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This game has so many big-picture ramifications and generates so much scouting debate, I’d need a month to write about them all. Not talking about playoff implications type of stuff, but player and organizational planning dilemmas.
Whether it’s true or not, the media’s got what it wanted – and they will never let it go from here on in. They have concrete proof Dak is nothing and Ezekiel Elliott is everything. Unless the Cowboys win their next three games and Dak throws for 400+ yards each game…that theory will not change. It’s never going to change. It will be written in stone…Dak is nothing with Ezekiel Elliott. Every fantasy draft guide for the next decade will note Dak is just a byproduct of Ezekiel Elliott.
In his previous 25 games (including one playoff game), Dak Prescott threw for 42 TDs and 9 INTs with a 17-6 record, but Kryptonite has been found the past three games – just take away Ezekiel Elliott. If I were Ezekiel’s agent I would have Elliott just sit out until he was signed to the richest contract in the NFL because Dallas became a top NFL team only because of Ezekiel…in theory.
I think this Dak-Elliott-Dallas situation is ‘real’…Dallas is corrupted right now. They’ve rolled over. You cannot trust Dak ahead for fantasy until he makes you believe again.
I think the current problems are real and I also think they’re being overblown a bit big-picture.
The most simple of arguments for Dak down the road…all Dallas needs is a good+ RB and Dak Prescott goes back to being a top 3-5 fantasy QB. Ezekiel is really good, and the team is down without him…but is it only Elliott that makes this clock tick or is another good+ RB for defenses to respect what is needed to make the Dallas offense go? It cannot be singularly Elliott…it’s the fact that Dallas has a strong run game him. So all Dallas needs is to keep up a strong run game.
If that is true (the running game is everything), and I think most people believe this…media or fan, and it’s hard to argue against it if you’ve watched the Cowboys the past 3 games – then what will Dallas do to prepare for the future? Logic says they are going to draft another RB highly…to protect against something like this from happening again. Why wouldn’t they? If the running game makes Dallas great again and makes Dak a top fantasy and NFL efficiency QB – the easy solution for 2018+ is to have a stable of great RBs. No more Alfred Morris’s and Rod Smith’s. You take a top RB in the 2nd-round next year because the running game is EVERYTHING. I mean, that’s the logic we are working with, right? So, in 2018 Dallas will have Elliott and an Elliott Jr. of some kind to protect themselves. They might even take a 3rd Elliott-like back. You can get great backs in the 5th+ round. Imagine if they had drafted later round RB talents Jordan Howard in 2016 or Samaje Perine in 2017? Literally, the easiest thing to do in NFL scouting is to draft RB talent.
So, if Dallas adds 1-2 Elliott’s behind Elliott (whether draft or free agency)…then by all the ‘run game makes Dak’ logic -- Dak goes back to being ‘Dak’ with a killer run game, plus he now has emergency RB options if something happens to Elliott. If Dallas had added a better RB or drafted one to be a backup this year…problem solved. We don’t have this collapse.
We don’t have to guess whether Dak can be good, he has been good…he has been great -- we only have to provide him a run game to provide the rocket fuel. Elliott comes back in a few weeks and solves that, but more RBs behind him next season makes it even better/more secure. I don’t have to fight or win a fantasy or NFL argument about whether Dak is made by the run game or not. I don’t care what the answer is, really. The argument can only take place because Dak has been NFL and FF great with Elliott. So, I know ‘great’ exists with Dak…I’ve seen it, and his numbers before this Elliott suspension prove it. So, long-term, dynasty I take my lumps now (Weeks 10-15), switch to another QB for the next 3 weeks and then I know I’m fine for the future as Dallas signs Elliott long term eventually, BUT they also likely draft capable replacements because Elliott is a ticking time bomb.
The roadmap exists for Dak being great again. Who cares why he’s great for fantasy? Jared Goff is only great because of Sean McVay…it doesn’t mean I hate or discount Jared Goff for being great because of a catalyst. Every fantasy player has catalysts (good and bad)…coaches, running game/O-Line, key WR and/or TE weapons. So, Dak’s catalyst supposedly is the run game needs to boost him. OK. Then I love Dak when he has a great O-Line and run game, and I hate him when he doesn’t. Easy enough to interpret.
But what do I really think from a technical standpoint?
I re-watched all Dak’s throws the past three games, each week, really focusing on the quality of them and the decision making. He looks fine to me. His interceptions seem to be coming from forcing plays in desperate situations (like big deficits with time running down). I don’t see him being foolish with the ball. I watch the ‘All-22’ tape overview to watch all the pass patterns being run and I don’t see anyone open. Dez Bryant might as well not even be playing he’s such a worthless option…a shell of his former self.
I think the perfect storm has hit…Dallas sustaining key injuries on the O-Line at the same time they are playing the hottest pass rushing units in the NFL (ATL-LAC-PHI), and teams don’t fear Alfred Morris. Dallas isn’t getting blown out either, not right away. They were down 10-7 to Atlanta at the half, up 9-7 vs. Philly at halftime, and down 3-0 vs. the Chargers here at the half. In the first half, they are going toe-to-toe without Elliott. However, they’ve been beaten 72-6 in the 2nd-half of the last three games combined. That type of flop makes me start to think this coaching staff is nothing special. Good shepherds when everything is right/healthy…but deer in the headlights when trouble hits. They don’t take a small dip on defense with Sean Lee…they look like a unit that’s never played football before. The offense didn’t tail-off a bit without Elliott it full-scale collapsed. Why are there coaches when one player on each side of the ball can take them from ‘A’ units to ‘F’ units?
