If you've read my work before, hi Mom, then you know that I used to have a collection of mini helmets for all of the NFL teams.
There was a gum ball machine at my school while I was growing up that dispensed one for a quarter, and each day I would beg my parents for another chance at securing the missing teams from my set. Finally, like Ash Ketchum, I caught them all.
I have since upgraded to a new set that I use for extremely important football purposes. What's that exactly? Well whenever there's a game going on I set the helmets of the active teams up facing each other in front of my tv.
After each week of the NFL season I update my helmets to reflect the current standings within the NFL. So welcome one and all, to the tradition of RJ's Mini Helmets.
NFL standings through Week 4 -- according to my mini helmet display.
In the spirit of gameday traditions, please allow me to gather some help from my mini friends throughout this week's game picks. Let's roll.
Thursday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts (2-2) At Houston Texans (1-3)
The swashbucklin' Matt Hasselbeck will be the Colts QB as Indy takes on the helpless Texans. It's really too bad that JJ Watt can't play all 11 positions because then Houston might have at least a 75% chance at being relatively competitive.
I expect Bill O'Brien to run Arian Foster as much as he can in this game, but the Texans are a long ways away from being able to beat a team like the Colts... even without Andrew Luck. This will be a snoozer as far as primetime games are concerned, but look for the Colts to rally around Matty and his bunch.
Prediction: COLTS - 20, Texans - 10
Washington Redskins (2-2) At Atlanta Falcons (4-0)
Welcome to relevance, Washington. The Redskins have surprised folks this season by not turning the ball over on each possession. Kirk Cousins played well last week, but it just feels like he's due for a 19 turnover game.
The Atlanta Falcons are one of the few undefeated teams in the NFL, even though Roddy White wants more targets. Julio Jones is going to feast on the Washington secondary that allowed Sam Bradford of all people to have a decent stat line last week. Look out for Matty Ice to Julio all day long.
Prediction: Redskins - 13, FALCONS - 33
Buffalo Bills (2-2) At Tennessee Titans (1-2)
Oh Rexy, the one moment that Cowboys Nation needed you and you couldn't even beat the Giants? For shame. The Bills shot themselves in the foot last week with what seemed like 400 penalties. No LeSean McCoy or Karlos Williams isn't exactly a recipe for success this week, especially as the Titans are coming off of their bye.
Super Mario has shown that he has a bright future in the NFL through his first three weeks. I'm very curious how he's going to come out of his first bye week, but he struggled against Cleveland when they threw pressure at him. The Bills have arguably the best defensive front in the NFL, and I think they're going to simply overwhelm the rookie. Circle the wagons.
Predictoin: BILLS - 27, Titans - 21
Chicago Bears (1-3) At Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)
The poor Bears finally earned their first victory of the season last week... over the mighty Oakland Raiders. Jay Cutler actually looked like an NFL quarterback again, and Martellus Bennett had himself a day. Alshon Jeffery might play, but even if he doesn't I think Eddie Royal is going to go off against a depleted Chiefs secondary.
Three straight losses against the Broncos, Packers, and Bengals aren't exactly anything to be ashamed of, but the Chiefs are in a downward spiral. I really thought they had a chance to challenge for the AFC West title this year, but they just don't have any offense outside of Jamaal Charles. I fear that they will find a way to continue their losing ways, even if it is against the Bears.
Prediction: BEARS - 20, Chiefs - 16
Seattle Seahawks (2-2) At Cincinnati Bengals (4-0)
The Seahawks are coming off of a narrow victory aided by a controversial call from their home stadium on Monday Night Football. Raise your hand if you've heard that one before! Really though, the Seahawks haven't looked like the elite team we're accustomed to seeing in a while, arguably in all of 2015. The Jimmy Graham experiment has yet to take off, and Russell Wilson is running for his life... without Skittles by his side.
