"Did you watch last week's episode?" My friend Gina and I anxiously asked our friend Matt.
"Uh, I'm not sure. Was it the one where Naomi was crying the whole time?" Matt asked.
"Yea! What happened after that?" Gina and I pressed on.
I'm a firm believer in no spoilers when it comes to tv, movies, books, etc. so I don't want to ruin anything for anyone. Gina and I wanted to make sure that Matt had seen the episode so we could discuss one of the bigger moments the show had experienced in quite some time.
"I'm pretty sure that I saw it. She lost the competition and had to be consoled by Peter, right?" Matt was verifying that it was the episode in question.
Gina and I nodded our heads.
"Ok then yea, I definitely saw it!" Matt exclaimed. All clear - fire at will.
"Alright so what did you think when Henry died?!" I asked.
"HENRY DIES??!?!?!?!?" Matt's jaw dropped to the floor, "WHAT?! WHY WOULD YOU TELL ME THAT???"
"You said you saw it! You told me that you did!" I defended myself.
"UGHHH I think I fell asleep. I can't believe Henry dies!" Matt was a mess.
It turns out that Matt had indeed fallen asleep right after Peter consoled Naomi. He missed the big moment of the show - Henry's death. The whole ordeal has become a running joke within my friends. Any time we want to avoid spoilers in anything we drop the infamous line, "Henry dies."
Don't call me a hypocrite, but I'm about to tell you how every NFL game ends. All the winners, all the losers, and all the sad Matts in the corner. Get ready to find out just how Henry dies.
Thursday Night Football: Cleveland Browns (2-6) At Cincinnati Bengals (7-0)
The Browns are a mess, man. They almost traded the most stable piece of their entire franchise, Joe Thomas, this week. They've got Johnny Football lining up under center, but even his magic might not be enough to save a franchise that just seems intent on making terrible decisions.
The Bengals made a big statement when they took a very firm grip on the AFC North by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. It's not smart to go against the Bengals and since my mom tells me I'm super smart I'm rolling with the Bengals on Thursday Night. Who Dey.
Prediction: Browns - 13, BENGALS - 33
Miami Dolphins (3-4) At Buffalo Bills (3-4)
Well it turns out that beating the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans does not adequately prepare you for the New England Patriots. The Dolphins were embarrassed in every conceivable way last week despite coming into the game with some strong momentum. I love a lot of their offense, but the Bills D is straight nasty. Sorry Tannehill, you'll be getting hit a lot.
CIRCLE THE WAGONS! The Bills are relevant in November for the first time in a long time, and count me as one of the happier ones for it. Tyrod Taylor should be back for this game, and that's going to make a huge difference. The Bills have one of the better home crowds in the NFL and on Sunday they're going to channel all of their fans with a big dubayoo.
Prediction: Dolphins - 17, BILLS - 26
Green Bay Packers (6-1) At Carolina Panthers (7-0)
It seems as if Aaron Rodgers is not perfect. The reigning MVP was under a lot of fire last week when the Broncos reincarnated Orange Crush got to him all night. He's great at holding a grudge and channeling it in his performance, but that scary pass rush? The Panthers have one of their own.
The whole Panthers defense is scary. Luke Kuechly is so much fun to watch. He's what I imagine football in the 50s and 60s to look like at the linebacker position. Cam Newton is playing like this year's MVP and is continually finding ways to get wins for the Panthers. Watch him do it again this week.
Prediction: Packers - 27, PANTHERS - 30
Tennessee Titans (1-6) At New Orleans Saints (4-4)
All of the Tennessee fans held their head high after Marcus Mariota arrived to the NFL with an emphatic Week 1 performance... and they have since come crashing back down to earth. They fired their head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, this week and are a mess everywhere.
It took seven touchdowns through the air, but Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints did Cowboys Nation a HUGE favor last week when they beat the New York Giants. Brees is starting to cook with gas and look like the fantasy football monster that we've all come to know him to be over the last decade. Give me the Saints by a lot.
Prediction: Titans - 12, SAINTS - 41
Oakland Raiders (4-3) At Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)
This is not a drill. The Oakland Raiders have a better record than the Pittsburgh Steelers at a point in the season past Week 8. I repeat: THIS IS NOT A DRILL. The Raiders look good, man. They're finding ways to win and sent a big message to the NFL last week when they took down the surprisingly relevant New York Jets. Get ready for what comes next.
