Here are some interesting numbers for you.
- 4 -- There are four regular season games left in the 2015 NFL season.
- 3 -- There are three weeks left in 2015 altogether.
- 2 -- There are two weeks left until Christmas.
- 1 -- There is one last bit of nonsense until you get to my Week 14 NFL Game Picks!
It's crazy how fast time has flown by this season. It feels like yesterday that we were celebrating the draft and salivating over the newly released schedule.
As we enter the final quarter of the regular season there is still so much that can happen. This week will help shape the 2015 Playoff Picture that much more, so let's stop wasting time and get right to it!
Thursday Night Football: Minnesota Vikings (8-4) At Arizona Cardinals (10-2)
The dance in the desert is on!
On paper this looks like a really tasty matchup between two of the NFC's top contenders. The Cardinals have a great shot of some serious postseason success, but the Vikings seem like they're on a trip back down to earth lately.
Minnesota had a nice humbling last week against the Seahawks, and Adrian Peterson wasn't happy about it. The Vikings are going to respond to AD's complaints and feed him the ball, but it's not going to be anywhere near enough. This Cardinals team is good, good I tell ya!
Prediction: Vikings - 13, CARDINALS - 26
Atlanta Falcons (6-6) At Carolina Panthers (12-0)
If you've been reading my picks for a few weeks then you know how overhyped I find the Falcons to be.
These dudes were 5-0 (after five easy wins mind you) and have managed to turn that into an ugly 6-6 record. It is actually difficult to implode that much, but that's why the Falcons are the Falcons.
Matty Ice is going to be no match for Superman in this contest. The Panthers faced their, arguably, biggest challenge of the season last week when New Orleans went blow for blow with them offensively.
You can't talk me out of Panthers here. They're just too hot. And the Falcons are too Atlanta.
Prediction: Falcons - 16, PANTHERS - 31
Buffalo Bills (6-6) At Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
I would not want to be in LeSean McCoy's way on Sunday.
The Eagle-turned-Bill was in a feisty mood when asked about his return to Philadelphia this week. He is going OFF this game. If he doesn't it certainly won't be for lack of effort.
Chip Kelly is on the precipice of seeing everything he "built" come crashing down right in front of him. Sure the Eagles picked up a win in New England last week, but rumors right now are that DeMarco Murray wants to run back to the Cowboys.
The Chip Ship is about to sink, and LeSean McCoy is going to love being the one that pulls the plug.
Prediction: BILLS - 20, Eagles - 16
Washington Redskins (5-7) At Chicago Bears (5-7)
This is as interesting of a game as there is in the NFC this week.
The Redskins are in the race for the NFC East and the Bears are on life support in the NFC wildcard hunt. Who wants it more?
Washington hasn't won a game on the road all season, but Chicago just got beat at home in overtime by something called Blaine Gabbert. My head hurts.
Jay Cutler gets a lot of flack, but he's played well this season. He just lost Martellus Bennett for the season though, and there just simply isn't enough firepower on the Bears offense for them to compete. Give me Washington in a close one.
Prediction: REDSKINS - 24, Bears - 23
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) At Cincinnati Bengals (10-2)
Here is the potential game of the week.
AFC North battles are typically slug-it-out low-scoring contests - not this one.
The Steelers have the most dangerous offense in the NFL, that's without Le'Veon Bell, and the Bengals can put up points with the best of them.
Pittsburgh lost the first matchup, and the aforementioned Lev Bell, in the first meeting between these two. No way that happens twice in one year. No freakin' way.
Prediction: STEELERS - 33, Bengals - 27
San Francisco 49ers (4-8) At Cleveland Browns (2-10)
Blaine Gabbert v. Johnny Football... who wants it more?!
San Francisco has been such a weird team this year. They're either disgustingly bad or kind of fun to watch. The Browns on the other hand don't belong in the NFL.
It's a joke the way the organization is run in Cleveland. Josh McCown, Johnny Football, Austin Davis, Johnny Football... make up your mind, folks.
Cleveland's incompetence is the one thing that remains constant in the NFL through December. You can count on it again here.
Prediction: 49ERS - 17, Browns - 9
Detroit Lions (4-8) At St. Louis Rams (4-8)
The Lions have had a long time to sit on their heartbreaking loss against the Packers last Thursday Night - almost enough time for people to start realizing Jeff Fisher isn't that great of a coach.
The Rams are the same ol story every year under Fisher. They're kind of interesting for a few weeks, but they always hit midnight and turn back into pumpkins at some point. Not even Todd Gurley can keep this team exciting... that's how boring they are.
