Welcome to Week 3 of the NFL season!
This is a weird place.
Tony Romo is hurt, the Redskins are watchable, and the Jaguars won a game! The only thing about this week that feels like the NFL we know and love is that the Browns continue to make terrible decisions.
If you knew one thing about RJ Ochoa you would know that Back To The Future is his favorite movie ever. Lucky for me I know that guy pretty well (he's pretty charming from what I hear) so I know what he's thinking.
Today I, like Doc and Marty, have returned from the future. I traveled out to next Tuesday morning and saw who won all of the Week 3 NFL games (Also saw that I wear the same shirt every day between now and then. I need to get it together.). Even though I traveled through time, not distance, I still managed to gain more yards than DeMarco Murray and the Eagles running backs.
Hop in my DeLorean and allow me to tell you who is winning each and every game from Week 3. No sports almanacs allowed, Biff.
Thursday Night Football: Washington Redskins (1-1) At New York Giants (0-2)
The future is a weird place. The Redskins are... above .500? That's right!
The Washington Redskins head into East Rutherford Thursday night to face off against a G-Men squad that can't get out of their own way. Crushing losses to America's Team (who are still America's Team in the future, no worries) and the new-look Atlanta Falcons have this bunch feeling blue (no pun intended).
Kirk Cousins seems to be playing well enough, or at least not like RGIII, for Washington to find ways to win. Bill Callahan has had an incredible impact on their team and it shows in just two games. Rookie running back sensation Matt Jones ran ALL OVER the defensive unit of the St. Louis Rams (like everyone else has in the history of the world) last week. Jeff Fisher went as far as to say that this Washington team is "this year's Cowboys" in terms of how much they ran the ball.
These 'Skins are going to emulate the 2014 Cowboys and run, run, run. They're going to do what they can to control the pace of the game and time of possession. A short week after the way that the Giants lost to the Falcons was welcomed in terms of not having to deal with it for too long, but I just don't think the Giants are prepared enough for this. I'll take the sneaky Redskins on TNF.
Prediction: Redskins - 23, Giants - 16
Atlanta Falcons (2-0) At Dallas Cowboys (2-0)
Fun little tidbit about this game... both teams are not only 2-0, but were fortunate enough to get both of their victories against the same two teams: the Giants and Eagles.
Unfortunately you're going to have to leave your Tony Romo and Dez Bryant jerseys in your closet for this one. #9 and #88 will be on the sidelines in sweats as Brandon Weeden squares off against Matt Ryan in a battle of undefeated teams.
The Falcons have been a nice surprise this season. Rookie Head Coach Dan Quinn (aka Captain Falcon aka Falcon Punch! aka if you got that reference then we are best friends) has this team playing some solid football. Julio Jones looks unstoppable and Matty Ice seems to be regaining the form that has put him in the discussion of elite quarterbacks in this league.
The hopes and dreams of Cowboys fans laid on the ground in Philadelphia last week when Tony Romo went down with a fractured clavicle. Fortunately this unit plays like a total team all the time and found a way to take down the division rival Eagles. Brandon Weeden will be in control Sunday, and last time that happened things did not go so well for #3.
Atlanta is not without injury as their rookie running back Tevin Coleman fractured his rib and is going to miss some time. I'm not going to lie or sugar coat it - Julio Jones is a monster. The Cowboys are going to need to devote some serious attention his way, but if they can eliminate him then there's not much else from Atlanta that terrifies me. Look for the Cowboys to lean heavily on the run and rely on guys like Lance Dunbar and Cole Beasley for those short dink-and-dunk type plays.
The Cowboy defense will come to play and will do their best to carry the team without Romo. Get ready for some shocked media members on Monday morning!
Prediction: Falcons - 6, Cowboys - 20
Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) At Baltimore Ravens (0-2)
Ahhh I love the smell of division rival clashes in the morning (that and bacon - bacon over everything).
The Baltimore Ravens are in trouble. They're 0-2 after a loss to the Raiders (which should actually count for more than one loss in my opinion...) with division clashes against the Bengals and Steelers coming up. If a guy named Crockett Gilmore is your most potent offensive weapon than you need help. Justin Forsett had a solid 2014, and while he gained more than 2 yards like a certain notable 2014 running back... he really needs to get it going for the sake of the Ravens.
