Matthew Stafford

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

Before Sunday’s intriguing matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, teams with a minus-four turnover margin in a single game had a 43-663 record since the 1970 merger. Now bare with me here because I am no mathematician, but if I were not mistaken, that would give the Cowboys about a 94% chance of winning, if in fact the Lions were to commit four turnovers against them and the Cowboys were to take care of the football for an entire game.

Those are pretty good odds of winning, but the likelihood of a banged up Cowboys defense causing a talented Lions offense to turn the ball over four times did not seem too high.

Sunday’s game went against all odds, though, and despite turning the ball over four times, the Lions rallied late to defeat the Cowboys 31-30 in dramatic fashion. 

With just 29 seconds left in the game and the clock ticking after Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had hauled in a Matthew Stafford pass down to the one-yard line, Stafford hurried his teammates up to the line and fooled everyone by hurdling over his offensive line to score the sneaky game-winning touchdown. 

This heartbreaking loss was a similar result to the one the Cowboys suffered Week 5 to the Denver Broncos, in a sense that, well, they blew it.

Some may argue that the offense for the Cowboys played not to lose near the end of the game, trying to run out the clock by handing the ball off to running back Joseph Randle. But the defense collapsed, and “Megatron” had a mega game and was too much to handle for Brandon Carr and the rest of the Cowboys. 

Johnson tore up the Cowboys, beating any type of coverage that was brought his way and was just seven yards shy of breaking Flipper Anderson’s NFL receiving record with 329 yards. He also was able to find the end zone once. And for all the fantasy players out there, Johnson could have had even more points for you, but he was stopped inside the 5-yard line four times.

On the other side, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, whom everyone was comparing Johnson to heading into the game, scored two touchdowns on 72 yards receiving. Despite the solid stat line, Bryant still managed to damage his image for most. 

Bryant was caught on camera throwing multiple fits, yelling at coaches and teammates. Some are saying it is because he was not getting the ball enough and that he is still an immature punk. Bryant said after the game, though, it was just passion.

No matter what the reasoning behind Bryant’s outbursts was, it is unacceptable as a professional athlete in the NFL. Bryant needs to harness his emotions better and gain more control of himself in situations similar to those which happened Sunday. 

Bryant is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, and he has a long career ahead of him. Having said that, this should be addressed within the Cowboys locker room and have people help him along the way if he wants to achieve a good image. I have no doubt this won’t be a problem going forward, and Bryant will have continued success and even has a chance to become one of the all-time greats when it is all said and done. 

On a positive note, rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams from Baylor University continues to improve every single week. Williams scored a touchdown for the fourth straight game against the Lions, setting a franchise record for most consecutive games with a touchdown reception. 

Oh, and how about Sean Lee? The linebacker seems to be everywhere for the Cowboys’ defense, intercepting two of Stafford’s passes Sunday and racking up a team-high 10 tackles. That extension the Cowboys gave him is being well earned.

With the loss, the Cowboys are back to a familiar .500 record, sitting at 4-4. But I believe this is what the Cowboys are: mediocre. 

The teams they have beaten are the: Rams, Giants, Redskins and Eagles, who currently all have losing records. Even though they “could” have easily won against the Lions and in multiple games earlier in the season, the bottom line is they did not.

Aside from all the drama the Cowboys will go through Sunday and all of the criticism the team will face this week, they are still in first place in the NFC East. 

The Cowboys return home in Week 9 and will take on the Minnesota Vikings from AT&T Stadium.

 

Success in fantasy football isn’t about being the smartest or having the most research, it’s about being bold. It’s about having the guts to make the right moves at the right time. It’s about answering the door when opportunity comes knocking. After Week 1 starts this Thursday, the pieces will start to move quickly, so be prepared. Here are a few players to buy low and to sell high prior to — or immediately following — Week 1. 

Buy Low:

Matthew Stafford – Stafford is currently being drafted as the eighth to 10th quarterback in most fantasy leagues, based on last season in which he threw for 4,967 yards.  Something is wrong there. Any quarterback throwing for around 5,000 yards each of the last two years should be a top five fantasy quarterback. His 20-to-17 touchdown to interception ratio leaves definite room for improvement, but given the Lions’ pass-happy offense, as well as the addition of Reggie Bush as a backfield pass-catching option, expect Stafford’s touchdown numbers to eclipse the 30 mark and flirt with 40.  

