejoin the Dallas Cowboys. I thought he retired at the right time last year, going out on his terms instead of letting father time force him out. He definitely didn't have anything else to prove on the field, but sometimes hunger gets the best of us all.
That's what Jason Witten is. He's hungry! He's not stupid. He's looked this Dallas Cowboys roster over and sees just how talented it is from top to bottom. He knows this team has a real shot at reaching the promised land this year, adding yet another Super Bowl trophy to their collection. He wanted in, and rightfully so.
Witten may not have a full tank of gas anymore, but he's got enough left to help get this team to their desired destination. Despite my hesitation at first, I'm really excited to have him back in uniform. I'm really looking forward to seeing him back in action now, but more importantly having him on hand to mentor these younger players around him.
Most importantly though, I'm really hoping the 2019 season can be the storybook ending he deserves. He's been such an important ambassador to the NFL throughout his career, both on and off the field. What better way to end such a decorated career than with a little jewelry to put on his finger?
The 11 time Pro Bowler still holds a lot of records in the NFL and with the Dallas Cowboys, despite not playing last season. I'll let you look those up for yourself if you want, but the impact he has had on the game throughout his career is undeniable, and should continue to be so. The Cowboys or Witten wouldn't have reunited if either thought that wasn't the case anymore.
I know many of you may be thinking I'm probably reaching little to suggest this 2019 Dallas Cowboys team has a chance at going all the way this year, but I don't think so. This is a team with Super Bowl aspirations and the roster to do it.
The Cowboys already had a championship caliber defense last season and they're even better now after making a few upgrades. This alone will make them a much more dangerous team this year, but they're not slouches on the offensive side of the ball either.
The offense was good last season after making the Amari Cooper trade, but should be able to take the next step this year. They only lost Cole Beasley, but replaced him with Randall Cobb, who has a chance to be even better if he can stay healthy. Then if you throw in the addition of Jason Witten and the development of a few players, this is looking more and more like one of the more dangerous offenses in the NFL.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the team that can finally get the Dallas Cowboys back to the Super Bowl and help Jason Witten end his Hall of Fame career in a storybook like manner. Hello Hollywood! You've got a blockbuster movie in the making.
Do you think Jason Witten can end his career in a storybook like manner?
Travis Frederick’s Return Named Cowboys Biggest Reason For Excitement
Overall, Cowboys Nation feels to be in a positive mood during this year's offseason. Despite early angst over lack of action at the start of free agency, and concern over the Cowboys' draft strategy, most within the fan base seem to have high, yet realistic, hopes for the 2019 season.
Most seem to believe the NFC East will be a two team race, with the last two champions battling for the crown once again down the stretch of the season. Others can see the potential for a dark-horse candidate in Washington, but still believe the Cowboys roster has the edge.
So while Cowboys fans may not think they need a singular reason to look forward to the Fall of 2019, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski gave them one this week.
NFL Brent Sobleski @@brentsobleski Twitter Logo NFL Analyst The offseason can be as thrilling for NFL fans as the regular season. Player movement constantly refreshes rosters-whether through free agency, the draft or trades. Significant changes inject excitement into franchises, personnel and fanbases. A one-time league doormat can become the league's "it' team simply through a string of acquisitions.
Brent identified the biggest reason for each team to look forward to 2019, with the return of center Travis Frederick being the Cowboys' submission. There's no question that when healthy, Frederick is one of the best centers in the game, and anchors an offensive line many still consider to be at the top of the league.
"A full year with wide receiver Amari Cooper and re-signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal are both reasons for the Dallas Cowboys to be excited. However, the return of Travis Frederick to man the middle of the offensive line is far more pertinent."
Frederick missed all of the 2018 season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that I am not nearly qualified enough to discuss. What I do know is that it can be very serious, and it kept Frederick out for the entire year.
The Cowboys offensive line suffered during the early part of 2018, largely due in part to Travis Frederick's absence. Yes, Joe Looney filled in and played as well as anyone could have hoped for, but the disconnect in communication across the offensive line was clear without their usual center. Especially during the first couple months of the season.
