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
Is Confidence Eroding in Cowboys Offensive Centerpieces?
The Dallas Cowboys dropped to 1-2 on the season after a 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon. It was a game that many thought the Cowboys could win as the Seahawks looked to be floundering, having started the season 0-2. However, yet again, we sit here with questions about the coaching staff, particularly Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan.
As one of the more optimistically minded fans out here in Cowboys Nation, even I am beginning to have doubts that the key offensive pieces aren't going to cut it anymore. Yes, that even includes Quarterback Dak Prescott.
I've held all offseason that we should be looking at Dak Prescott's first 24 games as a sample of the potential franchise quarterback he could be instead of the final eight games of 2017. In six of the eight games in that span, he looked more like a fourth round pick. Yes, the offense wasn't good around him for those eight games, but he hasn't done much in 2018 to show us or the front office he's going to be worth investing in moving forward.
While I get that Dak Prescott isn't a perfect quarterback and am starting to concede that he may not be the long-term answer for the Dallas Cowboys, I still believe he's a quarterback that can win you a lot football games.
Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan, however, I'm not so sure anymore.
I've always been a Jason Garrett fan. I know many out there would disagree with me when I say he's a good NFL Head Coach. Is he great? No. However, you're going to be really hard pressed to find a great head coach. It's going to require you taking a chance on someone with no head coaching experience and hoping that guy turns into a great coach.
The biggest strength of Jason Garrett as a head coach has always been his ability to get his team ready to play mentally and get the best out of them. Garrett's teams typically came to play and even when they were bad on defense (2011-2014), the offense kept games close. On the flip side, when the offense was bad in 2015, they still found a way to keep games close with really good play on the defensive side of the football.
They've lost by an average of 9.5 points this season and have a negative point differential.
Though I'm a fan of Garrett, it's getting harder and harder to defend him as the long-term answer for this team at head coach. Loyalty is an admirable quality, and he's not going to throw Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan under the bus, but that loyalty -- or stubbornness -- is going to cost him his job.
Jason Garrett at this point is tied to Scott Linehan and Dak Prescott. For better or worse, Garrett's future hinges on the success of his offensive coordinator and quarterback.
It's hard to argue that Scott Linehan has been good for the Dallas Cowboys this year. The Dallas Cowboys offense is averaging just over 13 points per game in 2017. That ranks 31st in the NFL. The only team worse is the Arizona Cardinals who are averaging less than seven points per game.
Though I'm typically able to see the bright side with the Dallas Cowboys, the light is being dimmed by the offense's performance to start the season. Even the most optimistic fan is having a hard time finding the silver lining with this team.
For the center pieces of the Dallas Cowboys offense, Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Dak Prescott, time is running out for them to cement themselves as the future of a Dallas Cowboys team still searching for their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
Cowboys Bow to Seahawks – Hoping to Tame Lions in Week 4
The Cowboys are now sharing space in the NFC East cellar with the Giants but are hoping to move out next week with a win against the Detroit Lions. Before they can do that, there is quite a bit that needs to be fixed and most of it comes on the offensive side of the ball.
Dak Prescott was 19-of-34 for 168 yards and it was the ninth time over the past 11 games, dating back to last season, that Dallas failed to pass for 200 yards. In a league where 300-yard passing games are not uncommon, and young guns like Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes are tossing four touchdowns a game, it's quite concerning that Dallas’s aerial attack is more like a mild affront.
Ezekiel Elliott has done his fair share of the heavy lifting for the offense this season and chewed up 127 yards of real estate in Sunday’s game with an almost eight yards per carry average. But even Elliott is experiencing his share of brain cramps in this offense after he was flagged for stepping out-of-bounds before making what would have been a touchdown reception, and then coughing up the ball in the fourth quarter causing a momentum-killing shift that sealed the deal for the Seahawks.
After three weeks of play, Dak Prescott has just two touchdown passes and both were to Tavon Austin. The offensive line, once regarded as the league’s gold standard, has struggled with rookie Guard Connor Williams, a second-round pick out of Texas, getting schooled more than a few times thus far after making the shift from college tackle to NFL guard.
Center Travis Frederick’s absence is being felt as well but the glimmer of hope is that once he gets back to feeding the ball to Prescott, the offensive line will more closely resemble the impenetrable unit to which we’ve become accustomed.
Dwelling on a bad loss and wringing our hands about a lack of offensive production will only get us so far, therefore, whenever we look ahead to what awaits we check over a review of Bovada one of the most trusted and reliable online sportsbook in the industry. The oddsmakers are already dealing lines on next week’s game with the Lions and despite Detroit’s impressive win over New England and Dallas’s disappointing defeat to the Seahawks, we see that the Boys are 3 ½ point home favorites in the early betting.
That’s an odd number considering the Week 3 results but the Dallas passing attack has to get better because it can’t get much worse.
As long as Zeke can move the chains the Cowboys have a chance, but their offense has become too predictable, as has their play calling. Head Coach Jason Garrett has to get more creative and make his players accountable for bone-head penalties of the variety that Defensive End Randy Gregory took when he shoved Seahawks’ Center Joey Hunt’s head directly in front of the referee’s line of vision. It was a 15-yard flag shortly before the first-half and allowed the Seahawks to tack on another three points instead of punting the ball away.
