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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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