If Frederick is fully back and healthy, his presence alone will take the Cowboys offensive line back towards their peak. Combine his comeback with a healthy Zack Martin, and a now bulked up Connor Williams, and the interior of this line has the chance to be special.
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Make Pro Bowl Debuts this Season
Every year, the Dallas Cowboys send quite a few players to the Pro Bowl. This year, the Cowboys sent eight players to the Pro Bowl with Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones being selected to their first Pro Bowl squad.
There is a lot of talent on this year's roster and the Cowboys will likely send someone to the annual all-star game that hasn't been there before. Here are three I think will make a push for Pro Bowl recognition in 2019.
Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback
In the first half of the season, Chidobe Awuzie got picked on a bit. His coverage was always pretty good, but he allowed a ton of receptions. Awuzie allowed the ninth highest passer rating in coverage, the 12th most receptions, the 10th most yards, and tied for the sixth most touchdowns allowed weeks 1-9 of 2018.
In the second half, including the playoffs, Awuzie was much better and showed a higher level of comfort. His passer rating allowed dropped 50 points and was the 17th lowest in the league among corners who played at least 197 coverage snaps. He allowed fewer receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the 10 games over the second half than he allowed in the first eight games of the season.
Awuzie is one of the tougher players on the team. He plays with a similar edge that DeMarcus Lawrence does on the defensive line.
After spending part of his rookie season injured and rotating in, Awuzie found his stride in the second half of 2018 and was one of the Cowboys better cover players. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Cowboys 2017 second round pick looks to be an ascending player that could make some noise for postseason awards.
Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner
The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2019 NFL Draft looking to find a gadget player they could use on offense, but just as important, they wanted a player who could contribute in the return game. They got him in Rookie Tony Pollard.
Over the course of three seasons and 87 returns, Pollard averaged 30 yards per kick return and returned seven kickoffs for scores. In 2017, Pollard averaged an insane 40 yards per return. He's an incredibly dynamic player with the ball in his hands and though he wasn't used much on punt returns, shows an ability to make people miss and read his blockers.
As Stephen Jones said, "he's got a little Alvin Kamara to him." As a ball carrier, Pollard averaged 7.7 and 7.1 yards per carry over his final two seasons at Memphis. He was dynamic as a receiver as well averaging more than 12.4 yards per reception over three seasons in college.
With Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys may not give Pollard enough snaps and touches to have an Alvin Kamara like rookie campaign (120 carries for 728 yards, 8 touchdowns and 81 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns), but if he's given half that workload, plus what he could do on returns, he'll make noise for Pro Bowl consideration.
Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
It was a bit surprising to go back and look at which linebackers made the Pro Bowl and not see Jaylon Smith's name. As good as Rookie Leighton Vander Esch was, Jaylon Smith might have been better. By standard metrics -- tackles, interceptions, tackles for loss -- Vander Esch totaled more. Advanced metrics like defensive EPA (expected points added) and playmaking EPA, favored Jaylon Smith's season.
Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch
Jaylon Smith didn't rack up the tackles like Vander Esch, but he was far more impactful over the course of the season. That's not to diminish Vander Esch's contribution to the Cowboys success in 2018. It's important to show Jaylon Smith his due, though.
Smith recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended to go along with his 120 combined tackles in 2018. And that was just his second full season back from the devastating knee injury he suffered in college.
Another season removed from the injury should make Jaylon Smith more confident and more explosive in 2019, which should lead to another outstanding season for the Dallas Cowboys Middle Linebacker.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Don't let anyone tell you that Pro Bowls don't matter. They do. Sure, All-Pro awards are the more highly coveted recognition, but to the players and to their agents, Pro Bowl selections matter. It's not as exclusive, but in a league with 1,696 players being one of 88 is still a really nice honor. To be a Pro Bowl player mean's you're in the top 5% of NFL players.
Obviously, we'd all prefer none of the Dallas Cowboys play in the Pro Bowl. Because that would mean they'd be preparing to play for that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys have always provided quite a few participants to the Pro Bowl game, but if the participation was zero in 2020, it wouldn't be all bad.
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