I am a believer in the Cincinnati Bengals. Outside of the quarterback position, is there one portion of their roster that the Seahawks are more talented in? The answer is no. The Bengals might not have the same pass rush that the Lions gave to Seattle last week, but they're going to cause havoc. Coupled with an elite offense and a, surprisingly, lethal Andy Dalton... Cincinnati is going to stay undefeated.
Prediction: Seahawks - 16, BENGALS - 28
Cleveland Browns (1-3) At Baltimore Ravens (1-3)
The Brownies put up more of a fight against the Chargers last week than I think any of us anticipated. Josh McCown has them in this weird state of not terrible, but not even above average, so it's kind of football purgatory for Cleveland fans. I don't believe in them long term and at some point they will revert back to their classic, and terrible, Brown-ish ways.
No team has ever tried harder to give away a game than the Steelers did to the Ravens last Thursday Night. Baltimore has a much needed breath of life on the 2015 season. Even though Steve Smith Sr. is banged up I believe that they're going to come out on fire and ready to recapture some momentum for this season. They know they've been given a new lease on life and they're not going to waste it.
Prediction: Browns - 13, RAVENS - 24
St. Louis Rams (2-2) At Green Bay Packers (4-0)
Jeff Fisher has a weird ability to get his team up for big games and come out totally flat in small ones. At 2-2 the Rams have victories over the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. Can they do it again? I say yes! Their pass rush is going to stifle Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field, and Todd Gurley is going to justify all of his pre-draft hype.
As great as the Packers are, they are undefeated after all, I'm not totally convinced that they're an elite team. They've beaten the Bears (yawn), Seahawks (who aren't what we expected), Chiefs (yawn again), and the Niners (stop yawning). The combined record of those four teams this year? 5-11. St. Louis, and their epic pass rush, are just the type of trap game to bring them down to earth.
Prediction: RAMS - 23, Packers - 20
New Orleans Saints (1-3) At Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
If it weren't for a few things here and there the New Orleans Saints would still have yet to record a win this season. Nevertheless they beat the Cowboys and kept their playoff hopes (relax, I know it's Week 5) alive. Drew Brees will surely have regained even more form than he had last week, and I expect him and his Saints to have a lot of confidence heading into Philly.
Losing to the Falcons and Cowboys was somewhat justified, but dropping a game to the Redskins was the ultimate low point for the Eagles last week. They haven't shown anything through their first four games that instills confidence in them as a team, and if anything they have shown that they are on the path to complete and total disaster. Not touching the Eagles this week or any.
Prediction: SAINTS - 19, Eagles - 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) At Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
The Battle for Florida aka the battle of the ugliest uniforms in the NFL. I boldly picked the Jaguars to win in Indianapolis last week, and that was a missed field goal or two away from becoming a reality. These Jaguars aren't the total catastrophe of years past, and I think Blake Bortles is going to take advantage of a terrible Buccaneer defense on his way to a nice stat line.
I really believed that Lovie Smith had a chance to turn the Bucs around, but even if he does it's not happening anytime soon. Growing pains are expected with a rookie quarterback, and the Bucs are going to continue to have them. I don't think that the Bucs can go blow-for-blow with the Jags so in the leading candidate for game that you're most likely to nap during, give me Jacksonville.
Prediction: JAGUARS - 26, Buccaneers - 17
Arizona Cardinals (3-1) At Detroit Lions (0-4)
Despite wearing their super awesome black uniforms last week, the Cardinals fell to the division rival St. Louis Rams. Bruce Arians has undoubtedly lamented over this all week and told his Cardinals that they are never allowed to lose again. This team is far more loaded offensively than they were a year ago, and I don't see any way that they drop two in a row.
The Detroit Lions should join the Cowardly Lion in his search for bravery or a win or whatever it was. They suffered one of the more heartbreaking losses that we've seen this season last week on Monday Night Football, and it's hard to imagine that a date with one of the NFL's best is going to make things any better. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have yet to show us the explosiveness that we're accustomed to seeing from them, and I don't think that they start to this week.
