Today is a day about tradition.
Thanksgiving - a day in which we are reminded just how blessed we are - comes with a multitude of different ones. There's turkey on the table, stuffing in the kitchen, rolls in the oven, families in the living room, hugs being exchanged all around, and a host of others unique to each of us.
Tradition isn't all about staying the same. Traditions change.
Thanksgiving isn't defined by the traditions, turkey, or trimmings. It's a day devoted to being grateful for every blessing in our lives: families, friends, significant others, pets, turkey, pizza, burgers, fries, or whatever life has in store for you today.
Not all of us have the picture-perfect Thanksgiving; That's what's so beautiful about this day.
Every one of us here has a different story with a different set of characters that took its own crazy, unique path. Each one of those is perfect in its own way, and each path brought us all right here.
This is the greatest game on earth and this day, beyond a multitude of other things, has become synonymous with it. Happy Football Day.
Wherever you are today... we're all together. We're all jumping after the touchdown, stunned by that call, and completely shocked that the season has already reached Week 12.
Today we're all family. A football family.
That's a tradition that will never change.
Here are my Week 12 NFL Picks.
Thanksgiving Part I: Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) At Detroit Lions (3-7)
In Chip Kelly we trust. The supposed "genius" has his Eagles team playing pretty terrible football despite the supposedly deep level of talent on their roster.
"Their defense is good!" was the latest battle cry before Jameis Winston went up to the City of Brotherly Love and dropped a five touchdown slap in the face to the Philly Faithful (all both of them). This team is how do you say... ungood?
Don't look now, but the Detroit Lions have won two games in a row. This is not a drill.
Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson should theoretically combine for no less than 14 touchdowns a game, but somehow they find a way to mess that up. Not today.
The Eagles are going to tuck themselves in bed tonight thinking, "How did we let the Cowboys catch up to us so quickly? What's wrong with our team? How do people always know what two plus two is so fast without using a calculator?"
Prediction: Eagles - 16, LIONS - 27
Thanksgiving Part II: Carolina Panthers (10-0) At Dallas Cowboys (3-7)
Welcome to the show.
The sandwich of Thanksgiving Day games surrounds this big chunk of meat. The undefeated Carolina Panthers, who are amazingly underdogs in this game, taking on a Dallas Cowboys squad with a brand new batch of moxie.
Allow me to pull a Cam Newton and dab some knowledge on you for a second.
Tony Romo is the only quarterback in NFL HISTORY to defeat two opponents who entered the game with a record of 9-0 or better.
The Carolina Panthers are 10-0. Hmm.
These Panthers are a great team - a playoff team; however in the NFL the more desperate team usually finds a way to win. For that matter the better team usually finds a way to win... and the better team here is the Dallas Cowboys.
This is going to be an emotional performance for the Cowboys. They're going to give this game all they've got knowing that they have until Monday Night Football of Week 13 to rest. They are not losing this game. It's theirs. Whether the Panthers agree or not.
Prediction: Panthers - 21, COWBOYS - 27
Thanksgiving Part III: Chicago Bears (4-6) At Green Bay Packers (7-3)
The primetime game on Thanksgiving Night should be one of the most thrilling games of the NFL season - that should be a rule somewhere.
Last year we weren't treated to that great of a game when the Seahawks waxed the 49ers, and this year it's hard to be that pumped about the Thanksgiving Finale yet again.
Sure the Bears/Packers rivalry is one of the oldest in NFL History... does that really help these Bears in any way? They're awful.
Matt Forte will be back to a degree, but Martellus Bennett is out. That is no bueno for Mr. Cutler.
Brett Favre is actually having his #4 retired by the Green Bay Packers during this game which you just know is irking Aaron Rodgers down to his core. He's going to come out and put together the best game of his career so that he can show the Packer fans just who the best quarterback in franchise history is. Olivia Munn will be so proud.
Prediction: Bears - 17, PACKERS - 35
Minnesota Vikings (7-3) At Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
I believed in the Vikings last week and they broke my heart. They had a huge opportunity to send a message within their division that the NFC North was Minnesota property, but they let it slip away. Shocker.
As disappointed as I am in the Vikings, I am equally baffled at how many people think this Falcons team is anywhere near good.
"They have Julio Jones!" Alright sir, I'll give you that.
They also have now lost to the Blaine Gabbert-led 49ers and Matt Hasselbeck-led Colts. Not to mention that all six of their wins were against subpar teams and could have easily gone the other way.
Even if I didn't believe the Vikings were the better team I would still pick against Atlanta out of principle. I've been to Atlanta... it's a lovely piece of Earth, but the Falcons are garbage.
