Dallas Cowboys midseason review

Jason Garrett and the Cowboys need a big second half. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys enter Week 9 of the 2018 NFL season with a record of 3-4 and in third place of the NFC East.  They are one game behind the Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) and two games behind the first place Washington Redskins (5-2).

The Cowboys three wins have come at home and they have not had a record over .500 all year.  Luckily, they are coming off a bye week and they will be taking on the Tennessee Titans (3-4) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.  

Currently, Dallas is the No. 1 defense in the league in terms of total yards allowed (2196) and points allowed (123).  Their bye week has come at a good time which has given their best defensive player Sean Lee an extra week to heal his injured hamstring although he did play against Washington.  In his absence rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and second year linebacker Jaylon Smith have really stepped up and combined for 111 tackles and 3 sacks.  If they can keep it going along with Lee, the Cowboys defense could become elite before the end of the year.  

With the Dallas defense playing well and not allowing opposing teams to score much, the Cowboys offense has been what has held them back from winning a few other games.  Head coach Jason Garrett and the front office have made some moves since the Cowboys last played. Garrett made his first ever in season coaching change by firing offensive line coach Paul Alexander.  They have named former Cowboy offensive lineman Marc Colombo as the new OL coach; he was an assistant under Alexander.

The biggest change the Cowboys made was the acquisition of two time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper.  Dallas traded their 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for Cooper. Many have said that they paid too high a price for him because he hasn’t had a good season since 2016.  In reality, it’s not that bad of a trade. The Cowboys are the 30th best passing offense in the league and should instantly improve.  Cooper is a big play threat and with him on the field, it helps fill their need for a No. 1 receiver.  He is only 24 years old and has already proven he can play in the NFL. He had a 1,000 yard seasons in both 2015 and 2016.  There are no superstar receivers entering the draft next year and Dallas would probably be picking somewhere between 15 and 20.

Dallas has nine games left to play this season; five of them are currently against teams with losing records.  

Players to Watch

  1. Amari Cooper (wide receiver): Has had a little less than two weeks to get accustomed to the play book and create some chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott.  His 2018 stats of 22 catches for 280 yards and 1 touchdown already make him the second best receiver on the team.

  2. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): It is going to be interesting to see how defenses adjust now that they can’t key on Zeke with Cooper there to stretch the field.  He should have more running lanes to hit.

  3. Sean Lee (linebacker): The defensive leader should be able to help keep pressure on the opposing quarterback Marcus Mariota who is very mobile and can run if he has to.

Coming up

Monday Night Nov. 5 at 7:15 p.m. Central time, the Cowboys will be hosting the Tennessee Titans.  This is a perfect opportunity for Dallas to get back to .500 at 4-4. Tennessee is second to last in total offense and has no offensive superstars.  The Cowboy defense should be able to capitalize on this, which in turn will allow the Dallas offense to control the ball with super star running back  Elliott and Prescott’s new weapon Cooper.

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

Cowboys:  Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Cowboys (Defense).  Only play Cooper if you have to, I am going to wait and see how they use him before starting him.

Titans:  Dion Lewis (RB), only if you have no other option.

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are -6.5 and the over/under is 41. That seems like a lot of points to give but if I had to play it, I would go with Cowboys -6.5 and the over of 41.   


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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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