Every single person has that one song that gets them hyped. It's lurks deep within your iTunes library, coming out only on the rarest of shuffle occasions. You skip song after song, wondering why you keep them in your library since you "never listen to them", until that hype song comes on.
You listen to it two, five, maybe even ten times in a row if you can. You vow to put it on your device so that you can carry it with you wherever you go... safely in your pocket and a bluetooth connection away from letting loose.
That's how picking NFL games can be. You go through game after game, acknowledging the blowouts to come, and then that surprising little nugget catches your eye. Whether it's the Giants at Bills in a battle for New York, the Pack headed to San Francisco and the home of Aaron Rodgers, or the Vikings heading to Denver for what should be a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIII... the shuffle of NFL games gives you something you like.
DJ RJ is on the 1s and 2s today and I'm going to throw it all the way back to 2004. I'm going to "take that and rewind it back" with Usher's "Yeah!" as I pick each game from Week 4.
Thursday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens (0-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
There are people who claim that this is "the best division rivalry in the NFL" and I just cannot agree with that. The Baltimore Ravens will run out of the tunnel at Heinz Field tonight with patches on their jerseys that commemorate their 20th year of existence.
You seriously want to dub a 20-year-old rivalry the best one? In the entire NFL? Dude.
Now that I got that off my chest - this is an awesome rivalry. Pittsburgh and Baltimore always delivers on the hype, especially last year in the first round of the playoffs, and Thursday Night Football should be fun.
The Steelers are rolling into this game without their star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a feeling that Cowboys fans can certainly identify with, and might be turning on Usher's "Yeah!" to summon everything great from 2004... including Michael Vick.
The Vick-led version of the Steelers are going to have a tough time against these Ravens. I know that Baltimore is 0-3 (which amazingly is the first time in franchise history that they have started with such a record), but these Ravens are not about to fall to 0-4. Steve Smith almost carried the team to victory over the Cincinnati Bengals by himself last week, and I believe that he'll be successful against Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Ravens - 27, Steelers - 13
London Game: New York Jets (2-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-2)
Harry Potter might be at this game as it is happening all the way across the pond in London!
I made the mistake of not understanding who the Jets have been for their entire lives when I picked them to beat the Eagles last week. This is a team that, when on top of things and expected to win, always butt fumbles their way to doom. Chris Ivory should be a full-go though, and Brandon Marshall is going to be hungry to put on a show after a misguided lateral last week. Defense wins championships, and while there is certainly no Lombardi in their new future... the defense of the Jets is going to win a lot for them this season.
The Dolphins feel like that song in your iTunes library that you just put up with to get to the one you like. This team is a mess. They seem to build the core of their teams through free agency, a mistake in General Management 101, and are stuck in football purgatory right now. I don't expect them to put up much of a fight - they seem to have mentally quit. I wouldn't be shocked at all if they just got blown out and the status of Joe Philbin was a hot topic on their flight back to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
Prediction: Jets - 33, Dolphins - 10
Houston Texans (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
This game is really interesting if Arian Foster plays, and by interesting I mean watchable. The Texans are a mess this season. Watching Hard Knocks I really thought that they'd put up a fight this year, but Ryan Mallett just cannot carry this offense. Think about this for a second. With the, easily, best defensive player in the NFL... the Texans barely beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. Yikes.
Hotlanta is all ablaze these days as the Falcons are riding a 3-0 record. Are they a good team? Yes. Are they one of the best teams in the NFC? Hard to say no at this point. Are they going to sustain this success long-term? I don't think so.
The Falcons have caught a lot of breaks this season. If not for the brain of Eli Manning that we all know and love, they would have lost that game. But they beat the Cowboys!
Yes they did. They beat a Dallas Cowboys team absent of: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain, so on and so forth. The Atlanta Falcons had to summon all of their energy to beat a heavily depleted team. They do have some things to be proud of, but they're a one trick pony (a pony named Julio Jones). They will falter at some point this season, but as much as I don't believe in them they have a layup this week.
Prediction: Texans - 16, Falcons - 28
New York Giants (1-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-1)
This is a rematch of one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, Super Bowl XXV. This is also a battle for the state of New York (because the Jets don't matter obviously) and this is another chance for Rex Ryan to huff and puff.