I'm obviously a Cowboys fan so I'm no stranger to big-time injuries this season, but you've got to feel bad for the Steelers. First Lev Bell was suspended, then Big Ben got hurt, and now Bell is out for the rest of the year. They had their three big playmakers altogether on the field for about 20 minutes this season. It's hard to come back from that emotional punch in the gut so quickly. That leads me to this:
Prediction: RAIDERS - 31, Steelers - 26
St. Louis Rams (4-3) At Minnesota Vikings (5-2)
It was never realistic to expect that the Cowboys could have drafted Todd Gurley, but man imagine if they had? This dude is for real and on all kinds of fire this season. Couple that with an elite pass rush on the other side and you have a recipe that's hard for teams to beat on Sundays. They're whipping up a new batch on Sunday and it's going to taste awful good.
Adrian Peterson hasn't exactly returned to his 2012 form like a lot of people wildly speculated. Teddy Bridgewater hasn't necessarily turned into even a semi-elite quarterback... the Vikings are just kind of there. At 5-2. It's weird. I don't trust them to take out an elite offensive weapon like Todd Gurley, so get ready to watch Adrian Peterson watch the next great running back.
Prediction: RAMS - 24, Vikings - 16
Washington Redskins (3-4) At New England Patriots (7-0)
The Washington Redskins. In Foxborough. Against Tommy Brady and the Patriots. Child, please.
Prediction: Redskins - 13, PATRIOTS - 43
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) At New York Jets (4-3)
The Jaguars are two weeks removed from a big win across the pond. They have a lot of exciting pieces on the offensive side of the ball and you have to wonder what shape their defense would be in if Dante Fowler hadn't been injured right after the draft. Taking a cruise ship to Revis Island is never a good idea, but I think the Jaguars have a decent chance in this one.
New York lost a tough one last week in Oakland, but was that due to their own deficiencies or the rise of the Raiders? I say it's both! And I say we're in store for the same story this week. The Jets have a hobbled Ryan Fitzpatrick and both Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall are hurting. It doesn't look good for them all of a sudden, and wouldn't it be the most Jets thing ever to lose to the Raiders AND Jaguars?
Prediction: JAGUARS - 26, Jets - 23
Atlanta Falcons (6-2) At San Francisco 49ers (2-6)
If you follow me on Twitter then you know that I think that the Falcons are massively overrated. Their six wins are the NFC East, the Texans, and the Titans.
As overrated as the Falcons are... the 49ers are just a flaming piece of garbage. You know you've hit rock bottom when you bench Colin Kaepernick for Blaine Gabbert.
Prediction: FALCONS - 27, 49ers - 10
New York Giants (4-4) At Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)
Cowboys Nation caught a big break last week when the Giants lost to the Saints (despite putting up 49 points). I'd love to sit here and tell you that the Buccaneers are going to take care of them as well, but that's just not realistic. The Giants have a lot of offensive weapons, and the Bucs can barely tie their cleats.
I know, I know... the Bucs beat the Falcons last week. That has a lot to do with why Atlanta is in fact overrated. I think they've got a cute little pep in their step, but it won't be enough to stop the Giants. Boo.
Prediction: GIANTS - 30, Buccaneers - 17
Denver Broncos (7-0) At Indianapolis Colts (3-5)
I've got a similar feeling in my gut for the Broncos as I do the Falcons. The style of football that they're playing is neat and everything, but nobody can sustain that across a whole season. Peyton Manning got away with a par-for-the-course performance last week, but that was with two weeks worth of rest. It's hard to see Peyton lighting it up in Indy.
The Colts are a fire hazard at this point. They should be questioned a hundred times more than the Cowboys as they have all of their offensive weapons and still cannot put the puzzle together. A date with the defense of the Denver Broncos isn't exactly what the doctor ordered, no way the Colts get this done on Sunday.
Prediction: BRONCOS - 21, Colts - 16
Sunday Night Football: Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) At Dallas Cowboys (2-5)
The return of DeMarco Murray.
