THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys wreck the Rams; Eagles up next

The Dallas Cowboys (7-7) finally showed up to play for the first time in about a month. They cruised to an easy win over the Los Angeles Rams (8-6) on Sunday by the score of 44-21.

Recap

Once again Dallas started off with a 7-0 lead just like the last few weeks, but this time they stayed focused and continued scoring on their next four possessions. The defense really came up big and held Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley to only 20 yards rushing. They looked like a completely different team that had all phases of the game working for them (Offense, Defense, and Special Teams).

Quarterback Dak Prescott was only 15/23 for 212 yards, 2 touchdowns, and NO turnovers. The numbers are not as big as he usually puts up but that is OK because the Cowboys got the most important thing, the Win. Dak connected with 8 different receivers that included a one handed 19-yard touchdown catch from future Hall of Famer Jason Witten late in the 1st quarter. Super star wide receiver Amari Cooper and 2nd year receiver Michael Gallup only had 1 catch each for less than 20 yards and probably killed some fantasy teams as well (My team was one of them).

Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott had himself a "BIG" day! He ate up the Rams defense with 24 carries for 117 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 catches for 43 yards as well. Dallas leaned on its biggest offensive strength and ran the football. Backup running back Tony Pollard also had a great game as well. He carried the ball 12 times for 131 yards and a touchdown. The Cowboys finished the game with 263 rushing yards, which is a season high.

Now that Dallas has finally beaten a team with a winning record, they are 7-7 and have a 65.1% chance of winning the NFC East (according to ESPN's Football Power Index). They are currently ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) via tiebreaker but as long as they beat them this week, they will win the division.

3 Things to Watch For

1.Ezekiel Elliott (Running Back): Zeke carried the team to victory this past week and is going to have to do it again this week. He will be going against the Eagles' 4th best rushing defense in the NFL. So look for Dallas to get him the ball on some passes out of the backfield.

2.Amari Cooper (Wide Receiver): Look for him to bounce back with a big game against a bad Eagles pass defense. Let's see if Dak can get him the ball down the field and maybe he can repeat his 100+ yard performance from their last matchup.

3.Kai Forbath (Kicker): Went perfect in his first regular season game as a Cowboy. He was 3/3 in field goals and made all 5 of his extra point attempts. It's amazing how well the offense does when it isn't killed by a missed kick. Let's see if he can keep the momentum going.

Coming Up

Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys (7-7) will be in the "City of Brotherly Love" taking on the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Kickoff is set at 3:25 pm Central time. If the Cowboys win this game, they win the NFC East and will be the #4 seed in the playoffs. If they lose, they will have to beat the Redskins in week 17 and hope that the Giants beat the Eagles for them to win the division. The Eagles have been struggling as of late and have been hit with a ton of injuries. I expect Dak and Company to pull out a victory and get ready for a postseason run since it looks like they have finally figured things out.

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

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

Eagles: Carson Wentz (QB), Miles Sanders (RB), Zach Ertz (TE)

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are currently -2.5 and the over/under is 47.5. Dallas at -3 or less would be the play here. I don't think Philly has enough to compete due to their injury situation.

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Fortunately for Houston, the Yankees are also going through a rough patch. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Astros playing all their summer home games in air-conditioned Minute Maid Park waters down one aspect of the “dog days of summer” component of the baseball season, but the Astros are dealing with the dog days nevertheless. Even Justin Verlander was afflicted some Wednesday (these things are relative) as the Texas Rangers bombarded him for three runs. Three! Verlander’s season earned run average shot all the way up to 1.85 as he gave up more than one earned run for the first time in eight starts. It’s been a frustrating stretch for the Astros and their fans. A second series loss to the awful Oakland A's, a home series loss to the going nowhere Red Sox, settling for a split in Cleveland after winning the first two games of a four game series, and the as usual also-ran Rangers pestering them. Frustrating, but really not a big deal.

Since exploding out of the All-Star break with five straight wins, the Astros have stumbled to a 7-9 mark in their last 16 games. It happens. 162 games is a lot, and the gap between the haves and have-nots in terms of winning percentage is much smaller than it is in the NFL or NBA. The good news is the Yankees have been stumbling longer. There was no chance the Yankees were going to sustain the pace that had their record at 56-20, but their 15-20 mark since enabled the Astros to eliminate an eight game deficit in the race for the best record in the American League. The Astros have the clearly easier remaining schedule and hold the tiebreaker.

Back in 2017 the Astros blew the doors off the American League with a 42-16 start to their season. As you may recall they’d wind up winning the World Series. Their finishing kick to the regular season was spectacular, 22-8 the final month after acquiring Verlander from the Tigers. The Astros won 101 games in 2017. So simple math tells you for the nearly half the season that fell between the 42-16 start and the 22-8 close, the Astros were a perfectly mediocre ballclub winning 37 and losing 37. The point is, it’s the full body of work that defines the regular season. The Astros opened this season 11-11. Meaning between that and the recent 7-9 struggle, the Astros were an awesome 53-21. The 162 games are about how you finish overall to be positioned for the playoffs. The best team over the whole regular season infrequently wins the World Series. Since the advent of the Wild Card in 1995 in only seven of 27 seasons has MLB’s best team in the regular season won the postseason tournament.

Head-scratching lineup decisions continue

Dusty Baker does some things with the Astros lineup that are simply ridiculous. Among others General Manager James Click is either aware of this or overmatched in his job. Click is not overmatched in his job. Jake Meyers has been overmatched in his job offensively for a month now. As in nine for 64 at the plate, a .141 average and hard to be that bad .422 OPS. Chas McCormick has clobbered left-handed pitching this season while being inept vs. right-handers. So Dusty starting Meyers vs. lefty Martin Perez Tuesday then McCormick vs. righty Glenn Otto Wednesday was daffy. Not exactly shocking they combined to go 0 for seven.

Batting Yuli Gurriel second is also silly, with a bit of a caveat. Yuli has fallen way over the hill. His bat speed has obviously slipped, his plate discipline declined. Martin Maldonado is closer in on base percentage to Gurriel than Gurriel is to McCormick. I mean, come on. The somewhat caveat in Dusty’s defense is the Astro offense has more holes than it has had in years, so he has fewer good options. Michael Brantley’s get on base skill is sorely missed, looking more and more like for good. Over his last 50 games Jeremy Pena is batting .204 with a sub-.600 OPS. Other than McCormick vs. lefties the center field output stinks, Kyle Tucker’s season to date is disappointing, and while Alex Bregman has been much better the past six weeks he’s nowhere close to the stud of 2018 or superstar of 2019. Oh, there’s this. DUSTY, TREY MANCINI SHOULD BE IN THE LINEUP FOUR OUT OF EVERY FIVE GAMES. Mancini should be the primary first baseman, Gurriel more of a pinch hitter and defensive replacement.

McCullers returns this weekend

Lance McCullers has made nearly 12 million dollars so far this season. Saturday he’ll finally throw a pitch that counts. The five year 85 million dollar contract extension the Astros gave McCullers was an eyebrow raiser at point of signing given Lance’s injury history. Will he show enough to be in the Astros’ postseason starting rotation? Verlander is the unchallenged number one with Framber Valdez second. Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy would be the other two. Does McCullers supplant one? Luis Garcia’s ERA over his last 10 starts is 4.76, so he presently would not get consideration, though plenty can change. Under eight weeks of regular season remaining for water to find its level.

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