Prediction: VIKINGS - 20, Falcons - 16
Buffalo Bills (5-5) At Kansas City Chiefs (5-5)
If you felt a warm gust of wind just now it was probably Rex Ryan talking.
Seriously Rex. Enough.
Have you noticed how quiet he's been this week? It's because the Bills aren't playing Bill Belichick and the Patriots so Rex Ryan could care less. If the Bills went 4-12 with those wins being season sweeps of the Pats and Jets Rex might build his own Hall of Fame and put himself in it. You're ruining a great franchise, Rexy boy.
Another proud franchise is the one that plays ball at Arrowhead Stadium. These Chiefs are on a roll lately, and it's hard to see them regressing any time soon.
Alex Smith will go down as arguably the best game-manager quarterback of our generation... and he should. This guy does everything you need him to do, save for the game-winning play, and he'll keep it close throughout the whole contest.
Kansas City has amazingly found some playmakers in the absence of Jamaal Charles, and I don't think Rex Ryan is going to stop them. He's too busy preparing for the Bills/Pats games in 2016.
Prediction: Bills - 17, CHIEFS - 23
St. Louis Rams (4-6) At Cincinnati Bengals (8-2)
Jeff Fisher is in some hot water.
The Rams are hovering around mediocrity for what feels like the 18th year in a row under his watch, and he let a concussed Case Keenum (say that five times fast) continue playing in Baltimore last week. That's a big no-no, Jeffy Weffy.
Fisher has been prone to bad judgment throughout his time in St. Louis as he cannot turn this team into a legit force in the NFL. The Jungle is not a good place to start.
These Bengals are upset. They've lost two games in a row and all of the national chatter about them has dwindled. They're sad, guys!
I believe that emotion pushes players to new heights and helps them play out of their minds, and I also believe that specific emotion won't spark anything inside the Bengals this week. But at the end of the day they're a better team than the Rams. They'll win... ugly.
Prediction: Rams - 13, BENGALS - 17
Oakland Raiders (4-6) At Tennessee Titans (2-8)
If you've read my picks before then you know that I have believed in the Oakland Raider this season. I stand by that.
I also stand by the fact that the Tennessee Titans should be disbarred as an NFL franchise because they don't play professional quality football.
Sure, I've been wrong about some Raiders games this season. I'm capable of admitting that I was drinking the Amari Cooper Kool-Aid and bought in. This team is going to be good in a few years, mark my words, but that time clearly isn't right now.
The Titans will never be good. They're a dumpster fire. The Raiders are just less dumpster fiery.
Just win, baby.
Prediction: RAIDERS - 26, Titans - 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) At Indianapolis Colts (5-5)
I really like Matt Hasselbeck.
He's always been a fun quarterback, even back during his days in Green Bay, and he's one of the classiest guys in the NFL today.
Unfortunately for Matt, his 2015 undefeated streak is going to break in this game.
I'm as shocked as you are. Seriously. I would have told you that I'd eat 400 butterfingers if the Bucs beat the Colts back in August, but this is November and things have changed.
I really like what Jameis Winston brings to the Buccaneers. They believe in him, and that wins football games. This Colts team has shown signs of unraveling all season, and a thread is about to come loose.
Prediction: BUCCANEERS - 23, Colts - 20
Miami Dolphins (4-6) At New York Jets (5-5)
It's hard to believe that the Dolphins, who have already fired the coach that they began this season with, are just one game back from the Jets.
I maintain that the Dolphins have a lot of offensive talent, they just don't know how to use it. It's like they have one of those fancy kitchens you see on Food Network, but they insist on making cereal every day... and they even mess that up.
Early into this season you'd have expected New York to be obliterating Miami in the win/loss column, but J-E-T-S never fails.
The Jets inexplicably lost down in Houston last week, but this team has one more little run left in them before the curtain closes on 2015. They're going to hit the same stride we saw early this season for the next month or so... and then they'll be back to the normal Jets.
Prediction: Dolphins - 22, JETS - 31
New Orleans Saints (4-6) At Houston Texans (5-5)
It feels so strange to admit because they've been a dominant team for so long, but the Saints are almost terrible.
Every now and then they're capable of turning back time with an offensive performance that's big in terms of fantasy football, but they aren't a very good overall football team. It's starting to show and Sean Payton might be headed for warmer weather.
It's time for me to admit that I haven't given the Texans the proper amount of credit this season. JJ Watt is fantastic, and DeAndre Hopkins is unquestionably the real deal... but this team has more juice than just those two.
The Texans have a defense that allows them to stay in games. If they can continue to get average quarterback play, whether that's Brian Hoyer or TJ Yates, they'll have a great chance to win some games. This one included.
