The headline today may be deceiving, because in reality, I’m not giving you all that much advice. Sure I’ll point out a few guys I like down the stretch but at this point it’s up to you.
If you’re still reading these weekly articles, you’re either in your fantasy playoffs or you’re related to me (h/t to family). The fact is, if you’re in the former group, you probably don’t need my help any longer. Hopefully I’ve helped here and there with some good start/sit material. And maybe even more than that, I just hope I’ve kept the bad calls to a minimum (sorry about recommending Kirk Cousins and Jake Locker…ugh).
But for today, I want to summarize everything up in this one sentiment--“Dance with the one who brung ya.” Darrell Royal popularized the phrase when spending some time here on the 40 Acres. The meaning is simple; stick to your guns. Don’t get tricky if there’s no need to be. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The fantasy playoffs are here and I hope and pray you stick to this simple mindset. You managed your team all year long. Not me, not ESPN, not your wife, but you. The key to setting your fantasy lineup in these vital weeks is just playing your studs. Don’t get cute. You have a feel for your lineup at this point…who’s a must start, who you’re comfortable with, and who makes you queasy.
Quite possibly the worst feeling in fantasy is taking a chance and starting a guy over one of your typical starters…only to see them sputter on their way to two receptions for eight yards. It’s always better to lose with someone you love than to watch your studs going off on your bench. So before I make a few recommendations, please keep this in mind--dance with the one who brung ya.
· Tony Romo- Yes I absolutely loved him last week and yes he absolutely fell on his face. 199 yards and two interceptions against a bottom-five pass defense is horrific. And yet here I am, showing some love to the Dallas QB again. His fantasy schedule is just way too good to pass up, even accounting for his Thanksgiving dud. In the next four weeks, Romo faces four of the 10 worst passing defenses on the year, and three of those games are against bottom-five defenses. Yes, he may come back to bite you, but you have to roll with those matchups and hope he turns things around.
· Mark Ingram- The Saints running back continues to dominate the touches out of a typically split-up backfield, and he’s making the best of them. He’s had at least 90 total yards in five of his last six games and is averaging more than 20 carries per contest. Ingram has a great matchup against a depleted Panthers defense this upcoming week, and then has a tasty back to back in weeks 16 and 17 when he plays the Falcons and Bucs. Keep starting the Saints workhorse back and reap the benefits as he dominates the touches.
· Doug Baldwin- Hopefully if you’re in the playoffs, your lineup is full of no-doubt starters. But if it isn’t, and you find yourself looking for a WR2 or a flex, take a look at Doug Baldwin. Yes, he hasn’t produced quite like some thought he might after the Seahawks traded away Percy Harvin but he’s still the top receiving option in a good offense. On the year, Baldwin has been targeted 70 times, or 17 more than the second most targeted receiver, Jermaine Kearse. He also has 19 more receptions, so he’s converting those targets at a much higher rate than Kearse. In order for the Seahawks to have playoff success, I think they must start getting Russell Wilson into playoff form. This means less running and more time for the Wisconsin product to gel with his receiving core. In the final four weeks of the season, Baldwin faces three secondaries in the bottom 15 in fantasy pass defense. If you’re looking for that flex to fill out your playoff lineup, Baldwin might be your guy.
Short and sweet this week. Playoff time means it’s your job to manage your team. You did something right, or else you wouldn’t be sitting in a playoff spot in week 14. As Darrell Royal would tell you, “Dance with the one who brung ya.” Ride the boat you built and pray it’s still afloat after the dust settles. As always, feel free to email me with any start/sit questions, or waiver wisdom you may need at FantasyDecisions@gmail.com
This is the last week for new material here at the Daily Texan before heading off to Christmas break, and I must say I’m sad to see the column coming to an end. I can’t begin to explain how exciting it’s been writing these articles every week. Getting the chance to talk fantasy football via a medium like this has been a huge blessing for me both as a journalism student and fantasy writer. Thank you to each of you who took the time to read each and every week. Follow me @BradleyMaddox5 for all things sports.
