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
2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1
Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.
Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.
Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.
The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.
Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas
Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.
Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.
The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.
Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.
Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial
Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.
Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.
Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.
Pues en Dallas, hoy dos jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.
Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.
Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.
Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.
Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.
Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?
Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.
The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.
The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.
Lock Down the Big Guns
Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.
Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.
As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.
Adding New Talent
One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.
Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.
If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.
Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.
Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.
The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.
As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.
Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.
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