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Looking Ahead to Super Bowl LI; NE vs ATL Picks and Thoughts

Bryson Treece

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Matt Ryan, Falcons

It's February first here in Cowboy country, the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl week has just concluded, and the slug fest that will be 2017's Super Bowl LI is just days away. It's kind of crazy to think about; while the New England Patriots are going to their seventh Super Bowl with Tom Brady under center, the Atlanta Falcons are just enjoying the franchise's second Super Bowl appearance, ever.

One way or another, we're going to see something special happen in Houston this Sunday.

Is it the special we wanted? Of course not. Never mind the ridiculousness of the notion, we wanted the Cowboys in Super Bowl LI. We wanted young Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott with chart-topping years. We wanted that chance, at least, and we didn't get it.

Instead, we get an overflowing cup of hope that 2017 will be our year, and in the backs of our minds speaks this wee little voice about the Chicago Cubs. Cubs fans claimed "next year is our year" more than 100 times before reality finally swung their way. It hasn't been 108 years for Cowboys fans, but there are certainly times when it feels like it's been that long, doesn't it?

Ryan leaf, anyone? How about Vinny Testaverde? There's no doubt that we fell very far from grace after our last real run.

So I look at the stage, NRG Stadium in Houston, TX. It's a great venue.

I look at a guy who I've known for a couple of years now, who I have considered a friend, making his way down Radio Row this week after slinging jokes, puns, and gimmicks for two years, all in an effort to either distract or celebrate the ups and downs we've faced together. It was rough in 2015, really rough, but 2016 enlivened Cowboys Nation like I've rarely seen before. And our very own RJ Ochoa has been a great voice within The Nation through all of it. You should definitely tune to ESPN San Antonio and give him a listen this week.

I look at the big game ahead and I just know, the Cowboys were a play away. And then, in spite of all that, I look at the match-up between the Patriots and the Falcons, between Tom Terrific and Matty-Ice, and I'm thinking, "Man... this is going to be one hell of a game."

I know the Patriots are the favorite to win it, and I know why, too. Tom Brady is just clutch in big games and this is as big as it gets for him. He's been here before so there's nothing new. He'll go out and command his men in the way that only Tom Brady can, and the Falcons will do their best to stop him.

But I like the Falcons for this one. I'm not a huge fan of the city of Atlanta; a freezing December night at the downtown Greyhound station when I was 15 left a sour taste, but this team has always had my support when playing in the Super Bowl. I was watching them play the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII just praying for Chris Chandler and the Dirty Birds to knock off the Broncos. It didn't happen then, but I think it can happen now.

Flat-out, I think the Falcons can score more points than the Patriots. I don't see the defenses playing a huge role in this game. There will be turnovers and sacks. There will be big plays on defense but ultimately, the offenses will have to get it done.

The Patriots may have the more experienced offense, but the Falcons are performing better. So I've got the Falcons over New England, 41-30. Crazy, right? I know.

But hey, without my 'Boys dressing for the game, I've got to get my thrills somehow, right?

Who's your pick to win Super Bowl LI? Comment below.



Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

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2 Comments
  • https://InsideTheStar.com Sean Martin

    So you’re saying my under 59.5 bet is in trouble haha?

  • Russ_Te

    A few projections and then a lock. If you bet more than 50 cents on it that’s your fault… ;^)

    1) Hoodie will come to the stadium with a defensive game plan that limits or shuts down Julio Jones. The Falcons have to know this and be ready to win with other weapons. But they also need to counter it by moving Jones around.

    And I open the game with a smashmouth run attack that Belichick isn’t expecting. Mostly runs, even if I have to punt a couple times. I don’t think the Patriots can stop it. I’d also have a sweep or reverse to Jones within those plays somewhere. Get him off the dime early.

    2) The Falcons D is playing better than it is, and that’s mincemeat for Brady if they play a passive 4-7 like the Steelers did. I’m not letting Brady get comfortable in the pocket – bottom line. I kitchen sink him from the opening play and make him deal with it. I’m not convinced the Pats receivers can dominate my bump coverage, as I load the box and go after Brady.

    If he burns it he burns it, but I also get hits and probably turnovers out of it, Either way the Pats offense is off the field quickly, and that comports with my ball-control approach for the Atlanta offense.

    The way the Falcons played this postseason, it has the feel of finally being their year. Furthermore, there is no justice if Brady gets another Lombardi… ;^)

    Atlanta 38
    New England 17

Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.

It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.

Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.

Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.

Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.

Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating

As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.

Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Now, he just has to go out and prove it!

Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?



