I kinda lost track of this game during the Sunday live watch. It was the game I was most looking forward to watching at 4pm ET…and as soon as it started rolling it was halted to the weather, for what seemed like 3 days. By the time the game restarted the other games caught my attention and the next thing I knew Denver was pulling away by halftime and into the third quarter. I walked away with the impression that Dallas got-got…going on the road facing the elite Denver defense – a totally understandable loss.
When I prepared for my rewatch, I made some notes from the box score study and I remember having a general impression that I was about to see Dallas just having a bad game…kinda like the Patriots on opening night – a really good team plays another good team, and one of them has a bad game and semi-gets humiliated to a degree…but we don't think the good team that lost is suddenly a disaster. Just a bad game. I was fully ready to watch Dallas look stupid and Denver look good – the story writes itself.
I also had that simple game overview rattling around in my head because I happen to watch/listen to various national football commentaries about this game Sunday night and Monday. THEY got exactly what they wanted – THEY being the football establishment and its lackey, non-studied, group-think media. Dak Prescott must have a sophomore regression…THEY demand it be. He will not come into this league with every single football person not believing in him, the NFL drafting him in the fourth round, and he just walks in and is one of the best players in the NFL – doing so literally off the bench with not much time for preparation. That's not supposed to happen. You're supposed to struggle as a rookie like the almighty Carson Wentz. Dak is not doing it the right way…really, Dak is embarrassing the scouting community so they have to tear him down.
All the highlights and commentary I saw on TV cherry picked out Dak Prescott moments to prove their thesis – that Prescott is not ready for the big time. Oh, Carson Wentz is. Jameis Winston is. But Dak Prescott is not. He's not allowed to for THEM. He wasn't a first-round pick. He wasn't a top 5 QB prospect for Mel Kiper or Mike Mayock…he might not have even been in their top 10. The best rookie QB of our lifetime, perhaps, and every expert had it whistle right over their heads. In what other industry does this make sense?
So, I was fully prepared to watch a young quarterback struggle against what was one of the greatest defenses I'd ever seen…two years ago. Pre-rewatch, I wondered -- Maybe the Orange Crush is back? Maybe they just got fired up for this game?
Per usual, I should've known that the NFL intelligentsia would create fake news…cherry picking what they want to back up flawed thesis each and every one of them holds in unity. They have no independent thought. More on Dak Prescott in a moment. First, a quick overview of how this game went…through my eyes…
It was 7–0 Denver with four minutes left in the first quarter and then the weather delay right in the middle of a Dallas offensive series. It was Dallas that had to come back on offense after the very long delay – and they failed to convert a first down. That kind of luck haunted Dallas all day. Make no mistake – the Denver Broncos won this game. I don't mean to write about this from a 'Dallas lost the game' standpoint. No way. I think this game proved that Denver fully belongs in the top tier of teams that can win the Super Bowl. I thought Denver would be good in 2017 but fall short of any serious Super Bowl run – now, I won't argue against the opinion they are the best team in the AFC.
I do want to write in support of Dallas because it's a story you're not likely to see outside of Dallas… Maybe not even within the Dallas fan base. This game was cut up and packaged to all of us by the media as an embarrassing blowout. I was fully expecting to see the same. I was pleasantly surprised how it was not an embarrassment from the Cowboys.
There were several little moments that just went against Dallas. Dallas got down 7–0, failed on their first drive after the delay, but then took hold of the game and tie things up 7-7. Denver answered back with a field goal…but then a silly penalty on the field goal attempt gave the Broncos a first down and renewed life – and they drove down for a TD instead of an FG. A four-point swing plus a very long drive on the clock extended. It was just little things like that.
Dallas was down 21-10 at the half and still in the ball game, loosely, but early in the third quarter Dez Bryant gaffed simple slant pass and the ball rocketed off his hands and right into a defenders hands – Denver capitalized on the turnover for 28-10 lead and all of the momentum was with Denver – the blowout was on.
Dallas never quit (except Ezekiel)…and that was one of the most impressive things I've seen from Dallas the last couple years. As you likely know, I'm pushing Dallas as the best team in football and the likely Super Bowl winner. I'm pro-Dallas 2017. I love what they're doing with personnel outside of Ezekiel Elliott and with their game plans. I know they are very good team – but how they responded in defeat impressed me more than anything this season.
