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!
Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas
The Dallas Cowboys have what many believe to be the best running back in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott. However, you can never undervalue the importance of depth at any position. When the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft came around, the Cowboys added another weapon to the backfield by selecting Tony Pollard out of Memphis.
If you’re looking for a dynamic player maker with the ability to take it to the house at any given moment, Pollard is your man. The former Tiger averaged a touchdown every 13 touches in college. That’s an absolutely insane statistic when you think about it. He also tied an NCAA record with seven kick returns for touchdowns. Long story short, he can get you six points at the blink of an eye.
The versatility in his game is outrageous and undoubtedly the reason why he was drafted. In addition to running for 941 yards on 6.8 yards per rush, he also had 104 receptions for 1,292 yards. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has to be salivating about the possibilities with his new toy. Having a running back that can not only carry the load as a runner but also line up at receiver keeps the defense honest. You never know what angle the offense is going to come from.
This has to be a sigh of relief for Ezekiel Elliott. Now, the Cowboys don’t have to overexert him and can bring Pollard in on third downs if need be. Not just to give Elliott a breather but to change the pace of the offensive attack. You can hand the ball off, throw it to him or run jet sweeps when he is on the field. This sets up a potential combo at running back that could be the leagues very best shortly.
Speed, quickness, and agility are all wrapped up in the Tony Pollard package. The Cowboys now have a running back that can line up at multiple positions if need be. Also, this prevents a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the body of Ezekiel Elliott. This combination has all the potential to set the NFL on fire in 2019.
CB Byron Jones Not Expected To Return Until Week 1 Against NYG
Coming off what was clearly the best season of his career thus far, Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones underwent surgery to hopefully fix a nagging hip injury.
While he earned both his first All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2018, his first season as a full-time cornerback, Jones still has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Some still criticize him for his lack of interceptions, and there's no doubt his stellar play slowed down a bit towards the end of the year.
I'm willing to wager that the slight decline had a lot to do with his hip troubles, but nonetheless he must come up with his elite level play once again to earn himself a nice contract somewhere in 2020.
Oh, did I forget to mention it's also a contract year for Byron Jones? As it is for so many important Dallas Cowboys, it seems.
So when will Byron Jones be able to return to the Cowboys' lineup? Well, the initial date reportedly set by Jones and the team was late July, giving him a chance to practice and play a bit before the season opener in September. But, according to the Team Site this week, that date may be pushed back a bit, and we might not see Byron Jones until that season opening game against the Giants.
"As for Jones, all along the Cowboys have been targeting his return for the season opener, but hopefully at that. So, don’t expect to see much of Jones in training camp, and if so, certainly no more than individual and walk-through drills." - Mickey Spagnola
Ultimately, as long as Byron Jones is good to go when the regular season starts, that's all that matters, but the fear of rust when Jones returns is a real one.
It's tough to go from no live football straight to the meaningful games, but if anyone would be able to do it it would be the guy with the freakishly athletic traits. The guy who can get out of the bed in the morning and set athletic records at the Combine.
And, of course, that guy is Byron Jones.
Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure
When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.
The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.
Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.
The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.
2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.
Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.
He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.
If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.
He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.
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