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Following a big week of football, The Fan’s Jared Sandler shares his ‘Football Notebook” thoughts:

COWBOYS THOUGHTS

*Dak. Has. To. Keep. Starting. Unfortunately, I think the Cowboys give Romo the job back, but if I had total control, I would keep Dak in the driver’s seat. Of course, there is still likely one game before Romo would likely be ready to start, but it has to be Dak.

*That was their best win of the season. It was very impressive. Dominating an NFL game like that versus any opponent, especially on the road, is impressive. Before I share my next thought, re-read that sentence. You got my stance? Ok, good. As a general NFL opinion: The Packers are an OK team, but not a great team. They’ll win no more than 9 games. Both my first and second statement can each exist truthfully.

*What’s impressive or, at least, interesting to me is that the Cowboys were able to pretty much completely dominate that game from start to finish without any pass rush. That seems tough to do, especially against this specific opponent, but I think it just goes to show how well this secondary has played. They were a unit often under fire last year, but they’ve been really good this year and really good against some tough passing games.

*Big ups to Barry Church, who is a part of this. He forced a fumble an collected an interception.

*The Packers entered the game with the best run defense, statistically. The Cowboys entered with one of the league’s best rushing attacks. Strength versus strength. Not really. Looked more like strength versus weakness as the Cowboys torched the Packers to the tune of 191 rushing yards on 33 carries.

*I think I saw Terrence Williams catch a ball with his hands. But probably not. But…maybe?

*Seriously, though, credit to Williams and Beasley for taking charge in the passing game as productive targets for Dak, especially without Dez. Passing game hasn’t looked lit it has missed anything, really.

*Loving the offensive creativity as well as the aggressiveness, like to attack GB and go for points at the end of the first half instead of just letting the clock bleed.

NFL THOUGHTS
*As mentioned above, the Packers are a 9-win team, maybe. Certainly not more. Their passing game is so out of whack. The receivers just don’t do a good enough job of winning individual battles. But Aaron Rodgers has lost some precision on throws beyond 10 yards. It’s odd. His unique accuracy has vanished and it goes back to the middle of last year.

*I still think Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL–and, if you don’t you gotta admit Top 3. I love Aaron Rodgers and many people do. Not many people love Kirk Cousins, however. Lots of people seem torn on whether they think he’s a franchise QB or not. I’m in the minority, but I think he’s is. He’s not a Top 5 or even a Top 10 guy, but there are more than 10 franchise quarterbacks. He’s probably in that 13-15 range. For me, at least.

*The concept of Drew Brees as an elite quarterback will remain evergreen for the next 25 years. Not really, but my goodness, that guy is timeless.

*Boy, the Eagles really missed suspended right tackle, Lane Johnson, on Sunday. Carson Wentz was under pressure all day and Ryan Kerrigan had 2.5 sacks in the first half. It was Wentz’s first bad game as an NFL quarterback. He still made some nice throws and athletic plays. Not a big deal.

*I’ve mocked the idea of Cody Kessler as a starting NFL QB. I’m a USC alum and so is Kessler. He was “OK” as a college QB, but I never felt like he met the hype he received. Good kid. Just didn’t think he a good QB. Now I’m starting to think that was on the USC coaching staff because Kessler is holding his own as a starting QB at this level. He’s not yet near the label of being the long term answer for the Browns, but I thought he’d fail miserably and look terribly out of place. He hasn’t. I tip my cap.

*Would never have guessed that Matthew Stafford would play this well without Calvin Johnson. Credit Marvin Jones Jr., who has done a nice job. Anquan Boldin has fit in nicely alongside Golden Tate.

NCAA FOOTBALL THOUGHTS
*Clemson is undefeated but I have hard time believing that they’ll run the table. They just haven’t looked good all year. Even in their biggest win, a 42-36 comeback over then-third ranked Louisville, they looked sloppy with five turnovers. Yeah, it is impressive they can beat a top-notch team despite all of those turnovers, but giving the ball away and squandering opportunities has been a continuing theme and that’s not a recipe for success. Lucky for them, they have a bye before they travel to Tallahassee for Florida State.

*Lane Kiffin might not be fit to be a head coach, but, for the 100th time, that guy is outstanding offensively.

*…But who needs offense when your defense and special teams outscore your opponent? That’s what happened this weekend when Alabama absolutely annihilated Tennessee in Knoxville, 49-10, in which the Tide scored two non-offensive touchdowns. That’s now 11 non-offensive touchdowns on the season, more than South Carolina’s offensive touchdowns this year.

*A few things that make Alabama special…First, they get crazy pressure on quarterbacks, making life miserable for them, without needing to blitz. Their defense is incredibly talented and it only starts with guys like Foster, Williams, and Allen. Secondly, on the offensive side, Alabama’s non-traditional blockers–receivers and running backs–block so well, especially the receivers downfield. They give their athletes the ball at or near the line of scrimmage a lot and it works because of how their skill guys block. Finally, having a dual-threat QB just makes life so much easier. They haven’t had one who is as dual-threat as Hurts since their most recent dominant stretch.

*Not many people talk about Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, probably because he isn’t even the best DE/edge rusher in his own conference thanks to Myles Garrett (A&M), but he’s an absolutely havoc-wreaker and will be a first round pick.

*What’s going on at Texas Tech? I wonder how much long Coach Bro’s leash is. Hearing from folks that there is waning interest in the program, which empty seats versus a quality opponent, West Virginia, would support. Empty seats is not good for the bottom line and when the bottom line suffers, job are lost.

*Speaking of the Big 12, they might have some hope for the College Football Playoff. Even though Oklahoma and TCU have multiple losses, both Baylor and West Virginia remain undefeated. Both have legitimate shots to run the table, but give me West Virginia as the Big 12’s best chance. They have a nasty defense and I’ll roll the dice with that over a team that relies on outscoring its opponents.

*Jeff Cavanaugh and Dane Brugler do a great job breaking down college football weekend and previewing the coming one with insight on teams, players and more.

NFL Top 5
These are the five teams most likely to win the Super Bowl and not necessarily dictated by current records:

1. New England Patriots: They made Cincy look very ordinary.
2. Minnesota Vikings: I just don’t trust Sam Bradford to make big throws when they need him to even though he’s done it every game so far.
3. Seattle Seahawks: That win over Atlanta looks a bit better this year than last year.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers: They’re here for now, but that can change depending on Big Ben’s recovery timeline from surgery.
5. Dallas Cowboys: They’ve been able to exist with great success in spite of some defensive flaws and their offense is outstanding.

NCAA Top 4
These are the four teams most likely to make the College Football Playoff:

1. Alabama: While no one likes a dynasty, Alabama’s dominance is an art form that has become fascinating to watch.
2. Michigan: It comes down to the fact I trust Michigan’s defense to make more plays/get more stops than Ohio State’s.
3. Washington: Jake Browning is a Heisman candidate at the QB spot and Chris Peterson is one of the best coaches in the country.
4. Clemson: I’m begrudgingly including them on this list, even though the way they’ve been winning games isn’t necessarily incredibly inspiring.

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