Prediction: Saints - 16, TEXANS - 26
New York Giants (5-5) At Washington Redskins (4-6)
This is the game that I've struggled with the most this week.
If you somehow missed the big sign on the front of this ride... I'm a Cowboys fan. There's no jive here so I'll admit that right off the bat.
I, and all Cowboys fans, want the Redskins to win. It hurts to say that. It hurts to think that. What hurts the most is it sounds like I'm just picking with my heart because the Giants seem so much better than the Redskins.
The heart wants what the heart wants.
New York has had two weeks to prepare for this game, but Washington has shown an ability to get up for big games this season. They're a way different team than the one that the Giants beat earlier in the season.
Hail To The Redskins... it's going down.
Prediction: Giants - 24, REDSKINS - 27
San Diego Chargers (2-8) At Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6)
San Diego to Jacksonville... that's a long plane ride.
Toss in the fact that everyone traveling is thinking about how they've got two less wins than the Jaguars.
I feel badly for the Chargers, I really do. It seems as if they'll be one of the teams that moves to Los Angeles and San Diego fans are going to have to remember them this way. Tsk tsk. Injuries are a part of the game and the Chargers have just been ravaged. It just wasn't meant to be in 2015, Philip Rivers.
The Jaguars are suddenly in contention for a division crown. There's new life in the stadium that features a swimming pool, and they're going to show it in this game. The "mini bye" after Thursday Night Football is always helpful, and they're going to have a great time beating up on the Chargers in this one.
Prediction: Chargers - 10, JAGUARS - 24
Arizona Cardinals (8-2) At San Francisco 49ers (3-7)
Think about this: the hopes and dreams of all San Francisco 49ers fans rest on the right arm of Blaine Gabbert. Wow.
It's truly remarkable just how different this San Francisco team is from a year ago. I can't wait for the documentary that goes in depth about it that we'll see in 20 years.
The Cardinals can't wait for Sunday because it's going to be an exercise for them. Arizona is used to draining 3s, and they're about to get a lay-up on one of those baby basketball hoops.
This one isn't close.
Prediction: CARDINALS - 31, 49ers - 9
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) At Seattle Seahawks (5-5)
This is a sneaky great and terrible game.
It's great because you've got Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant versus the Legion of Boom.
It's terrible because these two teams have not lived up to the hype that surrounded them entering this season.
Seattle hasn't been the defensive force that we're accustomed to seeing from them. Offensively they haven't been even half of that as their most stable player is an undrafted rookie running back named Thomas Rawls. No I did not make that name up.
The Steelers have had some bad luck this season. They've had Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le'Veon Bell all together on the field for a total of about 11 minutes. Obviously they're without Bell, but I don't think it'll be a challenge. I like Pittsburgh in this game, prepare for the world to criticize the Seahawks.
Prediction: STEELERS - 27, Seahawks - 26
Sunday Night Football: New England Patriots (10-0) At Denver Broncos (8-2)
The Broncos Defense is great. Cool.
Brock Osweiler played really well last week. That's great.
This game is in Denver. Yawn.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are not about to lose to Brock Osweiler's Denver Broncos. They're just not. It's simple in the way that gravity is 9.81 meters per second squared.
The Broncos are going down. Not just because of gravity, but because of the Patriots.
Prediction: PATRIOTS - 24, Broncos - 10
Monday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens (3-7) At Cleveland Browns (2-8)
You've got a busy weekend ahead. I understand that.
You might want to use this game as an opportunity to catch up on what you missed, pay some bills, or get a start on your Christmas decorating/shopping.
The lone level of interest in this contest was Johnny Manziel... who has now been benched. Yay.
The Ravens, having already lost Steve Smith Sr. for the year, are now without both Joe Flacco AND Justin Forsett. Yikes.
Lucky for Baltimore the Browns are the Browns.
Prediction: RAVENS - 10, Browns - 3
Happy Thanksgiving! What's your favorite memory from this great holiday? Who do you think is winning in Week 12? Comment below, Email me your thoughts at Roel.Ochoa.Jr@Gmail.com, or Tweet to me @rjochoa!
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Should Cowboys Pursue Former Raider Bruce Irvin?
Star Blog3 days ago
Should Cowboys Stick With Xavier Su’a-Filo at Left Guard?
Star Blog2 days ago
How Cowboys Could Regain a 2019 1st-Round Draft Pick
Player News6 days ago
Legendary Cowboys Quarterback Backs Dak Prescott
Player News2 weeks ago
Could WR Noah Brown Help the Cowboys at Tight End?
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
Next Day Rant: Dak Prescott Shows Big Flaws in Big Win
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Is Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones to be Trusted?
Star Blog4 days ago
Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time