Detroit is a better football team than St. Louis. That's it. It'll be proven on Sunday.
Prediction: LIONS - 24, Rams - 10
Tennessee Titans (3-9) At New York Jets (7-5)
Marcus Mariota valiantly led his Titans to a victory last week! ...against the Jaguars. Yay.
These Jets are feeling good. They beat their in-town rival Giants last week for the first time since 1993. Do you really think they are at all threatened by the Tennessee Titans? They probably had to be reminded that they were a real team.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker... the three best friends that anyone could have. This trio is going to score a lot of points on Sunday at the expense of the Titans. What else is new?
Prediction: Titans - 17, JETS - 34
Indianapolis Colts (6-6) At Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)
The Matt Hasselbeck feel good ride is out of gas, ladies and gentlemen.
The savvy veteran had enjoyed a nice run of wins while starting for the Colts this year, but against some pretty inferior competition. When Hasselbeck stepped under the lights last Sunday Night against the Steelers reality set in and it wasn't fun for him.
The Colts are arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL season. They were thought not only to be a Super Bowl contender, but an offensive juggernaut.
Ultimately though... they are, by virtue of common sense, better than the Jaguars.
Prediction: COLTS - 23, Jaguars - 14
San Diego Chargers (3-9) At Kansas City Chiefs (7-5)
I feel really bad for San Diego Chargers fans, man.
Most of their star players have gone down to injury, what's left of the team has been terrible, and they could be losing their team soon. That's tough cookies.
On the flip side of things the cookies are nice and tasty in Kansas City as there doesn't seem to be a team hotter than the Chiefs right now.
It is beyond me why the fans in Philadelphia never appreciated Andy Reid. Look at what he's doing... with Alex Smith as his quarterback! And no Jamaal Charles!
Prediction: Chargers - 13, CHIEFS - 28
New Orleans Saints (4-8) At Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)
In case you missed the news yesterday, Mark Ingram is out for the remainder of the season. Sad face.
In the battle of teams that should have lost to the Cowboys earlier this season, it's hard to pick against Famous Jameis.
The Buccaneers are feeling good right now and just vanquished the Atlanta Falcons. While Drew Brees is still going to find a way to get his against them, Jameis is going to announce his team as the better one on Sunday.
Prediction: Saints - 27, BUCCANEERS - 33
Seattle Seahawks (7-5) At Baltimore Ravens (4-8)
The Legion of Boom.
That's all you need to know.
Prediction: SEAHAWKS - 26, Ravens - 12
Oakland Raiders (5-7) At Denver Broncos (10-2)
Earlier in the season when these two teams squared off I took the Raiders. I think this team has a lot of young and explosive playmakers, and they have a quarterback who gives them a chance to win.
If you do something twice, it's a tradition.
Let the tradition be born! I love the Raiders in this game. The Broncos have caught an unbelievable number of breaks this season and there's no way that Brock Osweiler is going to just jump in and take them on the ride of their lives. His ride ends here.
Prediction: RAIDERS - 20, Broncos - 16
Dallas Cowboys (4-8) At Green Bay Packers (8-4)
If you're living by Plan IV for this game then you know what's at stake.
The Cowboys, miraculously, are only one game back of first place in the NFC East. They know that just as much as you do.
It's hard to call this a total revenge game for last year's playoff loss because Tony Romo won't be playing, but this one means a lot.
The Cowboys have the most momentum going into a game that they've had all season. Couple that with the poor play of the Packers over the last six games and you've got a recipe for a great game.
Dez Bryant is going to do something special in this game. Mark my words.
Prediction: COWBOYS - 23, Packers - 20
Sunday Night Football: New England Patriots (10-2) At Houston Texans (6-6)
The whole world thought that the Patriots were going to respond to their first loss of the season with a drudging of the Philadelphia Eagles. Turns out that sometimes the whole world can be wrong.
However angry you think the Patriots were after their loss to the Broncos you can quadruple it. They are out for blood. Those poor Texans.
Houston still has a great shot at winning the AFC South, but they needed that game against the Bills last week. They drew the Patriots on a week where they are going to obliterate someone, and not even JJ Watt is enough to stop that.
Prediction: PATRIOTS - 27, Texans - 17
Monday Night Football: New York Giants (5-7) At Miami Dolphins (5-7)
Get ready to see a ton of pregame footage of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry making catches in sweatpants on the Worldwide Leader in sports.
ESPN has been waiting all year to hype up the battle of former LSU wide receivers, who would have thought that they'd both be 5-7 and needing a win more than ever?
