My steadfast pick of Dallas as Super Bowl champs is cratering right before my very eyes. Two embarrassing, crucial losses in a row have them on the ropes. Seattle losing to Atlanta may have given them a lifeline. More on that in a moment.
As far as this game goes…my 2017 nemesis, the Philadelphia Eagles delivered the dagger to Dallas this week. I still do not see the ‘it’ with this Philly team after all this time…a 9-1 record still has me a skeptic. Every week, people will ask…”I guess you have to admit Philly is pretty good.” I know they’re good…they’re 9-1. I just don’t think they’re ‘great’/a lock for the Super Bowl. The basis for my belief that they WILL go to the Super Bowl is based on nothing…that they are my ‘I don’t get it’ team of this season, like Atlanta 2016 or Carolina 2015. These teams ‘I don’t get it’ (for me) all the way to the Super Bowl, and lose the title game and then have a losing record the following season.
I have no ax to grind with Philly. I just call it as I see it from watching all these teams, all day, all week, all year, for about a decade now. I think fully healthy Dallas and the Rams are better, but the Eagles are right there with them. It’s not miles of separation. I think Carson Wentz is going to cost them at some point.
Wentz is a magician escaping trouble/the pass rush, a la Cam. It’s a superpower to possess. It’s why Philly may go all the way. Wentz is a below-average QB mind/execution with A+ scramble ability. Here’s what I mean…
Wentz has faced 4 pressure defenses this year…LAC, CAR, DEN, DAL. Granted, DEN has been falling apart and Dallas missing Sean Lee…but still, these are top pass rush/pressure defenses in theory. Wentz has 10 TDs/0 INTs against them. Pretty bad, huh? Obviously, not. It’s excellent, but I want to point you to the collective accuracy and yards in those games…
v. LAC = 17-31 (54.8%) for 242 yards
v. CAR = 16-30 (53.%) for 222 yards
v. DEN = 15-27 (55.6%) for 199 yards
v. DAL = 14-27 (51.9%) for 168 yards
Total = 62-for-115 (53.9%) for 207.8 yards per game
It’s a very odd pattern of numbers. Do you want 10 TD/0 INT ratios over a good Comp. Pct.? Sure, you do. Is it a concern? Yes. I’m not saying Wentz is going to bust…but it’s like when the Buffalo Bills shot out to a 5-2 record and everyone was shocked/intrigued. Yes, they were winning. Looking back…they had weak offensive and defensive internals/data but had a huge turnover +/- ratio in their favor. Many people saw that and thought, properly, “That won’t hold up.” Once the often fluky turnover disparity fell back to the mean…Buffalo started to struggle.
I point all this out on Wentz because there might be a regression coming…a small dip back. It’s hard to reconcile poor accuracy numbers with great TD efficiency…at some point the accuracy issues will catch up to you in the form of turnovers. And that matters for FF because he’s showing signs of the same output patterns from college…low yards, up and down Comp. Pct., but TD efficient. He might have more Andy Dalton (with better ‘wheels’) in him than we think…but the media LOVES Wentz and they’re off to the races. Is Wentz the future of fantasy QBs…I don’t think so. Not at this point, for me.
What happens when Wentz needs to put the team on his back and throw 35-40+ times in a game? His pass-attempts the last 7 games are silly – 31-30-30-25-32-27. Blake Bortles is throwing the ball more…and they don’t want him to throw the ball. Wentz is not a high-volume passer, and he wasn’t in college either…and that’s not great for fantasy. He’s getting the TD counts, but if that efficiency slides and the volume stays low…he might be a disappointment for fantasy. Not because he’s ‘bad’, but because of volumes.
When Alex Smith is low-volume and super-efficient everyone denigrates him as a ‘game manager’. Carson Wentz does similar things and is hailed as ‘the future of NFL quarterbacking’. I’m just saying…the media is creating characters as they desire…and destroying others they wish. All of the football media shares the same opinions on everything so it’s a 24/7 barrage…and we, as consumers, bite on it almost every time. They make our mood up for us…and we run off a cliff with it.
I know this because no one is asking me about why I don’t praise Alex Smith more…or whether they should trade for Alex Smith. Yet, everyone is hand-wringing that we’re dragging our feet on admitting Carson Wentz is the greatest.
69.4%, 18 TD/3 INT, 267.4 yds passing per game, 20.0 rush per game = Alex Smith 2017
59.7%, 25 TD/5 INT, 243.0 yds passing per game, 22.4 rush per game = Wentz 2017
62.9%, 16 TD/4 INT, 227.3 yds passing per game, 24.4 rush per game = Dak 2017 (*Weeks 1-9, 8 games played...before the chaos started).