T.Y. Hilton – A standout rookie receiver last year, who had 861 yards and seven touchdowns. He features sub-4.40 speed and precision route running. He is currently listed behind Darrius Heyward-Bey on the Colt’s depth chart, but expect that to change quickly. A brilliant preseason will yield great dividends for Hilton, so trade for him before he becomes a household name early on.  

Danny Woodhead – Guess who quietly became a top-25 fantasy running back last year sitting behind both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in New England: Danny Woodhead. Believe it. Don’t be scared that he is listed behind Ronnie Brown on the Chargers' depth chart. Woodhead will see immediate action in third down situations and will be the first in line to receive the bulk of the carries once Ryan Matthews almost assuredly goes down with an injury by halftime of Week 1. Woodhead currently carries an extremely low price in the fantasy market and could be influential down the road. 

Justin Blackmon – The easiest and smartest choice as a buy low candidate, Blackmon’s stock has dropped dramatically due to a four-game suspension to begin the season. But take a step back. Were you really thinking of starting Blackmon in the first four weeks of your season? I bet not. Blackmon showed flashes of brilliance last year, so grab him in your league before he returns from suspension. A mid-year breakout for Blackmon would not shock at all, and he can be had for next to nothing.

Dwayne Bowe – Is a monster. Bowe has three 1,000-yard seasons in his six-year tenure in the NFL. He also turned heads in 2010 with a 1,162-yard, 15-touchdown season. His success was despite terrible quarterback play in Kansas City. Now with the perpetually underrated Alex Smith at the helm in Kansas City, and no other wide receiver talent to be found, expect Bowe to be — at the worst — a top-15 wide receiver. Possibly even a top five option by the end of 2013. 

Sell High:

Alfred Morris – By all accounts, Morris’ 2012 season was an anomaly, but for some reason, some Morris supporters believe that this effort is repeatable. Don’t buy it. The change to a zone-blocking scheme may not be kind to Morris, and I don’t like holding a running back who is known as only a two-down back. In the end, I’d rather have Matt Forte, Steven Jackson or Maurice Jones-Drew. It would be easier to make that move now rather than later in the season.  

Eric Decker/Wes Welker – Fact: Peyton Manning is the most accurate and intelligent quarterback in the NFL. Fact: The Broncos will have the most potent passing attack in the league. Fact: Welker and Decker will both suffer in this offense. Demaryius Thomas is the only receiver physically capable of standing out in the offense, leaving Decker and Welker to cannibalize each other’s production.  By year’s end, neither will be a top-15 wide receiver simply because there are not enough targets to go around. Expect both to be solid, but be smart and trade out of them before their stock drops. 

Deangelo Williams – He might be the most frustrating fantasy player in the NFL. As soon as I gave up hope on him last year, he posted a 220-yard, two-touchdown effort to close out the season. Now, Jonathan Stewart is on the Physically Unable to Perform list — meaning he is out for at least the first six weeks of the season — so Williams will spearhead the rushing attack in Carolina. Although he is a solid play in the short term, look for him to return to his frustratingly inconsistent form by mid-season. Save yourself the trouble and trade for a more consistent, long-term option when you can. 

Julio Jones - Don’t get me wrong, Jones is a fantastic receiver. I just don’t buy into the idea that he is a top five receiver in the league. He is often out-paced by an older and more consistent Roddy White, who is being drafted about 10 picks later than him. Jones is great, but I’d rather have Larry Fitzgerald or even Andre Johnson, and with some good old fashion negotiating, you may be able to milk Jones’ hype for even more. 

Cecil Shorts – Shorts is a flash in the pan – nothing more, nothing less. He will have a solid four weeks while Blackmon is out, and then slip slowly into relative fantasy obscurity. Blackmon is bigger, faster and more physical, and it will start to show this season. Shorts won’t post 1,000 yards and he won’t have more than six touchdowns. Trade him while there are still some people that think he will. 

Fantasy Football

Plenty of fans embraced the spirit of Halloween this weekend, showing up to games dressed from head to toe in wacky, ridiculous costumes. The Halloween theme carried over to the field too, as many players’ performances resembled fantasy football “trick or treat.” Did your fantasy stars live up to expectations, or did they drop the ball? Check out this week’s fantasy “tricks” and “treats”:

Fantasy Treats:

1) Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

After an extremely disappointing first six games, Stafford exploded Sunday, throwing three touchdowns and running for another in Detroit’s 28-24 win over the Seahawks. Stafford’s big game came as a surprise, considering his struggles this year and the fact that Seattle had only surrendered six passing touchdowns in their first seven games combined. However, with the Lions desperate for a win, he was able to overcome the odds and step his game up.

2) Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Behind Martin’s 214 total yards and two touchdowns, Tampa Bay dismantled a Minnesota team that was undefeated at home before this week, winning 36-17. The Bucs’ rookie running back absolutely gashed the Vikings Thursday night, catching three passes for 79 yards in addition to rushing for 135 yards in what was his best game as a professional. Look for more big games to come from Martin, who has looked increasingly better these last three weeks.

3) Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

If football fans across the pond didn’t know about Gronkowski before, they certainly do now. Gronk celebrated his first NFL game outside of U.S. territory in memorable fashion, hauling in eight passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ 45-7 shellacking of the Rams in London. Let’s hope New England’s bye this week doesn’t cool Gronkowski down, as he has caught two touchdowns in each of his last two games.

Fantasy Tricks:

1) Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Charles continues to be a fantasy anomaly, turning in an absolute stinker against the Raiders Sunday. With the Chiefs struggling mightily at the quarterback position, one would assume they would rely on Charles to carry the load. However, that was not the case, as the ex-Longhorn had a dismal five carries for four yards and three receptions for six yards.

2) Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After a monster game against the Saints last week, Jackson came back down to earth on Thursday, catching only two balls for 40 yards. Much of this lackluster performance can be attributed to Bucs’ RB Doug Martin, who went off on the Vikings. Still, Jackson’s fantasy owners have to be disappointed with this one, especially since he failed to reach the end zone for the first time in his last four games.

3) Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Rivers did little effectively Sunday, throwing for 154 yards and zero touchdowns in an ugly 6-7 loss to the Browns. The game’s playing conditions were awful, with rain and wind making it very difficult for either team’s quarterback to get anything going. Although the elements clearly affected his play, this week can be marked down as another poor performance for the Bolts’ QB.

Dolphins running back Reggie Bush made a splash against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, tallying two touchdowns.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

With two weeks of NFL games in the books, fantasy football frenzy has once again taken over. To ease the stress of creating a powerhouse starting lineup this week, here are a few players to embrace and a few others to avoid:

Start:

1) Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins
Wow, Bush played a great game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, rushing for 172 yards and two touchdowns. The question now is whether or not Bush can do it again this week against the Jets and Rex Ryan’s defense. There’s reason to believe he can and he will. The Jets surrendered a total of 194 yards to C.J. Spiller in Week 1, a player with speed and elusiveness similar to Bush’s. With a rookie quarterback under center for the Dolphins, expect Bush to get the ball early and often.

2) Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
Despite the Broncos’ lackluster performance as a team Monday against the Falcons, Thomas had a solid outing, catching eight balls for 78 yards and one touchdown. Over the span of two games, Thomas has almost 200 yards receiving and is clearly Peyton Manning’s primary target. Although cornerback Johnathan Joseph will challenge him this week when the Broncos face the Texans, Thomas will get plenty of passes thrown his way and should be able to put up big numbers.

3) Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Stafford has been a disappointment up to this point in the season, managing only two touchdowns while tossing four interceptions. In his defense, he faced an improved Rams defense in Week 1 and arguably the best defense in the NFL in San Francisco this past week. Expect Stafford to break out of his early-season slump and throw for several scores against the Tennessee Titans, who allowed three passing touchdowns from Philip Rivers in Week 2.

Sit:

1) Michael Turner, RB,  Atlanta Falcons
Turner’s start to the season had been anything but ideal even before he was pulled over for speeding and drunken driving Tuesday. Turner has managed a measly 74 yards rushing and a touchdown in the Falcons’ two victories, numbers that will make any fantasy owner cringe. Unfortunately for Turner, things are unlikely to improve this week when he faces the San Diego Chargers, who lead the NFL in rush defense.

2) Jackie Battle, RB,  San Diego Chargers
Many fantasy owners will be tempted to jump on the Jackie Battle bandwagon following his 69-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Titans on Sunday. However, Battle appears to be fool’s gold and should not be viewed as a reliable fantasy threat. With a healthy Ryan Mathews set to return this week, expect Battle’s workload to diminish significantly outside of a few goal line plays, making him a risky player.

3) Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Bradford torched the Redskins this past Sunday, passing for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Despite this, do not expect Bradford to put up similar numbers Sunday against a tough, physical Chicago Bears defense. Given the Bears’ ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks and the Rams’ instability along the offensive line, Bradford could struggle.

