Green Bay Packers (10-6) vs Arizona Cardinals (13-3)
January 16th 8:15 PM ET/ 7:15 Central
After being consistently inconsistent throughout the Regular Season the Packers managed to pullout a Wildcard victory against the Washington Redskins this past weekend on the road 35-18.
The Packers were able to run the football thanks to Running Backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Combined both players rushed for 116yds and 2TDs. Through the air Aaron Rodgers was able pass for 206yds and toss a couple of touchdowns passes. Offensively the Packers were in sync and found the rhythm they had been missing since the earlier portion of this season.
On the defensive side of the ball Green Bay sacked the quarterback 6 times, stifled the Redskins rushing attack (allowed only 84yds) and forced the Redskins to turn the ball over.
The four biggest takeaways from that game is:
Green Bay has found their niche offensively.
Aaron Rodgers finally had a game where he was protected.
Both Green Bay RBs were effective.
The defense was able to dictate what the opposing offense did.
Things are coming together at the right time for the Packers.
Underdogs for a majority of this season the Arizona Cardinals have been a dominant force both offensively and defensively.
The Cardinals average 30.6ppg (good for 2nd) and tally the most yards per game (408.3) offensively. On the defensive side Arizona has forced 33 turnovers (19int 14fumbles), accumulated 36 sacks and have scored 6 defensive TDs.
With guys like Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown on the offensive end and playmakers like Patrick Peterson, Rashad Johnson, Dwight Freeney, Calais Campbell and others on the defensive end the Cardinals have the pieces to be successful.
Prediction: wins 43-35
The last time these two teams met the Cardinals won 38-8. They were able to sack Aaron Rodgers 8 times and forced him to turn the ball over. With Arizona sporting an elite secondary and Aaron Rodgers having to deal with an inconsistent receiving group ( James Jones, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers) I don’t see the Packers winning.
Fun Fact: Carson Palmer is 0-1 (0-2) in Playoff games.
Ever since the day he was drafted I’ve always wondered how good Terrance Williams was,how good he is, and how good he would be.
After two full years and a few games of being the man I see now that he isn’t that guy.
Over the years the Cowboys have had guys like Terrell Owens, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant as their number one receiver. Eating after those guys would be receivers like Terry Glenn, Patrick Crayton, Roy Williams, Laurent Robinson as well as Tight-End Jason Witten. Every single last one of those players (second options) were able to hold their own one way or another. Roy Williams was a nice blocker and a fair red-zone threat. Williams isn’t. Terry Glenn could stretch the field and was a savvy enough route runner to get open underneath. Williams isn’t. Patrick Crayton was a nice slot receiver and was a good punt returner. Williams isn’t. Laurent Robinson was a guy who could stretch the field, play in the slot and he made defenses respect him. No one respects Williams.
The first problem is the fact that Williams struggles to catch the ball. (He’s more of a body catcher. Not a guy who snatches the ball out of the air.) If the ball isn’t going towards the sideline or up the field he’s prone to drop it. As a rookie he tried handling duties as a kick returner. That experiment failed. Williams also isn’t the fastest guy we’ve seen but he has enough speed to beat opposing defensive backs consistently. The problem is that he doesn’t do it enough.
After having so much time in the offseason to himself while Dez was holding out I thought he was primed to have a breakout year. The sad part about it is I haven’t seen any signs of this coming to fruition.
Against the Giants I was waiting for him to have that ”I can scorch y’all too moment.” Instead of beating them he struggled to get open. Most of his touches came when Dez exited the game and Romo had to spread the wealth in an effort to keep the defense on their heels. On the game winning drive Lance Dunbar and Jason Witten were the primary targets. Not Terrance.
In week two against the Eagles Williams wasn’t a factor until late in the 4th quarter when backup quarterback Brandon Weeden came in and threw a 42-yard touchdown pass. Prior to that pass Byron Maxwell (horrible) and company had him contained.
When the Falcons came to town in week 3 Terrance Williams did as much as I did….. A big fat ass NOTHING. He had no catches. No touchdowns. No rushing or returning yards. Hell he didn’t even have a tackle. Just a couple of dropped passes. The Cowboys were stellar running the football and passing it underneath in the first half of that game, but due to Williams inability to stretch the field Atlanta was able to take over the game. Pathetic.
This past week against the Saints Williams finished the game with 3rec (10 targets) 49yards and a clutch TD reception that came late in the 4th quarter. The touchdown was nice. But he arrived too late.
After four complete games Williams hasn’t been much help to the Cowboys. He doesn’t solely lead the team in any statistical category. He hasn’t had any double touchdown games nor has he had a night where he went for a 100yards. For a number one option that just won’t cut it.
Either way it goes the Cowboys need help at the receiver position. They have no viable number two guy or number one in this case. Witten is too old for that. Cole Beasley can only do one thing. Brice Butler is hurt. Devin Street is too inexperienced. Gavin Escobar isn’t utilized. Lance Dunbar (best option after Dez) is now out for the season. Having Dez at the helm masked all of the problems we see now within the receiving core.
