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The Dallas Cowboys Are Legit Contenders

Mauricio Rodriguez

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The Dallas Cowboys Are Legit Contenders
Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports

In just a few weeks, the Dallas Cowboys went from being a 3-5 team to a 7-5 division leader that has recently beaten arguably the best team in the NFL. Dallas was a 7 point underdog last Thursday against the New Orleans Saints, a game in which no one gave them a chance at winning. But they did. And just like that, perception surrounding such a controversial team has changed.

Now, the question is not whether or not the Cowboys will make the playoffs and play January football, but rather, are they legit contenders in a dangerous NFC?

At first, one can be quick to dismiss such a statement. The Dallas Cowboys, contenders? Sounds crazy, right? After all, it's the same team that only had three victories through nine weeks of football. The same team that continues to struggle on offense with inconsistent quarterback play and play-calling.

But make no mistake about it. The Dallas Cowboys are legit contenders in the NFL.

They're far from being Super Bowl favorites, of course. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they are the best team in the league. But they did just beat the best team. Not only that, but they held the #1 scoring offense to 10 points and 176 total yards.

Despite all of the criticism Jason Garrett receives, it's clear that the players do believe in him as the the head coach. You don't win this way against such a strong team without players who believe in their coach. And a win like this can change a football team midseason.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jerry Jones: "This team won't be the same again. I'm serious. You win something like this against...a caliber of team like that...the mirror knows you've done it, you change. This is a changer in here. These guys, they're different cats now as they go forward.

Clearly, the defense is worthy of playing on Super Sunday. That much has been confirmed after last Thursday's game. We had seen this defense dominate against other teams, and they continued to do so against the high-powered Saints' offense. One led by MVP candidate Drew Brees.

The defense is allowing 18.6 points per game. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are playing better than any other linebacker duo in the league. Byron Jones is shutting down one half of the field gameday after gameday. As impressive as the Cowboys' win over the Saints was, don't forget that for the defense, it wasn't a one game accomplishment. It's been consistent performances every week.

The offense is another story, though. Dallas ranks 24th in scoring offense and continues to be inconsistent in the passing game. Not to mention play-calling has been far from ideal for the Cowboys in many occasions this season.

Cowboys en Español: Victoria Defensiva Ante Saints, ¿Qué Sigue?

But there's actual signs of improvement. Since Amari Cooper's arrival, the passing game has notably improved. Cooper has been responsible for many first down catches in key moments and has opened up receivers like Michael Gallup as well as the running game for Ezekiel Elliott.

This is a unit capable of controlling the time of possession. A team that can efficiently run the football, averaging 132 yards per game (sixth in the NFL). If the Cowboys are able to improve in red zone efficiency, this team could be scoring over 20 points per game.

With this defense and controlling the time of possession, 24 or 28 points should get you wins. The Cowboys are an uncomfortable opponent, and they just proved the league that they can beat any team in the NFL.

Yes, it does sound crazy. But that team that beat the Saints earlier this week showed us why they should be in the conversation. The Cowboys started the year with their left foot, but they're simply not the same team they were then. Since then, they fired their OL coach and watched the unit dramatically improve. They got a true #1 receiver. And their first-round rookie linebacker has improved weekly. This team? This team is for real.

It's a long shot, but the Dallas Cowboys are legit contenders in the 2018 NFL season.

Tell me what you think about "The Dallas Cowboys Are Legit Contenders" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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6 Comments
  • Steve

    Maybe in the conversation, but and this is coming from a DIEHARD Dallas fan I feel that out defense is top 5 and with the additions off Irving,Lee will only increase the chaos for opposing offenses. However our offense isn’t there yet and I feel that they continue to have ups and downs for that reason we aren’t ready just yet! We are getting there but we NEED to have more consistent play from Dak and our offensive line! The line is doing awesome considering there only 2 starters playing and if we can get all that to line up your right M. Rodriguez 20/24 points a game and we can win most Sundays!!!

  • David Anthony

    The Dallas Cowboys defense may be the best in the league. Those players and coaches are certainly the reason the team is winning. The offense isn’t bad, in fact most of the players are doing a great job. However, Dak routinely misses simple throws and struggles getting past the first read even when the O-line holds solid. Once Beasley was his go-to guy. Now he misses him frequently. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, Dak’s biggest strength is running the ball.

    Equally limiting issues with the team include: 1) poor management of time-outs and the clock in general by J.G.; 2) Hit and miss offensive play calling; and 3) DAK NEEDS A REAL QB COACH!

    • Bruce Hood

      I agree with you about Dak to a degree, but every QB misses some easy throws. I’ve seen quarterbacks just this weekend Miss easy throws who generally would make those throws. Dak miss one throw the gallop but let’s also remember he hit Gallup on a long throw as well. Tom Brady in the Minnesota game, Julian Edelman was open and instead of hitting them he threw an interception. It was an easy throw he just made a bad one. Don’t give me Tom Brady has Super Bowl wins which I know he does but point I’m making is that QB’s season QB’s still miss some easy throws.