And who knows, maybe you’ll see me back around these parts next season…
No more waiting with bated breath, I am back. Last week, similar to six NFL teams, I took my bye week (although I took mine because of midterms). But fear not, your fantasy expert has returned with one of the more important articles of the year.
The fantasy playoffs are suddenly creeping up on us. For most leagues, you’ve only got 3 weeks left to either make a run or make an exit. Now for some, you may already be looking towards the playoffs. Maybe you’re sitting at 8-2 and have already clinched a spot, or maybe you’re 7-3 just looking for one more win to punch your ticket. Whatever circumstance you find yourself in, it’s time to look at players with an eye for the playoffs. So in today’s article I want to take a look at a couple players at each position that could be the difference between making the playoffs and being a championship contender. Now you may feel it’s a little early to start looking ahead but remember the key to fantasy football success: being ahead of the curve. Beat your league rivals to the waiver wire and reap the benefits on your way to the trophy.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume your playoffs run from weeks 14 through 17…
AND DON’T FORGET: You can always email me at FantasyDecisions@gmail.com with any weekly questions, trade help or anything you need. I’m the “expert” with the answers.
Favorable Playoff Schedules
The Baylor project may just have the most favorable down the stretch schedule of any QB in the league. In weeks 14-16 he faces the Rams, Giants, and Eagles. Or in other words, the seventh, ninth, and third worst against the pass, respectively. It’s hard to find a more passing-friendly stretch of matchups. If he’s somehow available in your league’s waiver wire, stop reading this article and go grab him. I also think you could get him for very little in a trade if your deadline hasn’t passed. While you’re not starting him over any of the top three-six guys, he could easily slide in to the second tier of QBs.
It’s no coincidence that, like RG3, Romo plays in the NFC East. For such a consistently competitive division, the passing defense among the four teams is lacking, to put it lightly. Romo may even have a better schedule then the aforementioned Griffin. In weeks 14, 15, and 17 Romo plays three of the four worst passing defenses in the NFL! The juiciest matchup obviously being the Bears in week 14. (Did you catch what happened when Aaron Rodgers took a turn at them in week 10? Yeah, I want anyone and everyone on the offense playing Da Bears)
Some may be considering “selling high” on Ingram with the Saints running backs getting healthy and coming back to steal carries. If that’s the case in your league, please go send whatever it takes to get the Alabama stud on your team. It’s no fluke that Ingram has AVERAGED 27 carries the last three weeks. He has been an absolute bellcow in an offense that hasn’t had one in a long, long time. And his schedule just gets easier and easier. He’s facing 3 of the 10 worst rush defenses in the playoff weeks. Including maybe the very best matchup of any position down the stretch, a week 16 home game against the Falcons, the league’s worst rushing defense. His numbers aren’t a fluke. Sean Payton trusts him and so too should you.
This week may be your last chance to buy in on the Ivory market. After a bye this week, Ivory’s schedule is almost full proof (minus a tough week 12 matchup in Buffalo). In weeks 14-16, Ivory faces the 24th, 25th, and 26th ranked rushing defenses, respectively. The Jets RB is the perfect, under the radar tailback that could easily be a RB2 on a championship team. Not to mention, it shouldn’t take much to get him after two tough weeks and this week’s bye. Buy in on him now and be prepared to use him to crush your league-mates.
· Andre Johnson
My homer-ism may be strong here but my boy Dre has a shot to be a top 10 WR come playoff time. Two matchups against Jacksonville certainly don’t hurt with that prediction. Not to mention a meeting with the Ravens who lost Jimmy Smith, their top cornerback, for the year to a foot injury. Mallett and Andre are known to have a special bond, more so than Fitz had with Dre. By the time we get to the fantasy playoffs, Mallett will have had 3 games under his belt and will be looking for the trustworthiest hands in the NFL. A hall of fame receiver will be looking like his old self as he tears up the Jags in route to a huge end to the season.