Prediction: CARDINALS - 33, Lions - 13
New England Patriots (3-0) At Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are on a mission in 2015: Humiliate EVERYONE. Coming off of a bye, an extra week of preparation, it's hard to imagine that momentum coming to a stop... or even slowing down. Rob Gronkowski is going to have a big day as the Patriots deflate yet another team's dreams.
The Cowboys could very easily be 4-0 or 1-3. They've had breaks go both directions for them this season, and they are going to need the biggest ones this week. I expect Morris Claiborne to do a great job on Julian Edelman, like he did with Brandin Cooks, but it's going to be difficult for them to contain Rob Gronkowski. If they have any chance to win it'll be predicated around generating a pass rush and disrupting Tom Brady all day, but that's one big if.
Prediction: PATRIOTS - 34, Cowboys - 16
Denver Broncos (4-0) At Oakland Raiders (2-2)
The Orange Crush might be on its way back. The defense of the Denver Broncos is ferocious, and something that opposing quarterbacks aren't looking forward to dealing with this season. It's a strange world to see Peyton Manning merely manage a game, but at some point the lack of run game behind him is going to plague them. This could be that week.
I believe that the Oakland Raiders are going to be extremely hyped for this game. They're 2-2 and have a legitimate level of hope for their season (a rarity for the Raider faithful in October). Given the NFL's growing likelihood of a team returning to Los Angeles, and that team potentially being the Raiders, the Oakland fans are going to want to send a message. My bold predictions for the Cowboys and Patriots game will debut Saturday, but here's an appetizer for you. Raiders win, baby.
Prediction: Broncos - 19, RAIDERS - 20
Sunday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers (1-3) At New York Giants (2-2)
The 49ers have fallen a long way since beating the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football in Week 1. They've looked unorganized, confused, and just terrible all around. Colin Kaepernick really needs to find his 2012/2013 form or this team has no shot of even finishing .500. I expect them to try to get their ground game going with Carlos Hyde, it just won't be enough.
The New York Football Giants have clawed their way back from an 0-2 record to sit nicely at 2-2. They have what seems to be a layup in front of them in San Francisco, but their prized possession Odell Beckham Jr. has caused quite a distraction this week. As big of a prima donna that OBJ might be, the Giants could easily be 4-0 this season. I expect them to handle the Niners easily and get above .500 for the first time this year.
Prediction: 49ers - 13, GIANTS - 27
Monday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) At San Diego Chargers (2-2)
Hopefully the Steelers have learned by now that when the game is on the line Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are far better options to explore than Michael Vick. Pittsburgh has had a long time to sit and stew about their Week 4 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and they're probably not too happy. Even though Martavis Bryant is coming back, I don't believe they have the offensive competence to beat a team like San Diego. They're in trouble.
Who would have thought that the Chargers would have to summon all of their strength to beat the Browns? San Diego is a quiet 2-2 this season, but Philip Rivers is balling right now. Antonio Gates is coming back and that's great, but Keenan Allen is the Charger that's really going to light it up on Monday Night Football. This is a chance for San Diego to show on a national level that they're for real and they're going to take it. Give me the Bolts.
Prediction: Steelers - 14, CHARGERS - 32
How The Seattle Seahawks Have Increased Importance In Cowboys’ Lore
You can't talk about this decade's Dallas Cowboys without discussing the Seattle Seahawks.
In 2012, when Golden Tate took out Sean Lee on a crack-back block and the Seahawks embarrassed a Cowboys team who had just defeated the defending champion New York Giants, we saw which of the two teams was truly ready for the big stage.
In 2014, as Rolando McClain intercepted Russell Wilson and the Cowboys clinched a critical road victory, we knew that Dallas was a legit contender.
In 2015, when Seattle finally came to Dallas and rendered the return of Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant meaningless in a 13-12 win, the then 2-5 Cowboys were sent further into a Romo-less abyss.
And, in 2017, Dez Bryant's key drops and Dan Bailey's missed field goals during a horrendous home loss to the Seahawks on Christmas Eve might have sealed each of their fates for the following offseason.
