THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys win two in a row; Redskins up next

Zeke Elliot and the Cowboys face the Redskins Thursday. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys (5-5) won two games in a row for the first time all season on Sunday by defeating the Atlanta Falcons (4-6) 22 -19.  Now they are in prime position to take control of the NFC East division by winning their third game in a row on Thanksgiving Day against the Washington Redskins (6-4).  

The Cowboys played a great game, both offensively and defensively.  They took their opening possession and turned it into a 15-play 85 yard drive that resulted in a field goal.  Once again they had a good balance between run/pass plays and took quite a few shots deep to speedster Michael Gallup.  The defense played great and was responsible for the lone turnover of the game. No surprise, that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch came up with a clutch interception early in the 4th quarter that led to a Dallas touchdown.

Other than their first drive of the game, the Dallas offense wasn’t able to do much in the first half and they were down 6-3 at halftime.  The second half was a different story; they leaned on super star Ezekiel Elliott and rode him to victory. Elliott carried the ball 23 times for 122 yards, 1 touchdown and also led the team in receiving with 7 catches for 79 yards.  It’s no secret that if Zeke is going to get the ball 30 times a game, the Cowboys are going to win more than they lose.

Quarterback Dak Prescott was 22/32 for 208 yards and most importantly NO turnovers!  He was very efficient and should have had a passing touchdown on their opening drive but sure handed slot receiver Cole Beasley dropped a wide open touchdown pass early in the 1st quarter.  He was able to spread the ball around and used his legs to score a running touchdown that put the Cowboys up 12-9 and they never trailed again.

The Cowboys seem to be improving week after week and now a have a 51% chance to win their division, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.  Their defense played great and shutdown everyone on the Falcons offense except for Julio Jones, but in fairness nobody in the league can stop him.  The one wrinkle they had on offense was they didn’t get the ball to their best receiver Amari Cooper. He only got the ball 3 times for 36 yards on 5 targets.  That is not a smart thing to do if you want to win the NFC East.

Players to Watch

  1. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): Zeke is 2nd in the league in rushing and is going to have to keep carrying the team this week.  He will be going against the 1st place Washington Redskins and their 6th best rushing defense.  

  2. Michael Gallup (wide receiver): Gallup only had one catch last week but it was a clutch 3rd down conversion on the game winning drive.  The Cowboys tried to capitalize on his speed and threw him multiple deep balls against Atlanta.  Hopefully Dak can connect a few times this week against Washington’s 24th ranked passing defense.  

  3. Leighton Vander Esch (linebacker): Vander Esch has been the Cowboys defensive MVP so far and just keeps making more plays.  He has an interception in back to back games and is going to have to keep the defense stable this week.

Thanksgiving Day the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) will be hosting the Washington Redskins (6-4) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and kickoff is set for 3:30 pm CST. Dallas looks to have a slight edge on their side already as Washington will be without the starting Quarterback Alex Smith.  Instead, they will be going against veteran backup Colt McCoy and former pro-bowler Adrian Peterson. A win would put the Cowboys in first place via tiebreaker over the Redskins. A loss will essentially put them 2 games back as Washington would be 2-0 in the head to head tiebreaker.   With the Cowboys looking to make a run at the playoffs, this is another must win game because they will be hosting the offensive juggernaut New Orleans Saints the following week.

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

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

Washington:  Adrian Peterson (RB), Jordan Reed (TE)

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are -7.5 and the over/under is 41.  7.5 is a lot of points to give to any team, the only way I would play it is if the number is 7 or less.  

 

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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