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What I Learned From 2008

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Despite the suffering I endured, I learned quite a bit about the little things in football. In a season where your expectations are marginal, you tend to not question all the bad things that can happen in a given season because you expected them. In 2007 my expectations were actually pretty low. Sure we were in the Play Offs the year prior, but we were all aware of our limitations at CB and so I felt are defense was going to get torched every week. My expectations came equipped with knowledge that this team was incomplete and could be exploited.

But in 2008, there wasn't a weakness to be found, for the exception of behind the QB and, hey, it's Romo, he doesn't get sacked. He's elusive. He's got a feel for the pocket. He knows how to avoid the defensive rush. Blah, blah, blah. CB was more than fortified with a healthy Newman and the additions of Pacman, Jenkins and Scandrick. Safety was manned by 2 Pro Bowlers. The LB's and DL had a decent rotation. It was going to be the return of the Dooms Day defense coupled with an offense that outscored every team in the league the year prior. My expectations, needless to say, left no room for any excuses for failure, for the exception of injury.

And then injuries happened, but still...I had questions. And a good many of those questions were answered by my incessant need to feed off all things Dallas Cowboy's football related in any sports site available. And believe me, despite all that I already knew about this game I love, I learned so much more than all my years combined in this season alone because of this failure to my expectations. What did I learn?

You can't buy a Super Bowl. My boyhood perception of how the Cowboy's played other teams was somewhat skewed. I felt, they didn't simply win. They man-handled their opponents. I'm not sure how I missed it, but in hindsight, those games were hard. Every one of them was a mountain for that team to climb. My memories of Emmitt Smith play out like a highlight reel. But not every run Smith made yielded yards. Not every game was won with Emmitt's feet. Irvin didn’t make the acrobatic catch to win every game. Aikman, in his time, wasn't considered a great quarterback with the likes of Dan Marino, Joe Montana, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Phil Simms, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon and Boomer Esiason playing at that time. They were in fact fallible. And character, well, the undesirables were starters on that roster too. . But everyone played and played hard. They worked together. It wasn't exactly what you would call a great composition of talent, either. There were players playing above their station, as the Super Bowl MVP of 1995 might have indicated.

I learned about the power of belief. Belief is a strong word in the world of football. I watched the interview of Ray Lewis prior to the Baltimore game assured in my own belief that the Cowboy's would win having the stronger offense in a game that featured two very stout defenses. But after the interview, I had my doubts. Why? You could see that Ray Lewis believed. And since we all know that he is what makes that defense play beyond their individual reputations, I knew that entire defense believed too. And then, when I saw their offense play with that same sense of entitlement to the win in this game, absolute dread seeped in. And harder still about that game is the Cowboys repeatedly gave me hope in that fourth quarter, only to see those hopes crashed on a shore of missed tackles and missed opportunities.

It reminded of something I remember seeing throughout that successful 2007 season. Remember Romo’s smile? Sure I wrote several articles about the power of his smile and how the offense seemingly played better when he wore that on his face. But I never really delved in, I don’t think, into what that smile meant. But I think we all know that ultimately it meant he believed. He believed in the plays being called, the players that surrounded him, and his ability to do whatever he wanted with that ball without contention. A fumble here, an interception there, but the next time we saw him in the huddle, there was that infectious smile again saying something like “Hey, will get them this time.” And typically he was right. He generally always followed up a bone headed mistake with something to make you forget all about it.

Throughout the offseason following the draft and through the preseason I had a sliver of a doubt about rather or not this collective of talent could play as a team. But that doubt was constantly assuaged away with sports analyst abroad stating with utter confidence this Cowboys team was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Like no team I have heard about in the preseason in years prior, this Cowboys team was the talk of the town with their impressive role call at training camp. This highlighted by the Hard Knocks crews turned the Cowboys into the ultimate Hollywood team. And with that, I wondered what type of effect it would have on these Cowboys. But I wanted to believe what they sold us: That’s part of being a member of the Cowboys. You have to get used to that attention because the Cowboys are America’s team. I learned that no football team is bulletproof to distraction; no body is immune to acting different under the encouragement of the stage lights. These guys, million dollar contract or not, are just like any of us.

The Texans in years past with David Carr under center taught us about how important the Offensive Line is, regardless of the other talent present on the field. But once again I made the mistake of believing irresponsible sports analyst who stated that the Cowboys OL are only second to the Browns, in terms of strength. Then, as the season progressed, I learned how he came to that determination; not through observation, but pure stats and a popularity contest known as the Pro Bowl. How effective were the passing and running games in the year prior? How often did the QB get sacked? Of these players, who went to the Pro Bowl? The first two questions could be answered naming one player: Tony Romo. He made both Jason Garrett and the Offensive Line look great in 2007! I was there; I saw it.

