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
Ezekiel Elliott Quietly Having Best Start of His Career
The Dallas Cowboys and All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott were the talk of the summer when negotiations for a long term extension came to an impasse. Slick maneuvering through the media on both ends left everyone on pins and needles. Ultimately, the two parties reached an agreement just days before the season opener on a six-year 90 million dollar extension with 50 million in guarantees. With his financial security now taken care of, it was time for Elliott to get a few practices under his belt before the season kicked off against the New York Giants. Now, after two weeks of action, it's clear Elliott has knocked off the rust and is ready to have another All-Pro season.
Elliott is traditionally a slow starter and this season was no different. The Cowboys dominated the Giants 35-17 mostly due to Dak Prescott's 405 yard 4 touchdown performance that also included a perfect 158.3 passer rating. With him slinging the ball around and producing points at will it was easy for the Cowboys to stick to their plan of limiting Elliott's touches. He finished with 53 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown as he knocked the dust off the tires so to speak.
Week two saw the Cowboys hit the road in another NFC East matchup with the Washington Redskins. Elliott came into the game having rushed for more yards (484) and more touchdowns (6) against the Redskins than any other team he's faced, including two 100 yard performances. This game was a steady dose of Elliott as he methodically racked up yardage. At halftime, he had 48 yards on 11 carries as the Cowboys held a 14-7 lead.
With the score 24-14 late in the fourth quarter, Elliott capped off a 10 play 54-yard drive with a score from two yards out with just over five minutes left. After a Redskins touchdown made it 31-21 the Cowboys got the ball back with just over two minutes left. Elliott broke a 27-yard run that iced the game and put his total at 111 yards on 23 carries as the Cowboys improved to 2-0. Just the kind of performance you want to see from your star runner after a quiet first game.
In 2016, Elliott had 134 yards and 2 touchdowns in his two games. He had 112 yards and no touchdowns the first two weeks of 2017 and 147 yards and 2 touchdowns last season in the first two games. This season he has 164 yards and 2 touchdowns in two games. With all the talk about the historic start of Dak Prescott, and rightfully so, what has gotten lost is that Elliott is currently off to the best start of his career through two games.
After carefully monitoring his snaps the first two games Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore is ready to put a full workload on Elliott going forward.
"This is our third game," Moore told the Dallas Morning News. "I think he's at that point where we're pretty much playing this thing out at this point. It was good those first two weeks just to be aware of it and then also trust Zeke's response and how he feels and all those things and just balancing that stuff out."
With all the restrictions gone Elliott can get back to his normal amount of reps. This Sunday the Cowboys host the Miami Dolphins and a defense that has allowed 102 points and 391 rushing yards in two games. Another opportunity for a big performance for the All-Pro and to continue reminding the world that he's the best at his position.
Cowboys en Español: Mitos y Verdades en Dallas, Adiós Taco Charlton
El ala defensiva producto de la universidad de Michigan, Taco Charlton, fue seleccionado en la primera ronda del NFL Draft 2017 por los Dallas Cowboys para la sorpresa de muchos. Con jugadores como T.J. Watt y Kevin King en la tabla, muchos esperaban que Stephen Jones y compañía tomaran una ruta diferente. Sin embargo, Rod Marinelli logró influir la selección del equipo y Charlton recibió la llamada. Desde ese momento, se convirtió en un jugador altamente debatido entre los aficionados y analistas de Dallas.
El 2019 es la tercera temporada de Charlton en la NFL y tras estar inactivo en las primeras dos semanas, los Cowboys lo dejaron ir. El motivo por el que Taco estuvo inactivo no era su salud, sino el hecho de que los coaches no lo vieron como uno de los mejores linieros defensivos. Se ha especulado por mucho tiempo sobre la relación entre Marinelli y Charlton, después de que algunos comentarios del coach y algunos directivos nos hicieron dudar sobre su ética de trabajo y su compromiso al equipo.