· Kelvin Benjamin
The huge red zone target has been absolutely massive for Newton this season. His acclimation to the NFL has had its bumps but there’s no questioning his talent, which has led to him being the 10th best receiver in fantasy this year. I’m loving the week 14 and 15 back to back against the Saints and Bucs, the 4th and 1st worst passing defenses in the league. With a bye in week 12, Benjamin may be gettable in your league. Make it happen and smile as the Florida State kid tears up some weak secondaries.
The young TE has finally returned to practice after going through foot surgery following week three. Teddy Bridgewater needs a reliable target in Minny and I think Rudolph provides that for the young QB down the stretch. He had 5 targets in all three games to start the season and returns to a team desperate for a better passing offense. Rudolph has a great sandwich of the Jets awful secondary in week 14 and a week 17 meeting with Da Bears. Now that’s some favorable white bread on your sandwich. Just today I actually dropped Vernon Davis for the young TE. I’m all in and I think you should be too.
Just remember, this defense put up 20 points in the only game of the year in which JJ Watt, Brian Cushing, and JD Clowney played together. This unit has had a bye week to get healthy and it’s time to store them away for the playoffs. If nothing more than for the week 14 and 17 matchups against the woeful Jaguars. A stiff D against the Jags in the last week of your championship? Yeah I’ll take that everyday of the week.