The last question answered itself over time. The Pro Bowl, unfortunately, take’s 1/3 of fans votes. And let’s face it, how many fans vote for players outside of their team? A huge bias is in place in the voting, and well, it pretty much has rendered the game to serving as an ability for a ‘popular’ player to petition for more money on his contract. But because some sport’s analyst from a credible source said my OL was great and I wanted to believe it, my questions of this assessment initially didn’t go very far…not until their performance demanded I do so. And to be honest, I was disgusted. Because I watched these players in the offseason and I saw that they thought very highly of themselves for all the recognition getting poured on them when any Cowboy faithful who watched the 2007 season should know these accolades were completely undeserved.

And so it is in the game football. Fans and analyst alike are not impervious to misleading concepts. As a fan I don’t watch every game and can’t expect a sport analyst to watch every game of the previous season for every team he decides to write an opinion on. But the ultimate lesson here, regardless of whose formula it is that measures performance, they are all based on stats which doesn’t always tell the whole story.

This leads me to my next lesson learned. The media is a monster; the worse kind of monster. Remember Aliens with Sigourney Weaver? The media is that kind of monster. You see, their pretty dangerous in their own right, but then their articles act like those spider-looking creatures with tails (or tales if you prefer) that plant little eggs in you which hatch and create more monsters. See the parallel? Then we get all these disciples regurgitating what was said by a previous reporter with an anonymous source and the epidemic spreads.

Which brings me to the last lesson.

In the wanning moments of that dreadful season, everyone had an opinion of who should be fired, who should be released, and who should change as a player or coach. I've offered my opinion on these drastic changes a few times myself. Some have even suggested the Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should fire the Cowboys GM Jerry Jones and have started a fund raiser requesting donations of $5 or more to put said request on billboards throughout the city.

Word? You think that might work? Sorry, I sense an epic fail in the making. Maybe if it was just a strange coincidence that both these individuals had the same name, just maybe, that would work. But we are talking about a wealthy man who made his money in oil. I’m sure he saw plenty of billboards suggesting he fire himself to save the environment and we all see how well he took that suggestion. He bought a football team with his earnings. He didn’t spend it repairing the environment or donating it all to some note worthy cause, though I’m sure he’s made a few contributions here and there that is not a drop in the bucket to his accumulative wealth; he purchased a football franchise to live out the ultimate Fantasy Football League and has been doing so now for twenty years.

So, write your letters. Sing your songs. Make your jokes. But know your role. As a fan, you are static. Your opinion does not effect change even if you have a plane with a huge banner circle Jerry Jones mansion. I have said it before: That is the rub of being a fan of anything in general; you share in the success and failures of outcomes you have nothing to do with as a spectator. It is a frustrating existence when your team loses. But the human condition forces us to believe that we can control all things, which is why we argue, debate, fight, and go to war. This concept in life is bigger than just the game of football. It affects everyone and everything around us. And when you broaden your view to see the big picture and all that it encompasses, such as the war, the suffering that surrounds us, the news filled with inhumanity in a world dominated by humans (irony intended), things like a losing season of your favorite football team seems so small. And that is the biggest lesson of them all…



I am 35, married and a father of 2 boys. I have been a Cowboys fan since Jimmy Johnson took over; not because I had anything against Tom Landry, but because it just so happens I was old enough to start following and understanding football right as that new era began. Since then, I haven't missed games if I could help it.

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room

Sean Martin

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Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room 1

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off their most impressive win of the season, keeping playoff hopes alive on the road with a 27-20 victory at the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the hostile home of the defending Super Bowl champions with three previous road losses already on their record, the Cowboys performance on Sunday night was truly about getting back to their roots. In their second week with Marc Colombo as the Offensive Line Coach, the Cowboys rushed for 171 yards and protected Dak Prescott very well. It was revealed after the game that Frederick was on a coaches headset with Colombo and his new assistant Hudson Houck.

Jane Slater on Twitter

Travis Frederick just told @BenRogers on @1053thefan that Marc Columbo has him on a coaches headset now helping him and Hudson Houck. That's a smart move from Columbo. Smartest guy on the line

The anchor of the Cowboys offensive line since being drafted in 2013, Frederick is regarded as the smartest linemen on the team. It's his mental edge that's made up for a slight lack of size at the position, regarded as one of the worst first round picks in his draft because of this oversight.

Not only is Frederick a welcome addition to the Cowboys brain trust at offensive line, but he did receive some great news on his battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that's kept him out this season. Frederick was placed on injured reserve on October 6th, announcing publicly his GBS diagnosis on August 22nd.