Do I blame management for this? No, but they still should’ve went the safe route and signed a receiver who is/was capable of shouldering the load if Dez went down…. (Desean Jackson few years back, Michael Crabtree, Reggie Wayne, Percy Harvin and Andre Johnson this offseason.) Teams like the Broncos, Giants, Redskins, Patriots, Packers, Colts, Steelers and few others understand the concept of having great depth at receiver. If one guy goes down they still have other guys who demand respect from opposing defenses. As of today the Cowboys don’t have that.
It’s all on Terrance Williams to officially step up and fulfill that role. You can’t pick and choose the times you show up. It has to be all game. The Cowboys desperately need him to step up. If his putrid play continues it might be time to take up on that T.O. offer. (kidding) But it should be time to go out and make a move. There are other feasible options.
A pedestrian quarterback with an average running game, unproven defense and lackluster threats in the passing attack does not win… Just that simple.
Whenever there’s a discussion about elite Quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning are both mentioned. Peyton is universally known as the Greatest Regular Season Quarterback ever, while Eli is known as the only to defeat Tom Brady not only once…. but TWICE. Together they have accounted for 3 Super Bowls, 3 Super Bowl MVPs, 17 Pro Bowl selections and 5 NFL MVP awards.
For the past few seasons both players haven’t sustained great play.
Last season in particular we saw an ailing Peyton fail to make the appropriate throws necessary for his team to be successful. Was his minor thigh injury to blame? Or was it because of his torn right quad? Maybe the neck surgery finally caught up to him…….Whatever the case may be Peyton is not right and he hasn’t been the same since losing to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl a couple of years back. Is he starting to decline or is it too soon to conclude?
Eli on the other hand hasn’t been consistent. After winning the Super Bowl in 2012(season of 2011) his teams have finished with records of 9-7, 7-9 & 6-10 missing the playoffs in each of those years. Here at the start of 2015 his team is facing an 0-1 hole after questionable decision making on his behalf. Is he worth the $84 million contract extension recently signed? Or is he officially overpaid?
Me and fellow writer @deshawnh are about to dive in….
Ryan Fort: In the case of Eli I don’t believe he’s worth $85 million. For a guy whose won multiple Super Bowls he still makes rookie mistakes which doesn’t bode too well for me. In my eyes that displays a lack of growth, leadership and passion for the game. When you look at his numbers you can’t tell if he’s getting better or worse from a year to year basis. Serious question, why do some view him as an elite. Please enlighten me.
Deshawn Hornback: Well where to start? I honestly believe Eli catches a little more criticism than he should because he is not an awful QB. With that being said he has never been elite and the money he is getting paid shows otherwise. Eli makes more money than his brother Peyton, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers. He is not better than any of those I mentioned. He had his best season last year, but I could easily see him relapsing like he has so many times before.
Fort: I believe he deserves every little ounce of criticism. Peyton, Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Brees are all ways viewed as the favorites to win their respective divisions and contend for a Super Bowl while Eli isn’t. Guys like Romo, Michael Vick, Robert Griffin lll and Nick Foles have constantly outshined him. You can pick any year from his career and I guarantee you he wasn’t the best quarterback in his division at that time.
Hornback: I can agree with Eli never being the best QB in the division, but I would not say that the Giants have never been given the expectations of a division title with him at the helm. He had some elite defenses. I have two questions for you. Do you believe that Eli will receive a spot in Canton and do you believe he deserves to be there?
Fort: Yeah, he did have some elite defenses. And as far as the whole Canton idea goes I’m on the fence. I believe he’ll have a spot because his last name is Manning. But as far as deserving a spot goes, it could go either way. What’s your take?
Hornback: I believe he will without a doubt because of that first championship alone and how it all went down, but when it comes to truly deserving it I say no. I really believe that he isn’t a top 50 QB ever. He barely has anything outside of the two championships in terms of accolades and the numbers definitely don’t support the idea of him being a Hall of Famer.
Fort: Agreed. He has a lot of ground to make up if he wants to be mentioned with the likes of Peyton, Joe Montana, Brett Farve etc. Eli Manning is nothing more than a modern day era Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson. Granted, he is a better passer than the two I just mentioned but that’s not saying very much.
Fort: Let’s get away from Eli for a second and turn our attention towards Peyton… Does he still have it?
Hornback: Well do I believe he still has it. Will he be a top 3 QB this year like he was for about 12 straight years? No. I do still think he can be a top 10 QB that does just enough to win, because the team he has right now is the best overall team he has ever been on in my opinion. They have arguably a top 5 defense, CJ Anderson started to rejuvenate their run game at the end of last year, and their receiving core still has Demariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Peyton does not need to be great; he only has to be good. And in that sense I believe Peyton still has something. After the first half of his game in Arrowhead everyone on social media was overreacting and saying how he was done. Then, even though it was the ugliest drive I had ever seen from him, he still got them a tie ball game in the final minute of a crucial division road game.
Fort: I don’t think Peyton has entirely too much left. Ever since he lead Denver to historical numbers offensively a few seasons ago I think he started to fall off. His throwing power isn’t the same nor is his accuracy. Can he still play? Yes, but I don’t know for how much longer.
Hornback: I really believe he has a great chance to lead Denver to a championship this year. He has tremendous talent all around him. The only weakness I see is his offensive line but it is not awful. Of course I don’t have Denver winning the AFC but it would not surprise me one bit to see him representing the AFC again this year.
