The Cowboys Report

Cowboys win 5 in a row; Colts up next

Zeke Elliot keeps rolling. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys (8-5) won their fifth game in a row on Sunday when they defeated their division rival Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) in overtime by the score of 29-23. According to ESPN's Football Power Index, the win has given them a 99.3% chance of winning the NFC East and at worst, the fourth seed in the NFC side of the playoffs.

The Cowboys dominated the entire game on both sides of the ball but they had three turnovers, which kept the Eagles in the game and allowed them to force it into overtime. Dallas had the ball for 45 minutes and 33 seconds and gained 576 yards of offense. Philadelphia only gained 256 yards and only made 16 first downs as opposed to the Cowboys who made 32 first downs.

With the Eagles keeping the game close, Dallas was forced to keep the ball in the hands of their athletes. Ezekiel Elliott touched the ball 40 times and even though he didn't score, he is the main factor of the offense. He had 28 carries for 113 yards and 12 catches for 79 yards. His most important play was his 4th and 1 conversion in overtime with around 4 minutes left on the Philly 19 yard line.

Quarterback Dak Prescott was responsible for the Cowboys' three turnovers but luckily was able to survive them. He set career highs in completions, attempts, and passing yards. He finished 42 of 54 for 455 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 turnovers (2 Ints, 1 fumble). The good thing was he looked for and got the ball to his best players all game long. He targeted No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper 13 times, who caught 10 of them for 217 yards and three touchdowns. His addition to the team has been a big reason for the win streak and the Cowboy passing offense has increased significantly with him on the field.

The Cowboys defense also played a great game. Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch were all over the field. They combined for 15 tackles (9 solo) and most importantly kept the Eagles' best pass catcher in check. Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz only had 5 catches for 38 yards and they also took away their running attack. The Eagles leading rusher Josh Adams had 7 carries for 36 yards.

Dallas is now up two games on the Eagles and three up on the Redskins with only 3 games left to play. Their remaining schedule is at the Colts on Sunday, home to the Buccaneers on 12/23 and at the Giants on 12/30.

Players to Watch

  1. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): After week 14 Zeke is now the NFL's leading rusher but could have a hard time going against the Colts and their 8th best rush defense. If Dallas continues to give him the ball over 25 times a game, the offense should continue to move.
  2. Dak Prescott (quarterback): Made a few mistakes last week but also played well enough to overcome them. Let's see if he can cut down on the turnovers and keep up the great chemistry with Amari Cooper against the Colts 15th best pass defense.
  3. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, and Jeff Heath (defensive Secondary): These guys are going to have to be up to the challenge and make big plays against super star QB Andrew Luck and his 6th best passing offense. They are going to have to stay close to his favorite receiver T.Y. Hilton who is coming off a big game against the Texans last week.

The Cowboys (8-5) will be on the road Sunday playing against the Indianapolis Colts (7-6) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon and the Cowboys could be in for a challenge. The Colts are in must-win mode to stay alive for the playoffs and can't afford a loss, and the Cowboys have all but locked up the division.

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

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

Colts: Andrew Luck (QB), T.Y. Hilton (WR), Eric Ebron (TE)

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are +3 and the over/under is 47. With the possibility of the Cowboys motivation in jeopardy I will most likely stay away from this one but if you have to play it, Dallas at +3 or more would be the play.

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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