 Printed on Thursday, September 20, 2012 as: Starting Bush a no-brainer

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) is pushed out of bounds by Lions free safety Louis Delmas during the Cowboy’s loss to the Lions. The Cowboys had a 24-point lead at the beginning of the second half.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ARLINGTON — Tony Romo put the Dallas Cowboys ahead by 24 points with his third touchdown pass right after halftime. That lead wasn’t enough after he followed that with
three interceptions.

Two of the picks were returned for touchdowns, and the third set up Detroit’s game-winning score with 1:39 left as the Cowboys blew their largest lead ever to lose 34-30 to the undefeated Lions on Sunday.

“It hurts,” Romo said, not even talking about the still-sore ribs that forced to him take another pregame injection. “We were obviously in a position to win this game. ... It doesn’t feel good right now.”

Especially knowing the Cowboys (2-2) are going into their bye week and won’t play again for two weeks.

“It’s devastating,” linebacker Sean Lee said.

The Cowboys had won two in a row since a season-opening loss at the New York Jets when Romo had an interception and a fumble at the 3 as Dallas blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead for the first time in franchise history.

A week after that, Romo threw for 201 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime of a win at San Francisco despite suffering a fractured rib and punctured lung early in the game. They Cowboys were coming off a win over NFC East rival Washington six days earlier.

“I view the success we have, I view what he does well and I put the mistakes right in with what he does well and don’t in any way get discouraged about our future with Tony,” owner Jerry Jones said. “There’s no issue about faith in Romo, any place in this organization, period. ... If you’re going to try to make plays, then you’ve got a chance to have some bad plays. But however we go, we’ll go with Tony. As Tony goes, we’ll go.”

The Cowboys led 27-3 after Romo hit Jason Witten for a 1-yard touchdown only 2½ minutes into the second half.

Then came the two interceptions in a span of three throws. Bobby Carpenter, the former first-round pick by the Cowboys and one of Romo’s good friends, returned the first one 35 yards for a touchdown and Chris Houston took another one back 56 yards for a 27-17 score.

Jason Hanson kicked a 51-yard field goal to get Detroit within 30-27 soon after Cowboys coach Jason Garrett declined a penalty that would’ve pushed the Lions back 10 yards, but given them an extra down.

On the first snap after Hanson’s second field goal in his 299th career game, Romo threw while trying to avoid pressure and came up short to Witten. Stephen Tulloch intercepted, setting up the Lions at the 40.

“I just didn’t get enough on the throw. ... I thought it was going to be a big play for us, honestly,” Romo said. “It’s disappointing because I thought he was coming open past all the linebackers and there’s no safety help to that side. I wish I could have that throw back and just throw it further.”

Instead, Dallas-born Matthew Stafford led the Lions on a seven-play drive that ended with his second touchdown to Calvin Johnson, a 2-yarder with 1:39 left.

This was a bizarre way for the Cowboys to end an NFL-record streak of nine straight games decided by a field goal or less. The final play was wacky, too, with Felix Jones catching a short pass with no one around him on fourth-and-20, then running out of bounds after only gaining 8 yards.

While Stafford has the Lions off to their first 4-0 start since 1980, and they have won an NFL-best eight in a row, Romo and the Cowboys have another bitter loss.

“Nobody’s lost faith in Romo,” said safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the third quarter.

“We believe in him. He’s our guy and we’ll fight through it,” Witten said. “We just need to eliminate this roller coaster of a ride, and that’s the next step for us.”

Dallas’ previous biggest blown lead was 21 against Washington on Nov. 28, 1965, when the Cowboys led 21-0 in the second quarter on the way to a 34-31 loss.

Stafford had dozens of relatives and friends in the crowd, including his high school coach.

His first pass to Johnson was intercepted, leading to Dallas’ first touchdown and the defense was constantly in his face. He had a tough first half, but finished 21 of 43 for 240 yards and did a better job of finding Johnson after halftime. The game-winner came against tight coverage on a play when the Cowboys had 12 defenders on the field.

Johnson caught eight passes for 96 yards, and tied Cris Carter’s NFL record of catching two TDs in four straight games.
Romo was 34 of 47 for 331 yards, with three touchdowns. Dez Bryant caught two TDs before Johnson even had a single grab, and Laurent Robinson had seven catches for 116 yards.

Romo was on a roll of completing 13 of 14 passes, the only incompletion a clock-stopping spike, when Carpenter made a leaping interception and a weaving 35-yard return.

“I know he’s going to get beaten up by (the media) this week,” Carpenter said of Romo. “He’s the same quarterback he was two weeks ago when he was the hero. He’s a tremendous player and a top-five quarterback, in my opinion.”