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
Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?
It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.
Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.
A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.
Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.
First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:
- Earl Thomas
- Landon Collins
- Lamarcus Joyner
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Adrian Amos
- Clayton Geathers
- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
- Glover Quinn
- Tre Boston
- Kenny Vaccaro
- George Iloka
- Jimmie Ward
- Adrian Phillips
Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.
With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.
Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.
Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.
The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.
Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?
Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors
What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.
Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?
As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.
Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.
Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.
That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.
However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.
Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.
Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.
The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.
Just something to think about...
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
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