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Will December bring another bitter end for the Cowboys?

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Cowboys Blog - Will December bring another bitter end for the Cowboys?

Dallas enters the stretch run with the NFC East there for the taking.  Again.  Fourth time’s a charm….?

It’s all so familiar.  Cowboys fans have sat tied and blindfolded in darkness for much of the past decade, not knowing when, or how often, a two-by-four to the knees would strike.  Football torture can be a cruel, cruel thing.

So forgive our Pavlovian flinch each time someone utters “playoffs” or implications involving January football.  Such is the result of the constant hope and disappointment that regurgitated 8-8s brings.  Season after season of flawed squads in win-or-go-home finales has calloused and conditioned this fan base to expect the worst.  It’s just been too long.

(Good gosh what it must be like to be a Guantanamo Eagles fan.)

This certainly isn’t the first time Dallas has sat in decent shape heading into Thanksgiving, but it’s been an annual striptease that ends in a $300 bar tab.  But this go at it should be from 8-3, rather than the 6-4, 5-5, and 6-5 in recent seasons.

Football logic, if there is such a thing, says that this time is different.  The group is far more fundamentally sound, balanced, constructed, and focused for a stretch run.  It’s not all Romo-or-else as it was before, with Murray running wild and a transformed defense that looks the part of a real NFL unit.  And health, dare I say it, seems hauntingly on the Cowboys’ side.

But…..I don’t know.  Squeamishness is setting in as we file into the shadows of December, where orcs and gremlins normally ruin the holidays.  That damned Pavlov and his wicked ways.

Tony Romo’s back has to hold up for Thanksgiving, just a few hours after a Sunday nighter in New York.  His health going forward is paramount, as the alternative against Arizona proved beyond doubt.  True, the run game and defense make this a much more December-worthy team, and far less codependent on Romo, especially in the cold, wet, and wind that awaits.  Winning low-scoring affairs is not laughable anymore because this is thankfully not like recent Dallas teams.

Over there in the far corner sits Philadelphia.  The Eagles, too, have their demons to exorcise, despite the national fawning over Chip Kelly and his hocus-pocus offense.  One game, they’re tearing through opponents like high schoolers, then another, they can’t score an offensive touchdown.  Their running game is disappointing, as is their red zone offense.  Mark Sanchez is apparently the next Joe Montana in this offense by all reports, butt fumble and years of prior failures conveniently pushed aside.  They lead the league by a mile with nine defensive/special team scores, which isn’t sustainable.

So how will the NFC East end?  Here’s my week-by-week take.

Week 11:  The Packers drop the Eagles to 7-3 this weekend while the Cowboys heal.  It’s a dead heat with both head-to-head matchups looming soon.

Week 12:  A healthy Dallas squad rolls over a Giants team that is giving up massive rushing totals and is basically already in offseason mode.  The Eagles pound Tennessee, also done for this season already.  Both teams are 8-3 heading into the Thanksgiving showdown.

Week 13:  Mark Sanchez is not one for the bright lights of the national stage.  His history says so, and Dallas, thanks to an easy win in New York and quick exit for Romo, has a healthy quarterback despite short rest.  Nothing is easy about this classic all-timer, but Dallas manages a 27-24 win to take a one game lead in the division.

Week 14:  Dallas gets another team that’s imploding from within in Chicago the following Thursday.  The coach and quarterback are on the hot seat, and Jay Cutler is in full pout mode.  Dallas wins to put the pressure on Philadelphia to keep pace, and the Eagles have Seattle coming to town fighting for their own season.  This is the critical game for Philadelphia because a loss here is devastating for them.  Cowboys fans will be riveted to this game, but will be disappointed as the Eagles get this done at home.  Dallas maintains a one-game lead.

Week 15:  The rematch at Philly brings a few days extra rest for Dallas, thanks to back-to-back Thursday games, and that could bode well, as could nighttime temperatures that favor the better running team.  However, a road gremlin bites Dallas, and they drop a close one to the Eagles, which brings the race back even at 10-4 each.  Could have ended this there, but didn’t. Ouch.

Week 16:  From here, the schedule appears to benefit Philadelphia.  However, the Eagles get surprised by a feisty Redskins team that is under pressure by the home fans and owner, and the Eagles drop one unexpectedly to their bitter rival from just down the road.  Unfortunately, the Cowboys home woes continue, and they drop a close one to Indianapolis and fail to take advantage again.  Both are now 10-5.

Week 17:  With the division hanging in the balance, both teams step forward and finish strong.  The Eagles beat New York, and Dallas wins in Washington with a much better plan against Jim Haslett’s blitz scheme.    Dallas and Philadelphia finish with identical 11-5 records.

So now what?  This is where it gets really crazy as it takes the fourth tiebreaker to determine a winner.