Who’s the better QB? Let’s say ‘they’re all good’. Why is one the MVP and the toast of the town, and the other two constantly answering critics predicting their downfall?
I bet you thought Wentz had far superior rushing totals/edge, didn’t you?
Wentz is good…I’m not at ‘great’ yet.
What about Dak? 18-31 for 145 yards, 0 TD/3 INT in this game is pretty pathetic.
I went back and watched all Dak’s throws, and especially focused on all his 3rd-downs. This game was a blowout for the Eagles, but we might forget it was 9-7 Dallas at the half. Dallas drove on the Eagles all first half but stalled several drives into FG attempts.
I’ve watched Dak for two years, just like Wentz. I still put my money with Prescott. If I had my choice to start my expansion NFL team today – I take Dak.
I re-watched all the failed Dallas 3rd-down throws from the first-half of this game and it made me mad for Dak. I remembered it live as -- Dak was ‘way off’ in this game…either because of the protection or he isn’t as good as I thought he was. After re-watching it in detail, I saw something different…
See if you can tell a pattern with Dallas’s failed 3rd-down efforts when this was still a game…(I’ll list them in order):
*3rd & 3…Dez doesn’t get separation but Dak hits him in a tight window right in the hands…Dez clanks it off his hands, incomplete.
*3rd & goal from the 7-yard line…alley-oop to Dez, the defender easily wins the scrum and Dez never get in position to make the catch. It was DPI, but who cares. Dez is being handled by mediocre coverage guys. How is Dez constantly being ‘out-physicaled’ by smaller, young cornerbacks?
*3rd & 4…Cole Beasley can’t get open by much, heading for a quick cut to the sidelines. Dak fires a pass through another tight window and it hits Beasley in the hands but he can’t make the catch with a defender on him.
*3rd & 8…Dez fakes/stutter steps, and then streaks open down the sidelines. Dak puts it on him where only Dez can catch it between defenders and the sidelines. Dez looks over at the oncoming safety, and instead of making a money catch and taking a hit, the ball flies off Dez’s hands as Bryant scurries out of bounds away from the safety.
*3rd & 6…Philly all-out blitz. Dez one-on-one with a smaller DB. Dak knows it immediately and lofts him a 25+ yard toss in the end zone, but Dez is again manhandled by a CB and stumbles and can’t get back his footing to chase the throw down.
You see the pattern. It was my one concern for a healthy Dallas team…Dez Bryant would not show up and the Cowboys have no other options at WR.
Pardon my French (man, the French have a lot of swear words in their language)…but Dez Bryant is a piece of shit, as a wide receiver, these days. Dallas should have dealt him, cut him, whatever. He is a meaningless option that they have to go to…to hope ‘maybe, this time’ Dez wakes up. It’s constantly an empty pool in a heat wave with Dez. They definitely should have added more WRs before the trade deadline. They should have done so in free agency and ditched Dez. They’re loyal to Dez…and it’s the death of them.
I have lauded the Dallas personnel management for their genius…best in football. Where they’ve failed is at WR, and now it’s killing them. I watched several ‘All-22’ overview camera shots of the Dallas passing game here…literally, no WR is open on any play. Terrance Williams is maybe the worst WR in the NFL and Cole Beasley needs his butt replaced with Ryan Switzer ‘stat’.
If Wentz is a better Cam Newton…
If Trubisky is the next Aaron Rodgers…
If Goff is the next Tom Brady…
Who is Dak?
I don’t know how to classify him. He’s nowhere near the passer that Trubisky-Goff-Garoppolo are but he’s a better passer than Wentz. Wentz is a better runner/scrambler. Dak is a lesser Russell Wilson, maybe? I don’t know. I know he’s a great NFL QB and had been white hot for fantasy until the last two games. With the OL falling apart he looks more like Jared Goff 2016. It definitely makes me wonder if I hold Dak too high in regard -- because I’ve only seen him with a perfect O-Line play for 1.5+ seasons. I could be getting suckered in my mind. The O-Line is really everything in the NFL. It bumps QBs a full letter grade higher.
I think for fantasy, I’m more with Goff-Trubisky-Garoppolo and now have doubt creeping in on Dak. Not that Dak’s not great. He and Wentz will be starters for a long time. I don’t know if Dak can carry a team in crisis, as a passer. I don’t believe Wentz would either…I know Wentz wouldn’t.