Fort: It wouldn’t surprise me either because of Wade Phillips’ defense. As far as the offense goes I think Gary Kubiak needs to take a step back. He came to Denver with the intent on extending Manning’s career by having him play the late John Elway role. In Houston and Baltimore that system was better suited because he had Arian Foster and Justin Forsett in the backfield, while having inconsistency in the quarterbacking department as Matt Schuab and Joe Flacco were his leaders. I don’t like that scheme for Denver.
Hornback: I believe the worst thing you can do is take control out of Peyton’s hands. Honestly I don’t believe there is a better play caller in the history of the NFL. He’s the most intelligent QB in NFL history let him use that. I think Elway coming by and saying “Hey Terrell Davis extended my career, allow CJ to extend yours,” is enough to convince Peyton to take a minor step back. Putting the control into Kubiak’s hands is not the answer.
Fort: Yeah I’m guessing CJ is now Terrell Davis good….child please. My main point is that Peyton is without a doubt declining and I believe Kubiak’s system is and will make it more apparent. Last season we saw Peyton drop out of the top 5, (Rodgers, Romo, Brady, Rothlisberger, Luck & Wilson imo were better) and I believe he has a chance to drop even further down the list this season. (Brees, Rivers, Ryan and Flacco could all be better.) His farewell tour has pretty much started in my eyes.
Hornback: First of all I never said CJ=Terell. I’m saying take a cue from what Elway did and hand it off about 350 times like he did with Terrell. Elway differed so much that he got his passing attempts below 400 at one point. Peyton should aim for that. 2nd of all I disagree with Peyton falling that far out. Until I see him fall apart I’m going to stick by him and still say he’s a tremendous QB than could easily win a championship this year.
Fort: In essence Peyton and Eli could both prove me wrong this season… I just don’t think they will. What do you see them accomplishing this season and how much longer do you think they’ll last?
Hornback: I think Eli will play out his contract and Peyton I think should retire after this season before it gets worse but if they (Denver) fool around and win a ring I could see anything happening.
Fort: True. I see Eli blossoming into a trading chip at some point within the next two to three years. As far as Peyton goes I think he’s done after this season regardless of what happens. I don’t see him playing as long as Brett Farve did while being as effective. They’ll both be gone though in five years max…. And as far this season goes Peyton could make a run towards a another Super Bowl, and for Eli he’s and the Giants are in ”No Mans Land….Nothing is happening.
Be sure to voice your opinions… Do you agree or disagree? We’d love to debate with you.
With the NFL Season getting ready to start it’s only right that we answer a few questions in regards to awards, Division winners, Superbowl predictions etc…. Please be sure to sound off and voice your opinions and enlighten us on your predictions.
“Never judge a Quarterback off of his first year,” is a great quote to live by.
Ever since I was told that I’ve started to evaluate quarterbacks differently. Instead of judging them off of their first year I give them a three year process. The three year mark is a long enough frame because various things come into play within those three years.
In the very first year, a quarterback will often struggle with the pace, flow of the game. They don’t know their teammates as well which could lead to a few chemistry issues. Another problem is that most quarterbacks drafted high in the draft go to bad teams. Due to lack of experience, how are they supposed to be successful right off the bat? And even with those problems, opposing defenses don’t know to fully prepare for them, thus giving them a slight edge.
There has been cases where they fail in their first year and there have been cases where they succeed in their first year. One sample is never enough.
In year two, defenses are better prepared for the quarterback. They watch film, tapes and a lot of other useful tactics that help in their approach towards stopping them. Quarterbacks struggle and history shows that quarterbacks or any position, for that matter, struggle in the second year. That’s just how it goes.
Only a handful of quarterbacks didn’t endure the second year slump and those pretty much the franchise caliber guys. (Luck, Wilson etc)
Year three is when the player finally comes into their own. They’ve matured. They’ve gained experience. And they’ve seen a variety of defensive looks. Case in point, they’re more comfortable with their surroundings, coaches, players etc.
Whatever the case may be year three is when you find out if you have a stud or if you have a dud.
This evaluation can work for every quarterback, outside of Robert Griffin lll.
Coming in as a rookie RG3 was arguably the best QB in his draft class. He had a tremendous arm, was very dead on when throwing the deep ball and had Olympic level speed. He was a tremendous athlete whose only downfall was not being able to slide at the appropriate times when facing pressure.
Nevertheless during his rookie season Griffin dominated the league. He was one of the highest rated passers. His completion total was decent and he had nice TD-INT ratio. In a week 17 showdown against the Dallas Cowboys Griffin outshined Tony Romo in a game that had playoff implications. RG3 even had a 14pt lead against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs following the win against the Cowboys before he got injured.
Unlike year one, year two wasn’t nearly as good.
Problems brew in the locker room between players and coaches; Griffin was injury riddled; the whole Redskins organization was in a flux. At the end of the season Mike Shanahan was fired and the Redskins moved in a different direction. To top it all off RG3 was injured yet again sending his mobility and health into a state of question.