The Eagles have had two weeks to mope and pout since their Sunday Night loss to the Carolina Panthers. It's hard to believe that Sam Bradford somehow learned how to play quarterback or not trip over his own feet in just 14 days, so I'm really not that scared of the Eagles in this game. They're going to meet a new friend, though!
Greg Hardy did not play when the Cowboys beat the Eagles in Week 2 of this season. He's going to introduce himself on Sunday Night. The Hardy Boys have held opposing offenses to just 13 points in their most recent two games, it shouldn't be hard to do the same to Chip Kelly's Crew.
The last win that the Dallas Cowboys had was over these same Eagles, seven long weeks ago. It seems only fitting that the exorcism of the horror that we've endured would be complete when we get rid of the Eagles. If you read my Don't Stop Believing post last week then you know that the Cowboys getting the victory here is a crucial step for the "Plan A" sequence that was set in motion last week. Get ready because it's going down. I'm yelling timber.
Prediction: Eagles - 13, COWBOYS - 23
Monday Night Football: Chicago Bears (2-5) At San Diego Chargers (2-6)
Da Bears haven't looked like themselves in quite some time, but the Chargers aren't setting NFL records either. This is a snooze-fest of a Monday Night Game... a great time to get a jump on early Christmas shopping (I don't have an Apple Watch... just saying).
The Chargers are without their star receiver Keenan Allen for the rest of the year, but I expect Stevie Johnson to carry them in his absence. Look for Philip Rivers to continue the offensive roll that he's been on as the San Diego Super Chargers light this thing up.
Prediction: Bears - 17, CHARGERS - 31
Warts And All, Dak Prescott Shows Why It’s Not So Easy To Move On
Dak Prescott was far from perfect Sunday night in Philadelphia. In fact, at times, he was downright bad.
Prescott missed two potential touchdown passes to Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup on fly routes down the sideline, and might have left points on the board when he badly missed Ezekiel Elliott in the flat in the red zone early in the game. Prescott continued to panic in the pocket a bit during the first half, and took an absolutely horrendous sack on what would end up being the Cowboys' first touchdown drive of the night.
All of this is true. All of this is indisputable.
Where things get tricky, however, is that while these flaws continue to show up in Prescott's game, so do his strengths. A particular set of strengths and skills that the can be highly valuable in today's NFL, especially if deployed correctly.
Beginning with the final drive of the first half, Dak Prescott played the type of football we've rarely seen from him over the last calendar year. He was comfortable in the pocket, seldom abandoning clean looks or running into sacks. He utilized his legs and ability to extend plays when necessary, and delivered some absolute strikes to help the Cowboys offense get into scoring range multiple times. Prescott also picked up some key third downs with his arm to answer Eagles' scoring drives, something we haven't seen from these Cowboys in quite some time.
Dak was far from perfect on Sunday night, but he did show why he is so hard to move on from. When the offensive line is clicking and Prescott can have that comfortability (that is all-too-rare in the NFL), he looks like his Rookie of the Year self. But, we all know that when things really break down, he isn't able to put the offense on his back the way the true "top" quarterbacks are.
I am a Dak Prescott fan. I'll make no mistake about it. But what do we call it when a quarterback is good enough to keep you competitive, can have wildly impressive plays/drives/games while also having wildly frustrating and bad plays/drives/games?
We call that quarterback purgatory. We call that the Cincinnati Bengals.
The only thing which separates Dak and Dallas from being in full purgatory mode, to be quite frank, is Prescott's youth. Because of that youth we can still hope that he can develop as a passer and quit being so gun-shy and timid to make tight window and anticipation throws.
But how long can a team truly wait before they become Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton losing by 30+ points at home?
It's a question which is tough for every team to answer. Dak Prescott is too good to easily replace with a random quarterback off the street, but it's hard to imagine he's good enough to get your team over the hump without significant help around him.
So, in the end, here we are. With the Cowboys at 4-5 fighting with an Alex Smith-led team for what will most likely prove to be a rather irrelevant division title.
But hey, it's always fun to win in Philly isn't it?
Leighton Vander Esch Is A Stud, And Should Be For A Long Time
The Cowboys took their fair share of heat for selecting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch 19th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. But through just over half a season, Dallas is looking vindicated in their decision.