The Giants are marching into this game 10 days off of earning their first win of the season, a victory against the helpless Washington Redskins. Odell Beckham Jr. had a nice game last Thursday Night, and Eli Manning looked to be on fire early on. The G-Men are going to play well in this game, but they are going to really need to protect Eli Manning. They're a dangerous team that could very well be 3-0, but they're going to need to hold off one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Circle the wagons! The Bills have a winning record and are looking to stake their claim in the state of New York against Tom Coughlin's Giants. Without the services of LeSean McCoy, Buffalo is going to lean heavily on new quarterback Tyrod Taylor and rookie running back Karlos Williams. And you know what? I like their odds. This team has a swagger about them. It's not a Rex Ryan swagger, those suck, but it's a cool one that makes you want to root for them.
Prediction: Giants - 27, Bills - 34
Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Chicago Bears (0-3)
What kind of world are we living in that the Oakland Raiders are actually favored to beat a professional football team?!
Da Raiders are favored to beat Da Bears at the legendary Soldier Field this Sunday. How sad of a day is that for the city of Chicago? Who knows what is going to happen with the Bears on Sunday when Jimmy Clausen takes the field. All that anyone does know is that it's probably going to be more like Pooh Bear than Da Bears.
Just win, baby! The NFL is a much better place when it's classic teams do well so count me in as one of the people rooting for the Raiders. Derek Carr has this young and talented team on the rise. Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper, oh my... what a group they've quietly built amidst recent failures (by recent I mean literally every season since losing Super Bowl XXXVII to the Buccaneers). Carr is going to put on an aerial show against the helpless Bears as the Raiders of the Lost Ark march to 3-1.
Prediction: Raiders - 31, Bears - 6
Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-0)
The Red Rifle is going to light up the red-uniformed Kansas City Chiefs come Sunday. After exorcising some of his "can't get it done" narratives against the Ravens last Sunday, Andy Dalton draws the Chiefs... a team who is on a short week, mentally devastated and down in the dumps, without the services of one of their starting cornerbacks. I've always associated Andy as the name on the bottom of Woody's boot, but Sunday it's going to be in the box score with 18 touchdowns.
Prediction: Chiefs - 20, Bengals - 38
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
Remember the days where this was an automatic 100-0 win for the Colts? It's pretty hard to believe that's not the case given the names on the Colts offense.
It took every bit of Andrew Luck's talent to push the Colts past the Tennessee Titans. Think about that.
The Colts seem to be in a downward spiral and while this could certainly be the game where they bounce back, I'm feeling frisky.
The Jaguars took it to a Dolphins team two weeks ago that is also very talented on offense. The Jacksonville defense is underrated across the NFL, and if it's true that Andrew Luck has some level of injury... that could be the break that the Jaguars need. Give me Blake Bortles and Co. in the shocking upset.
Prediction: Jaguars - 27, Colts -21
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Washington Redskins (1-2)
This is the "we don't want to be last in the division" bowl.
Given that this game might not even happen thanks to Hurricane Joaquin, it might be a prediction for another day; nonetheless I will power through and give you one.
It's interesting how great the Eagles looked without the services of DeMarco Murray last week. They played pretty well against a Jets team with a very stout defense. Color me intrigued.
The Redskins actually made a game of what seemed to be a blowout last Thursday Night. Matt Jones is the real deal in that backfield, but unfortunately he's lining up behind Kirk Cousins.
All jokes aside here, this game comes down to DeMarco Murray for me. I feel very confident in the Eagles if he sits out (aka if Ryan Mathews gets the bulk of the work), but I feel like they'll force the issue if he's in there. I don't have a lot of confidence in Kirk, but with the game in Washington they could rally around the hometown vibes.
Prediction: Eagles - 23, Redskins - 13
Carolina Panthers (3-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)
Cam Newton is in the discussion for MVP in my book. He is absolutely carrying a group of wide receivers that is barely more talented than you and I.
I thought that the Bucs would be a little bit more dangerous than they seem to be this year. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans are big weapons on the outside, but maybe it's taking Jameis Winston some time to realize that you should throw to the good guys. Even though they're at home, where the pirate ship or whatever fires off, I don't have a lot of faith in Tampa Bay.
Superman is flying south for the winer on Sunday. Give me Cam all day.