The Giants are on a terrible skid right now. They had to have the Jets game and they know it. After the battle in Miami they have to take on the Panthers and Vikings. That's no bueno.
Tom Coughlin seems like he has one more hurrah left in the tank. This is it. Enjoy it, New York.
Prediction: GIANTS - 22, Dolphins - 17
Maliek Collins on the Verge of a Breakout Season
Maliek Collins has never lacked any ability on the field just the ability to stay on it. Foot and knee injuries have always seemed to get in the way when he's been on the brink of reaching his potential.
2019 is a contract year for Collins which means it's the most critical season of his young career. He hasn't wasted any time, though, showing what he's capable of when he doesn't have any physical limitations.
Maliek Collins beats Connor William's with a swim move in 2v2s https://t.co/prL9GsG1rY
In the first video above, Collins gets a great burst off the line of scrimmage while he simultaneously gets his hands on Connor Williams first. He controls and pushes him right into Dak Prescott's face, forcing a throw out of bounds. On the next video, he again explodes off the ball and uses a great swim move to beat Williams again in 2 on 2 drills.
His dominance hasn't been limited to training camp practice, however, as evident in his performance this past Saturday in albeit a short amount of action.
These next two plays stand out for me specifically. In the first, he uses a very physical spin move that knocks the left guard off balance and puts him right in the quarterback's face. In a league that focuses on quarterbacks getting the ball out quickly, the sooner you can provide pressure from the interior the harder it is for a quarterback to stay in the pocket and throw effectively. In the next play, he utilizes a swim move after a quick jump off the line and is right in the face of the runner as he and Jaylon Smith combine for a TFL (tackle for loss).
Beautiful TFL for Maliek Collins. Swims inside the LG on the zone concept to get penetration. Quickly flattens, latches onto Henderson's jersey and drags him to the ground. Outstanding grip strength #Cowboys. https://t.co/6ZnpKSVsRv
Collins performing at a high level in 2019 doesn't just benefit him but also rookie Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill. While he's still acquiring the tools needed for the pro level under the guidance of Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli he can watch and learn from Collins as he'll be right behind him as the team's backup 3-technique defensive tackle. Hill is probably still a year away from being a big contributor with Collins looking so refreshed and healthy so this is a great time to gain all the knowledge he can from a veteran. If that learning process comes along quickly, the Cowboys will have a very solid one-two punch alongside Antwaun Woods, the starter at the 1-technique.
Health, at least so far, seems to be on the side of Maliek Collins heading into the 2019 season, which is all he's ever lacked. Motivated by the opportunity to maximize his dollars for 2020, and a rookie being drafted at the same position, I look for Collins to not only have a breakout year but one that could garner a pro bowl nod, or at least be heavy in the conversation, which would mean great things for the Cowboys defensive front.
Cowboys Nation Mailbag: What about Taco Charlton and Ezekiel Elliott?
The 2019 regular season is now less than three weeks away and now is the time when we start getting down to the nitty-gritty. The "dress rehearsal" game is coming this Saturday as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Houston Texans and a lot of the 53-man roster will likely be decided after that game.
As we inch closer to the regular season, the contract status for the Dallas Cowboys' newest version of the triplets and the construction of the 53-man roster will have even greater emphasis in the news.
Thanks for your questions this week. Let's did into this week's Cowboys Nation Mailbag.
How long until all of cowboys twitter completely turns on Zeke? Like immediately after pollards first long td run or????
— E.D.I.T.H. (@cashfeen) August 19, 2019
I guess it depends on what segment of Cowboys Twitter you're talking about.
Contract situations and hold outs always create some tension within the fanbase. They expect players to show up for work as they do. You hear people talk about Elliott fulfilling the agreement of his contract. But what people don't understand is that rookie contracts and the rookie salary scale was negotiated by players already in the league to avoid rookies making Sam Bradford type money. The veterans and to some extent the owners didn't like the idea that rookies could hold out of training camp to negotiate their first contract.
So, when Ezekiel Elliott was drafted fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, he was locked into a contract length (including a team option for a fifth season) and a salary and bonus for the length of that contract.
The other thing to consider is that Elliott is doing exactly what the collective bargaining agreement allows him to do. Though the Dallas Cowboys can fine him, Elliott is permitted by the CBA to seek a contract extension after the third season of his rookie contract, just like you saw Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints do earlier this summer.
I get that fans are frustrated by the idea of a player "not honoring his contract," but in the NFL, that's the way football goes. The owners don't always honor the contracts they've agreed to, cutting a player with guaranteed money left on his deal because his play might have dropped off or simply because he doesn't warrant the cap hit.