Week 11 Rankings
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Peyton Manning
3. Andrew Luck
4. Philip Rivers
5. Tom Brady
6. Drew Brees
7. Matthew Stafford
8. Matt Ryan
9. Robert Griffin
10. Josh McCown
11. Colin Kaepernick
12. Mark Sanchez
13. Jay Cutler
14. Teddy Bridgewater
15. Ryan Tannehill
16. Cam Newton
17. Shaun Hill
18. Derek Carr
19. Andy Dalton
20. Ryan Mallett
1. Arian Foster
2. Matt Fort
3. Le’Veon Bell
4. Mark Ingram
5. Jamaal Charles
6. Marshawn Lynch
7. Alfred Morris
8. LeSean McCoy
9. Eddie Lacy
10. Jeremy Hill
11. Andre Ellington
12. Frank Gore
13. Ryan Matthews
14. Ahmad Bradshaw
15. Rashad Jennings
16. Fred Jackson
17. C.J. Anderson
18. Jonathan Stewart
19. Shane Vereen
20. Steven Jackson
21. Jerick McKinnon
22. Terrance West
23. Lamar Miller
24. Ben Tate
25. Bobby Rainey
1. Demaryius Thomas
2. Jordy Nelson
3. Calvin Johnson
4. Antonio Brown
5. Jeremy Maclin
6. A.J. Green
7. Randall Cobb
8. Julio Jones
9. DeSean Jackson
10. Kelvin Benjamin
11. Emmanuel Sanders
12. Brandon Marshall
13. T.Y. Hilton
14. Roddy White
15. Odell Beckham Jr.
16. Sammy Watkins
17. Andre Johnson
18. Golden Tate
19. Mike Evans
20. Alshon Jeffery
21. Vincent Jackson
22. Mike Wallace
23. DeAndre Hopkins
24. Julian Edelman
25. Brandon LaFell
1. Rob Gronkowski
2. Jimmy Graham
3. Antonio Gates
4. Julius Thomas
5. Greg Olsen
6. Larry Donnell
7. Dwayne Allen
8. Travis Kelce
9. Jared Cook
10. Martellus Bennett
9. Chargers D
1. Arian Foster
2. Demaryius Thomas
3. Matt Forte
4. Le’Veon Bell
5. Jordy Nelson
6. Calvin Johnson
7. Antonio Brown
8. Mark Ingram
9. Jamaal Charles
10. Rob Gronkowski
11. Marshawn Lynch
12. Jeremy Maclin
13. Alfred Morris
14. LeSean McCoy
15. A.J. Green
16. Randall Cobb
17. Eddie Lacy
18. Jimmy Graham
19. Jeremy Hill
20. Andre Ellington
21. Julio Jones
22. DeSean Jackson
23. Kelvin Benjamin
24. Frank Gore
25. Antonio Gates
26. Ryan Matthews
27. Emmanuel Sanders
28. Brandon Marshall
29. Julius Thomas
30. T.Y. Hilton
31. Roddy White
32. Odell Beckham Jr.
33. Ahmad Bradshaw
34. Rashad Jennings
35. Fred Jackson
36. C.J. Anderson
37. Greg Olsen
38. Jonathan Stewart
39. Sammy Watkins
40. Andre Johnson
41. Shane Vereen
42. Larry Donnell
43. Steven Jackson
44. Golden Tate
45. Mike Evans
46. Alshon Jeffery
47. Jerick McKinnon
48. Terrance West
49. Vincent Jackson
50. Mike Wallace
As the NFL’s free agency period draws near, the Cowboys have a great opportunity to improve their playoff chances. Here are our suggestions:
1. Resign/Restructure Key Players Contracts
Dallas is dangerously close to running over the NFL’s salary cap. As a result, the Cowboys have already been working to alleviate their cap issues. Quarterback Tony Romo, one of Dallas’ highest paid players, just had his contract restructured, creating $10 million in cap space for America’s Team.
In addition to restructuring Romo’s contract, Dallas is currently working with linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Orlando Scandrick’s to restructure their deals. These moves could create an additional 6.8 million in cap room.
2. Release Miles Austin
Since his breakout year in 2009, Miles Austin has failed to live up to expectations. Over the past three years, Austin has missed nine games due to a nagging hamstring injury. 2013 was Austin’s worst season. The receiver only played in 11 games and failed to catch a touchdown pass.
Considering his lack of production and the Cowboys cap issues, Dallas should release Miles Austin. By cutting Austin and designating him as a “post-June 1 cut,” the Cowboys can create $5.5 million in cap space. However, the cap room won’t show up until he is actually released, after June 1.
3. Find another running back
The Cowboys have an excellent running back in DeMarco Murray, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. During his first three seasons, Murray has missed nine games.
The Cowboys drafted Joseph Randle in the 2013 draft but he struggled in his rookie season. Lance Dunbar emerged as a solid back up, but he has also suffered from the injury bug.
Dallas may not be able to make a big splash in free agency but finding a durable running back would help them in the long run. Here are a few options:
Toby Gerhart - The one-time Heisman candidate is expected to be a free agent and proved to be a good backup for the Vikings.
Ben Tate - The former Texans rusher was a decent second string back. He thrives in the passing game, which could really help the Cowboys.
Donald Brown - Brown spent time as the Colt’s feature back; he is expected to be on the market and could be a good compliment to Murray.
4. Look for a back-up quarterback
Back-up quarterback Kyle Orton has been contemplating retirement. If Orton were to retire, Dallas would be without a reliable back up.
Even if Orton didn’t retire, an additional quarterback would give the Cowboys depth. Here are a few quarterbacks Dallas could go after:
Chad Henne - Henne had an up-and-down season with the Jaguars in 2013. In 15 games, Henne threw 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. While Henne’s touchdown to interception ratio is concerning, he would make for a solid back up.
Matt Flynn - Flynn is a solid quarterback but he showed over the past two years that he is not good enough to be a starting quarterback. Flynn could be a solid backup and grow under Romo.
Colt McCoy - McCoy is a fan favorite in Texas. He struggled as the starter in Cleveland but has been a solid backup. Expected to be a free agent, the Cowboys could pick him up for cheap.
Ultimately, any of these moves would be difficult to accomplish given the Cowboys salary cap issues, but if they can find the space, these are some good options.
December started off like normal for the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football, as they were absolutely embarrassed by the Chicago Bears 45-28.