Andy Dalton did me a personal favor and threw a touchdown to my fantasy diamond AJ Green, so I am appreciative. The Bengals always look stout this time of year so no one is really shocked. Their roster is really impressive from top to bottom and you would think that they'd be one of the premiere AFC teams. They'll fall off in early January, but for now they're for real. I'll take the Bengals.
Prediction: Bengals - 30, Ravens - 17
Oakland Raiders (1-1) At Cleveland Browns (1-1)
The black and silver of the Oakland Raiders make up one of the most beautiful uniforms in the NFL. It is a shame that lining up across from them will be the atrocity that the Cleveland Browns put together this year.
Oakland looked, dare I say, good against the Baltimore Ravens. I really like Derek Carr and think he has a future in this league (imagine the AFC West in 5 years... no Peyton, no Rivers, it's Carr's world and we're all living in it). Amari Cooper is the perfect weapon to compliment the young quarterback and these guys are actually semi-fun to watch!
The legend of Johnny Football will have to wait at least one more week to grow even larger. For reasons that I cannot explain the Browns think that Josh McCown is a more serviceable starter this week. Poor Johnny, poor Travis Benjamin, poor everybody (especially our eyes against those uniforms).
Look for the Browns to get waxed and Cleveland to turn to Johnny as their hero for Week 4.
Prediction: Raiders - 27, Browns - 9
Indianapolis Colts (0-2) At Tennessee Titans (1-1)
Who would have thought that the Titans would have more wins entering this contest than the division rival Colts? Maybe those 28 Titans fans - MAYBE.
The Colts looked like a mess on Monday Night Football against the Jets in a Super Bowl III re-match. New York got after Luck and flustered him early and often... leaving all of us to wonder where this elite Colts offense is.
Marcus Mariota came back down to earth a little when the Cleveland Browns had their way with him last Sunday, and he suffered the first loss of his NFL career. One of the brighter spots for the Titans last week was when #8 found fellow rookie Dorial Green-Beckham for a touchdown. Look for that trend to continue as 2015 progresses.
It's hard not to believe that the Colts will finally get something together offensively, and that'll be a little much for the Titans defense to handle. I don't think Luck is going to look super impressive, but he's not about to let his team fall to 0-3.
Prediction: Colts - 16, Titans - 10
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) At St. Louis Rams (1-1)
I legitimately thought that San Francisco was going to ride a wave of positive momentum into Pittsburgh last week. Obviously I upset the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and DeAngelo Williams - my bad, guys. The Steelers took care of business easily last week, and unlike the Colts their offense seems to be as real as advertised.
If anyone came crashing down to earth last week it was Jeff Fisher's St. Louis Rams. After a huge win over the division rival Seahawks his team went up to DC and got embarrassed by the Redskins. That elite defensive line they're supposed to have? Yea, didn't make a difference. And they won't again this week either.
Pittsburgh is going to come out and flex their Le'Veon Bell shaped muscle during #26's first 2015 action in St. Louis. Get him in your fantasy lineups now!
Prediction: Steelers - 32, Rams - 14
San Diego Chargers (1-1) At Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
Last time that the San Diego Chargers were in Minnesota (granted it was the Metrodome) there were a lot of fireworks. Antonio Cromartie tied the record for the longest play in NFL History when he returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown. Oh and Adrian Peterson ran for more yards (296... with 3 TDs to boot) in a game than anyone in the history of ever. No big deal.
The Chargers ran into some trouble against the Bengals last week, but I have a lot of faith in them. Philip Rivers is a borderline elite quarterback who is going to find ways to make plays. Keenan Allen regressed last week, but he is going to return to Week 1 form against these Vikes... oh and Melvin Gordon is going to have an impressive day, too.
Minnesota picked up their first dubayoo of the season last week against the Lions. While that's a little impressive, it's hard to forget what we saw from this team against the 49ers. Give me San Diego.
Prediction: Chargers - 24, Vikings - 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) At New England Patriots (2-0)
Seriously? You really need me to pick this for you?
I know, I know... the Jaguars beat the Dolphins. That'd adorable. To be perfectly honest they were actually a little impressive. They are just out of their league on this one.
New England is on a mission to beat opponents by thousands of points this season. Even if they weren't they would still beat the Jaguars by 1,000 points. They stormed into Buffalo, despite Rex Ryan's constant chirping, and snatched the heart out of Bills fans. They are going to massacre the Jags.