Frederick has a long way to go before he's playing football again, not eligible to do so until week 14 at home against the Eagles. Regaining feeling in his hands is about the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee getting as healthy as possible away from football. If a return to the Cowboys is possible through his recovery, the team would of course welcome Frederick.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Travis Frederick regains sensation in his hands: "There is some light at the end of the tunnel" https://t.co/wvQhB6KUQp

What Frederick has gained in upper body strength, he must remain patient for in the lower body. While pointing out that over 95% of patients make a full recovery from GBS, Frederick is still waiting to feel sensations in his feet.

The Cowboys have been optimistic that Frederick's condition was caught early enough for a full recovery to be probable.

Dallas' schedule doesn't get any easier following their uplifting win. Returning to the site of last year's demoralizing loss at the Falcons, Frederick likely wishes he could make a miraculous return just a bit more this week.

To make matters worse, Left Tackle Tyron Smith did not practice on Wednesday due to back spasms. It's unknown if rookie Connor Williams will reclaim his starting left guard spot on Sunday, or if Xavier Su'a-Filo has earned another opportunity.

Despite the patchwork nature of a Cowboys offensive line once regarded as the best in the league, and still vital to the entire team's success, Dallas has an abundance of hope that Sunday in Atlanta can be much better than 2017. This starts with Frederick's strength to fight GBS and attempt to rejoin his teammates, wisely given some added game day influence on them by Colombo.

If elevating their level of play up front was all it took for the Cowboys to play up to their potential and pull off an upset on prime time last week, the NFC East is certainly still within reach for a team that must now sustain the level of play on offense to match what this defense has given all season.

Tell us what you think about "Travis Frederick Regains Strength in Hands, Influence in Cowboys OL Room" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Playoff Scenarios; Week 11 Impact Games

Jess Haynie

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Dak Prescott, Redskins

We've reached Week 11 and the playoff picture is continuing to be unveiled. Most of the NFC has seven games to go, and there's still a lot of ways each week can impact the overall landscape.

The Rams and Saints are the clear runaway teams in the conference this year. After them, though, a lot of up for grabs both in division races and the Wild Card spots.

We're not including Detroit and Tampa Bay, both 3-6, given the strong unlikelihood that they will turn things around. Detroit is the worst team in a stacked NFC North and will likely keep losing, and a head-to-head loss to the Cowboys will be tough to overcome. The Bucs can't decide on a quarterback right now and are going nowhere.

If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:

  1. Los Angeles Rams (9-1)
  2. New Orleans Saints (8-1)
  3. Chicago Bears (6-3)
  4. Washington Redskins (6-3)
  5. Carolina Panthers (6-3)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Green Bay Packers (4-4-1)
  8. Atlanta Falcons (4-5)
  9. Seattle Seahawks (4-5)
  10. Dallas Cowboys (4-5)
  11. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Bears are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a better record against NFC opponents.
  • The Falcons are ahead of the Seahawks and Cowboys thanks to a superior record against NFC opponents.
  • The Seahawks are ahead of the Cowboys thanks to a head-to-head victory.
  • The Cowboys are ahead of the Eagles thanks to a head-to-head victory.
  • The Eagles' tiebreaker loss to Dallas, because it occurs within the division, drops them below the other 4-5 NFC teams automatically. Their head-to-head win over the Falcons this year is invalidated.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how winning the NFC East would likely be Dallas only road to the playoffs. That is still the case; the Cowboys are three games behind the Panthers (they lose in a tie because of their head-to-head loss) and two games behind the Vikings for the Wild Card spots.

It will be much easier for Dallas to catch Washington, who are more lucky than good with their 6-3 record, than either Carolina or Minnesota.  The Cowboys can still hang a loss on the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, plus Washington has both games with the Eagles left to play.

Those opportunities are further down the road, though. For now, let's see how the Week 11 schedule can help improve the Cowboys playoff positioning:

Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks

With a head-to-head loss to Seattle this year, Dallas needs the Seahawks to keep losing. Both teams are currently 4-5, and the Cowboys don't need that tiebreaker hanging over them at the end of the year.

But a Seattle loss means a Green Bay win, and that doesn't do much to help the Cowboys either. The Packers's tie gives them a slight edge on the 4-5 teams, and that advantage could keep them ahead of Dallas the rest of the way.

You could argue that the Packers are a team more likely to make a late-season push than the Seahawks, so a Green Bay loss here could ultimately benefit the Cowboys more than Seattle. It really  comes down to which team, between the Packers and Seahawks, you have more faith in the rest of the way.

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons

This is obviously a huge game for both teams. Both are 4-5 and trying to stay in the conversation, and a loss here could be a death knell for either. It would also create a head-to-head tiebreaker for the winner over the loser; essentially a two-game swing.

The Cowboys won their first road game all season last week in Philadelphia. They have some good vibes and momentum headed into Atlanta, who are coming off an ugly loss to the Browns.