The only bright spot in the game for the Cowboys was running back DeMarco Murray rushing for 146 yards on just 18 carries. But running back hasn’t completely run all over a defense that ranked dead last heading into Week 14? Even New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs gained 106 yards on 22 carries, including two touchdowns, against the Bears in his first week back in the NFL.
Meanwhile, star wide receiver Dez Bryant had just two receptions for 12 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Tony Romo completed 11 of his 20 passes for three touchdowns, finishing the game with a 109.2 passer rating. But he only had 104 yards through the air, which marked his lowest yardage total this season.
Like I mentioned in the opening, though, December is a struggle for Dallas.
Most of the criticism will probably fall on the shoulders of Romo, but that is simply unfair. Romo is the only reason the Cowboys are ever in the hunt this late in the season -- he has a 24-5 record in November. The best record for any quarterback in the Super Bowl era with a minimum of 15 starts.
While his record in December is less than flattering (11-16), let’s just take a look at what the Cowboys' defense did Monday night against the Bears, because that is who should receive the attention and blame.
The Cowboys' defense allowed a backup quarterback, Josh McCown to throw for a career-high four touchdowns plus one rushing. While McCown had been playing well in Jay Cutler’s absence prior to this game, that does not diminish the fact that McCown is still a backup.
Not only that, Bears running back Matt Forte accounted for over 170 yards and wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery ran circles around the secondary.
If the does not make you want to put the blame on the defense because those are all great offensive players having career years, maybe the fact that the Bears scored on their first eight posessions will sway you.
OK. This will sway you for sure.
The Monte Kiffin-led Cowboy defense allowed 490 yards of total offense, which is the fifth time they have allowed 490 yards plus this season, tied for the most of any team since 1940. The Cowboys did not field a single punt in this game, which is the second time that has happened this sesaon. Only one other team since 1950 has faced two opponents who did not punt in a game in a single season: the 1981 Green Bay Packers.
Yes, it is only one game and it came on a night where Hall of Famer Mike Ditka’s number was retired, so Bears players, coaches and fans were all in. The Bears were also playing for a share of the NFC North lead.
But the Cowboys were playing for the same reason -- a chance to grab a share of their own division. The defense has not shown up all season for the Cowboys. If you are blaming Romo, you have it all wrong.
It must not be easy for Dallas Cowboys fans to sit down and comfortably watch their team every week. After a devastating loss to the Detroit Lions last week, the Cowboys managed to make it interesting again in week nine on Sunday against a much weaker opponent — the Minnesota Vikings.
One moment, Cowboys fans were probably cringing, watching Vikings running back Adrian Peterson bulldoze his way — carrying four Cowboys defenders — into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown run, giving the Vikings a slight 23-20 lead with 5:41 remaining in the game.
The next moment, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo throws an interception.
Just as Cowboys fans are getting ready to throw their remotes at their television sets, Romo tossed what would be the game-winning 7-yard pass to wide receiver Dwayne Harris with just 35 seconds left, capping a 90-yard drive.
At last, Cowboys fans could go on with their Sunday, relax and enjoy a 27-23 victory over the Vikings.
Romo finished with 337 yards through the air, two touchdowns and one interception that could have caused him a lot of criticism this week. Jason Witten had eight catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
For the Vikings, Peterson ran for 140 yards and a touchdown. What’s new?
Meanwhile, the running game was nonexistent for the Cowboys as the team rushed for 36 yards on nine carries with no touchdowns.
Cowboys starting running back DeMarco Murray returned for the first time since being injured in week six and was expected to bring some sort of attack, especially against a 29th-ranked defense. This was not the case. Lance Dunbar got most second-half carries.
I could get into the fact that the Cowboys are undefeated when Murray is given 20 or more carries, but I won’t because the Cowboys won Sunday despite the lack of a running game.
It’s difficult to figure out what the Cowboys want to do on offense week-in and week-out,=.
The reality is that the Cowboys do not seem to have a running game, and they seem to want to ride Romo and put the ball in his hands.
The Cowboys weren’t sharp Sunday, but they got the job done, and a win is a win. The NFC East still belongs to the Cowboys as they improve to 5-4.