That offseason the Redskins filled a couple of holes. They went and signed Jay Gruden as head coach, brought in safety Ryan Clark (Steelers) and defensive lineman Jason Hatcher (Cowboys) to shore up the defense and even stole wide-receiver DeSean Jackson away from the Eagles. They looked prime for a renaissance if RG3 was healthy and in tip top form.
Last season, RG3’s third year, ended up being a mess as well. He missed bits and pieces of Training Camp/pre-season action and wasn’t fully ready to go week one of the season. Need playbook, new coach and having a new target all added onto his struggles. At one point he even lost the trust of a few teammates.
Last season wasn’t even about football for him. It was more about him finding common ground with his new coach and his teammates, as well as regaining his health the thing that he ultimately failed to do.
Griffin was in & out of the lineup last season as well, but he did show signs of improvement when he was healthy. The jury is still out on whether or not RG3 can be a nice solid QB. His 2nd & 3rd seasons were injury riddled and filled with constant change in regards to the situation around him. (Luck and Wilson have always been in stable environments.)
If anything year 4 will start to tell the true story of Robert Griffin lll. He’ll have more time learn the playbook, get in sync with his weapons and get a better connection with his coach. More importantly he’ll finally be going through an offseason where he is completely healthy. (Hasn’t happened since his rookie year.)
So don’t doubt RG3 just yet. There is still some time left for him.
After months and weeks of anticipation we’ve finally arrived to the playoffs where we have a clear cut view on who the 12 teams competing for the Superbowl are.
Within those 12 teams you have the:
(1) 12-4 NE Patriots
(2) 12-4 DEN Broncos
(3) 11-5 PIT Steelers
(4) 11-5 IND Colts
(5) 10-5-1 CIN Bengals
(6) 10-6 BAL Ravens representing the AFC
(1) 12-4 SEA Seahawks
(2) 12-4 GB Packers
(3) 12-4 DAL Cowboys
(4) 7-8-1 CAR Panthers
(5) 11-5 ARI Cardinals
(6) 11-5 DET Lions representing the NFC.
Seattle, New England, Denver and Green Bay all get the week off (Top 2 teams in each conference) so that leaves us with eight teams playing this weekend.
Saturday 4:20 PM ET
(5) Arizona Cardinals vs (4) Carolina Panthers
Throughout the season both teams suffered a ton of injuries. Carolina’s injury woe wasn’t as severe as the Cardinals though. Arizona lost key players on the defensive line, in the secondary and in the line-backing core. On the offensive side of the ball the Cards lost starting quarterback Carson Palmer and starting running-back Andre Ellington. Hall of Fame bound receiver Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t been as productive either because of the injuries he’s been battling. Because of the offensive injuries Arizona has been having a tough time generating points.
This season Carolina has been in a funk just like it’s fellow NFC South counterparts. After having a stellar year last season Cam Newton has failed to deliver the same type of success due to the lack of weapons he has in his current arsenal. Despite injuries (distractions Hardy) to the defense and Cam having a somewhat down year the Panthers still managed to win their awful division. Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin has shown that he can be a solid weapon and running back Johnathan Stewart has returned to a solid form, for now. They also have tight-end Greg Olsen playing at a high level.
Coming into this game the Cards have lost 4 of their last 6 games and managed to score over 17pts one time. They are on their 3rd-string quarterback and rank 13th in stopping the run and 29th in defending the pass. The Panthers are rolling right now having gone 4-0 in December. They rank 7th in rushing the football and 12th in passing. With Arizona pretty much being a team that relies on the defense to score Carolina should be able to dictate the flow of the game as long as Cam and co. don’t turn it over. The Panthers should win 16-9 with Cam getting playoff win #1.
Saturday 8:15 PM ET
(6) Baltimore Ravens vs (3) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens and Steelers both faced questions going into the season. The Steelers dealt with questions surrounding the defense as well as their running game. The Ravens had to deal with the never ending, traumatizing Ray Rice debacle. With Rice gone there was a void that needed to be filled in order for Baltimore to take the next step. Journeyman running-back, Justin Forsett, stepped into the starting role and complemented Joe Flacco to near perfection. With the addition of Steve Smith SR. and the arrival of Justin Forsett the Ravens offensive dynamic changed.
The Steelers at the beginning of the season were a model of inconsistency. Midway through the season that started to change. Led by the best receiver in football, Antonio Brown and the 2nd best running-back in Le’Veon Bell along with Ben Rothlisberger the Pittsburgh Steelers became a fun, yet rather scary team to watch. They would dominate on the ground as well as kill teams in the air. They went undefeated in December and are on a roll.
Heading into this match-up these division rivals split the season series with the home team winning each game. The Steelers are 4-1 since their Bye while the Ravens are 4-2. In this specific game the Steelers will be without Bell who was the 2nd leading rusher and will also have a limited Troy Polamalu in the secondary. Baltimore on the other hand is healthier and they’ll be getting star defensive tackle Haloti Ngata back to help man the middle. With Bell being out the onus falls on the shoulders of Big Ben. The Steerlers are 2nd in passing while the Ravens are 23rd in passing yards allowed. Big Ben could very well win this game but being one-dimensional could end up costing them. The Steelers will hand Joe Flacco his 1st Wilcard loss. Big Ben is is rolling right now and has more than enough offensive weapons in the passing game to beat Baltimore. Steelers win 34-27
Sunday 1:05 PM ET
(5) Cincinnati Bengals vs (4) Indianapolis Colts
These were two teams that people thought would take the next step, especially the Colts. Andrew Luck was basically enshrined into the Hall Of The Fame without doing anything. Nevertheless the Colts won their porous division with little to no competition. En route to going 11-5 they got dominated by the likes of Pittsburgh, Dallas, Denver and New England. They went 4-5 against teams that are .500 and 2-4 against playoff teams. No resemblance of a running game and having only one stud receiver (TY Hilton) hurts them.