Prediction: Panthers - 27, Buccaneers - 10
Cleveland Browns (1-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-2)
How shocking that Josh McCown isn't the guy that is capable of leading the Cleveland Browns to victory. The Browns are in need of a miracle and until they get one, a miracle named Johnny Football, I don't have much faith that they can tie their shoes let alone win an NFL game.
San Diego...Super Chargers! I was a little surprised that they lost to the Vikings last week, but maybe Teddy Bridgewater and the gang are finally living up to their hype. Philip Rivers isn't about to let his team fall to 1-3, plus I think that Melvin Gordon is going to have a breakout game here and light up the Browns.
Prediction: Browns - 13, Chargers - 17
Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Denver Broncos (3-0)
Welcome back to relevance, Adrian Peterson.
The 2012 league MVP seemed to return to his normal form last week against the Chargers, but he's got a pretty tough matchup this week. Adrian Peterson is going to have to, like he has throughout his entire career, absolutely carry the Vikings if they have any shot at winning. The Broncos have an incredible defense and are going to shut down Teddy Two Gloves fairly easily.
The days of Omaha have felt far away at certain points of the 2015 season. Peyton shocked us all last week in Detroit when on 4th and 1 he went up high to Demaryius Thomas for an incredible touchdown. Defensively the Broncos are a Super Bowl contender, but with a questionable Peyton and no run game at all... can they sustain this success all year? Or even this Sunday?
The Vikings don't post a big enough threat to expose this Broncos team. Give me Denver at Mile High.
Prediction: Vikings - 10, Broncos - 23
Green Bay Packers (3-0) at San Francisco 49ers (1-2)
I don't know if we'll hear more about how Aaron Rodgers grew up in California or that the Packers are hoping to return to Levi's Stadium for Super Bowl 50. You predict that one.
Don't look now, but Colin Kaepernick might have just thrown another pick six against the Arizona Cardinals. Yowza what a terrible game. This team is a dumpster fire right now, and it's hard to believe that they're going to get back on track against one of the most lethal offenses in the NFL.
I wonder how hard the Giants cry every time James Jones scores a touchdown. Seriously... James Jones, what's up? The Packers offense hasn't skipped a beat without the services of Jordy Nelson or Davante Adams, and that success should be contributed to Aaron Rodgers. We're watching one of the finest quarterbacks of this generation at work every Sunday and on this particular one he's going to make the 49ers cry pretty hard themselves.
Prediction: Packers - 38, 49ers - 14
St. Louis Rams (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
Remember when St. Louis beat Seattle on opening day and people were ready to send them to the playoffs? That was only three weeks ago, but it feels like so much longer. The Rams do have a very good defense, but man they are just so boring on offense. The days of the Greatest Show on Turf are so far gone that the Rams are resorting to doing new things to their turf... like lighting it on fire.
Carson Palmer has been listening to "Yeah!" too I can see. The dude is straight BALLIN right now throwing touchdowns like they're Colin Kaepernick Pick Sixes. Not to mention that this Arizona Cardinals defense is intimidating everybody that gets in their way. St. Louis better watch out or they themselves, not their turf, are going to get set on fire come Sunday.
Prediction: Rams - 13, Cardinals - 30
Sunday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-3)
During Week 4 of 2014 the Dallas Cowboys squared off against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football. They had a huge win that set the tone for their season and after the game Jason Witten spoke about how they "wanted to win each quarter of the season" by getting to a 3-1 record.
The Saints, with or without Drew Brees, are a mess. Their offense is so stagnant and so unproductive that it is actually painful to watch. There seems to be a culture issue there as even Jimmy Graham thinks getting out of New Orleans is a blessing. It's hard to believe that these guys aren't about to come completely unraveled.
3-1 is the goal for Sunday Night. Getting there won't be easy as the Brandon Weeden-led offense of the Cowboys was somewhat exposed last week during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons. While there are talented players to dump the ball off to in Cole Beasley and Lance Dunbar, the Cowboys are going to have to push the ball downfield in the Superdome. I believe that they can, and they will. Brandon Weeden has a rocket for an arm and it's taking off in New Orleans on Sunday Night Football.