Según reportes de Jane Slater, Charlton solicitó al equipo un trade hace unos meses, cosa que los Cowboys no consiguieron con ningún equipo y por tanto resultó cortando al defensivo antes de la semana 3 de la temporada. Las cosas se "calentaron" después de que Charlton publicó en redes sociales "Free me." Gran parte por su corte es el regreso del defensivo Robert Quinn, quien estuvo suspendido las primeras dos semanas.
El domingo, Charlton enfrentará a su ex-equipo vistiendo los colores de los Miami Dolphins, mientras que Quinn hace lo mismo pero vistiendo el uniforme de los Dallas Cowboys. En Cowboys en Español, le deseamos éxito a Taco Charlton en su nuevo equipo.
Mitos y Verdades
Con dos semanas de acción de los Dallas Cowboys, hemos visto y escuchado todo tipo de conclusiones. Algunas parecen ser una exageración, mientras otras tienen todo el sentido del mundo. Por eso es que hoy nos aventuramos a unas cuantas declaraciones comunes sobre el equipo y determinamos cuales son mitos y cuales son verdades...
- Ezekiel Elliott no ha tenido un impacto importante
Debido a la alta producción del juego aéreo en la ofensiva de Kellen Moore, muchos han pasado por alto el trabajo del corredor Ezekiel Elliott. Anteriormente, hemos visto un equipo de los Cowboys que se enfocaba principalmente en el juego terrestre y ahora no parece ser el caso.
Sin embargo, Elliott ha tenido un impacto importante. De hecho, después de dos juegos cuenta con el mejor inicio de su carrera. Hasta el momento ha acumulado 164 yardas en 36 acarreos. Su mejor marca en los primeros dos juegos de toda su carrera.
- Michael Gallup es cosa seria
Las expectativas eran altas para el receptor de segundo año, Michael Gallup. Se esperaba que su rol incrementara drásticamente después de un 2018 que cerró con una participación importante. En training camp fue dominante y por fin lo pudo demostrar en el emparrillado.
A pesar de que tendrá que recuperarse de lesión, Gallup ha demostrado que la emoción que lo rodea es completamente real.
- El interior de la línea defensiva podría ser un problema
Hasta el momento, una de las mayores decepciones ha sido la selección de segunda ronda de los Cowboys, Trysten Hill. El tackle defensivo de Central Florida ha estado en la lista de inactivos durante las primeras dos semanas.
Antwaun Woods sufrió una lesión contra los Washington Redskins que no parece muy seria. Sin embargo, no hemos visto mucha calidad por parte de los tackles defensivos. Hasta el momento, no hemos visto una dupla de titulares que nos hagan sentir mejor respecto la posición.
- Somos un equipo pasador
Tras dos semanas, parece que este es el caso. Habiendo dicho eso, no estaré convencido de que la ofensiva mantendrá un nivel tan agresivo en el juego aéreo hasta que vea el mismo plan de juego coontra rivales más fuertes. Kellen Moore ha hecho todo bien por ahora, pero tengo muchas ganas de verlo en un escenario con más presión.
¿Volverá en un punto a depender del juego terrestre o seguirán apostando por Dak Prescott y el juego aéreo? Ya veremos.
Veredicto: VERDAD por ahora, por definir...
NFC East Weekly: Giants Change QBs, Eagles Take First Loss
While we always have plenty to talk about when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, it's never a bad idea to look around our division and see what's happening with the rivals. This is the first is a new weekly feature on Inside The Star where we'll talk about the major happenings in the NFC East, and especially what they mean for the good guys.
Before we get into the headlines, though, here's a quick glace at the current standings for the division after Week 2 of the 2019 season:
- Dallas Cowboys 2-0 (2-0 vs division)
- Philadelphia Eagles 1-1 (1-0 vs division)
- New York Giants 0-2 (0-1 vs division)
- Washington Redskins 0-2 (0-2 vs division)
The Cowboys have started off the season in grand fashion, picking up two division wins against the Giants and Redskins. It's an incredible foundation from which to continue through 2019, and one that they will hopefully build on this week against the tanking Miami Dolphins.