Dallas will travel to New Orleans next week to take on the Saints, who are coming off a road loss to the New York Jets. Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has had this game circled, highlighted and put in bold letters since the team hired him after being fired as the Cowboys defensive coordinator in January.
Ryan will have many different packages and plans lined up for the Cowboys, so Romo and the offense need to bring their A-game if they want to stand a chance. Not to mention, the Saints are playing at home in that loud dome where quarterback Drew Brees and the offense thrive.
The Cowboys have only won one of the last eight games against the Saints.
The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday Night Football on NBC.
Tony Romo might have played the best football game ever by a Dallas Cowboys quarterback for 58 minutes on Sunday afternoon against the Denver Broncos. On his first 35 throws, Romo completed 25 passes for 506 yards, passing Don Meredith for the team’s single-game record. He also tossed five touchdowns and racked up a bazillion fantasy points in those 58 minutes.
Unfortunately for Romo and the Cowboys, an NFL game is 60 minutes, and this team always finds a way to stumble at the end.
With the score knotted at 48 and the Cowboys facing a 2nd-and-16 from their own 14-yard line, Romo did what people always expect him to do in clutch situations: He threw an interception.
It’s never a good idea to give Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, a short field. But the Cowboys did just that, and a Matt Prater field goal as time expired gave the Broncos a 51-48 victory and the Cowboys their second straight loss.
The throw by Romo was not the best decision, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. But what’s new?
In last season’s finale against the Washington Redskins, Romo threw a late interception, setting up the Redskins to win the game and head to the playoffs. In Week 2 of this season, Romo diminished his solid game with his fourth quarter performance against the Kansas City Chiefs. And who can forget about the fumbled snap against the Seattle Seahawks back in 2007?
Romo is a very talented quarterback, and statistically, he is excellent. But this is what Romo does. This has been the story for Romo his whole career. He can never perform in pressure situations, and when it comes to clutch time, he falters.
While Cowboys fans are tired of seeing Romo make costly mistakes with the game on the line, the blame should not be all on Romo; the defense was also terrible.
After all, Dallas’ defense did give up a whopping 51 points Sunday. Moreover, DeMarco Murray and the rushing attack were nonexistent.
While Romo is falling on his own sword for the loss, it’s the entire Cowboys team that is stuck in a rut, finding creative ways to lose.
The Cowboys are 2-3 for the third straight season, a record that hasn’t taken them to the playoffs since the Jerry Jones era.
Despite all that occurred Sunday for the Cowboys, they still stand at the top of the National Football Conference East, tied with the Philadelphia Eagles. There are 11 games to be played, and when seven or eight wins could win them a division this year, there is still plenty of time to get better and forget about that one mistake Romo made.
I try to defend the Cowboys as America’s team. I try to tout their five Superbowl titles, Hall of Famers and steadfast legacy. I try to rep my team and hometown like a loyal fan.
But all of this was before my lifetime, so listeners don’t find my claims very credible—or even relevant. I need something to work with. Those Super Bowl titles stopped coming before my second birthday, and even playoff appearances faded before I got my driver’s license. Then again, with one playoff win this millennium, what good did making the playoffs do for me anyway?
I think I’d lose some credibility if I said this was “our year”, though I never give up hope until I have to. But this year will be different, and the change is looking good.
We’ve retained all of our drafted players for the first time since 1994, and if that wasn’t a blast from the past enough, we hired 73-year-old Monte Kiffin to head the defense. Kiffin is likely older than three students reading this article at the same time. Take that for experience.
Working a 4-3 Tampa 2 defense, the Cowboys will attack Eli Manning on opening night with what he struggles with most: Tampa 2 has handed Manning four of his eight worst quarterback ratings.
Manning, with two Super Bowl titles, may not feel any pressure, but Tony Romo certainly does. Last season’s Week 17 loss remains fresh in fans’ minds as he signed a six-year contract extension in March. Now if it wasn’t before, the pressure is on. He’s getting older, but Cowboys legends are ageless, and that’s what Romo will have to prove to be.
Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson has given Romo more offensive leadership than ever during training camp. Predecessor Roger Staubach reminds fans that among the 11 QBs to win a Super Bowl at 33 or older, he achieved the feat in 1978. Romo has all the inspiration he needs to move in the right direction, but without the Hall of Fame running backs that Staubach had, the task is much taller.
“When you’re young, you want to be the best, be the starter, and win a championship,” Romo said. “When you’re older, you want it for a lot of other people as well, [seeing] all the people that have put so much into it and it really matters to them—that’s where I’m at. It’s not just for me.”
Nor is it just dependent on him. Running back DeMarco Murray anticipates success with left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick creating running lanes. And hey, how much worse can our rushing game get than last year’s ranking at 31st?
With the up-tempo Tampa 2 defense, America’s Team will rely on speed before size, seeking aggressive play while limiting big plays. Let’s just hope Dallas can create a winning record with it.
I’m predicting a 10-6 record and holding strong…I’m not crazy, right?
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, in Arlington, Texas.
The NFL season begins Wednesday night in the Meadowlands where the Dallas Cowboys will visit the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The last time these teams met, the Cowboys lost to the Giants with a playoff berth at stake. Now it’s a new season where the Dallas Cowboys, as usual, are talented and another 8-8 season is unacceptable.
Despite throwing for more than 4,000 yards, 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions last season, there are still questions about Tony Romo’s production and poise in the clutch. Romo is lacking depth at receiver and tight-end. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, who had 928 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2011, will be put to the test to make plays as seen in the past season. Kevin Ogletree will compete with rookie Danny Coale, a fifth-round pick, among other undrafted players for the slot receiver spot. Tight end Jason Witten’s old-school style made him a constant target for Romo throughout previous seasons.
Witten, who had 942 yards and five touchdowns last season and battled an injured spleen this offseason, is doubtful for the season opener. Austin and Bryant are also hurting. The Dallas two-back, two-tight end offense is dependent on DeMarco Murray’s power between the tackles. Murray has the power to get Dallas the necessary yards and Felix Jones has the ability to make game-changing plays. Playing a big role for the Cowboys is the third-year center Phil Costa who will have some more help against defensive linemen this season. He is now playing between the free-agent pickups Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau.
Last season’s team would have won the NFC East if not for its inconsistent secondary as the Cowboys were 23rd in pass defense. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones traded up in the draft to select the prized LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the No. 6 overall pick. Using a base 3-4 defense, the Cowboys had the NFL’s 7th-best rush defense.
DeMarcus Ware leads the NFL with 80 sacks over the past five years. The Cowboys had 42 sacks in 2011, 19.5 of them coming from Ware. Players such as Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff should give Ware more help this year while the versatile Sean Lee will play a crucial role as an inside linebacker. The defense needs to put Tom Coughlin’s strong coaching style to the test and have a plan to disorganize the opposing teams’s attack.
For Cowboys fans, it’s Super Bowl or bust. Dallas picked up good talent in the draft and has a quarterback that put up solid numbers last season. There are still some unanswered questions and the Cowboys will have an early test in their season opener against their rival in the Giants Wednesday night, a potential monumental victory in a promising season or a possible crushing defeat in what might be another disappointing year.
Week 10 of the fantasy football has come and gone, so let’s take a look at who was hot and who was not.
1. Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders — Bush had a great game filling in for starter Darren McFadden on Thursday, rushing for 157 yards and a touchdown, along with 85 yards receiving. Bush has become a must pick up in all leagues, and will continue to be a fixture in your lineup until McFadden comes back from his ankle injury. Even if McFadden does come back Bush will still be a serviceable flex player, as every team in the league utilizes two back systems, especially the run heavy Raiders.
