The Cowboys Report

Cowboys face Bucs with playoff berth in reach

Jason Garret and the Cowboys are close to clinching. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys (8-6) lost to the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) on Sunday by the score of 23-0. It was their first loss in their last six games and it looked like they were never mentally in the game. It was probably due to the fact that even though they lost, they still have a 97.7% chance to win the NFC East according to ESPN's Football Power Index.

The Cowboys didn't have any motivation and their offense was weak. They struggled to move the ball and failed to make plays in key moments. A dropped pass, bad play calling, and turnovers were the pivotal factors that led to the loss.

Ezekiel Elliott was the lone offensive bright spot. He carried the ball 18 times for 87 yards and caught 7 passes for 41 yards. He was credited with a lost fumble on the Colt's 3 yard line but it was on a fourth and goal play where he was stopped short of the end zone and the Colts were taking over possession no matter what.

Quarterback Dak Prescott did not play well and only got the ball to superstar receiver Amari Cooper 4 times for 32 yards. He looked uncomfortable and was never allowed to settle in. He was 24 of 29 for 206 yards, NO touchdowns, and 1 interception. The Colts sacked him three times and didn't allow him to use his legs to scramble.

The Cowboys defense played hard and did their best to stay in the game but ultimately ran out of gas. They held Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck to under 200 yards passing and didn't allow him to throw any touchdowns. The problem was they were torn up on the ground. Running back Marlon Mack carried the ball 27 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

Dallas is now only up one game on both the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) and the Washington Redskins (7-7), but Dallas owns the tiebreaker over them and is essentially up two games with two left to play.

  1. Players to Watch
  1. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): Still the NFL's leading rusher and has a good chance of locking up the title this week as he will be going against Tampa Bay's 27th ranked rush defense. After the loss, I think the Cowboy offense will be looking to make a statement.
  2. Amari Cooper (Wide Receiver): Had a sub-par game last week but has a great matchup this week against the 27th ranked Buccaneer pass defense. The Cowboys should get him the ball early and often to come away with another win.
  3. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, and Jeff Heath (defensive secondary): These guys are going to have to play another great game because they will be facing the NFL's #1 passing offense which is led by star receiver Mike Evans. Evans has the ability to score any time he touches the ball and the Bucs like to throw it to him a lot anytime they are near the end zone.

The Dallas Cowboys (8-6) will be at home taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is set for 12:00 pm CST at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX (AKA: Jerry's World). Dallas should be driven to win and lock up the NFC East and the #4 playoff seed. The only way they don't win the division is if they lose both games and either Philadelphia or Washington wins both of their games.

If you have any fantasy players, the only must start players are:

Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Amari Cooper (WR), Dak Prescott (QB)

Buccaneers: Mike Evans (WR)

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are -7.5 and the over/under is 47.5. I believe the Cowboys will be looking to finalize their playoff hopes this week and basically earn a bye week in Week 17 so Dallas would be the play but I would try and get the number at 7 or less.

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Houston's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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