The Bengals started off the season on FIRE. After a few weeks they resembled a Superbowl team but quickly faltered after their Bye week. As of late they’ve been battling injuries that have plagued A.J. Green making the offense somewhat stagnant. Depending on the day Cincy can kill you with an aerial attack led by the likes Andy Dalton with Mouhammed Sanu and Green at his helm. Or they could gash you up on the ground with Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. You just never know with them.
Going into Sunday’s game the Colts have won 5 of their last 6. They are the best passing team in football but are top 3 when it comes to turning the football over (Andrew Luck). The Bengals have been solid as of late but got shut out earlier in the year by the Colts, losing 27-0. This game will more than likely not feature AJ Green. Dalton doesn’t have a playoff win nor does head coach Marvin Lewis. Unless Cincy runs the ball over 40 times, AJ Green suits up or TY Hilton isn’t 100% I don’t see the Bengals misfortunes coming to an end. Colts win 45-13
Sunday 4:40 PM ET
(6) Detroit Lions vs (3) Dallas Cowboys
Often sought out as the most talented teams in the NFC, the Lions and Cowboys always seemed to disappoint until this year. Going into the season many predicted this would be Lion’s quarterback Mathew Stafford’s break out year. They changed coaches and gave Stafford more help by bringing in Ex-Seahawks wide receiver, Golden Tate, to complement Megatron. The Lion’s exceeded a few expectations because of how they managed to win games without Megatron. Golden Tate had a career year and the Lion’s defense was arguably the best in the league.
The Cowboys have exceeded everyone’s expectations excluding their own. They’ve discovered a new identity as I stated here (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/the-new-dallas-cowboys/) and have improved defensively. They boast arguably the best quarterback of the season in one Tony Romo, the leading rusher in football, Demarco Murray and wide-receiver touchdown leader Dez Bryant. The Cowboys also own the best offensive line in football. The game is won in the trenches and the Cowboys dominate in that aspect.
Ever since the home loss to Philly, the Cowboys have been dominant. They’ve scored 40+ points in 3 of their last 4 games (38 in one game) and are rolling on all cylinders. Dallas also went 4-0 in December. Detroit won 4 of their last 5 and have been very stout defensively. Defensive tackles N.Suh (monster) and Nick Fairley should be good to go giving the defense a boost. The Boys are the 2nd best team running the ball while Detroit is #1 in stopping it. Flipping the script, the Lions are 6th when it comes to turning over the ball and the Cowboys are 2nd in forcing turnovers. The Cowboys will win 27-14. Stafford just isn’t efficient enough to win and is prone to turn it over multiple times resulting in Dallas getting easy scoring opportunities.
Each game this weekend is compelling and should be competitive.
Comment below with who you think will win each game.
After years of being mediocre the Dallas Cowboys have finally gotten over the hump. The years of being 6-10, 8-8, 8-8 and 8-8 are finally behind us.
There is no such thing as “December woes” when speaking of the 2014 Dallas Cowboys.
There aren’t any questions in regards to Jason Garrett being the head coach or if Tony Romo is good enough to be the starting quarterback.
There also isn’t any talk on whether or not Jerry Jones should step down as the GM for the Dallas Cowboys.
The only question or questions that are being asked this time around are about the Cowboys being legitimate Superbowl contenders. Nothing more and nothing less.
This season the Cowboys have changed their style of play drastically.
They are no longer the team that looks to put up points on the board and outscore the opposition. They no longer play conservative and timid. Rarely do these Cowboys come out playing soft.
The Boys are now more about imposing their will. They look to control the time of possession. They dictate how the game is played. And when things get tough they still show heart and play hard.
Because of the change in philosophy as well as mentality the Cowboys have done a 180.
They’ve changed things that hampered them in the past that led to the 8-8 finishes which in return, has led them to winning the NFC East as well as having a chance to be at the top of the NFC.
Sitting at 11-4 (tied for #1 in the NFC) the Cowboys have become a force to be reckoned with.
They can win on the road in tough environments. (7-0 on the road.) They can run the ball just as good as anyone as well as air it out. They dominate the time of possession. They force turnovers. They contain high-powered offenses (Saints-Bears-Colts-Eagles).
The only thing the Cowboys have a problem doing is rushing the passer; which in recent weeks hasn’t been much of a problem.
This Dallas Cowboys team is a threat. And arguably the most complete team in the whole NFC.
Teams no longer push them over and dictate what’s going to happen. Those days have ended. The Dallas Cowboys have graduated from being boys, to being men.
Having said that, they can compete with the likes of anyone and should be taken seriously.