I know those missing guys are critical, but I see a lot of other teams take on similar crisis and figure out a different plan and are plausible teams. Washington has been battered with injuries but hangs in there every week.
I don’t know what or who is to blame, but I know Jerry Jones cannot be happy and might do what he tends to do – jump in and make quick decisions shooting from the hip, under the thought that instant action equals addressing the problem…and it is action/doing something, but it is not necessarily solving the problem…it’s just reactions and actions for the sake of feeling like he’s doing something. This team has been great before this chaos hit. They shouldn’t try to break it apart, they should nurture what worked and find a backup plan for Sean Lee and Ezekiel Elliott. Who knows what Jerry's reaction and actions will ultimately be.
Whatever Jerry does, Dallas is hanging off the edge of the cliff for the playoffs. Detroit losing Thursday was a help. Dallas needs to win 2 of their next 3 games to stay alive…as well as Atlanta losing at least 1 of their next 3, but the Falcons losing two of 3 would be even better. At this stage, Dallas just needs to win. If they can beat Washington next week then at NYG-OAK after that – Dallas can win three-in-a-row and change the whole narrative as Elliott returns.
Dak can get on a roll during this upcoming easier schedule stretch and change the whole narrative. I think it’s possible, plausible facing weaker teams ahead. The Week 13 game vs. Washington is the season for Dallas…a must-win.
The Chargers are everyone’s new favorite team now. Winners of five of their last 7 games and their losses were close – to very good teams (NE and JAX). They have Cleveland next week…so they’ll be 6-6 soon. It’s possible they will be headed to KC Week 15 with a shot at the taking the AFC West. We’ll see. This team has a lot of holes but is playing great football right now. They have a nice path to 9-7 and the final AFC wild-card spot unless they butcher it…which has been their m.o.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Well, my big Chargers DST theory for Weeks 11 and 13 looked past Week 12 as a strong play…but I had to use them in some cases, and it paid off once again. Week 13 hosting Cleveland should be an absolute festival of DST scoring for them.
Week 14 hosting Washington isn’t out of the question either for using the LAC DST. Week 15 at KC isn’t crazy, but it will be at cold KC. Week 16 at NYJ looks good…but that will be a warm-weather team heading to the cold northeast. The Chargers DST is showing life beyond Week 13.
-- My current and future hope of Dallas as a sleeper defense play is on hold until Sean Lee comes back. Man, if one guy can make that much of a difference – why isn’t he an MVP candidate? The same thing tends to happen to Carolina when Luke Kuechly is out.
Dallas has been a top pass rush team all season, until this three-game stretch – 1.0 sack total in the last three games. It’s embarrassing…I don’t know what superpower was lost the past 3 weeks but their whole team has turned incompetent. I guess it switched back when Lee returns?
-- The answer of which Dallas RB to have between Rod Smith (-9-41-1, 2-7-0/2) and Alfred Morris (9-36-0, 1-13-0/1) was ‘neither’. A lot of wasted energy all season for this…for garbage.
Morris is OK, but is nothing in the passing game and isn’t the goal line guy.
Rod Smith is powerful but is running confused/tentative…it’s a lot for him to take on having never mattered in a run game before. He gets the goal-line work and they are barely throwing to the RB as it is.
They are both RB3 options each week, but not strong ones. You have both guys? You have nothing.
-- Keenan Allen (11-172-1/14) has come back from the dead. After falling outside the top 35 in FF scoring among WRs, Allen’s had two huge games to rocket back into productivity. He’s getting about 2 games worth of targets in a game, so that helps (13.5 targets per game last two games).
Allen had not had more than 5 catches in a game Weeks 3-10 and did not register a TD either…but has 12 and 11 catches in games the past two weeks with 3 TDs. CLE-WAS-KC ahead should keep the good times rolling. We’re back to WR1 Allen week to week versus ‘do I bench Allen this week?’ questions.
In other news, Tyrell Williams (2-58-1/3) had a brilliant TD catch in this game…on his 3 whole targets.
-- Dez Bryant (3-27-0/5) last had a 100+ yard game 18 games ago. He has 6 TDs in his last 15 regular-season games. He’s a WR2.5-level worker in general and has fallen to a near useless WR3+ since Elliott went out/the Dallas collapse started.
I’ve said it dozens of time this year…Dez is rarely/never open. He’s not putting in the work and Dallas cannot get to the next level of offense until they rid themselves of him. Actually, they need to overhaul the entire WR group…the worst WR trio in the NFL.
Who’s a worse WR trio (when teams are at full health)? The Jets? The Bears? The Ravens? I just named three of the worst passing games in the NFL…which is amazing that Dak produces anything even when Elliott is there.
-- Before this game, in his last 8 games…Philip Rivers (27-33 for 434 yards and 3 TD/0 INT) had completed just 56.9% of his passes. The schedule has jumped up and saved his season the past two weeks with the fading Bills and dying Cowboys.
434 passing yards in this game for Rivers…he hadn’t cracked 270 in his prior 6 games.
Be very wary of assuming Rivers is ‘back’ because he’s hot the past two weeks against bottom tier pass defenses. Although, next week with the Browns is another bottom tier matchup.
Snap Counts of Interest…
34 = Rod Smith
20 = Alfred Morris
42 = Gordon
27 = Ekeler
03 = Jatavis Brown
00 = Toomer