      • David Anthony

        Sure. Great QBs miss throws. Sometimes. But they don’t miss at the frequency of a mediocre qb like Dak. And they don’t struggle with basics like getting through reads when they’re not under duress. They don’t fail to position their feet before throwing on the move.

        I’m a Dak fan. He is where he is in his development. We can’t blame him for that. We can blame J.G. for not giving him a real QB coach.

        Maybe in 10 years it might make sense to compare Dak to Brady… but at this point to do so implies a completely novice level of understanding of the game… Not to mention basic stats

        • Bruce Hood

          Please Read my post again! Wasn’t comparing Dak to brady at all. I just used Brady as a polished QB who will and has missed throws throughout his career. What’s not fair is you are expecting and comparing Dak to QB who have a longer tenure than him. 2 1/2 years in the league, I do expect him to get better with a real QB coach and an OC that plays to his strengths. Please read mu post again!

  • Bruce Hood

    Also to call Dak mediocre is so premature. You’re talking about him missing throws, not planting his feet etc. Your comment insinuate he at his ceiling and he’s a finished product and WILL never improve. The guy has thrown for over 3,000 in every season he’s played in and Hall of famer Troy Aikman best year was a little over 3,500 yards. My point is stop condemning Dak, comparing him to accomplished QBS who didn’t come out of the QB matrix knowing everything firing on all cylinders! Tom Brady would tell you in his 2nd or 3rd year he was still developing in making proper reads and understanding defensive schemes. So was Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Elite in their 2 or 3 year of playing? Probably not! Give our QB a chance to flourish like any other quarterbacks. Cowboys for life!

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Scott Linehan’s Job Shouldn’t Be Safe

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Revamped Offense Relies on Scott Linehan to Succeed 3

The Dallas Cowboys didn't look like they did during their five game winning streak when they entered Lucas Oil Stadium to face a hot Indianapolis Colts team. In fact, they had one of their poorest showings of all season, failing to score a single point all game. Heading home after being shutout 23-0, there isn't much to be said about the Cowboys' performance.

Here's this week's Takeaway Tuesday. This time, instead of talking about many takeaways, I needed to get one big takeaway off my chest. I hope you enjoy. Make sure to let me know how you feel about this topic in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL.

Scott Linehan's Job Shouldn't Be Guaranteed Going into the Playoffs

As tough as it is to fire one of your three main coaches when your team is headed into the postseason, the Dallas Cowboys should not rule out moving on from Scott Linehan. One win away from clinching the NFC East, it's not something you easily pull off but Linehan's play calling has been terrible all year long.

The truth is, despite Dak Prescott's struggles and a disastrous offensive line, the offense shouldn't be as inefficient as it is.

Watching a unit that counts with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott run a screen pass to Allen Hurns on fourth down and 14 was truly a microcosm of what this year has been for the offense.

Despite having a playoff berth practically clinched, the Cowboys should consider a change at offensive coordinator. Even if they don't fire Linehan, it's clear his play-calling is not good and could cost this team a real opportunity at a legit shot in the postseason. It would be an aggressive measure, without a doubt. The Minnesota Vikings did something similar by firing John DeFillippo a week ago. Based on their 41-17 win over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, being aggressive sometimes pays.

3 Quick Fixes to Jumpstart Cowboys Anemic Offense 3

The Cowboys have arguably the best running back in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott and yet they continue to misuse him. Whether it's turning their backs on their star tailback or over-using him, this offense has a hard time reaching balance. Dak Prescott's strengths could be exploited even more, but this OC refuses to do so.

As hard as it is to make a drastic change in coaching two weeks before the regular season ends, it truly could end up being a great move by the front office. Sure, Amari Cooper has had monster games since joining the Cowboys, but he could be even more dangerous under another coach.

Cowboys versus Colts was a coaching battle between Scott Linehan and former Dallas Cowboys LB coach, Matt Eberflus. It was the matchup of the week, and one we expected to be fun. Instead, we saw one side completely dominate the other. In the NFL, coaching matters. Probably even more than talent on a roster.

The biggest problem would be, who'd take over play-calling?

Since there isn't a promising candidate within the team, the team's only option would probably be letting HC Jason Garrett take over. It may not be ideal, but it could end up being an improvement over Linehan. Of course, it could also let the front office see what Garrett has to offer as a play caller and consider that when deciding how this coaching staff will look like in 2019.

It's unlikely that we see such a thing occur for the Cowboys, but if the offense has another letdown game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I don't see how the front office doesn't at least consider this. They should.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Scott Linehan’s Job Shouldn’t Be Safe" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Game Notes

Ezekiel Elliott Productive in Cowboys Blowout Loss to Colts

John Williams

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3 Stars from Dallas Cowboys Loss to the Seattle Seahawks

It was as ugly of a performance as we’ve seen from the Dallas Cowboys in the Jason Garrett era. For the first time in a decade and a half, the Cowboys were shut out and it was a game full of bad pretty much everywhere you looked. Everywhere accept Ezekiel Elliott.

What a waste! 

Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line played well for much of the game even with All-Pro Right Guard Zack Martin missing his first career start and losing starting Left Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo went out with an eye injury. 