Coming into the season no one had the Cowboys making the playoffs. After the first week of play people were quick to anoint them as the worst team in Football. (I’m looking at y’all Mike Ditka, Ray Lewis, Chris Carter, Keshawn Johnson etc…)
Against the 49ers in game one of the season the Cowboys did look bad, but there were a lot of factors that played a role in their putrid performance.
Defensive tackle Henry Melton wasn’t playing every down (he still isn’t but it has increased), defensive end Anthony Spencer wasn’t active, cornerback Orlando Scandrick was suspended, Rookie defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was inactive and more importantly quarterback Tony Romo wasn’t quite ready for game action.
As a result they got smashed and people were quick to press the panic button.
If you paid close attention to that game you would’ve seen a lot of things. For instance, you would’ve noticed how they were dominating the line of scrimmage offensively; how they were effectively running the football; how they controlled the tempo of the game despite turning the ball over and how they minimized giving up the huge plays that plagued them last year defensively.
Add all of that in along with that fact that guys were going to be coming back from injury and you had a reason to feel optimistic about how good this team could be.
I penciled that debacle against San Francisco in as a wakeup call for the offense. And stated that from that point forward everyone was going to have a tough time stopping the Cowboys’ offense. Seems to be right don’t ya think?
The Cowboys followed the 9ers loss with a 28-17 win over the Titans, a 34-31 come from behind win over the Rams, a 38-17 rout over the Saints and a 20-17 overtime victory over the Texans.
After winning four straight, with Romo getting healthier and various defensive guys coming back, people still doubted.
Even at 4-1 people were still on the fences about whether or not this team could play. Week six against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle was supposed to be the game that brought the Cowboys back down to reality. Instead it woke up the whole globe.
In a game that many thought was impossible to win the Dallas Cowboys went in and dominated the Seahawks in every aspect of the game. Seattle couldn’t stop Murray and Romo tore apart the defense when he needed to.
The defense contained Lynch to an extent and dared Wilson to beat them with his arm. The Cowboys won that game 30-23 in what didn’t appear to be as close as the scoreboard may allude one to believe.
After that shocking victory the Cowboys made believers out of a lot of people.
Analysts were calling them the team to beat. People were penciling them in for the Superbowl. And fans were in a frenzy. But even with that a few people were still a bit leery. Some experts wanted to see them win the next game to see if they could continue playing well after pulling off an upset.
Like all streaks the Cowboys’ 6-game ride came to an end. They lost on MNF to the Washington Redskins who had Colt McCoy playing QB 20-17.
Romo injured his back that game and the coaches made a poor decision, which to some people came to be the fault in why the Boys lost. Win or lose, Tony Romo was injured and things didn’t look good going forward.
The next game on the schedule was against the Arizona Cardinals where Brandon Weeden had to start at QB.
The Cowboys competed with the Cardinals for two and half quarters until finally giving in. Weeden couldn’t make the appropriate throws and Murray wasn’t getting much traction on the ground.
After playing inspired ball at first the defense started to fold as they saw the offense failing to convert their stops into scores. The Cowboys fell to the Cardinals 28-17. Thus embarking them on a two game losing skid.
Losers of two straight and with an injured Romo many thought the Cowboys were done. Everyone but the Cowboys that is….
They flew to London to play a game against the Jaguars. Feeling very good about their chances.
Some analysts, on the other hand said they would falter with or without Romo, while others stated they’d win the game regardless of who played QB.
In what was deemed as a “Must Win” game Tony Romo came back from injury and led the Dallas Cowboys to a 31-17 victory over the Jags. (The game was pretty much won at halftime.) The Cowboys were then 7-3 heading into their bye-week with time to rest, heal and regroup.
Fast-forward to now and here they are sitting at 7-3 tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the division lead.
As cliche as it might sound the Cowboys once again control their own fate.
Philly is dealing with a QB crisis with Foles being out and Sanchez in. The Giants are bad and the Redskins are god awful. With that being said it’s their division to lose.
They play the Giants (away) next. Followed by a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Eagles. After that they play the Bears (away) in a Thursday night matchup. The Eagles (away), Colts (home) and Redskins (away) round out the rest of the schedule. (Notice how the games are spaced apart. Plenty of time to rest.)
The four games on the road may sound alarming, but the Cowboys are currently the only team undefeated on the road to this point. And if we’re being honest three of those games are against teams who aren’t .500.
And now that they’re no longer that prolific offense that tries to put up points and rely heavily on Romo’s arm , this team has a chance to change some of the December misfortunes that have hampered this team as of late.
With their physical, smash-mouth style of play the Cowboys should be able to win alot those games that should be played in cold weather.
With Romo getting healthier, Murray eager to close out the season, Dez becoming a prominent force, and the defense picking up it’s play as well as getting healthier this team should be ready to go.
The image changing starts now.
Is the schedule favorable to them? Yes. But that doesn’t/won’t mean anything if they don’t go out and seize it.
They have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in years and that’s getting to the playoffs. We can talk about what they can do once they make it there but until then it should still be the one game at a time approach.
Day by day. Week by week. No looking ahead. If the Cowboys can follow this motto faithfully they’ll achieve their goal.
Baby steps first. And then you’ll be able to stride and run.
