THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys win 4 in a row; Eagles up next

The Cowboys have won four in a row. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys (7-5) won their fourth game in a row Thursday night when they defeated the New Orleans Saints (10-2) by the score of 13-10.  This is their third game in a row where they scored on their opening possession and never trailed the rest of the game.

Dallas held one of the best offenses in the league to only 10 points and now ESPN Stats & information give them an 80.2 % chance of reaching the playoffs.  They played great defense and held the Saints to nine possessions by controlling the ball. The Cowboys had the ball for 36 minutes and 53 seconds of game.

The Cowboys defense was swarming all game long.  They didn’t allow the Saints to pick up a first down until their third possession of the game.  Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were the top two leading tacklers and combined for 19 total (both had 6 solo).  They kept constant pressure on Drew Brees and caused him to start a game 0-for-4 passing for the first time in his 18 year NFL career.  

With the Cowboys defense keeping the Saints from moving the ball, the offense was able to grind out first downs and keep the Saints offense off the field.  Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott touched the ball 29 times. He had 23 carries for 76 yards, 6 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Dak Prescott was very efficient and went 24 of 28 for 248 yards and one touchdown.  He also ran the ball five times for 22 yards. He connected with superstar receiver Amari Cooper 8 times for 75 yards and was also able to find rookie receiver Michael Gallup on a 40 yard pass.

The Cowboys play calling and execution on both sides of the ball was excellent all game long.  They had a great mix of run/pass plays and it seemed like they were running plays out of the Saints playbook.   If they keep this up they could have a chance to make a real run in the playoffs.

With the win, the Cowboys now have a 76.9 % chance of winning the NFC East according to ESPN Football Power Index.  Dallas can basically clinch the division with a win against the Eagles on Sunday.

Players to Watch

  1. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): After week 13 Zeke is the NFL’s second leading rusher.  He is 25 yards behind Todd Gurley.  He might have a hard time finding some running lanes as the Eagles are the 10th best rushing defense in the league.  The Cowboys night need to get creative and get him the ball on some screens and swing passes.  

  2. Michael Gallup (wide Receiver): Had his best game of the year last week and led the team with 76 receiving yards on 5 catches.  He looks to have good chemistry with Dak and had an opportunity to take advantage of Philadelphia’s 26th ranked pass defense.  

  3. Leighton Vander Esch (Linebacker): Dallas’ best defensive player is going to have to come up big and guard the middle of the field against Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz who torched them earlier this season for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys (7-5) will be hosting their division rival Philadelphia (6-6) in which the winner will almost be guaranteed to win the NFC East division.  Kickoff is set for 3:35 pm CST at AT&T; Stadium in Arlington, TX (AKA: Jerry’s World). Both teams are coming off wins this past week and the Cowboys are going to have to be prepared because games against the Eagles are always a struggle but if they keep playing the way they have been playing they should be able to win a fifth game in a row.

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

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

Eagles:  Carson Wentz (QB), Zach Ertz (TE)

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are -3.5 and the over/under is 43.  With the Cowboys defense playing so well recently, I would lean Dallas on this one but only if you can get -3 or less.  

 

Slow to make big moves hasn't equaled a drop in potential for Texans

Texans are better despite slow free agency

The Texans are better today than when the season ended. It isn't a huge improvement, and there is room for far more improvement, but they're better.

Despite some people's frustration with the Texans not making moves they really haven't missed out on much, the draft is where they will truly improve, and people aren't remembering how good, or bad, they were last season.

Tyrann Mathieu is not $20 million better than Tashaun Gipson. I don't even believe Mathieu was the right type of safety for the Texans. He was a mismatch problem on bigger players, specifically tight ends where Gipson thrives. Mathieu was the third best safety on the team last season not playing as well as Kareem Jackson when he was at safety or the total body of Justin Reid who impressed in his rookie season. While the leadership aspect can't be denied, the Texans praised repeatedly the locker room personality Mathieu brought, the team doesn't lack for leaders.

Gipson has had more success in recent years statistically than Mathieu and plays a different style. You'll notice far less tackles and no sacks to Gipson's stat line. He will be asked to cover more than Mathieu was and his success in recent seasons shows he can do that well. He hasn't had to clean up a lot of messes in the Jaguars secondary, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye held their own, his experience playing deep will hopefully help handle the lack of top talent at cornerback for the Texans.

Speaking of cornerback, if that is where Kareem Jackson was going to play for the Texans in 2019 then there is no loss whatsoever in seeing him leave. He was not good as a corner last year after a really solid start to the year as a safety. Bradley Roby is more physically gifted and took a prove-it deal to try to hit the market with more buzz than this year. I would have preferred Jackson sticking around as a safety but alas the Texans didn't seem to see his value there.

Wholesale changes on the offensive line did almost nothing to improve it last season so I am not sure why some fans and media have desired that again. Yes, they shouldn't have been outbid on Roger Saffold (Titans) by a division rival who has invested greatly in their offensive line. No, Trent Brown (Raiders) and his bloated contract wasn't the answer at left tackle. Matt Paradis is coming off a broken leg at the center spot though he would have been an upgrade at center.

It is clear help on the line is coming via the draft, a deep one along the line might I add. With three picks in the top two rounds there will be opportunities to find players to push Nick Martin, Senio Kelemete, and Julién Davenport and it isn't out of the question. Seantrell Henderson despite his new contract is pushed by a rookie as well. This is a fine plan as only Nick Martin was a top round pick of any of the Texans current offensive linemen.

Also, this team won 11 games last season. Don't let a disappointing playoff performance skew how this team played. Deshaun Watson is going to improve and that is the most important thing about this team. He won't take as many hits as he did last season with draft investment and improvement of players on the roster. The rookie tight ends have a year of seasoning under their belt. D'Onta Foreman and Keke Coutee should be healthy and eventually Will Fuller will return. The defense returns or has replaced key figures.

Acting like this is a team that had to spend money just because they had cap space isn't a smart way to look at this team. Typically a team sucks when they have this much cap space, the Texans didn't fall into that category. Is there still room for improvement? No doubt. There's also room to find multiple bargains, be a destination for a trade post-draft, and pay Clowney. Relax, this is a long offseason. The Texans are better today than last week.

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