Dallas and Philly split the head-to-head, both teams finish 4-2 in the division, and both teams are 10-4 against common opponents.  Dallas wins the NFC East based on conference record with a one-game advantage (10-4) over Philly (9-5).  Both teams are playoff bound, but Dallas doesn’t earn a bye.

All that is to say, whether I’ve pegged it or I’ve got it all out-of-order, we’re all still bound and blindfolded, hoping we don’t get another whack across our knees.  Let’s hope Dr. Pavlov took December off this year.



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Cowboys Defense is Ready to Win Now, Time for Offense to Prove the Same

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Defense is Ready to Win Now, Time for Offense to Prove the Same
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

The Dallas Cowboys lead the NFC East at 1-1, and have a favorable schedule ahead of them. With such an inexperienced roster, early season growing pains were expected, and likely should be still as the team comes off their first win to play in Seattle on Sunday.

Through a season opening clunker in Carolina and hard-earned divisional win against the Giants, the Cowboys have exceeded already high expectations on defense.

With the currently 0-2 Seahawks, Lions, and Texans awaiting Dallas, the time is now for Scott Linehan's offense to hit their stride. It will take more than a five week assessment to determine if the Cowboys are truly playoff contenders for 2018, but it could take even less than that for Cowboys Nation to realize this team is fighting an uphill battle at QB and WR.

Following Dak Prescott's 64-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin against the Giants, the Cowboys punted on four of their remaining seven drives. The Cowboys did a better job mixing up their early down play calling to remain ahead of the chains for most of the night, but even still their execution was lacking. Finishing three of ten on third downs, the Cowboys didn't sustain the type of originality on offense that earned them an early cushion.

Thankfully, the Cowboys turning back the clock to 2016 on a clinching touchdown drive of 14 plays would be all the defense needed. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott would both convert a pair of first downs on the ground. The Cowboys took a 20-3 lead, and more importantly the game clock down to 5:45 with an eight minute and 23 second march.

As such, the Cowboys offense is an enigma. With the return of Brice Butler, the team is currently carrying seven wide receivers and four tight ends.

On defense, the Cowboys are expecting reinforcements in Xavier Woods, Randy Gregory, and David Irving to further bolster this aggressive, blitzing unit in the coming weeks. For the offense, Dallas must make the most out of the unknown depth they have, without any drastic change in style around the corner.

The Cowboys record under Prescott proves they're at their best when Dak is efficient. The ceiling for a new-look Cowboys offense built for Dak is not as high for this reason. Through just two weeks, it's clear that the Cowboys offense will be as good as the sum of its parts - instead of relying on any individual talents.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys' record when Dak Prescott ... Doesn't throw an interception: 20-4 Records at least a 100.0 passer rating: 15-1 Commits no turnovers: 18-1

After a strong preseason from rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup, the third-round pick has played less than half his team's offensive snaps through two games. Cole Beasley has seemed to regain his connection with Prescott, snagging a team high nine catches so far. Terrance Williams has been a non-factor, and the same is surprisingly said about FA acquisition Allen Hurns.

Regardless of what the Cowboys do over the coming weeks, a few narratives and lingering questions about the team feel evident. With the defense set to tee off against the Seahawks sub par OL this week, Rod Marinelli's unit will still likely not receive the credit it deserves heading into week four.

With the task at hand being maintaining their standing atop the division, the Cowboys must also be out to prove they can sustain success without a consistent passing game.

All of this to effectively say, the Cowboys are going to Seattle expecting to control the game on defense. To finish off Russell Wilson in his home opener (already at 0-2), it will take a sharper performance for a full four quarters on offense too.

A win at the Seahawks might not mean as much as it has in past seasons, but in improving the Cowboys record to 2-1 on the way back to AT&T Stadium, it could be all the confidence they need to understand the NFC East is theirs for the taking while continuing to truly find their identity.

2014 NFL: Week 6 Cowboys vs. Seahawks highlights

Week 6 Own by nfl

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys Defense is Ready to Win Now, Time for Offense to Prove the Same" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next

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Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next

Dallas may only be 1-1 on the season, but the Cowboys are officially tied for first-place in the NFC East, and fresh off a workmanlike victory over divisional rivals, the New York Giants. It was a game they should have won, and did win, but the takeaways so early in the season are that, although the offense has not clicked on all cylinders, the defense is getting high praise.

The Cowboys sacked New York’s Eli Manning six times and limited the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley, to a mere 28 yards rushing. It was also a night in which Dak Prescott not only out-gained Barkley by 17 yards on the ground, but torched the Giants’ secondary on a 64-yard touchdown strike to Tavon Austin which proved New York’s Safety Landon Collins wrong when leading up to this game he remarked that the key to a Giants’ victory would be getting Prescott to throw. When Prescott was made aware of the comment in a midweek interview he replied, "…challenge accepted," and the third-year veteran made good on his word leading to the 20-13 victory.

