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 loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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