If you’re reading this, you’re not likely the fan the NFL is after. You already consume it with both hands. You love this game, you know what it’s about, and you know what it’s supposed to look like.
They know you know, and they don’t care. You’re already in the bag anyway.
You’d probably agree that the most compelling games we’ve seen in the past decade were those 10-7 fistfights between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. And the best recently have come from San Francisco and Seattle, among the rare teams playing a lick of defense the past two years.
Oh, the NFL agrees with you in principle, but again, they don’t care.
No, the NFL wants a lot more Denver-Dallas of last September, and they’re determined to get it. Sundays are now lightning-speed scoring fests, chock-full of big plays and commercials, fully by design. Such entertains the maternity ward of newly arriving casual fans, who suddenly showed up front-and-center not long ago despite a sad inability to name five NFL coaches out loud.
New money. Nothing smells quite like it.
The NFL can’t and won’t openly cater to gambling (although we all know it does because it’s a billion-dollar industry). But unexpectedly, from thin air, appeared this money angel called Fantasy Football, which inexplicably converted mind-numbingly ignorant football folk into some of its most ardent Sunday squatters. Ever since, the NFL has slobbered all over itself to accommodate them.
There’s no fantasy-football value in a 3-and-out. Punts equal blasphemy unless they get returned the distance. Five-yard runs are yawningly meaningless, as are incomplete passes and offensive penalties. Who wins is irrelevant to these yahoos, because it’s all about individuals, not teams.
Yes, fantasy Football is the perfect metaphor for the times we live.
Now, activate code red panic mode. Seattle ruined the Peyton Party a few months ago, ingloriously reducing him to defensive fodder, and re-establishing defense as a viable way to win at football. The Commissioner’s Office just won’t stand for it.
The mistake the Seahawks made was that they were too in-your-face about it. Pete Carroll and crew arrogantly decided to foul on virtually every play last season, challenging officials to throw flags at an alarming rate. They didn’t, and instead adjusted their calls during Seahawks games. Others rightly complained that all games should be called the same.
I say “rightly” not because Seattle should be penalized more, but because other teams should be penalized less. Let them play, please. Why this movement to abolish defense? If every real football fan wants more defense, then why this petulant denial to accommodate? I don't understand...wait, yes I do.
The answer is scarily simple. Such does not suit the National Fantasy Football League, which seemed to hijack the NFL in the middle of the night a decade ago. The NFFL cash machine will not be denied, and 17-10 games might run off the short attention spans of the easily distracted.
This preseason has been marred by countless contact and holding penalties on the defense. Countless is not much of an exaggeration. I’ve watched several teams march down the field on the strength of four or more contact/holding calls on a single drive. Teams seem almost embarrassed to score because they know it didn't earn it.
This, of course, is on the heels of years of offensive-oriented rule changes. Can’t hit a quarterback virtually anywhere. Interference calls that wildly favor the receivers. New rules about hitting “defenseless” receivers. Some of these rules are logical and good for safety, but far too overreaching. They certainly can keep a drive alive, which is the underlying point, it seems.
These contact/holding calls are taking this inequality to a new level. The league claims it’s going to call more offensive pass interference, too, especially when the receiver initiates the contact and pushes off. It also says it's going to watch closer for pick plays (hey, Denver!) and blocking downfield too early on quick screens. I’m all for that, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
General opinion is that this onslaught of penalties will ease when the real games start. I’d like to believe that, but I’m afraid it’ll be too much like gas prices. They crank you up to $5.00 a gallon so that you’ll feel like you’re getting a bargain when they drop it to $3.50. Such is the game of human conditioning.
Touchdowns are now eerily similar to three-pointers. Sure, it’s still exciting to see Dallas get in the end zone, but it feels more like holding serve than it does a truly impactful moment in the game. If a team has a good quarterback, touchdowns come with astonishing ease these days.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the receptionist at your office wants. She spent a couple of sleepless nights deciding on Foles versus Rivers, and she needs about 420 yards of passing to move into fourth place in her league. She’ll be watching for sure, and dropped $350 for the NFL Ticket so she can watch Red Zone and set up her Fantasy Player Tracker.