With about a third of the season over with the sample size to evaluate teams is legit. It’s now time to a look at the NFC East to see how things are shaping up.
After the last two losses to the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals we saw that Romo is more valuable than we thought. Even with concerns on his back vs the Jaguars he looked like the old Romo throwing for over 250 yards and 3 TD’s. Dez Bryant was lost the last two games but regained his swagger in London with over 6 catches and over 150 yards and a TD. There’s no need to worry about the O-line either as Murray had his 9th 100 yard game this season and Randle had a huge 40 yard TD. The only concerning factor is the defense. I still don’t trust them. They need to get more pressure on the QB and they need to cover better. But it’s hard to argue the 7-3 record for “Dem Boys”. I’m still sticking with my prediction of a 11-5 record and a NFC East tittle. You have to applaud the job Jerry Jones has down with making this team able to compete.
The high flying Eagles are one of the most explosive offenses. With the departure of DeSean Jackson you would think that the offense would slow down, but it hasn’t. At first the Eagles were winning off of good defense and special teams while Lesean McCoy wasn’t shady and Nick Foles wasn’t producing like he was last year. But thank god for the pick up of Darren Sproles who’s putting up big numbers. Breaking the all time scrimmage yards record back in 2011 with the Saints he has exploded with the Eagles with rushing TD’s receiving TD’s and kick and punt returns. He’s the definition of an athlete. As the season concludes the Eagles Cowboys games will decide the winner of the NFC East even though I feel that both the Eagles and Cowboys will make the playoffs. Now that Foles is out indefinitely for the season the next man up, Mark Sanchez will lead the Eagles to the Playoffs
There isn’t much to say about a 3-6 team but the Giants have a lot of young superstars in the making. Leading these stars are Odell Beckham Jr. The rookie star from LSU missed a couple games but has came back with 18 catches 262 yards and 3 TD. The season is pretty much over for the Giants but the future is bright. They drafted a good rookie running back in Andre Williams from Boston college and have drafted well in the secondary and linebacking core. If Jason Pierre-Paul can get back to his dominant early years I then believe the defense will become one of the leagues best defenses. But until then this team won’t go anywhere.
With the Redskins not much is positive. Even with the impressive victory in Dallas nothing much from this team has improved or changed this year. They have started three QB’s this season RG3, Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins which has lead to a 3-5 record. The O-line hasn’t been able to protect the QB, the running lanes for Alfred Morris has been none existent and the defense hasn’t been able to stop anyone. The best thing they have is the new addition of DeSean Jackson who has over 40 catches 700 yards and 4 TD’s. With the return of RG3 we can finally see him in the new system by Jay Gruden. To improve the Redskins need to keep RG3 healthy. He seems to have lost his confidence after that amazing rookie campaign. If they can get him playing like the offensive rookie again you’ll see everyone around him play to their potential. One example would be Alfred Morris. When RG3 and Alfred Morris came in the league together they had combined for more than 2100 rushing yards as they lead there team to a NFC east tittle. If those two can click then the Redskins will be right back to that 2011 form.
The NFC East always comes down to the final week . Even though I feel like two teams will make it to the Playoffs I’m still sticking with my prediction that the Cowboys will win the NFC East and the Eagles will get in as a Wildcard.
Deshawn Hornback (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/author/deshawnh/): Is this even a question? Green Bay is always a contender with Rodgers at the helm. Outside of the Seattle game he’s been the best QB this year. Eddie Lacy has to get going though for them to beat the elite teams.
Omolade Saka (https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/author/omoladesaka/): With Aaron Rodgers at QB you can for sure count this team as contenders. Rodgers is having a very good year. It’s gonna be tough for defenses to find a way to stop him and I’m pretty sure they will get their running game going. Once they do this team is gonna be very difficult to stop.
Ryan Fort(https://fortonsports.wordpress.com/author/ryanfort/): Contenders. Rodgers is having a stellar year and isn’t turning over the ball much. The defense is okay and the run game is improved. After the first game he’s thrown 18Tds to 0 interceptions. Time for people to wake up. They’re for real.
Hornback: This team is a contending team because of one thing; they are 5-1 with their best player playing like the worst player. Once LeSean “Shady” McCoy gets going watch out because they’re coming.
Saka: I’m not quite sold on the Eagles and I feel like their 5-1 record is quite deceiving of how good they really are. I still have them winning their division but I don’t see them going deep in the Playoffs especially with the way LeSean McCoy is playing. They will have to prove me otherwise.
Allen: The Eagles are contenders in the NFC. Despite how Dallas is playing I still think they will win the division and once their stout offensive line comes back to health they will become an even more difficult team to deal with.
Fort: Ehh no. They are Pretenders. The way they win games against subpar teams is going to eventually catch up to them. Foles isn’t looking too good an we don’t know if McCoy is going to be consistent. They’re still a pretty fun to watch though.
Hornback: I don’t even know to be honest with you. The NFC South has been the worst division this year. The Panthers could come out on top with the way everyone is playing, but do I see them beating San Fran, Seattle, Arizona or the Cowboys? No.
Saka: They’re pretenders. Cam Newton has no type of weapons to throw to. They will not make the Playoffs this year despite the NFC South being terrible this year. Even though they are currently at the top of it I still see the Saints finding some way to win the division.