But as Mike Leslie of WFAA recently pointed out on Twitter, our jobs aren't like NFL jobs.
There are a lot of folks that understand that there is a business side to all of this. The players, the coaches, and a large segment of Cowboys Nation all understand where Ezekiel Elliott is coming from. Even the "running backs don't matter" truthers aren't throwing Ezekiel Elliott under the bus for holding out for a new contract.
As I've said before, don't get mad at Ezekiel Elliott or even the Dallas Cowboys for the current state of his contract negotiations. Get mad at the Los Angeles Rams for setting a precedent that Ezekiel Elliott is attempting to take advantage of.
Ezekiel Elliott is only doing what's permitted by the CBA. Though the negotiations continue to drag on, there's still three weeks left till the start of the regular season, which is plenty of time to get a deal done.
Until this holdout lasts until the regular season, you shouldn't worry.
Actually John, I do have a question. I haven't reviewed film from Saturday yet (that's my Tuesday deal each week of the season), but your take on Taco? I thought he had maybe his best preseason game in some time. Enough to secure a spot?
— Marlon C Taylor (@MarlonCTaylor) August 19, 2019
Taco Charlton has done some nice things in the preseason thus far. He's been able to create pressure, and by Bobby Belt's splash metric, Taco Charlton is leading the team.
Cowboys leaders in disruptions (sack, TFL, QB hit, INT, PD, FF) through two preseason games:
1. Taco Charlton - 4
2. Donovan Olumba - 3
t3. Ricky Walker - 2
t3. Kerry Hyder - 2
t3. Trysten Hill - 2
t3. Joe Jackson - 2
— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) August 19, 2019
Obviously, this isn't the only way to evaluate talent, but it does give an indication that Taco Charlton has been good this preseason. I've long believed that Taco was going to make the 53-man roster for the sheer fact that he was a first-round draft pick. That may not be a good enough reason for some, but he's a player that the Dallas Cowboys won't give up on lightly. He's doing enough at this point in the preseason to warrant another year.
Cutting Taco Charlton in 2019 actually costs you money. It would cost the Dallas Cowboys roughly $3.5 million in 2019, but they could save $1.3 million in 2020. It's not likely that the Cowboys will pick up his fifth-year rookie option, which would be for 2021. Financially, the only move that would make sense is a trade, which would cost the Dallas Cowboys only $1.3 million in dead money.
While I think Taco Charlton is a player that is destined for the 53-man roster, with reports that DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford are about to be activated from the physically unable to perform (P.U.P) list, it may come down to a numbers game at defensive end.
Players like Dorance Armstrong, Joe Jackson, Kerry Hyder, and even Jalen Jelks may have something to say about Taco Charlton's spot on the 53-man roster, but I believe they give him another year to prove he's worth retaining.
PFF Ranks Dak Prescott As Tier 3, 17th Overall Quarterback
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is the subject of constant debate around the football world. Now that it's getting time to pay him, those debates are even hotter.
As I discussed last week, Prescott has been much better than he's often given credit for, though the narrative continues to be that he is carried by his offensive line and rushing attack.
Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 starting quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season, placing them both in tiers, and in traditional order as well. Prescott clocked in at 17th overall on their list, listed as a tier 3 NFL starting quarterback.
"Tier 3: Volatile or conservative quarterbacks whose production will rely even more heavily on supporting cast and play calling. Tier 3 quarterbacks can post top-10 production in any given year in the right situation."
The other quarterbacks listed in Prescott's tier include Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton, all ranked in front of him. Prescott is ahead of a couple of tier 3 passers as well, though, including Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr.
"Even with his added rushing ability, Prescott has settled in as a mid-tier quarterback whose production is more dependent on his supporting cast, and this will be a big year to see if he can get back to his rookie levels of efficiency."
Personally, I'd rank Prescott ahead of a decent number of those tier 3 quarterbacks, such as Stafford and Cousins. Overall, though, it's tough to have too big an issue with their assessment of Prescott and the Cowboys offense. He has been somewhat up-and-down during his time as the Cowboys starter, and saw a big spike in his play when given Amari Cooper as a weapon in the passing game a year ago.
While the entire fanbase is hopeful that he will improve on his mechanics and decision making under new leadership on offense, we can't bank on that happening just yet.
Still, Dak Prescott has looked excellent this preseason, and should be poised for a career year in 2019. I think there's a good chance he finds himself closer to Wentz and Watson on these types of rankings than Carr and Stafford by this time next season.
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