However, Prescott ended the night with just 160 yards passing yet the ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 showed no signs of rearing its head as Prescott moved seamlessly in the pocket and ran the ball well.

As we move ahead to the Cowboys meeting in Seattle, we take a quick check over to one of the most reputable online sportsbooks in the industry - Intertops according to the reviews - where we can monitor the line on this pivotal NFC clash as the week progresses.

Seattle boasts a talented quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson but one who will find the sledding tough if the Dallas defense continues to shut down All-World wide outs like Odell Beckham Jr. and contain future rushing stars like Saquon Barkley. Outside of Wilson, Seattle is not loaded offensively, with their biggest target, Doug Baldwin, ailing with a knee injury and a backfield which consists of two young rushers in second-year man Chris Carson and a first-round rookie in Rashaad Penny who dealt with nagging injuries throughout the preseason and looked unsettled in Seattle’s 27-24 loss to the Broncos.

The Cowboys defense has already proven its worth in Carolina with Cam Newton under center and again last week against New York. The unit is surrendering an average of 14 ½ points per game and is incorporating more blitz packages than we’ve come to expect.

The difference this year is that the players they have on defense are capable of getting to the quarterback quick enough so that the coverage linebackers and secondary aren’t alone on an island for too long. The one concern is the status of Linebacker Sean Lee, who checked out of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday night and brought to mind his hamstring issues of a year ago, but apparently it was in fact cramping, and not straining, of the hammy which allowed Lee to return.

The bottom line in terms of the Cowboys' upcoming matchup on Sunday afternoon is that they will get the Seahawks coming off a short week, as Seattle played on Monday night and should be relatively healthy for the contest.

Dak Prescott may not have the formidable offensive line that he has had in the past, nor a top-tier arsenal of receivers, but he does have the elusive Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and is capable of extricating himself from pressure situations when no target is available.

If the Dallas defense continues to play at the current level, it will not only be limiting the opposition on the scoreboard but putting its offense in good field position throughout. So check out Intertops, one of the most trusted and reputable online sportsbooks, to see where this line goes because a Dallas win and an ATS cover are just days away.



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Taco Tuesday: Cowboys DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?

Brian Martin

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Taco Tuesday: DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

There has been quite a bit of talk about what a bad decision it was for the Dallas Cowboys to draft Taco Charlton with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Nearly everybody wanted someone different, not a player that needed time to develop.

Well, fast forward a year later and it looks as if the Cowboys made the right decision.

Don't look now, but Defensive End Taco Charlton is starting to live up to that first-round pedigree. In the first two weeks of the 2018 season, Charlton has already looked like a much improved player from what we saw a season ago. Imagine that, a little bit of time to develop and he's turning into a solid player.

I know I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself, especially suggesting that he is starting to dominate, but I can't help myself. I'm that excited about how much he has improved in one offseason. I may be alone here, but I have high hopes he could turn into something special.

In 2017, Taco Charlton failed to start a single game for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie. That's not really what you want from your first-round draft pick. To makes matters worse, in 16 games he only registered 25 total tackles, four QB sacks, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. As you can imagine, it didn't sit well with most Cowboys fans.

Luckily, it looks as if Charlton's offseason in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program has paid off. Already in 2018 he has accumulated six total tackles, one QB sack, one pass defensed, and recovered a fumble. If he keeps this pace up, we could be looking at #97 reaching double-digit sacks this year.

Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton

Now, I wouldn't call what Taco Charlton has accomplished so far this season dominating, but he is proving to be a starting quality DE along the Cowboys defensive line. It's a unit that has looked really good in the first two weeks of the season and is expected to be even better once Randy Gregory and David Irving are able to return to the field.

In the meantime, the Dallas Cowboys are happy to get plays like this from Taco Charlton.

Taco Charlton Eli Manning sack

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This is a play Charlton is expected to make. He was left unblocked, but we've seen players left unblocked before not make the play. So, it may not be as impressive as some QB sacks. But, I'll take the routine tackle any day over someone trying to make a splash play and failing.

If you're looking for an impressive play from Taco Charlton, take a look at what he was able to do against Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game.

Taco Charlton covering Odell Beckham Jr

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

In case you're wondering, that's Taco Charlton in OBJ's hip pocket 15 yards down the field in pass coverage. It looks as if that's where Eli Manning was wanting to go with the ball, but tight coverage by the Cowboys, and Charlton, across the board ended up resulting in a QB sack.

If you don't find that impressive, I don't know what will. A 275 pound DE covering arguably the best and highest paid wide receiver down the field is almost unheard of. I would count that as impressive.

What do you think of Taco Charlton's play so far in 2018?



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