Allen: Pretenders. Even though they are a little better than expected they are still far from competing with the best of the NFC. They have a weak offensive line protecting Cam Newton and due to suspensions and departures their defense has faded as well.
Fort: Pretenders. Cam has no weapons and they aren’t much better than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In all honesty, NFC South teams have lost me completely. The Saints and Falcons should be dominating but both are hampered by a piss poor defense. Hell Rodgers made the Panthers D look awful. Smh.
Hornback: The Seahawks are a bunch of pretenders and I do not believe they have a chance at the Playoffs this year. They have become an eye sore to watch and I have lost all confidence in them at this point. PRETENDER.
Saka: Pretenders. This team just traded away Percy Harvin for basically nothing. Their offense will continue to struggle and Russell Wilson will be forced to do more than he usually has to and that will not be good for them. Plus, this defense is very questionable and vulnerable right now.
Allen: Contenders. Despite their slow start you have to believe that the Seahawks will figure it out somehow. With their most electrifying player Percy Harvin going to the Jets it does raise some eyebrows about the offense, but nobody can think that the Legion of Boom will be held down for long.
Fort: With them being the defending Champs I want to give them the benefit of the doubt but I just can’t. The Cowboys abused them at home. The Chargers beat them. Denver figured them out late. The Redskins gave them a challenge. The Rams brought it to them. And A-Rod made game one hard on himself. This team has lost it’s mojo and I don’t see them recovering. Time for a new acronym S.E.A… Season Ended Already. Cause aren’t competing this year. (Side note: Superbowl winning teams struggle in year two.)
Hornback: I want to say pretenders but I think I would be lying to myself. The Cowboys are stunning the league and Demarco is on a record pacing season, but can they hold this up? We’ll have to watch and see
Saka: Pretenders. Despite their 6-1 start I don’t see this team continuing their early success later in the season and perhaps the Playoffs. They also can’t beat elite teams in the NFC and I honestly don’t see them winning their division.
Allen: Pretenders. I’m not sold on the Cowboys just yet despite their strong start. I do believe they will make the Playoffs (as a wildcard) but I don’t believe Tony Romo can lead this team far in the playoffs. One and done!
Fort: Contenders. They have the best O-Line in Football. The best RB (Murray) in the league. Arguably the best WR in Dez (this season) and the best 2nd half QB in football. Now that Romo has the pieces things are looking vastly different here in Dallas. If they can shore up the TOs, Pass Rush ( The D-Line will be bigger and more explosive here soon D-Law, Okoye, Brent) and special teams they’ll be lethal. #DemBoysComing
San Francisco 49ers
Hornback: They are contenders no doubt at all in my mind. Even though I’m not their biggest fan I have them going all the way to the Super Bowl and I still believe that will happen.
Saka: Definitely contenders. I have this team going all the way to the Super Bowl. Very physical team that knows how to win. They are about to have key players coming back from injuries, and once they do this team is gonna be hard to beat.
Allen: They are only contenders when they have their main defensive weapons at their disposal. If they don’t get Bowman, Smith, and Willis back healthy there is no way they can contend unless Kaepernick plays lights out.
Fort: Pretenders. They aren’t that consistent offensively and the defense isn’t healthy. They have way too many distractions in regards to Harbough and Frank Gore is on the decline. If Kap has to win games with his arm they are in big trouble.
Hornback: The defense has tons of injuries this year and Fitzgerald is having the worst season of his career. Despite that they have only lost one game. I’m calling them contenders because I believe in Bruce Arians.
Saka: Pretenders. I just flat out don’t believe in this team and what they can do despite their 5-1 record. Defense missing too many key players. Their No.1 receiver is having his worst year and Carson Palmer has yet to impress me. Wouldn’t be suprised if they didn’t make the Olayoffs.
Allen: Pretenders. I do see the Cardinals making the Playoffs because of their strong defense but I don’t think they can contend without a QB. If Palmer comes back 100% and he is effective then all bets are off.
Fort: They are CONTENDERS. They’re the best team in Football contrary to many beliefs. Without Carson Palmer they still managed to win games. Without Larry Fitzgerald performing they’ve still been able to out gun teams. Even with key injuries to the defense they have still been able to lockup opposing offenses. Had Carson Palmer played against Denver they would undefeated. This team is the real deal.
NFC Team That Could Rise:
I have the Detroit Lions winning the division this year and I’m sticking by that because so far they have the best defense in the NFL according to the stats. Just wait until Megatron comes back and watch this team soar.
The Detroit Lions. This team has so much talent from top to bottom. When Calvin Johnson comes back this team will be so much better offensively. Just wait on it.
Simple answer The Detroit Lions but that has been the case for the past couple of seasons. With the best receiver in the game in Megatron and a very good defense, the Lions can make a lot of noise in the NFC consistency is their problem.
The Detroit Lions. Before Calvin got hurt their offense was solid. And despite a few injuries I still think that the defense can be dominant. If Rodgers goes down this is the team to beat in the NFC North. Matter of fact they’re still one of the teams to beat. (Keep in mind they manhandled the Green Bay Packers.)