The most important moment in this Cowboys/Seahawks history, however, occurred during a preseason game. A meaningless preseason game which turned out to be the most meaningful day in recent Cowboys history.
Cliff Avril dragging Tony Romo down from behind, effectively ending his career, and kicking off the roster massive turnover we have seen the last two offseasons. From Dak Prescott, to a brand new secondary, to the retirement of Jason Witten, and the cutting of Dez Bryant. All of this change, which put an end to the Romo era rosters in Dallas, began with that hit in Seattle.
Since 2012 the Cowboys, and the rest of the NFC really, have been judged by how they play against two teams: the Packers and the Seahawks.
They have been the class of the NFC, and while we like to think that if the "Dez Caught It" game went how it should have Dallas would've handled Seattle, that will forever be an unknown.
Sunday's game is not expected to carry the franchise-changing implications that some of these other match ups have had. The Seahawks are 0-2 and reeling, with a shaky offensive line and reported distrust throughout the organization.The Cowboys, however, can jump-start their season with a big road win over a winless team that they should beat in the minds of many.
But knowing how things between these teams tend to go, Sunday afternoon may end up having major implications on the rest of the Cowboys' season.
Where this could be the case is in a potential Earl Thomas trade. It's been speculated that Seattle has been hesitant to deal Thomas to Dallas before their week 3 match up, but could be more willing to do so after the game.
Especially if that game is a loss which sends them to 0-3. The Cowboys have been actively pursuing Earl Thomas, and Thomas has certainly made it clear that he wants to be in Dallas. The only party not willing to make it happen thus far, are the Seahawks.
So, this weekend, there is a chance another chapter is added to those franchise-changing moments in Cowboys/Seahawks lore.
A Look Around The NFC East: Week 3
Week two didn't go as planned for much of the NFC East, with only the Dallas Cowboys reigning victorious last Sunday.
Now, three teams are locked in a tie for first place at 1-1, with the New York Giants lagging behind with a winless record. Week 3 is shaping up to be a potential early turning point, however, with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz returning and each team facing a very beatable opponent.
Let's take a look around the division and see what the Cowboys' foes will be facing this week.
The Eagles fell victim to one of the more surprising upsets of the weekend last Sunday, as Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Eagles 27-21. While their defense got off to a shaky start in the loss, it was the offense which proved too little too late in their push down the stretch.
Carson Wentz is expected to not only return but to start on Sunday in the Eagles' match up against the Colts. Indianapolis upset the Washington Redskins last week, but will be 6 point underdogs when the game kicks off in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Wentz should give the defending champs an extra boost, and while they haven't looked as dominant as many expected through the first two games, this could be the game to spring them the rest of the way.
As mentioned earlier, the Redskins fell in Indianapolis last week, and are now tied for first place in the division with a 1-1 record. As dominant and impressive as Washington looked in their opener against Arizona, Washington's week two loss featured lethargic offensive play for four quarters.
This week the Redskins are three point home underdogs as Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers come to town. Green Bay tied Minnesota a week ago, but behind Rodgers and their potent offense, they have the chance to take advantage of Washington's suspect secondary down the field.
Sunday will be a tough test for the Redskins as they look to get back above .500 against a tough conference opponent.
New York Giants
The Giants' season is on the brink this week, and that really isn't a dramatic statement at all. Now at 0-2 with a division loss to the Cowboys last week, the Giants have to beat the 0-2 Texans on Sunday to get some confidence and keep pace within the conference.
Lucky for them, the Texans haven't looked impressive whatsoever through two games. Unlucky for them, the Texans have strong pass rushers like JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney ready to abuse their weak offensive line.
Houston is a six point home favorite over the Giants, proving it will be an uphill battle for New York to save their season.
Cowboys en Español: La Defensiva de Dallas es Muy Real
Después de dos semanas de acción de los Dallas Cowboys, una cosa ha quedado más que clara. La defensiva del coordinador defensivo Rod Marinelli ha demostrado que es realmente buena. No como en otros años, que nos conformábamos con que la defensiva dejará avanzar y cediera tres puntos hasta que se rompía en el último cuarto.