Prediction: Jaguars - 6, Patriots - 38
New Orleans Saints (0-2) At Carolina Panthers (2-0)
The Superdome is about to be Supersad. These Saints look terrible - and that's with Drew Brees. #9 may or may not suit up on Sunday when the Saints hit the field in Carolina. Sean Payton and Co. were looked at like the kid who brings vegetables for lunch when they traded away Jimmy Graham, and they're really going to miss him this week.
The Panthers have done what you're supposed to do - they've won against bad teams. With wins against Jacksonville and Houston under their belt, the Panthers get another serving of yuck with this Saints team marching into town. Superman returns on Sunday (Cam, not the terrible movie).
Prediction: Saints - 13, Panthers - 23
Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) At New York Jets (2-0)
There is a lot of green going on in this game.
There has been very little flying done by the Eagles this season as all of Chip Kelly's new toys have come with instructions that he just refuses to read. DeMarco Murray has a hamstring issue, and probably some bruised pride, so he might not suit up on Sunday. Those two yards will have to be run by someone else.
J-E-T-S YES YES YES! Holy guacamole (another green thing) did the Jets look good on Monday Night Football! This defensive unit is no joke, and the Amish Rifle looks capable of managing the game for the offense. I really like this team and think they're going to be in the discussion for a wildcard spot late in the season.
"Are we clear for takeoff? Did you get rid of those Eagles in the sky? Let's go." The Jets are taking off on Sunday.
Prediction: Eagles - 16, Jets - 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) At Houston Texans (0-2)
Famous Jameis got his first win of his young career over Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Wow. The Bucs shocked the world last week when they went into the Superdome and stunned the Saints, and I think they can do it again. The real Mike Evans has to stand up at some point, and he's going to make a significant impact for this team.
Houston we have 10 million problems. This team is a mess... all over. Sure Ryan Mallett looked a little better than Brian Hoyer, but that's like saying that Sam Bradford is a little better than Tim Tebow. It's all terrible. Houston has issues everywhere and until Arian Foster returns they don't have much of a shot against anyone. I like the Bucs in this one.
Prediction: Buccaneers - 17, Texans - 10
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) At Arizona Cardinals (2-0)
Train has a really great album called something like "Save Me, San Francisco." I hope that the 49ers have been listening to it because they really need someone to save them. Sure they got off to a nice start against Minnesota, but they got waxed against a real opponent... and Arizona is for real.
The Cardinals took care of the Chicago Bears quite easily thanks to Carson Palmer. This is the best version of Palmer that we have seen in quite some time, and I haven't seen any indication that things are going to slow down for him. Bruce Arians has this team going and they are going to roll over San Francisco. Book it.
Prediction: 49ers - 13, Cardinals - 30
Buffalo Bills (1-1) At Miami Dolphins (1-1)
We haven't heard that much from Rex Ryan this week, right? I wonder why... oh maybe it's because last week when he barked Bill Belichick put him in his place. Ryan seems to have learned his lesson and got back down to business this week. Look for the Bills Mafia to come out very strong after Rex was humiliated. They're good for 7-10 sacks this week, I'm feeling it.
Losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars should be automatic grounds for removal from the NFL. Seriously dude, the Jaguars?! The Dolphins had a lot of hype coming into 2015 and so far they have massively disappointed. I have a very hard time believing that a team who has to "go back to the drawing board" is going to be ready for what Rex is cooking.
Prediction: Bills - 27, Dolphins - 14
Chicago Bears (0-2) At Seattle Seahawks (0-2)
The battle of the winless.
It's hard not to feel really sorry for the Bears. They're 0-2, they've lost Jay Cutler, and now they have to go up to Seattle (for the Seahawks' home debut) and play an 0-2 team. They're in for a rough day. Good luck to Jimmy Clausen, you're gonna need it.
Seattle is angry. Very angry. They're 0-2 and out to show that they are way better than that. Kam Chancellor returned to them this week and you have to imagine that his influence is going to be felt... specifically by the Chicago ball carriers. Seattle is out to send a message on Sunday, and I wouldn't dare get in their way.
Prediction: Bears - 9, Seahawks - 31
Sunday Night Football: Denver Broncos (2-0) At Detroit Lions (0-2)
Great teams win ugly games. Two weeks into the season we've seen it a few times already. Cowboy fans will never forget Tony Romo snatching victory from the jaws of defeat during Week 1, and the Broncos snatched their own victory last week on Thursday Night Football. The Broncos are coming into this game feeling good and well-rested after a 10 day break. Peyton is going to silence some critics with this performance.