I’m also worried Dallas has a head coaching issue after the debacle of the past two weeks.
We like to think the Dallas O-Line ‘made’ Dak, Elliott, the team, etc. But don’t forget it may have ‘made’ Jason Garrett. No one has coached more poorly than Garrett the past two weeks. The adjustments made in crisis have failed. I don’t see much innovative adjusting anyway. The Eagles adjusted around their injuries. Dallas hasn’t. Can Dak only go ‘so far’ with Garrett as the head coach…if the O-Line isn’t perfect?
I have a feeling we’ll all be debating Dak v. Wentz for the next decade.
I’m ‘with Dak’ but the last two weeks have been eye-opening and made me start to downgrade him a touch off his lofty perch.
Let’s talk about the team outlooks. I started writing from the heart/my notes and we may be 2,000+ words in about the two QBs and have addressed nothing else.
Philly seems on top of the world. 9-1 and definitely winning the NFC East. They might not be a #1 seed lock, however. Week 14 at the Rams…if they lose that game and then lose to a fully loaded, desperate Dallas team Week 17 – the Eagles could finish 13-3, which is great. If the Rams win out, while beating Philly Week 14 – the Rams would finish with 3 losses and have a tie-breaker over Philly. If Minnesota wins out, they'd be 14-2 and the #1 seed. I can’t imagine any of this is going to happen…the Rams + Vikings winning out.
Philly will be 14-2/13-3 and likely be the #1 seed. The Rams or Vikings are not good enough to win out. Philly making the Rams come through Philadelphia in January is HUGE.
Dallas is still very viable for the playoffs…and you don’t want to face a fully healthy Dallas in January. If they make it to the playoffs and have everyone key back – they will be my pick to run the table.
Philly, Minnesota, Saints/Panthers and the Rams are going to win their divisions. The Saints/Panthers non-winner will be one wild-card. The final wild-card comes down to Seattle-Atlanta-Dallas…which now favors Atlanta due to wins over Dallas and Seattle the last two weeks. Atlanta is likely to finish 3-3 the next 6 games and wind up 9-7. If Atlanta gets to 10 wins, it’s over for Dallas (and Seattle).
The Thanksgiving Chargers game is everything for Dallas. Get that win to jump to 6-5 and they can afford to lose to Washinton Week 13 at Dallas…just let’s say they’re still banged up and lose to the Redskins. Dallas beats LAC and loses to WAS to fall to 6-6. Dallas has to win out to get to 10 wins…so, they have to win their final four games and have Sean Lee and Tyron Smith back. NYG and OAK Weeks 14-15 get them to 8-6. Then Week 16 vs. Seattle at Dallas…everyone, including Elliott should be back. A win there is 9-6 and Seattle is done for the playoff hopes. For 9-6 Dallas, Week 17 at Philly is…but Philly may have everything clinched and nothing to play for.
10 wins is still in play for Dallas, but they have to beat the Chargers to set the wheels in motion. Beat LAC and they might get more people back healthy and win out. The LAC game is going to be HUGE.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Jay Ajayi (7-98-0, 1-10-0/1) is part of an RBBC like I’ve pounded my fist on the desk proclaiming since the trade. He’s not there to be the lead. 7 carries? Kenjon Barner took a goal-line TD? That’s Doug Pederson’s plan and has been since his first game – RBBC chaos.
If you have Ajayi still, I don’t know what more I can say to get you to trade him.
-- Alfred Morris (17-91-0) was gashing long runs in the 2nd-half…when it was still a game. He’s definitely taken the lead role. Rod Smith (8-11-0) started but was ineffective. They never used Smith in the passing game, which makes some sense needing extra blockers, but nothing was working in the passing game…some screens might have helped?
Morris faces a low-rated run defense in the LA Chargers in Thanksgiving. He’s a viable option this week, especially in non-PPR.
Smith is moving closer to ‘cut’ then starting in fantasy.
-- Watching Jaylon Smith (4 tackles) filling in for Sean Lee…he’s awful. Killing this team. Another Notre Dame sucker’s bet from the hype of Mike Mayock. Dallas desperately needs a backup ILB because Lee is so injury prone. They bet on Smith and it’s been awful. He’s always out of position or blocked out of a play. He doesn’t have ‘it’ as a linebacker.
Snap Counts of Interest…
30 = Rod Smith
25 = Alfred Morris
64 = Xavier Woods (100%)
36 = Jaylon Smith
30 = Blount
19 = Clement
13 = Ajayi
02 = Barner