Only three more regular season games remain before we head into the NFL Playoffs. The Dallas Cowboys have turned their season around winning five straight and positioning themselves at first place of the NFC East. Once a 3-5 team, the Cowboys are currently one win away from clinching the division title.
In the midst of a five game winning streak, Jason Garrett's team is already being discussed as a legit threat in the NFC. Said discussions are the result from such a streak including a victory over arguably the best team in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints.
With three more games left to be played, the question I pose to you today is...
Can the Dallas Cowboys run the table?
After the Cowboys fell at home to the Tennessee Titans 28-14 in week 9, the schedule ahead did not look nice at all. The following five games included two matches against the defending Super Bowl Champions and division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles and a game against the high-powered offense from Drew Brees & Co. and well... we know how that story goes.
Now, the landscape is a bit different. The Cowboys seem to have only one more difficult game ahead of them. Let's take a look at each of Dallas' next opponents.
Week 15: @ Indianapolis Colts
This is easily the biggest challenge remaining. Similar to the Cowboys' recent success, the Colts have won six of their last seven football games. The offensive line has been able to keep the pocket clean for QB Andrew Luck who is finally back to his old self. Surely, they won't be intimidated by the Cowboys' being "hot" this past few weeks. Just last Sunday, they snapped the Houston Texans' nine game winning streak.
The Colts are averaging 29 points per game in their last 10 led by T.Y. Hilton in the receiving game, who might just be Byron Jones' biggest challenge yet due to his speed on the field. However, Indianapolis is far from perfect. That's the reason why the Jacksonville Jaguars left them scoreless a couple of weeks ago.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Cowboys this week will be playing on the road. Their recent success has been impressive, but they've played three consecutive home games. All things considered, this really is a very promising game. I'll lean towards the Cowboys to win this football game thanks to their great defense and Amari Cooper. It's worth noting that Colts' center Ryan Kelly could play on Sunday. If he doesn't though, DeMarcus Lawrence and the rest of the DL will make their presence felt constantly.
Prediction: Cowboys Win
Week 16: VS Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the 2018 NFL season. They've seen both versions of Ryan Fitzpatrick (the great one and the "why is he throwing so many picks?" one). They've gone back and forth again at the QB position between him and Jameis Winston. Right now, it seems like Winston is the guy who'll be leading the Bucs' offense for the rest of the season.
They surely seem like an easy opponent, but they're the same team that led the Saints 14-3 by halftime last Sunday. Their offense can be dangerous if the Cowboys are not careful. Cameron Brate at tight end is a player to watch out for when the Bucs visit AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys should get a comfortable win on this one, though. Tampa Bay's defense ranks 30th in the league in scoring and 20th against the run. Ezekiel Elliott will surely be fed.
Prediction: Cowboys Win
Week 17: @ New York Giants
By this week, it's hard to know if the Cowboys will rest starters for the playoffs or not. History tells us they won't, so we'll pretend that's the case. When these two squared off back in September, both were very different teams. Against one of the worst offensive lines in the league, it should be a fun game for the Cowboys' defense.
The Giants are 4-1 in their last five games, but don't let that record fool you. In that span, they've beaten the Josh Johnson-led Washington Redskins, the Chase Daniels-led Chicago Bears, the Bucs and the San Francisco 49ers.
The Cowboys should be able to win this divisional game fairly easily as they try to improve their execution before January football.
Prediction: Cowboys Win
To be quite honest, only the next game feels like a true threat to the Dallas Cowboys' winning streak. The Indianapolis Colts are an intimidating rival. In fact, they're the favorites in Vegas to get the win on Sunday. If Dak Prescott and his team are able to walk away victorious from said game, this team should go 11-5 on the season
That would be quite the ending for a team that had only three wins through eight games in week 9. They're really a new team. It's time to finish strong.
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
Breaking: Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys Part Ways
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan have mutually agreed to part ways following a tumultuous season that saw the Dallas Cowboys offense finish outside the top 12 three out of his four seasons in Dallas.
Sources: The #Cowboys are firing OC Scott Linehan. Taking their offense in a new direction. An announcement is coming.
Scott Linehan was brought in prior to the 2015 season and saw his offenses finish 31st, fifth, 14th, and 22nd in his four years as the Cowboys play caller. The 2015 season can be excused as the Cowboys rolled out Kellen Moore, Matt Cassell, and Brandon Weeden for 13 starts after Tony Romo was injured twice during the season, but the team 2-11 in those 13 starts and the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs despite a strong performance on the defensive side of the football.
The Cowboys saw an offense that finished fifth in the NFL in points in 2016 decline each of the last two offseasons and Linehan has been continually criticized by analysts, fans, and players as well.
Many believe that the reason that Dez Bryant and Brice Butler weren't brought back in the offseason was because of the public criticism of the offense and the play caller instilling the offense and that criticism has carried over to this season when Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper acknowledged that the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting on the slant routes that they had run all game. Dak mentioned that he changed Amari's route to a go route, which led to a 75 yard touchdown that helped open up the offense.
Cole Beasley has been frustrated with his role for much of the season and deservedly so. He was often non-existent in the offensive game plan until the final five minutes of football games.
In the running game, the offense had become too predictable and reliant upon jumbo formations that led to Ezekiel Elliott having to run against eight in the box anywhere from 25-30% of the time. For perspective, Todd Gurley only ran against eight-man fronts around eight percent of the time. Scott Linehan never looked to attempt to take players out of the box, instead insisting on motioning more players into the box for the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to run against. It's amazing when you think about it, that Ezekiel Elliott was able to win the rushing title when facing loaded fronts as often as he did.
This was a move that needed to happen and the Dallas Cowboys didn't need to waste anymore time to make it happen. The offense had become stale and frustrating for the players as well as the fans. While Jason Garrett started the offseason saying he "didn't expect any changes," this was a move that absolutely had to happen for the offense to take a step forward. Below, you can read Jason Garrett's announcement on the move.
Cowboys have fired Scott Linehan
Even after the move for Amari Cooper, the offense looked better, but it still struggled at times to move the football.
The Cowboys have a young team with especially young players on the offensive side of the football. They have a quarterback who can throw from the pocket, but has excellent movement skills and capabilities of throwing the ball on the run. He's an excellent runner on designed runs. Despite us knowing all that, Scott Linehan looked reluctant to use him on designed quarterback runs that weren't read options or speed options. What you saw on designed runs in the Seattle game is what this team should be doing five times a game.
Now the question becomes, who should the Cowboys next offensive coordinator be? Our own, Staff Writer Brian Martin, laid out 5 Options to be the Next Offensive Coordinator earlier this week. I suggest you give it a read.
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
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