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.
Is Kavon Frazier Fighting a Losing Battle With the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys Safety Kavon Frazier has one year remaining on his rookie contract, but may not see the end of it with the same team who drafted him. In fact, it really looks as if he is already fighting a losing battle in Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Free Agent George Iloka and drafted Donavan Wilson out of Texas A&M in the sixth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft in the hopes of upgrading the safety position. That doesn't bode well for Kavon Frazier, especially after seeing his defensive snaps take hit in 2018.
After the arrival of Defensive Backs Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard, Frazier saw his playing time on defense go from 21.24% in 2017 to 18.07% in 2018. It's not a huge difference, but it's pretty obvious the Cowboys value his special-teams ability, not his defensive play.
The way I see things, Kavon Frazier is a longshot to make the Cowboys final 53-man roster this year. At best, I have him fifth or sixth on the depth chart right now. Since Dallas typically only carries four safeties on the roster, it's looking as if Frazier could inevitably be the odd man out.
I personally have Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and George Iloka ahead of Kavon Frazier right now on the depth chart. That means he's competing with Darian Thompson, who is also playing on a one-year deal, and rookie Donovan Wilson for that fourth and final roster spot at the safety position. Unfortunately for Frazier, it looks as if the odds are against him.
Donovan Wilson has already had to step into Frazier's shoes while he was out in OTA's after having his knee scoped, and has been pretty impressive doing so. He has supposedly picked up the defensive scheme pretty quickly and is becoming a vocal leader on the backend. Being a younger, cheaper option, Wilson has a better chance of sticking around on the final 53-man roster over Frazier.
As you can see, Kavon Frazier is fighting an uphill battle with the Dallas Cowboys. It of course is nothing new for him. He's had to fight his way onto the roster ever since he joined the Cowboys, but this year just seems a little different in my opinion. It just looks as if the odds are more against him this time around.
I have no doubts Frazier will continue to fight with every ounce of his being, but if I'm being completely honest I think he's fighting a losing battle. It's going to be really interesting to see how this roster battle at the safety position plays out in training camp and preseason.
Do you think Kavon Frazier is fighting a losing battle with the Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
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