2. Matt Leinart, Houston Texans — Why is a quarterback that hasn’t done anything good since 2006 in his college days on this list? It’s because he is now the starter of one of the best offenses in the league, after the Texans lost starter Matt Schaub for the season on Sunday. Leinart takes the reigns of one of an offense with great weapons, and while the Texans will continually lean heavy on the run game, Leinart should still be a solid starting option in leagues with 12 or more teams or two quarterback slots.
3. Tony Romo — Fully healthy ribs equals a mistakes free Cowboys’ QB. Romo went 23-26 from the field for 270 yards and three touchdowns, in essentially one half of work, as Dallas ran the ball with the lead in the second half. This included starting the game 13-13 from the field; this guy quieted any questions about his play, for this week at least.
1. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles — His season up till Sunday had been riddled with injures, contract disputes, showboating and poor play. This was all before he missed a meeting last week, causing the Eagles to bench him for Sunday’s game. This benching cannot sit well with Jackson, couple that with all of the Eagles' problems on the field; it is hard to see an unhappy Jackson being a productive fantasy option the rest of the season.
2. Denver Broncos Receivers — The Denver Broncos ran the ball 55 times on Sunday, while only passing for eight — that’s right, eight passes thrown in an NFL football game in the 21st century. On top of all of that quarterback Tim Tebow only completed two of those passes. With that kind of passing performance and crazy run to pass disparity on offense, do yourself a favor and burry your Broncos wide-outs on the bench.
Cowboys Jason Witten (82) runs into the end zone despite Patriots cornerback Devin McCourts attempt to stop him.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady got the offense going just in time to lead the New England Patriots to the winning touchdown in the final minute of a 20-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Brady threw an 8-yard scoring pass to Aaron Hernandez with 22 seconds left, and the Patriots’ top-ranked offense overcame the Cowboys’ stingy defense.
Dan Bailey’s 26-yard field goal had broken a 13-13 tie with 5:13 left. Each team ran one series before the Patriots got the ball after a punt with 2:30 remaining. Brady then completed eight of nine passes for 78 yards on an 80-play drive capped by his pass to Hernandez in the middle of the end zone.
New England (5-1) won despite its first two lost fumbles of the season and Brady’s two interceptions. He finished the game 27 of 41 for 289 yards with two touchdowns.
Dallas (2-3) ended a five-game road winning streak after a bye despite coming back from a 13-3 deficit midway through the second quarter. Tony Romo was 27 of 41 for 317 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Until the final drive, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was headed for his second straight strong game against the Patriots.
He held that job with Cleveland when the Browns beat the Patriots 34-14 last Nov. 7. Since then, the Patriots had scored at least 30 points in 13 consecutive games. That streak ended Sunday, but New England still won.
The regular-season win was Brady’s 20th straight at home, and the Patriots 31st in a row at Gillette Stadium.
They took a 3-0 lead on their first possession on a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. It began when Kyle Arrington intercepted a pass that Dez Bryant failed to reach for on a medium-range slant pattern.
The Cowboys tied it on Bailey’s 48-yard field goal after Terence Newman intercepted a pass by Brady that was tipped by defensive end Kenyon Coleman.
New England turned the ball over again on the kickoff after the field goal when Gerald Sensabaugh recovered a fumble by Matthew Slater, the first fumble lost by the Patriots this season. But Dallas gave the ball right back five plays later when Tashard Choice fumbled and Gerard Warren recovered.
The Patriots capitalized with a 26-yard field goal by Gostkowski with 12:07 left in the half for a 6-3 lead. They made it 13-3 on their next possession on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Wes Welker. Officials ruled initially that Welker had gone out of bounds as he reached the ball out toward the goal line but that was overturned on video review.
That put Brady into eight place in NFL history with 276 touchdown passes, one more than Vinny Testaverde.
Dallas cut the lead to 13-10 at halftime, marching 93 yards on 11 plays to score on Romo’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Witten, the star tight end’s first catch of the game, with 33 seconds left.
The Cowboys tied it on Bailey’s 22-yard field goal with 5:50 remaining in the third quarter.