With the home crowd rocking and Denver with a comfortable lead, Dak Prescott never laid down. The Denver defense didn't either, but Prescott kept finding ways to move the team – something most high-end NFL QBs cannot do versus Denver. Dak did not look rattled to me at all. He simply went about his business against a great opponent. With the score 35–17, Prescott went up high to Bryant in the end zone on a short fourth and goal play, assuming Bryant could win the one-on-one battle…and he didn't. Because that's the Dez Bryant reality – he'll single-handedly undermine the Dallas Super Bowl run because he's become an ill-prepared, s-a-w-f-t wide receiver. Dallas gets that score and the lead gets cut to 11. The momentum could've shifted a little at that point. There would have been long shot hope. Dez took hope away…again.
Dak drove the team again later in the fourth quarter for a scoring opportunity, but his throw to Bryant was thrown assuming a simple turnaround easy catch/score from close range…but I don't even know what Dez was doing. Aqib Talib picked off the pass as if it was thrown for him and he returned it for a score to make this look like a blowout. A 14-point swing to add insult to injury. If I could take every bad Dez moment out of this game and turn it into something good – I could reverse 21 points of this margin. His gaffed slant pass leading to an interception in the 3rd-quarter. His inability to win a one on one end zone battle with a smaller corner. His terrible route running/awareness at the end of the game – Dez Bryant is killing this team.
Dez Bryant will be the big reason why Dallas doesn't go to the Super Bowl – because of games just like this where he can't be counted on. Will McClay (Dallas head of personnel), who I think is the best personnel guy in football hands down has some blame because he has not put any other receivers in place to mitigate the Dez Bryant risk. Bryant holds the key to Dallas's Super Bowl – and thus the title run is probably doomed.
At the end of the day, the takeaways from this game – Dallas was not as bad as the media is pounding the drum on. However, they have a Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott knucklehead problem that is making a great team just very good. And the Denver Broncos are arguably the best team in football…their defense trumps all weapons; when it wants to.
The reason these two teams may face each other in the Super Bowl for a 2017 rematch is because of their quarterbacks. And that's what will start for fantasy purposes…
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- I liked what I saw Trevor Siemian (22-32 for 231 yards, 4 TD/1 INT) last season. I wrote him off as a sleeper/'want to keep an eye on' for 2018 but I didn't push it forward because I didn't really believe it. Apparently.
I labeled him a deep sleeper in the 2017 draft guide, but I didn't really support too hard. Watching a neck and neck preseason battle with Siemian–Lynch, knowing how bad Lynch is…and me rooting for Kyle Sloter made me totally dismiss Trevor Siemian.
Obviously, Siemian had a good game Week 2 just by looking at the box score. He did in Week 1 as well. I keep noticing that he looks pretty good in games but I'm not going overboard. Something keeps holding me back. Maybe it's the fact that I can't get over a quarterback who was a failure in the Big Ten could walk into the NFL and become a legit starter. Whatever it is, I need to cut it out. For two weeks in a row, Trevor Siemian looks like one of the 10-15 best quarterbacks in the NFL that I don't just mean that from the stats standpoint. You can have Carson Wentz. You can have Eli Manning. You can have Carson Palmer. You can have a lot of names we all feel better about in our souls somehow – but I/we need to wake up to the reality that Trevor Siemian is a top 10–15 quarterback TALENT in this league, a solid 'B' quarterback who might have some 'C' moments… a good quarterback who plays with a defense that is going to get him the ball in favorable positions all the time. It's time to endorse Siemian has a QB1 for the rest of the season. Which means he's a really nice QB2 for you to have in the hole for fantasy.
You may miss out on him on waivers, but most people who grabbed him don't believe in him unless they're a Denver fan…and even then… Every Trevor Siemian story is: "Hey, you know that guy we all think sucks? He's not playing so bad…so, maybe you should take a look. It's said by Fantasy analysts to cover their asses. THEY think he sucks but THEY can't deny his 2017 numbers so it's a great way to take both sides of the position – we know he's not that good but he has good numbers so keep an eye on him…'keep an eye on him' is always code for -- we have no idea what we're talking about but we're going to make generic blanket statements to protect ourselves.
Trevor Siemian is a talented quarterback. He has excellent mechanics. His release and arm are terrific…a very rapid, smooth release. He's pretty unflappable and usually makes the right decisions. I've seen him do some dumb things – but I've seen most every quarterback does some dumb things. I've seen a lot more good out of Siemian than not. I don't know if this offense that wants to run the ball will make Siemian a top-five guy or not, but top 10 for fantasy is very reasonable.
I say Denver wants to run, but they really come out with a lead-punch of Siemian leading the way as a passer because it's working. He has two top wide receivers and very sneaky-good tight ends. I would've worried had rookie OT Garrett Bolles been seriously hurt, but it looks like he's going to be OK.
