KICKING OFF
The Cowboys just weren’t strong enough.
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COWBOYS NOTEBOOK

Random Thoughts:
*Dez Bryant was kept in check in by Sterling freaking Moore. Yuck.

*Tough to know the impact of the pushing and tugging on the Cassel INT to Dez in the end zone, but it sure looked like Dez could have done a better job of trying to make a play on the ball and if he does, maybe it helps sell the potential pass interference call.

*Byron Jones is a damn good player who is very fun to watch. Special things coming…

*Mike Evans was making life really tough on Mo Claiborne before he left due to the hamstring injury.

*I’ve heard some people say they wished the Cowboys ran the ball more against Tampa, but their two running backs carried it 20 times for 40 yards. They weren’t having tons of success.

*With that said, why did Dallas struggle so much running the football? Not like Tampa Bay is packed with stout run defenders. Only thing I can think of is that TB simply decided to make Cassel beat them, which he obviously didn’t.

*Hindsight is 20/20, but I wonder if it was ever discussed as to whether to keep Romo on the active roster in the event he would have been eligible to come back as soon as he was ready, as opposed to him having to wait an extra week like he has to in this specific case? No way of knowing when he’d actually be ready so I totally get why they didn’t do it, I’m just curious if it was discussed.

Numbers Game

*The Cowboys lead the NFL in drives of 5+ minutes.

(NFL)

(NFL)

*Jeff Heath had 2 interceptions. The Cowboys were without a multiple INT game as a team since picking off Sam Bradford twice in week 2.
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MY NFL TOP FIVE

*A ranking not at all based on record but my own one-person committee’s thoughts.

1. New England Patriots (9-0): Even if they’d have lost, they’d still be in the top spot. With that said, curious to learn more about the Edelman injury.

2.Cincinnati Bengals (8-0): I think they’b be the second toughest team to beat in the regular season. Not commenting about the playoffs, yet.

3. Arizona Cardinals (7-2): What they did in Seattle was not easy and is very indicative of how complete of a team they have.

4. Carolina Panthers (9-0): I’m late to the party. I’ll throw them in here but they don’t scare me. I like their D more than their O, I think.

5. Denver Broncos (7-2): It’s all about the D for them, but they’re out of here if Peyton’s injury is long-term.
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MY NCAA TOP FOUR

*A ranking not at all based on record but my own one-person committee’s thoughts.

1. Ohio State (10-0): I like them over ‘Bama because if a QB needs to make a play, I like Barrett over Coker and it isn’t close.

2. Alabama (9-1): The dominance they’ve demonstrated over their past two weeks with two tough tests makes it tough not putting them at the top.

3. Oklahoma (9-1): I love their offensive balance and while their defense isn’t great, statistically, they have some playmakers on that side.

4. Clemson (10-0): What an unimpressive win over Syracuse. With that said, DeShaun Watson is just so damn godo.
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HUDDLING UP

NCAA
• The final few weeks of Big 12 action will be really fun. Both Oklahoma and Baylor play TCU and Oklahoma State. Either one of those four could represent the conference in the playoffs, but, defending how the chips fall, none of those four could, too.

Props to Jared Stidham, but it is hard enough for a team to run the table with their starting quarterback so it’s tough to expect a backup to get through the gauntlet (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, AND TCU) unscathed.

• Alabama was as impressive as Clemson was unimpressive in each of their wins.

• I’m as guilty as anyone, but we spend so much time bitching about “overrated teams,” but they always eventually reveal themselves on Saturdays.

• It’s not that people don’t talk about Ezekiel Elliot, but with all the attention surrounding Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry, it’s like Elliot’s quietly building a case as the country’s best running back.

• Not sure the order, but the top five running backs for me are Elliot, Henry, Fournette, Christian McCaffery, and Dalvin Cook.

• John Mellencamp’s son, Hud, is a senior WR for Duke. Who knew?

• I don’t believe the suggestions that Charlie Strong is interested in the Miami job. If it opened two years from now and his schtick wasn’t working in Austin, yes, but I get the sense he wants to try and stick it out in the Lone Star State. With that said, I think he’d kick ass at Miami with his Florida coaching roots.

• Underdogs are fun but I’m not rooting for Iowa to run the table because I just don’t think they are that fun to watch.

• Northwestern is 8-2. Their head coach, Pat Fitzgerald, would be a helluva coach for USC, though I’m not sure he wants to leave his alma mater.

NFL

• The Green Bay Packers are lost offensively. Separately, Aaron Rodgers’s amazing accuracy has gone missing the last few weeks.

• It seems like Kirk Cousins has many times been a punch line, but he’s absolutely a starting QB in this league and is playing like a top-15 one (dare I say top 10?), too.

• Teams that could realistically win the NFC East: Redskins, Giants, Eagles…and Cowboys

• Not quite sure what to make of the Chicago Bears. They’ve won 4 of 6 and putting up 37 against the Rams on the road is pretty damn impressive. Is there a single quarterback more Jekyll-and-Hyde than Jay Cutler?

• That Ben Roethlisberger was able to play (and play very well) without missing a game after it was expected he’d miss 4-to-6 weeks might be the most impressive thing in sports this weekend…and, yes, more so than Ronda Rousey losing.

• Johnny Manziel is fun to watch.

• The Jaguars-Ravens game was about as irrelevant of a game as there is (minus fantasy implications for some). I still don’t know who won and I’ve looked at the score at least 10 times.

• I was absolutely wrong about Minnesota before the season. Thought the hype was fake. It isn’t. They’re the best team in the NFC North right now.
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3-PIECE OF NUMBER NUGGETS

NCAA

-Navy’s Keenan Reynolds notched his 78th career rushing TD, breaking Montee Ball’s record for most in FBS history.

-Oklahoma State has won four consecutive games in which its trailed by 10+ points.

-Texas A&M QB Kyler Murray joined Cam Newton as only SEC players in last 20 years w/100 yds+TD rushing & pass TD in 1st career start

NFL

-The Patriots have scored points in an NFL record 35 consecutive quarters.

-Gale Sayers, Walter Payton, and now, Jeremy Langford are the only players in Bears history with 100+ yards receiving, a TD catch, and a TD run in a game.

-The Lions snapped a 24-game losing streak (23 regular season games) at Lambeau Field with their upset victory.
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PICK-SIX

1. ESPN’s Brett Forrest on how the world’s biggest bookie walked away from the law.

2. Jenny Vrentas from MMQB.com on how sleep is changing the NFL.

3. Sports Ilustrated’s Tim Layden with an outstanding profile of Michael Phelps.

4. LeBron James getting it right on the court and off the court, by Gregg Doyel.

5. The Nation’s Lydia Wilson on what she learned talking to imprisoned ISIS members.

6. Here’s a 30 for 30 short on former Eagles owner, the late Leonard Tose.
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HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE

Here were my pre-season picks

NFC
East: 1. Philadelphia 2. Dallas 3. New York 4. Washington
North: 1. Green Bay 2. Detroit 3. Minnesota 4. Chicago
South: 1. Carolina 2. New Orleans 3. Tampa Bay 4. Atlanta
West: 1. Seattle 2. Arizona 3. San Francisco 4. St. Louis

AFC
East: 1. New England 2. Buffalo 3. Miami 4. New York
North: 1. Pittsburgh 2. Baltimore 3. Cincinnati 4. Cleveland
South: 1. Indianapolis 2. Tennessee 3. Houston 4. Jacksonville
West: 1. Denver 2. Kansas City 3. San Diego 4. Oakland
Super Bowl: Green Bay over Indianapolis