Prediction: Cowboys - 30, Saints - 13
Monday Night Football: Detroit Lions (0-3) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2)
You know the phrase "sacrificial lamb"? It's ironic that, since it's usually the hunter, the Lion is going to be sacrificed on Monday Night Football. The Lions will definitely be lacking in courage when they see the Seahawks run out of the tunnel on Monday Night. I have zero faith in them this season.
First name Russell. Last name Wilson. Marshawn Lynch is limited so the Seahawks are going to do what they do in times of need... lean on #3. Russell is going to have a big game in the final act of Week 4 as the Seahawks look to get to .500 on the season. You can bet that they're tired of hearing how the Packers and Cardinals run the conference. They're out to send a message. I'm scared for the Lions.
Prediction: Lions - 10, Seahawks - 41
NFL to Study Marijuana Use, Will It Impact Randy Gregory’s Status?
The NFLPA and the NFL have reached an agreement to research alternative pain-management tools for the players. They'll form joint medical committees to study different strategies, among which will be the use of marijuana. It's important to make it clear that said committees will not be exclusively about marijuana, but a lot of different issues related to pain-management in the league. However, it'll likely be one of the most important aspects of their work.
Marijuana continues to be a highly debated topic and it's no different when discussing the NFL. Dallas Cowboys fans should be very familiar with the situation. Earlier this year, David Irving "quit" on football during an Instagram live stream while smoking weed. In the video, Irving talks about how he thinks it's better to be addicted to marijuana rather than certain medications used by NFL teams to treat their players.
Although David Irving is not an authority on substances, that is where all of this debate centers around. Throughout the league, players are given strong medication to deal with injuries and the physical pain of playing pro football. I'm not an expert either, but it's more than fair to say there's a strong argument here. Specially in a country where marijuana has already been legalized in 10 states and the trend points toward legalization continuing.
The current CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) between the NFL and NFLPA will expire after the 2020 season and how the league's drug policy looks like in the new agreement will be a huge factor for reaching a satisfactory CBA for both sides.
Of course, the fact that the NFLPA and the league are working together on such an important task doesn't mean we will see any immediate changes or that the NFL's ban on marijuana will be lifted anytime soon. Many big question marks will have to be answered before we hear about teams implementing this substance as a pain management tool.
For the Dallas Cowboys, this will be a relevant narrative down the line. Pass rusher Randy Gregory was reinstated after serving an indefinite suspension due to substance abuse prior to the 2018 season. After a dominant year, Gregory was suspended again by the NFL and it all points toward him sitting out this upcoming season and perhaps even more.
Even still, the Cowboys are still standing behind their 2015 second round pick. If the league ends up lifting its ban on marijuana, they'll have to decide what they will do with players already serving a suspension for this reason. Guys like Randy Gregory, for instance. If it's decided they'll be reinstated to the NFL, the Cowboys will sure be glad to have supported Gregory all throughout the process.
Last year, the pass rusher proved how effective he could be even with a short period of time training. Hopefully, the Cowboys are able to get him back on the field eventually, where's been consistently dominant. In the meantime, we'll see how recently acquired Robert Quinn does in Dallas.
The NFL won't be lifting its ban anytime soon, but it's good to know they're at least open minded to changing the league's policy and consider alternatives that could benefit the players' health. We'll see how these new medical committees work and keep you updated here at Inside The Star.
Should Cowboys Consider Trading for Disgruntled Packers S Josh Jones?
Despite their insistence that upgrading the safety position was a top offseason priority, the Dallas Cowboys haven't really done much to improve the backend of their secondary. They did sign former Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals Safety George Iloka as a free agent and drafted Donovan Wilson in the sixth-round in this year's NFL Draft, but neither player looks like a clear-cut upgrade at this point. Fortunately, there's still time to find Xavier Woods' counterpart for 2019.
Xavier Woods is the only clear-cut starter at safety currently on the Dallas Cowboys roster. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine as to who starts opposite him this season. With that in mind, the Cowboys should be keeping all of their options open, including acquiring players who get released or even making a trade for someone they like. The latter is what I want to talk about today.
A potential safety who could be put on the trade block that I'm kind of intrigued with is Josh Jones, who has reportedly requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers.
Packers safety Josh Jones is skipping the voluntary OTAs and working out in Florida because he's hoping to be traded, a source told ESPN. The source said the 2017 second-round pick believes it would be best for both parties if they parted ways. Story coming on ESPN shortly.