Will Dallas ride their positive wave for another week, or will the Falcons be hungrier and enjoy returning home? The answer could be season-changing for both teams.

Houston Texans @ Washington Redskins

The Texans have won six straight and the Cowboys hope they can keep it going. A Washington loss, coupled with a Dallas win in Atlanta, would narrow the gap between them to just one game. It would also make next week's Thanksgiving matchup in Dallas a chance for the Cowboys to pull even for the NFC East lead.

As I said before, the Redskins aren't as good as their 6-3 record indicates. They have only a +1 point differential in 2018, having scored just one point more than their opponents all year. Comparatively, the Cowboys are a +10 despite the losing record.

A few weeks ago, the Redskins got pounded 43-19 by the New Orleans Saints. The Texans are arguably the next-best team they've played this year. Hopefully, we'll see a similar result.

Carolina Panthers @ Detroit Lions

The Panthers' slipping would be nice for the Cowboys, though they'd have to fall hard the rest of the way for Dallas to catch up in the standings. With the Cowboys having a head-to-head win over the Lions, a Detroit win here wouldn't hurt us nearly as much as a Carolina loss helps.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints

New Orleans appears set on being one of the top two seeds in the NFC this year, which puts them well out of Dallas' range. As such, an Eagles loss is clearly better for the Cowboys in terms of our own playoff positioning.

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

The Packers and Vikings are both slightly easier to catch than the Bears. The best scenario for Dallas is for Chicago to keep winning and take the NFC North, hanging losses on their division rivals on the way and making things easier for the Cowboys in the Wild Card hunt.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Rams

This one is almost irrelevant from Dallas' perspective. The Rams will probably clinch their division soon and should have a first-round bye. But the Chiefs are in the other conference, so there's absolutely nothing to be gained by them losing.



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Game Notes

#ATLvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This week's gambling preview focuses on the Cowboys week 11 opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Dallas beat the now 4-5 Eagles last Sunday to improve their own record to 4-5. Atlanta lost on the road to Cleveland last week to drop their record to 4-5 on the season.

It's an 8-8 league, isn't it?

Dallas returns to the scene of the 2017 crime this Sunday, traveling to Atlanta where Chaz Green and Dak Prescott were destroyed almost exactly one year ago. Let's take a look at the line and the quality of these teams to see which way it could go.

The Line

Cowboys +3, O/U 48 points. 

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas saved their season on the road last Sunday night, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles and getting right back in the thick of things in the NFC East race. Still, we can't simply ignore what the other 8 games of data have told us about the Cowboys and their offensive quality.

The addition of Amari Cooper has clearly helped the offense, opening up the passing game a bit and allowing for Dak Prescott to have a reliable "number one" receiver. The team's results overall have been mixed the first two games of the Cooper-era, but he has been consistently good in both match-ups.

Defensively the Cowboys continued to impress last week, though "cornerback opposite of Byron Jones" is quickly becoming a potential need. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith stole the show last Sunday, and both the present and the future of the Cowboys' linebacking corps is strong. It could be argued the Cowboys have yet to see a passing attack like the one Atlanta brings, however, making Sunday a big test for them defensively.

Atlanta Falcons

Similar to the Cowboys, Atlanta has been very much up-and-down this season. In a way, though, they are just the opposite-day Cowboys, with their offense putting up insane numbers most weeks and their banged up defense often letting them down.

Though it looked like they were turning it around in recent weeks, Atlanta had probably their most disappointing loss in quite some time, losing at Cleveland to the young Browns. Still, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones lead a prolific passing attack which can strike fear in any defense.

Byron Jones and company will have their hands full with the Falcons' cast of skill players on Sunday, and as usual, stopping their passing attack will all begin up front with the pass rush. Hopefully Randy Gregory can build on his week 10 performance to produce even more results this week.

Trends

  • Surprisingly, the score total has now hit the over 4 of the Cowboys' last 6 games.
  • The Cowboys are 2-5 against the spread their last 7 games against the Falcons.
  • The Cowboys are also 2-4 against the spread their last games at Atlanta.
  • Dallas is just 1-4 straight up on the road this season.
  • The score total has gone over 4 of Atlanta's last 5 home games.
  • The Falcons are just 2-5 against the spread their last 7 games.

Prediction

Who the hell knows, man.

This team is incredibly difficult to project week to week, probably about as volatile as they've been since all those 8-8 seasons. This line started at Cowboys +4.5 and has since moved down to just +3, meaning they are valued as a pick 'em on a neutral field.

Given how inconsistent, yet talented, both teams are this line feels exactly right. I'll take the Cowboys and the points because why not? I expect this to be a tight game throughout, and could come down to the kicking game in the fourth quarter.



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