Cha-ching. After all, that’s what football is about now, right?
Fantasy football, in and of itself, is fine and good fun for many real fans. However, I've grown to hate it because once it became profitable, it changed the spirit of how football is consumed, presented, and celebrated. The NFFL has discovered a new revenue stream, and it seems intent on maximizing it, even at the expense of lessening the game itself.
So I wait patiently and hopefully for this fad to die. That's my fantasy.
The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up
Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.
The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.
As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.
Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.
Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.
Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.
Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.
I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.
All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.
How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?
Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?
With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.
Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.
I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.
I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?
Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.
Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.
Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.
Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?
Week 1 NFC East Predictions and Cowboys Season Outlook
Let me start this article with a strong opening statement: The Cowboys will be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. There's been a lot of talk about the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. But when we break it down, the current setup will most likely play out better for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.
The Dak Stats
Certain quarterbacks shine when they have that go-to playmaker. We're talking about guys like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Ocho Cinco, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Dez Bryant. But other QBs do better at reading the defense and quickly adapting to what is given. Dak Prescott is the latter breed of QB.
Let’s do a quick numbers exercise to prove this.
When Prescott is targeting 8 or more receivers throughout the game, his passer rating jumps from 86.1 (targeting less than 8) to 104.5. He passes for almost 50 yards more per game and his touchdown to interception ratio drastically improves from 21-13 to 24-4.
Most importantly, when he targets at least 8 different receivers, the Cowboys are 14-2. When he targets less than 8, the team is just .500 at 8-8.
Without a doubt, Prescott is much better at adjusting to what the defense is giving him. He just isn’t one of those guys who can successfully "force" the ball (like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees). Not feeling the pressure of having to get the ball into the hands of the star playmaker will give this offense a new kind of depth in 2018.
Yes, losing Jason Witten hurts, much more so in my opinion than not having Dez.
Questions Still Loom
This is still the Cowboys' biggest concern on offense. There is some great depth. We have Rico Gathers, Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, and the young stud out of Stanford, Dalton Schultz. But between the three who have any NFL experience, there are only 9 catches between them. I must say that Dalton, with his 4.75 40-yard dash, has a legitimate shot at seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie campaign and could become an impact player with his size (6’5”, 244-lbs) and speed.
But despite the battle for TE being wide open, and debates about whether or not the team needs a No. 1 receiver, the Cowboys are still expected to give the Eagles a run for their money in the NFC East. Here are the odds on the defending NFC East champions and how (although early) it is expected to shake out:
- Philadelphia Eagles -167
- Dallas Cowboys +350
- New York Giants +650
- Washington Redskins +750
NFC East Week 1 Predictions
The Cowboys open the season in a difficult road game against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been listed as 2.5-point favorites (follow the Cowboys NFL Odds here all season long) which isn’t surprising considering they are a tough team playing at home. You might be thinking, "crap, we're opening up as underdogs?" Don’t worry too much; it actually bodes fairly well because the lines-makers generally give a 3-point advantage to the home team. This means that they actually handicap the Cowboys to be a half-point favorite on a neutral field and a 3.5-point favorite in Arlington.
The Redskins open their season in Arizona against the Cardinals. The line is set at a pick ‘em (meaning there is no point spread; it's anyone's game). But, looking at the 'Skins and Cardinals, I think Washington gets disappointed in Week 1 and starts their season with a loss.
The Giants get to test their new offensive line and see if they were right in continuing to place their faith in Eli Manning against the best defense in the league. The Jags are 3-point favorites at MetLife stadium. This means the Jags are actually 6-points better. I do think that the Giants will be vastly improved this season, but they are also going to open with a loss.
The Eagles don’t have it easy either, but they will probably pull out the win at home as 4-point favorites against the Dirty Birds on Thursday Night Football. Their defense is just too good. Atlanta's road offense scored just 21 points per game last year while Philly scores 28 on average at home. The Eagles' home defense has been downright nasty, only allowing 12 points per game in Philadelphia.
This will be a two-horse race for the division between the Eagles and Cowboys. And even if the Eagles win the East, the Cowboys will wildcard into the playoffs.
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