As excited as I am for a Sunday Night game in Detroit, I'm equally less excited to have to watch the Lions play football. They haven't looked good at all this season, and it's hard to believe that things are going to get better against a defense like Denver's. Matthew Stafford needs to just close his eyes and throw to Megatron every play and maybe the Lions won't be totally humiliated.
Prediction: Broncos - 23, Lions - 10
Monday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) At Green Bay Packers (2-0)
Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field! Hot tamale I am excited!
Kansas City is anxiously waiting for another chance to hit the gridiron after the last game they played when they narrowly lost, in heartbreaking fashion, to the division rival Broncos. They're going to be out to make a statement against one of the NFL's elite teams, and Jamaal Charles is going to be out to avenge his late-game fumble from Week 2. I just don't think it'll be enough.
I don't necessarily subscribe to the theory that Aaron Rodgers can turn anyone into an All-Pro wide receiver, but he can beat teams by himself. The Packers are feeling good after venting some of 2014's frustration out on the Seahawks last week, and I just think that they're on a streak that can't be stopped by a team like the Chiefs. Give me the cheeseheads, pepper jack preferably.
Prediction: Chiefs - 13, Packers - 30
Tyron Smith Named Most “Underpaid Veteran” On Dallas Cowboys
Counting the pockets of Cowboys star players has become a favorite activity of the national media this offseason, as everyone tries to figure out how Dallas will structure the deals for their young players over the course of the next year.
While trying to figure out what the new deals will look like, it's worth reflecting on how well the team did on some of their past negotiations. The Ringer released an article this week naming the most underpaid veteran on each NFL roster, with Tyron Smith earning that honor for the Cowboys.
Smith, who signed his extension with the team back in 2014, is under the deal until the 2024 season. That 8 year extension was lucrative at the time for sure, but as the salary cap rises and other offensive tackles have gotten paid, it looks more like a bargain deal for Dallas by the second.
"A long contract is a bad deal for an elite player in a league in which revenue grows handily. The salary cap was $133 million in 2014, but it’s $188.2 million for 2019. So while the Cowboys have 41.5 percent more money to spend, Smith hasn’t had a raise in five seasons. The Cowboys essentially locked up one of the best tackles of his generation for his entire career."
When put like this, you can see just what a steal of a contract the Cowboys signed Tyron Smith for. Smith is inked for the entirety of the prime of his career, and has very little leverage for a holdout given how many years still remain on this deal.
On the field, Tyron Smith remains one of the best left tackles in all of football, even if back issues have forced him to miss some time over the last two seasons. Smith should remain a top contributor for the Cowboys for at least a few more years, all of which will come at a bargain for a Cowboys team looking to execute some salary cap gymnastics next offseason.
PFF Ranks Cowboys Run Defense 13th In The NFL
The Cowboys duo of young linebackers took the NFL by storm in 2018.
Rookie Leighton Vander Esch and former second round pick Jaylon Smith played well above expectations, as for the first time in years Dallas did not face a significant drop off in defensive production when Sean Lee was out and injured.
These young linebackers are the cornerstone of a run defense which should be among the league's best going forward, and Pro Football Focus agrees. Well, somewhat agrees.
PFF ranked all 32 run defenses heading into the 2019 season, slotting the Cowboys 13th overall. Better than half the league, but not quite top 10.
PFF's reasoning behind this ranking certainly makes sense, as they credit the young linebacker duo without mentioning much of what will be in front of them helping to stop opposing running games.
"The Cowboys’ run defense begins and ends with the league’s best young linebacker duo. Leighton Vander Esch ranked third in run-stop percentage as a rookie while Jaylon Smith checked in at 29th."
The playoff loss in Los Angeles has left a bad taste about the Cowboys' interior defensive line in a lot of mouths, but I do think they've improved the unit this offseason. Signing Christian Covington and drafting Trysten Hill was a nice start to do so, but having Maliek Collins healthy and Antwaun Woods back for a full season will also go a long way.
Interestingly enough, two of the Cowboys divisional foes came in ranked above them on this list. Washington was slotted as the 12th best run defense, while Philadelphia was placed at number 8. Both teams' units deserve respect, of course, but this further highlights how difficult it could be to run the ball in the NFC East this season.
While I hate simply throwing this term around, analytics suggest that passing is what wins games in the NFL. Passing and stopping the pass, I should say.
With strong run defenses in their division, the Cowboys will need to maximize their passing game efficiency if they want to repeat as NFC East champions.