On the day, Ezekiel Elliott carries the ball 18 times for 87 yards and added another seven receptions for 41. 25 touches for 128 total yards is a good game, but with nothing else going right for the Cowboys it was a game that ultimately didn’t matter. 

The one play where Elliott and the offensive line failed to come through was early in the game in a fourth and one that the Colts defense seemed to have snuffed out and blew up from the start. Elliott was able to convert a fourth and one later in the game. It looked like Elliott was close to breaking one for a long run several times but got tripped up at the end of the runs. He was his typical self this week. Taking runs that looked to be going for a loss and turning them into positive gains. 

In the race for the NFL's rushing title, Elliott has extended his lead on Todd Gurley to nearly 100 yards rushing. At 1,349 rushing yards on the season, Elliott will have a great shot to set a career high in rushing yards with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants remaining on the schedule. The Bucs have allowed the sixth most rushing yards and the fourth most rushing touchdowns in the NFL this season while the Giants have allowed the fifth most rushing yards and the seventh most rushing touchdowns in 2018.

It was a horrendous loss at a time when the Cowboys could have locked up the NFC East and there is zero excuse for it. They got out coached, out played, and were beaten physically on both sides of the ball and that doesn't happen very often, especially to the defense.

But if we're looking for something positive to take away from this game, it's that with all the offensive line injuries and the poor play of the passing game, Ezekiel Elliott and the running game continues to find ways to shine. With as bad as the loss was, that's something to hang your hat on.

All the Cowboys need to do moving forward is Feed Zeke!



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Can't Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts

What is there to say about the Dallas Cowboys week 15 performance? After five straight wins, the last three coming at home, the Cowboys have only a return home to look forward to, facing the 5-9 Buccaneers on Sunday after a 23-0 defeat at the Colts.

Shutout for the first time since 2003, the Cowboys playoff hopes didn't take a hit despite the Redskins and Eagles winning on the road. Washington's last-second win went final just before the Colts ran the clock out on a game the Cowboys simply weren't ready for.

The Cowboys moved the ball well at times but failed to ever come away with points, opening the door for the Colts to expose this defense like it hasn't been all season. The Cowboys front four was hardly a factor on defense, allowing Colts Running Back Marlon Mack to average 5.1 yards a carry. Scoring the Colts only touchdowns, Mack and Andrew Luck assured the Cowboys running game wouldn't be a factor with their 10-0 halftime lead. Down to three backups at LG, C, and RG, Quarterback Dak Prescott stood little chance to bring the Cowboys back as the second half quickly got away from Dallas.

Internally, the Cowboys will have much more to say about their effort on Sunday, but here are just a few of my observations in the first somber edition of Sean's Scout since week nine.

  • The Cowboys defensive problems up front extended well into the second level, with Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith both playing one of their worst games of the season. 

The Colts took a blocked Brett Maher field goal 44 yards for the game's opening score. Mack accounted for 34 of these yards and the touchdown. On his seven yard run to set up first and goal, Smith was caught taking a poor angle on Mack. The Cowboys were aggressive rushing up the field on the play, with Smith ending up being in the best position to slow Mack.

Vander Esch was sealed and couldn't fight to get off, which happened again three plays later on third and goal. Leighton looking like a rookie for the first time was just the start of the Cowboys problems, and with Sean Lee being active yet conceding starting snaps to him, it shouldn't take long for Vander Esch to figure things out again.

  • Jamize Olawale's dropped touchdown on third and goal to bring up a failed fourth and one was the moment the Cowboys were taken out of this game. 

This sequence was particularly deflating because the Cowboys did a great job getting down the field to have an opportunity to score. The fourth down decision to run out of a heavy formation, inviting extra defenders to the line of scrimmage, looks especially egregious when stacked against the Amari Cooper rush that picked up the Cowboys initial first down. Rookie Tight End Dalton Schultz got involved, Elliott ripped off a 24 yard run, and the Cowboys still came away empty on this drive.

A year removed from coaching the Cowboys linebackers, Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus had his way with Scott Linehan's offense all afternoon, stymieing their most promising drive after Olawale should have scored easily.

  • The Cowboys only chance to get back in the game was taken away from them by a Joe Looney holding call, just another example of players that had carried them through a winning streak not playing up to standard. 

The Colts took the second half kickoff down the field to extend the lead to 17-0. On fourth and two on the ensuing possession, Prescott hit an injured Cole Beasley for 18 yards to the Colts' 23-yard line. The Cowboys red zone offense certainly doesn't provide the confidence that Dallas would finish the drive, but Looney's hold negated Beasley's catch and forced a punt.

The Colts tacked on a field goal and finished out the game without the Cowboys threatening again. Looney played down to the level of Adam Redmond to his left, who replaced Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Connor Williams in for Zack Martin - though I thought Williams held up fairly well and should be in play to earn more snaps wherever needed.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys can regroup and still accomplish everything they set out for this season, forced to make this loss to the Colts and afterthought like their last one to the Titans became. A five game win streak as a response is out of reach, but a streak of just one is all Dallas needs to clinch the NFC East and focus on improvements for the playoffs.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Division Clinch with Shutout Loss at Colts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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