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.  

 

Every-Thing Sports

Positions to watch at Texans training camp

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Football season is finally upon us. We've waited since the Super Bowl ended (or longer for those who eject after their team is eliminated) for another taste of football. The offseason has been tumultuous for the Texans as they fired their general manager, franchised their enigmatic for number one overall pick, failed to draft the best player at their biggest position of need, and didn't sign any top flight talent in free agency.

Training camp starts on Thursday July 25 for the Texans. This is a team that went 11-5 and won the AFC South last year. People out there are expecting them to win the division again, repeat that 11-5 record or better, or some are expecting them to possibly challenge for a Super Bowl berth. I, however, am a bit more reserved in my expectations. I can see an 8-8 type of season, or a 10-6 season. That will depend on how some key positions perform. Usually there are a few players and/or positions to look out for every camp. Here's a look at some positions (and players) that will make or break the Texans' season:

Offensive Line

The Texans missed on Andre Dillard when the Eagles swooped in front of them and drafted the best tackle prospect in the draft at the pick in front of them. They followed that up with drafting Tytus Howard with their first round pick and Max Scharping with the second of their second round pick. Signing Matt Khalil, an injury prone left tackle that once had All-Pro ability, did very little to ease fears. If Deshaun Watson is to avoid another 60+ sack season, the OL will have to improve greatly.

Edge Rusher

With Jadeveon Clowney out until he signs his franchise tender, and Whitney Mercilus in a contract year, expect this position to be hotly contested as well. Not only are guys going to get reps with Clowney out until hr signs the franchise tag then reports, and Mercilus competing for his livelihood as well, not only will other guys get valuable reps, but some may get a chance to shine and prove why they may be worthy of more time..

Wide Receiver

After DeAndre Hopkins, there's a logjam of a bunch of guys at receiver. Will Fuller and Keke Coutee need to prove themselves worthy of being the number two and slot receivers on this team. Other guys may want to shoot their shots as neither of the aforementioned guys have been able to firmly establish themselves in their positions. Somebody has to step up in these backup roles, or else the team will be drafting for another position of need in 2020.

Defensive Backs

Sure this team has Justin Reid coming off a promising year, but they let Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson leave via free agency. Jonathan Joseph is as old as I am, but he's coming back for another year. Bradley Roby is signed to a one year deal, but hasn't proved he's worth more in his time in Denver. Maybe one of the two rookies the Texans drafted will step up and prove themselves worthy? However it pans out, the position is one to watch all season long.

Tight Ends

Neither of the guys they drafted last year did much to separate themselves. Enter Kahale Warring. As an athletic third rounder selected this year, he's set to come in and give Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins some much needed competition. When there's a good tight end to occupy the middle of the field, it opens up more routes for the wide receivers, and gives Watson more targets. If any of these guys can step up, this pass game has a chance to be pretty good.

Running Back

Yes, Lamar Miller is coming back, so is D'Onta Foreman. However, one is a veteran who hasn't proved he's capable of carrying the load for a real competitive team for a complete season, and the other is coming off a serious injury. Nothing was added to this position this offseason in terms of adding competition. Therefore, the team believes in these two guys being able to get it done. Also note that valued backup Alfred Blue was not retained. Losing him means more to your special teams, but having a guy like that as a backup added to the depth of the position.

i may sound down on this team, but I have my reasons.Seeing the way they've operated over the course of their history makes me extremely skeptical. Add that to the fact that they're going about it with a general manager by committee, and it ups the level of difficulty tenfold. If they should happen to catch lightening in a bottle two years in a row, I'll be the first to admit I'm wrong, but I could see another disappointing season ahead. I'd love nothing more than to admit I'm wrong, but this team has given me very little to be excited about. If you want to wear your battle red and deep steel blue fan glasses, you have your right to be wildly optimistic. I, however, tend to look at things more objectively and see this team taking a step back from what they did last year. These five position groups will go a long way into proving me right or proving me wrong.

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