Josh Jones clearly sees where he stands with the Green Bay Packers after they signed Adrian Amos in free agency and drafted Darnell Savage Jr. 21st overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, thus his absence from OTA's and trade request. He understands the business and knows he's not going to see the field much behind those two, meaning his best chance for playing time would be in a different uniform.
It's not all that shocking Jones has requested a trade. Even before the Packers added Amos and Savage he wasn't receiving a lot of playing time. He's just never seemed to fit into what Green Bay was trying to do on the backend of their defense. It may be in the best interest of both parties to mutually part ways. This is where the Dallas Cowboys come in.
I believe Josh Jones is exactly the type of safety Kris Richard would like to pair Xavier Woods with on the backend of the Cowboys defense. He fits the criteria Richard likes in his defensive backs as far as size, length, and speed are concerned. And, he also has the kind of skill set/mindset to become that Kam Chancellor "enforcer" type of strong safety.
Josh Jones is at his best when he can play around the line of scrimmage, much like Chancellor was during his time with the Seahawks. But, Jones also has the ability to be a factor in coverage as well. The only real question here is whether or not he's an upgrade over the likes of Jeff Heath, George Iloka, and maybe even rookie Donovan Wilson?
In all honesty, I don't have the answer to that question. Josh Jones really hasn't received a fair opportunity to prove himself in his first two years in the NFL. I believe the skill set is there to start in the league, but there's not much there to back up that belief.
Personally, I'd be willing to part way with a late round pick if I were the Cowboys to acquire Josh Jones. I like the idea of bringing him in to work with Kris Richard and allowing him to compete for the starting job next to Xavier Woods. This is exactly the kind of low risk/high reward move Dallas likes to gamble on, and it could potentially pay off in a big way.
Where do you stand? Should the Cowboys consider trading for Josh Jones?
How Can The Cowboys Force More Turnovers In 2019?
2018 seemed like the beginning of a new era. A defensive era. For the first time in years the Cowboys were able to consistently lean on their defense during games, staying alive even as their offense sputtered and limped through stretches early in the season.
The defense was downright prolific some weeks. They carried the Cowboys to an inspiring home victory over the New Orleans Saints to put them in prime position to make the playoffs. They dominated the Wild Card game in key moments, making key stops and holding the Seahawks to just 22 points in the win. They featured one of the league's best individual pass rushers in DeMarcus Lawrence, an All Pro cornerback in Byron Jones, and one of the league's most exciting young linebacker duos.
For all of this success, this defense still lacked one thing. Takeaways.
The Cowboys forced only 9 interceptions in 2018, ranking 26th across the league. In fact, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was actually tied with Xavier Woods for the team lead in interceptions with just 2. When it comes to total takeaways the Cowboys' defense was a little better off, though, finishing 16th in the NFL.
Part of the "problem" seems to be their philosophy. The Cowboys have finished 26th, 24th, 27th, and 31st in interceptions dating back to 2015. They've also finished 9th, 25th, 18th, and 19th in team defense DVOA over that same stretch. Clearly there was an improvement in total defense in 2018, but neither their team defense nor ability to take the ball away has been strong since 2015.
The bigger problem, really, is a lack of luck. While this sounds like a cop-out, takeaways often do come down to just that. Of course putting yourself in the right place at the right time to benefit from a batted pass or overthrown ball matters, but those bounces finding the right hands is usually a matter of luck.
Turnovers are incredibly volatile year to year, and as much as you'd like your players to "make their own luck," randomness does play a part here.
You can certainly argue the Cowboys have done their best this offseason to increase their chances at takeaways, however. By trading for defensive end Robert Quinn, re-signing DeMarcus Lawrence, and adding talented players to the middle of their defensive line as well, Dallas has put an emphasis on getting after the quarterback and corralling the opposing running game. Putting pressure on quarterbacks can force them into quick decision making or bad throws, which could in turn breed interceptions.
This is far from guaranteed, though. Plus the Cowboys play against some of the league's top quarterbacks this year, which hurts their chances of taking the ball away further.
In the end the Cowboys will need both the skill of their pass rushers and defensive backs to put them in good positions, and luck to smile down on them, if they'd like to turn around their takeaway numbers in 2019. And after all, this demoralizing trend has to reverse itself at some point, doesn't it?
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