It's been a season of ups and downs that saw the 2018 Dallas Cowboys start the season by alternating wins and losses through the first six games before dropping to 3-5 after the eight game mark. Now having won three in a row and leading the NFC East, I think we can all rest assured that these Dallas Cowboys.
Over the last three weeks, the Dallas Cowboys have answered questions that hadn't previously been answered.
Prior to the three game winning streak, they hadn't won a game on the road. Well, now they've done that twice.
They hadn't played a really good offense. Well they outscored the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Super Bowl 51 runner-up Atlanta Falcons on the road.
In 2017, the Cowboys weren't able to overcome the injuries and suspensions to their star players Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, David Irving, and Ezekiel Elliott. Well in 2018, they've weathered the storm and played really good without Tyron Smith, David Irving, Sean Lee, and several other key contributors.
The time has come for us to believe in the Dallas Cowboys again.
I know that's difficult to do as the Cowboys have let us down so many times over the last couple of decades, but for the 2018 Cowboys, things are trending in the right direction and they are playing their best football of the year at the most important time of the year.
Even with a formidable game coming this Thursday night against the 10-1 New Orleans Saints, the Dallas Cowboys give us reason to believe that they could actually come away with a win this week to extend the streak to four. Just a few games ago, I don't think anyone would have thought a W was possible this Thursday.
But that's where we are now and for good reason.
The Dallas Cowboys offense is starting to look dangerous on the ground and through the air.
Over the last three games, Quarterback Dak Prescott has averaged 255.7 yards per game, completed 70.1% of his passes, is averaging 7.75 yards per attempt and 8.35 air yards per attempt. He's thrown three touchdowns and ran for three touchdowns while not turning the ball over; basically two touchdowns per game. Prescott's quarterback rating over the three game winning streak was 100.3. Dak's been sacked 3.3 times per game. That includes being sacked four times in the first half against the Washington Redskins, but not being sacked at all in the second half. All of this occurring while Connor Williams sat out and against the Washington Redskins without Tyron Smith.
Over the first eight games of the season, prior to the three game winning streak, Prescott averaged 207.5 passing yards per game, threw 10 touchdowns and five interceptions, averaged seven yards per attempt and only 6.90 air yards per attempt. During the 3-5 start, Prescott averaged 1.5 total touchdowns per game. His passer rating was 88.9.
There are several things to factor into to the improved play of the offense, but the two biggest reasons are the two big moves they made over the bye week. First, trading for WR Amari Cooper. Then removing Paul Alexander as offensive line coach and replacing him with Marc Colombo.
It’s hard to quantify just how much of an impact Cooper and Colombo have made on the Cowboys since the bye week, but there’s certainly a difference in both the way they run the ball and throw the ball.
Not only has Dak Prescott seen a midseason resurgence to his play, but Ezekiel Elliott and the running game have as well. Elliott has run for 120 yards or more with a touchdown in three straight games. It's the second time in his career that he's had such a stretch. This while playing against two really good defensive fronts in the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins. The Redskins held Elliott to 33 yards on 15 carries in the week seven loss in Washington.
The Amari Cooper trade has added an element to the offense that's been missing this season. Someone who can create separation with his excellent route running ability, but also has the speed to break away from defenders after the catch. As we all saw on Thursday. You can tell when watching that Prescott has a high level of comfort with Cooper and is willing to throw the ball his way often. In fact, since coming over from the Oakland Raiders prior to the Tennessee Titans game, Cooper has led the Cowboys in targets in three out of the four games he's been with the team. He helps everyone on the offense. In only four games, Cooper's already second on the team in receiving yards and first on the Cowboys in receiving touchdowns.
He gets open, which helps Dak, which in turn helps the offensive line. He requires attention from the secondary, which is going to help the rest of the wide receivers in their routes, as well as Elliott. Like we saw on Thursday, he's a threat to score from anywhere on the field. When a team can get one or two big plays a game like that, it provides a huge boost to the entire football team.
The offense's improvement over the last three games shouldn't overshadow what the defense has done. They continue to play really good as a unit.
They've held the Philadelphia Eagles, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Washington Redskins to an average of 20.67 points per game. The Atlanta Falcons were held to one touchdown at home, where they had averaged 30+ points on the road coming into the game.
The Dallas Cowboys defense, who has been pretty good at putting pressure on the passer and against the run, is starting to create turnovers.
They've created a turnover in four straight games, and forced Colt McCoy into three interceptions on Thursday. The Cowboys would have had another interception in the Atlanta game if not for Julio Jones ball-separating hit on Jeff Heath.
If the Dallas defense can continue to force turnovers in each game, it's going to make things a lot easier for the offense. The Cowboys are still in the bottom half of the league in turnovers, but are trending in the right direction with seven in the last four weeks. Against, Tennessee, they were unable to capitalize on the turnovers, but that shouldn't be as much of a problem moving forward.
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It's easy to look at the quality of opponent the Cowboys have played over the last three weeks and discount the three game winning streak, but each of those teams is still in the thick of the wild card race. The Cowboys were under pressure in must-win games and came away with big wins.
No matter what happens on Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints, this team is still one to put our confidence in. They're playing really good football now and I don't see that changing for the rest of the 2018 season. Whether they win this week or not, and I think there’s a good chance they do pull off the upset, this team is on a trajectory to win the NFC East. This is a dangerous team and one to believe in.
Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?
Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.
Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.
Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.
This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.
Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.
Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."
Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.
It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.
Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.
Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC
2018 has seen the emergence of high-powered offenses in both NFL conferences. The Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the AFC and the NFC is spearheaded by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Through 14 weeks, these three teams are the top three offenses in the NFL, each averaging over 30 points per game. This year, for the first time in NFL history, two teams scored more than 50 in the same game.
Thanks to this consistent impressive offensive performances, you would think "offense" is the name of the game for the 2018 NFL season. Well, not so fast, my friend. Despite sitting atop the NFC, the Saints and the Rams have recently suffered losses that indicate hope is anything but lost for defensive teams in the league.
The Chicago Bears were able to bring down the Rams last Sunday Night 15-6. The same offense that averages 33 points per game was limited to six points. Sean McVay's remarkable offense went home with no touchdowns to talk about on the plane back home. Instead, they probably discussed Jared Goff's four interceptions.
Weeks earlier, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when they brought down the Saints. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas simply couldn't move the ball against Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones. 13 points were all the Cowboys needed to score to beat an offense that was averaging 37 per game heading into week 13 but was only able to put up 10 in Dallas.
The Cowboys are the #4 seed with the Bears slightly ahead of them as the #3 seed in the NFC. Together, these teams have defeated the top two in the conference. Now granted, playoffs will definitely be different.
For starters, if they are to advance to the divisional round, they'll be on the road. Chicago was surely benefited by playing in such a cold weather versus a Los Angeles team. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, few times has AT&T Stadium been as loud as when they beat the Saints.
Hopefully, we'll get to see both of these elite defenses advance to the Divisional Round to square off against this couple of high-powered offenses again. We will not only be witnessing amazing football games, but a great discussion regarding the everlasting debate between offense and defense.
For years, "defense wins championships" has been a widely accepted statement in football. The Cowboys and Bears have made that same statement resound recently with their impressive wins.
Can they do it again in January football? Can they do it on the road?
Cowboys en Español: Los Colts No Son Cualquier Rival
Al igual que el resto de la afición de los Dallas Cowboys, parte de mí se siente confiada respecto a este equipo visitando a Indianapolis Colts y resultando victoriosos. ¿El problema? Los Colts no son un rival sencillo de vencer. Si crees que la racha de los Cowboys los intimidará, piensa de nuevo. Los Houston Texans llevaban nueve victorias al hilo antes de enfrentarse a este equipo.
Siendo objetivos, este puede ser el partido que evite que los Cowboys cierren su temporada con ocho victorias al hilo para terminar el año con un récord de 11-5. Ni los Tampa Bay Buccaneers ni los New York Giants deberían presentar amenaza alguna contra Dallas. Lo mismo no se puede decir de Indianapolis.
Por primera vez en mucho tiempo, Andrew Luck está realmente de vuelta. Gracias a una reconstrucción de su línea ofensiva, su nivel de juego a regresado al nivel que conocíamos de él desde que llegó a la NFL. Afortunadamente para los Colts, Luck se ha mantenido sano toda la temporada y no se ve rastro alguno de sus lesiones anteriores en el emparrillado.
T.Y. Hilton está teniendo un muy buen año y sin duda alguna presentará un reto para Byron Jones y el resto de la secundaria de los Cowboys. Eric Ebron en la posición de tight end también será un dolor de cabeza para la defensiva.
Lo más interesante se dará en las trincheras. Los Cowboys han hecho un muy buen trabajo presionando quarterbacks opuestos en la temporada, pero si el centro de los Colts, Ryan Kelly está sano el domingo, se enfrentarán al mejor duo de centro-guardia en la liga actualmente. Con Quenton Nelson al lado, Luck estará muy bien protegido.
Sin embargo, Kelly no ha jugado debido a una lesión y aún está por verse si tomará el campo el domingo por la mañana. Los Cowboys hicieron un muy buen trabajo a la entonces ofensiva #1 de la liga, los New Orleans Saints, pero eso no significa que la ofensiva #8 que tienen los Colts no los retará.
Promediando 27 puntos por juego, la defensiva necesitará ayuda de Dak Prescott y compañía para ganar el partido. Dallas continúa moviendo el balón efectivamente, pero es tiempo de anotar touchdowns y no goles de campo.
Ezekiel Elliott será, una vez más, clave para la victoria. Enfrentándose a una defensiva Top 10 contra el juego terrestre, mover las cadenas con Zeke no será tan fácil. El novato Darius Leonard como linebacker ha sido algo espectacular otra temporada al igual que Leighton Vander Esch. Liderando a toda la NFL en tackleadas, estará listo para recibir a los Cowboys al Lucas Oil Stadium.
Lo más importante de este partido...
Por más impresionante que sea la racha de cinco victorias consecutivas, los Cowboys tienen que demostrar que pueden ganarle a un equipo fuerte estando de visita. Porque hay que admitirlo, Jason Garrett y su equipo no han tenido éxito fuera de casa. Claro, le ganaron a un equipo debilitado de Philadelphia Eagles y a unos Atlanta Falcons que va 4-9.
Este equipo "nuevo" de los Cowboys no ha ido contra un rival de calidad siendo el visitante. Es tiempo de demostrar que lo pueden hacer, ya que si quieren contender en postemporada, es justo lo que necesitarán... jugar bien de visita.
Sinceramente creo que los Cowboys ganan este partido. Principalmente gracias a su defensiva, pero también veo a la ofensiva dominar el tiempo de posesión en un juego de pocos puntos. Es tiempo de mantener esa racha.
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