Those division wins could be crucial this year if the Eagles live up to expectations. Despite the loss last week in Atlanta, Philly should still be right there in the end and the NFC East crown may come down that tie-breaking record against division opponents.
If these two weeks have shown us anything, it's that all projections of 2019 being a two-horse race between Dallas and Philadelphia were spot on. New York is as bad as most thought they'd be, and any thoughts of Washington being a plucky underdog are about gone now.
In fact, it only took two weeks for the Giants to throw in the towel and name rookie Daniel Jones their starting quarterback.
End of the Eli Era
Remember this offseason when Giants' General Manager Dave Gettleman said that Eli Manning "had plenty left" going into 2019? Apparently it ran out fast, and it only took two losses for New York to promote Daniel Jones and effectively end Manning's run with the Giants. He had been the full-time starter since 2005.
Assuming that an injury or a total management meltdown don't lead to Eli being renamed as the starter, Jones will get six games under his belt before the rematch with the Cowboys in Week 9. The rookie gets a few soft opponents in Tampa Bay and Washington to start his career, but then it toughens up quickly with Minnesota and New England in Weeks 5 and 6.
Taking my Cowboys glasses off for a second, I actually am rooting for this kid. Daniel Jones was one the most maligned draft picks I've ever seen, basically declared a bust before he even had time to hug the commissioner on stage. On a purely human level, I'd like to see him prove people wrong.
We'll have plenty of time to look at Jones in the weeks and years to come. But before we change topics, I wanted to quickly reflect on the end of the Eli Era.
It was hard as a Dallas fan to watch Manning's success with two Super Bowl wins. Other than physical durability, there was nothing about Eli's game that made you think he was better than our own Tony Romo.
But happenstance is what makes the NFL work so well. It's why Week 1 in the NFL means more than the middle rounds of the NBA Playoffs; unpredictable outcomes make for greatest excitement and intrigue. The best teams and players don't always win, because single-elimination games and even single plays within can change history.
The bottom line is that "ifs" don't make legacies or Hall of Fame resumes. Like Batman said to Rachel Dawes, "it's what I do that defines me." Eli Manning won two championships against the greatest coach & QB combo of the last two decades. He kept his team relevant in the most competitive division in football more years than not.
If he doesn't make it into Canton then I won't think it's a tragedy. But if it does, it's absolutely deserved.
Eagles Lose 1st of 2019
Philadelphia fell behind a little in the race with Dallas by dropping their first game of the season, losing on the road against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. A late touchdown by Julio Jones on 4th-down stole the game away from the Eagles.
All losses hurt in the NFL but this one wasn't too damaging. The record against NFC opponents is more relevant to Wild Card races than divisions crowns.
But for two weeks at least, the Cowboys have looked like the better team. They beat the Redskins by a wider margin on Sunday than the Eagles did, and that was even with the game being in Washington.
This week could allow the divide to increase. The Eagles will host the Detroit Lions, who have yet to lose a game this year (they finished Week 1 with a tie) while Dallas gets the league's worst team in Miami.
Also concerning coming out of the loss in Atlanta was that Carson Wentz had to leave the game, albeit briefly, after the NFL's medical spotter called for him to be examined for a concussion. Wentz has since stated that he was fine and the exam was unnecessary.
Even if the concussion exam was overzealous, the fact remains that Wentz was taking some big hits throughout that game. Given his history, one has to wonder if he can make it through the season without some better protection or more efforts to avoid contact.
Until he proves otherwise, Carson is going to be seen as injury prone. It's a fear that Eagles fans keep deep down, in places they don't like to talk about at parties or on Twitter, but it's there.
But if Philly slips up again this week against the Lions, especially with Dallas likely improving to 3-0, then a much more present and potent fear could start to take hold.
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