3 Reasons Amari Cooper is Primed for an All-Pro Season
Amari Cooper changed life for the entire Dallas Cowboys offense in 2018. Finally, Quarterback Dak Prescott has the number one option at wide receiver he's desperately needed since his rookie campaign. Now, after half a season and multiple playoff games under his belt in Dallas, Cooper is set to have a monster year. Here are three specific reasons why.
Head Coach Jason Garrett has established a certain way of doing things in Dallas since taking over in 2010. His constant search for the RKG or "Right Kinda Guy" as he puts it has the culture in the locker room at a very positive and productive place. As criticized as he is, justifiably or not, he has his team all on the same page. This is something Cooper has been trying to find since he entered the league in 2015. An organization with the right mindset in order for him to perform and maximize his skill set. After being traded to Dallas, Cooper opened up in November about being unhappy during his days in Oakland.
"I wasn't really happy in Oakland or anything like that. But when I sat and thought about it [Monday} night, I thought about the fact that they traded me away. I don't know how to feel about it," Cooper told Yahoo Sports.
This may seem small to others considering these players make millions of dollars right? Well, it doesn't change the fact that they're human. When you feel unappreciated you don't play to the best of your abilities. Shortly after the trade, Cooper talked about how he's been different since putting a star on his helmet. "I feel like it did change me, as far as having that chip on my shoulder. Not that I wasn't passionate before, but playing with more passion, trying to intentionally have fun out there. It definitely has changed me, in terms of me going out there and just having fun with it," Cooper said. A change of scenery was just what the doctor ordered for Cooper and the Cowboys.
2. The other weapons around him
The Cowboys aren't just Amari Cooper or bust at the wide receiver position. Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb provide more challenges for defenses on a weekly basis. Gallup has firmly locked down the number two spot on the depth chart. It took a while for him to establish chemistry with Dak Prescott, as they would misfire on several big plays during the first half of the season. Nonetheless, by seasons end things started to pick up, and he finished with 33 receptions for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he scored a touchdown in the Cowboys Wild Card win over Seattle. The next week against the Rams he performed well even in defeat, with 6 receptions for 119 yards. He's got speed, size, and versatility. Now with a full season and two games of playoff experience under his belt, I look for even more production from Gallup, as a possible breakout star.
Randall Cobb is a much-needed upgrade in the slot for the Cowboys. Unlike former receiver Cole Beasley, Cobb can line up inside or outside. Giving new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore a bigger bag of tricks at his disposal. Now, he can lineup Cooper inside or outside and play with a plethora of different looks, keeping defenses off balance because of the uncertainty of how the Cowboys will attack through the air.
Then, of course, there's Ezekiel Elliott. The two-time rushing champion is the tone-setter on offense and dictates how defenses will attack. With Cooper being such a threat in the air you basically have to pick your poison. 8-9 man fronts against the run can make you vulnerable to play action down the field or quick slants with Cooper's exceptional route running. The more productive Elliott is the more honest it keeps opposing defenses, opening up more opportunities in the passing game. Averaging 101.2 yards per game for his career, second all-time to Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Elliott can make create even more opportunities for Cooper in 2019 with a full season of playing time together.
Amari Cooper is currently looking to sign a long-term deal with the Cowboys. Preferably, both sides would like to get this deal done before the season starts considering he's in the last year of his rookie contract that is set to pay him 13.9 million in 2019. However, it isn't just a new deal that motivates Cooper heading into the new season.
"It's kind of a weird situation, just being that I've never been in this situation before, talking about a contract. But also, I'm under a fifth-year option, so I'm not too familiar with it. I really don't ask my agent many questions. I'm not really worried about it that much. I'm more focused on actually playing and really earning the respect and then the contract," Cooper said.
Being motivated by earning respect is a very mature approach from Cooper. Now, add that to the fact that I'm sure he wants to firmly put his name alongside Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr, and Michael Thomas as the best receivers in the game, you have a fully motivated number one option heading into the new season.
Amari Cooper has already made three pro bowls, but now there's another level for him to reach. In just nine games last year with the Cowboys he caught 53 passes for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns. Also, he caught another 13 on 18 targets in the playoffs for 171 yards and a score. He's in the right culture, he has a number of other weapons around him and he has multiple reasons to be motivated heading in the new season. With a full offseason of building chemistry with Dak Prescott, I see Cooper taking that leap to the All-Pro level in 2019.
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