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Star Blog

How Cowboys Could Regain a 2019 1st-Round Draft Pick

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - 5 Cowboys Players That Could Be Traded
Matthew Edmonds-USA Today

The Dallas Cowboys are currently without a 2019 first-round draft pick after acquiring Wide Receiver Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders, but what if I were to tell you there was a way to regain another first-rounder? Well, with a little outside the box thinking I think there could be a way to accomplish just that.

It's completely hypothetical, but I think the Dallas Cowboys could possibly regain a first-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft with little finagling and good luck. Everything would have to fall into place perfectly, but I think it's definitely doable.

Remember, this is completely hypothetical with a lot of "what if's" involved, but the Cowboys could regain what they lost acquiring Amari Cooper and come out of it no worse for wear. I think there are a lot of different scenarios that could accomplish this feat, but only one of them that doesn't hurt the team in my opinion and it centers around Right Tackle La'el Collins.

I know you're probably going to think I'm crazy, but I think the Dallas Cowboys could possibly land a 2019 first-round draft pick if they decided to trade away RT La'el Collins. Trust me, I wouldn't suggest this if I didn't think there was somebody capable of stepping in and playing just as well.

Enter Connor Williams.

Connor Williams

Dallas Cowboys LG Connor Williams

I always believed Connor Williams' best position in the NFL was at right tackle, not on the inside at guard. And yes, I was one of those advocating for Williams to play RT and Collins to move back to LG before the 2018 season started. I thought that gave the Cowboys their best starting five.

Williams has been serviceable at LG this season, but has been overpowered at times. His athletic ability would've been much better served on the outside at tackle, which is where I would play him next season, making La'el Collins expendable.

Again, I know what you're thinking. If you move Williams to RT and trade Collins, there is now a void at LG. Well, that's where Xavier Su'a-Filo comes into play. He is coming off a fantastic performance against the Philadelphia Eagles and a lot of Cowboys Nation is already advocating that he remains the starter over Connor Williams.

If Su'a-Filo can maintain the same level play he did against the Eagles, he probably remains the starter for the rest of the 2018 season. If this is indeed what happens, he could end up being the starter once again next season, making my plan of trading La'el Collins more feasible.

Were you able to follow all of that?

Keep Xavier Su'a-Filo at left guard

Move Connor Williams to right tackle

Trade La'el Collins

Like I said, this is all hypothetical, but something that could feasibly happen. Now we just have to wait and see if Xavier Su'a-Filo can continue to play like he did last week, because without him sticking at left guard none of this is possible.

I told you it was some out-of-the-box thinking.

Would you go along with the scenario to regain a 2019 first-round draft pick?



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Star Blog

Should Cowboys Stick With Xavier Su’a-Filo at Left Guard?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Stick With Xavier Su'a-Filo at Left Guard? 1

Don't look now, but we may have another Ron Leary/La'el Collins situation unfolding before our eyes with Xavier Su'a-Filo and Connor Williams. Who ends up starting at left guard for the Dallas Cowboys the rest of the 2018 season is up in the air right now, but might not be for long.

Remember a few years ago when La'el Collins started the season at left guard for the Dallas Cowboys, but then had to miss time due to a toe injury. Ronald Leary took over during his absence and never looked back. It even earned him a big payday with the Denver Broncos.

Déjà vu anyone?

Yes, I'm talking about the hot topic of the hour as to whether or not the Dallas Cowboys should stick with Xavier Su'a-Filo at left guard or reinsert Connor Williams once he is healthy enough to return to the lineup? As with any debate, there are two sides of the coin.

Honestly, I can make an argument for both sides here. These are two different players and both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Su'a-Filo isn't as agile as Williams and relies more on his strength and power, whereas Williams is almost the complete opposite. Depending what the Cowboys coaching staff wants out of their LG, either player makes sense.

Xavier Su'a-Filo

Dallas Cowboys LG Xavier Su'a-Filo

I could go into a long debate as to who I believe the Cowboys should start at LG moving forward, but I think that would be a waste of our time. I think this is a situation that will work itself out one way or another this week against the Atlanta Falcons.

Nothing is set in stone right now, but I have a hard time seeing Connor Williams being ready to play this week after having knee surgery. It would be unwise to rush him back before he's 100% healthy, especially after the way Su'a-Filo preformed against the Eagles. And if Su'a-Filo plays well once again, Williams may not get his starting job back.

See, I told you it was looking like a Ronald Leary/La'el Collins situation all over again.

This is a situation that many of us will be following closely this week and it may not only have ramifications on the rest of the 2018 season, but it could carry over into next year. Maybe Xavier Su'a-Filo remains at LG next year and Connor Williams moves to his more natural position (right tackle), making La'el Collins expendable. But that's a debate for another time.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should stick with Xavier Su'a-Filo at LG?



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