No, ahora es diferente. Este año, los Dallas Cowboys tienen presión al QB opuesto. No sólo DeMarcus Lawrence, sino Taco Charlton, Randy Gregory y recientemente, los linebackers. Hemos visto a Jaylon Smith y Damien Wilson brindar presión y sobre todo, llegar a sus objetivos.
Los linebackers no han brillado sólo en esto, sino en otros ámbitos defensivos, como cobertura aérea y más. Incluso Joe Thomas ha logrado mantener su nivel que vimos en pretemporada cuando se le ha pedido entrar al campo.
Y en cuanto a la secundaria, no podríamos estar más agradecidos con la actuación de nuestros cornerbacks. Byron Jones está jugando a un nivel increíble. La semana pasada, Eli Manning sólo se atrevió a lanzar el balón en su dirección en cinco ocasiones. En esas cinco, consiguió sólo un pase completo para cero yardas. Chidobe Awuzie también ha tenido un gran inicio al 2018, manteniendo un nivel de juego consistente y efectivo. Estamos hablando de que el domingo pasado, estos dos cornerbacks se enfrentaron a uno de los mejores WR en la NFL, Odell Beckham Jr.
Finalmente, la posición de safety se ha visto como la unidad más débil en la defensiva. Jeff Heath es un titular promedio y Kavon Frazier tiene mucho camino por recorrer. Afortunadamente, hay esperanza de que Xavier Woods regrese de lesión este domingo.
A pesar de que en el 2016 todos veíamos a la ofensiva como nuestro futuro, es sorprendente el nivel que ha mostrado la defensiva. Es más agresiva, más efectiva y más confiable que en otros años. No podemos subestimar la llegada del coach Kris Richard al equipo.
Sobre todo después de que en el partido contra los New York Giants y los Carolina Panthers se demostró que Richard está involucrado directamente con las decisiones de las jugadas que se ejecutarán en el campo. Incluso Marinelli no tuvo problemas admitiendo que efectivamente, Richard estaba ganándose un rol en este aspecto.
Esto es muy relevante para los Dallas Cowboys, pues una de las cosas más destacadas que hemos visto las últimas semanas es el usaje de cargas o "blitzes" especiales en varias oportunidades. Incluyendo tercer down y largo.
Es algo que no habíamos visto nunca con el conservador Marinelli y que claramente es producto de Richard. Este personaje que viene de los Seattle Seahawks continua emergiendo como un candidato real al puesto de coordinador defensivo en el 2019 o quien sabe, quizá sea nombrado head coach si las cosas comienzan a ir mal para este equipo.
Sin duda alguna, la defensiva ha demostrado que es muy confiable y real. Es tiempo de que la ofensiva de Dallas responda a esto y comience a mover más las cadenas y sobre todo, aprovechar las oportunidades que tengan de anotar touchdowns. Empezar a depender de goles de campo nunca sale bien.
Sobre la llegada de Brice Butler
Increíblemente, Brice Butler regresó a los Dallas Cowboys, incluso después de todos los comentarios que hizo en ciertos programas de televisión. La primera reacción al respecto fue de confusión; ¿por qué regresar con un receptor que nunca fue tan especial y que habló tanto de Dallas?
La respuesta a esta pregunta se esclareció un poco este jueves por la noche cuando surgieron los rumores de que Terrance Williams, quien fue arrestado en el offseason por intoxicación pública, podría ser suspendido pronto por la NFL.
Esto probablemente no sucederá antes del partido de la semana 3, pero de todas maneras explica mucho sobre el último movimiento de los Cowboys.
En un partido bastante cerrado, creo que la defensiva de los Dallas Cowboys hará lo suficiente para llevarse la victoria. Es de suma importancia derribar a Russell Wilson y sobre todo, que la ofensiva tenga su mejor actuación de la campaña. La defensiva de Seahawks es bastante efectiva y no será sencillo vencerlos.
Marcador: Dallas Cowboys 21 - Seattle Seahawks 17
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