"You have to keep your poise regardless of what anybody did to you, said to you. You cannot respond like that. Typically what the officials see is the second thing and obviously that drew the flag. That was a poor play for us prior to the half."
Hopefully the line next week at Bovada is a good omen for the Cowboys. Dallas is back at home and the last time they met the Lions, December of 2016, the Cowboys won in a romp by the score of 42-21. In addition, let’s not forget that Detroit may get caught in a letdown situation after a huge win over the Patriots and a game looming with divisional foe Green Bay after their Week 4 showdown in Dallas.
It’s a good spot for the Cowboys in what is shaping up as a trap game for the Lions. Expect a big bounce back performance from Dallas as they roll over their Motown rivals this Sunday afternoon.
Next Day Rant: NFL is Killing Football to Protect Quarterbacks
Over just three weeks of the 2018 season, the NFL's new rule about hitting quarterbacks has stirred up as much controversy and angst as any amount of anthem kneeling ever did. Tyrone Crawford and the Dallas Cowboys can now add themselves to the list of perplexed victims of the league's misguided legislation.
On the Seattle Seahawks' first offensive series yesterday, Crawford made what in past years would have been a clean, textbook hit on Russell Wilson just as the ball was released. But out came the flag, claiming that Tyrone didn't make enough effort to avoid putting all his weight into the quarterback as he brought him down.
This flag came on a 3rd-down play with Seattle backed up on their own 12. Instead of punting, and likely giving Dallas excellent field position for their next series, the Seahawks got to continue the drive and eventually punt it from midfield.
That consequence may not sound like a big deal, but it robbed the Cowboys of their earned opportunity to get points on the board early. It changed the tone of the game early, and who knows what ripple effect that had the rest of the way.
The real issue here, though, is that that call can even be made. The NFL has finally taken QB protection too far, to the point that defensive players are left with no logical or physically possible way to do their jobs.
Before the Dallas game came on, I watched as the Packers' Clay Matthews got flagged yet again for the same type of call. It was the second time in as many games that Matthews has been given a foul for a clean hit.
Matthews' frustration after he saw that flag was clear. He looked disheartened, and part of me wondered if he might just walk right out of the stadium. In fact, I almost wanted him to pull a Vontae Davis just to help make the point to the league.
The NFL wants the best of both worlds. They want these players to go max effort when the rules allow and then pull it back in very specific, split-second situations. It's more than the human mind and body can do.
You can't ask these defenders to use everything they've got to get through a blocker, and then immediately rein it in once they get their hands on the quarterback.
You can't ask them to avoid going high on the QB, and then always know when the ball has been released. They don't have eyes in the top of their heads.
You can't ask them to come full force on a blitz or rush and then cool their jets within a second or less. Forget mind and body, even the basic laws of inertia don't work that way.
The NFL is asking for the impossible; a safe form of violence. That's like asking for non-toxic poison.
I understand the league's current global dilemma. They are looking down the barrel of rising CTE awareness, lawsuits from former players, and the diminishing participation in youth football. They're trying to save the game from extinction, or at least from falling off the throne as America's modern pastime.
But this rule isn't about that. This is about trying to keep star quarterbacks healthy so that fan engagement and TV ratings don't go down when an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady gets injured.
The NFL is in the entertainment business, so I get their concern. Quarterbacks are the lead actors of the sport. You'd be disappointed if the next Mission Impossible movie was mostly Ving Rhames.
Protecting quarterbacks, given their vulnerability at times on the field, has its place. Some of the rules make sense, even if at times they lead to frustrating penalties.
But now they're messing with the core formula of football. If the Colonel got rid of one of his eleven herbs and spices, KFC chicken might not taste the same anymore. Coca-Cola might suddenly be worse than Pepsi (hard to imagine, I know) if they started changing the syrup.
The NFL isn't tweaking here. They're changing games and putting the burden on defensive players, in the heat of battle, to try to have machine-like precision.
Again, they're asking for the impossible.
Tyrone Crawford is no Vontaze Burfict. He's not a loose cannon. He's one of the genuine good guys in the NFL, who does everything the right way on and off the field.
You can only imagine his frustration right now, or that of Clay Matthews and anyone else hit with one of these penalties. Imagine what some of these guys, who aren't a Crawford or Matthews, might do if that frustration boils over.
You could hear it even in the commentary yesterday. Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were clearly disgusted by the calls, both in the Cowboys-Seahawks game and what's been happening so far this year. This was FOX's premier broadcast team openly bashing the NFL in a nationally televised game.
And if you think the players and commentators are frustrated, imagine how that translates to fan response.
The league is trying to avoid losing viewers from quarterback injuries. In the process, they may lose a lot more by damaging the game we love.
Playing football is an accepted risk. Players get it. Fans get it.
The NFL has to get it, and soon, before this conversation takes over in a way that past controversies haven't. The anthem kneeling was an overblown, media-driven story that never hit the bottom line they way they wanted you to believe. None of it mattered once the ball was kicked off.
But now the game is being damaged. Football is becoming less fun; a game of rules and penalties rather than action and intensity.
If something doesn't change, the NFL's self-preservation efforts just might lead to its demise.
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