Vander Esch was arguably the best defensive player on the field during Dallas' 27-20 win in Philadelphia Sunday night, and made the two biggest defensive plays of the game as well. Finishing with a game-high 13 tackles, Vander Esch was all over the field in both run and pass defense.
The first of his two massive plays came in the first quarter. After the Cowboys offense stalled deep in their own territory, the Eagles looked to be in prime position to strike first with a short field. On Carson Wentz' first pass attempt of the drive, however, Leighton Vander Esch was there to intercept him and return the ball back 28 yards.
Those return yards proved key as well, giving the Cowboys the short field and an easy path to their first three points of the night. And with the way their offense looked early in this game, Dallas could use all the help they could get.
The biggest play of the game, though, came late in the fourth quarter. With the Eagles facing a third and short and down seven points, they absolutely needed a conversion to keep pace with the surprisingly hot Cowboys offense. Philadelphia tried to beat Dallas with a running back screen to the backside, inviting the pass rush and getting blockers out in front.
There seemed to be nothing but blockers and green grass ahead for the Eagles on this play, with "Next Gen Stats" expecting a 22 yard gain after the catch. Then, Leighton Vander Esch eluded two blockers and tracked down the running back for a loss of 3.
Leighton Vander Esch made a game-saving tackle late in the 4th quarter to preserve the Cowboys 27-20 win. Corey Clement was expected to gain 22 yards after the catch (gained 3), -19 YAC Below Expectation, the most yards saved on a pass play this season. #DALvsPHI #DallasCowboys https://t.co/0DF7jhPQzH
If not for this tackle, who knows how both that Eagles' drive and the game would have ended. Vander Esch saved the day for Dallas, and forced the Eagles into a tough fourth and long situation with the game on the line.
I know it is still early in Vander Esch's career, and even relatively early in this season as well, but it's become clear the Cowboys hit a home run with their 2018 first round selection. Vander Esch is fitting in beside Jaylon Smith with ease, and with those two athletic freaks together, the Cowboys look to have one of the brightest defensive futures in all of football.
Of course, there are now legitimate questions about what the Cowboys should do with their captain Sean Lee. But as of right now, it should be Leighton Vander Esch's job to lose.
Can Cowboys LB Vander Esch Do Enough to Win DROY?
At 3-5, there are very few positive things to point out when discussing the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. One of those few things has been first-round rookie Leighton Vander Esch, whose play at linebacker has taken the league by surprise. Seen as a raw talent who could develop into an elite player with time as a prospect, Vander Esch's impact on the field has been immediate.
Through nine weeks in the NFL season, the Boise State product should definitely be in the Defensive Rookie of the Year discussion. As much as Sean Lee's injury will hurt the Cowboys' defense, it will get the rookie more playing time and a big opportunity to put his name in the minds of NFL Honors voters.
Sean Lee will miss some time after re-injuring his hamstring for the second time this season. Earlier in the year, Jaylon Smith and Vander Esch were able to keep the defense from crumbling without their veteran captain. Even with all the offensive struggles, that should continue to be the case for the linebackers.
Vander Esch has only played in 65% of the Cowboys' defensive snaps, yet he's tied for ninth place in solo tackles in the entire league with 49. He's at 64 total tackles and two pass deflections and has been a magnet to opposing ball carriers every time he's been on the field.
He's the third highest graded rookie LB for Pro Football Focus. Most times, rookies find success like this by being rotational players or simply splitting snaps with other players. But as previously mentioned, Lee has already been out for a handful of games in 2018 and Vander Esch has lived up to the hype.
Simply put, Leighton's play as a rookie has already put Sean Lee's future on the Cowboys in question. With such an injury history and a two young studs ready to take over the reigns, Dallas could very well release Lee prior to the 2019 season.
Now granted, the race for Defensive Rookie of the Year will not be an easy one to win for Vander Esch. Fourth overall pick Denzel Ward has been an impressive cornerback for the Browns and fifth-overall pick Bradley Chubb has been one of the best pass rushers on Sundays. Not to mention the NFL leader in solo tackles, Colts' LB Darius Leonard.
Despite a great start to his season, the Cowboys young LB will have to play way better for his name to be called when the Defensive Rookie of the Year is revealed at the NFL Honors event in February. There are some pretty big names he has to catch up with in order to make this happen.
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