I'm starting to fall for Trevor Siemian as my QB2…at least where I don't like my QB2 very well -- where I was forced to gamble on Carson Palmer's supposedly easy schedule or thought Andy Dalton or Eli Manning would be a good idea…or where I have Jared Goff as a QB2 with upside. Trevor Siemian is a better quarterback talent than Jared Goff… Let that sink in. I just said that. That just happened.
Siemian would not go top 12 among QBs if we redrafted right now -- so trade for him as a QB2 if you need a better QB2. Most people picking him up this week have no strong opinion of Siemian because the media doesn't – his current non-FFM owner is grasping at straws grabbing him. You would trade for him in the value of a player going 125-150+ overall in a redraft today.
-- The other quarterback in this game, to me, what's the most impressive thing I saw in this game.
Maybe it's because of the differential of what I was told happened in this game and what I saw, but I was wildly impressed with Dak Prescott (30-50 for 238 yards, 2 TD/2 INT) in this game. I think this is the game where Dak Prescott went from really good to future elite for sure.
Football people ragging on Prescott for having a supposed bad game at Denver against this defense – anyone who says it should be put in a penalty box from speaking about football for a while. All the top quarterbacks struggle against Denver for the past three seasons. Mediocre quarterbacks are made to cry. Bad quarterbacks are ground into dust. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, etc., they have struggled mightily against Denver recently – their numbers are terrible against them. Tom Brady's worst performances in the last few years have been against Denver. By comparison, Dak Prescott had pretty good numbers considering the backdrop. *Philip Rivers had 3 TDs opening week v. DEN, two junk-time-ish scores late and 192 yards total passing. Rivers is 5 TD/5 INT vs. DEN 2015-2016 with no 300+ yards games...not even close.
Prescott had two interceptions to the Denver defense, and it would be easy to say, "Well…the Denver defense." Hey, the two interceptions where Dez Bryant's fault. One ricocheted off his hands. The other he never turned around on a simple end zone pass play that QBs and #1 WRs hook up on all the time. Prescott had two interceptions on perfectly throwing balls in a sense. That's how bad Dez Bryant is, and that's how good Dak Prescott is. Prescott was closer to 3-4 TDs/0-1 INT than 2/2.
I would use this week, in dynasty, to buy low on Prescott. The media has turned against him, as they been wanting to all year. He's been made to be a fool not up to the task. I think this game was the trumpet blast that this team is going to be about Dak Prescott in the future – Ezekiel Elliott will be in jail, and Dez Bryant will be part of a troublesome breakup story and an ugly finish to his career as a New York Jet or Cleveland Brown. Dallas's Will McClay will be smart enough to know – the future is Dak and they need to build the weapons around him. I wouldn't be surprised Dallas made a trade for one or two wide receivers in a couple weeks. It's the one thing standing between them and the finish line.
Prescott is a QB1 for the rest of the season. He's had the misfortune of taking on two of the best defenses in the NFL his first two weeks -- he's going to be a top-five guy for the future. You don't get many weeks to buy Prescott low – this is one of them.
-- Speaking of Ezekiel Elliott (9-8-0, 4-14-0/5)... I think the football world is getting ready to turn on him. You can beat up a woman, but don't you dare visibly give up on a play on the football field. That is an unpardonable sin.
On the Dez Bryant ricochet interception, Ezekiel was in the neighborhood of the throw, and the camera caught him just standing there instead of taking off in hot pursuit after the defender.
Let me be clear on my Ezekiel Elliott scouting – a position I took before last year's draft and have maintained all along, all while everyone else canonized him. Ezekiel Elliott is a solid B+ running back, not an A or A+…he's good, not great. As a human, he's a piece of shit. I felt that before the NFL years. I certainly haven't had my opinion changed.
If my assessment is correct – you are going to end up getting burned by Elliott at some point. You're going to be chasing a guy in fantasy constantly on the edge of suspension. A guy who is constantly in and out of shape. A guy who is constantly in and out of trouble. A guy who plays a position that's the least important and the lowest paid in the NFL for a reason. It makes no sense making a huge effort to build around Ezekiel Elliott on any number of levels.
For fantasy/dynasty, you should've cashed out at the market top last year/this preseason.
As long as he's on the field and behind this Dallas O-Line, he's a plausible fantasy asset – but you see how he pouted as soon as things didn't go his way in this game. He did the same thing at Ohio State. He's been in constant trouble for the past two NFL years – just on things we know about, it's probably 10x worse on what we don't know.
Because everyone is protecting and coddling the precious superstar, there's no retribution or reason for correction from Elliott. He can do whatever he wants whenever he wants because Jerry Jones will keep protecting him, fans will keep buying his jerseys, and football analysts will keep licking his ass. Why change? This is going to burn the Cowboys and dynasty owners. I'm not sure when, but it will be sooner rather than later. Not a new position I just dreamed up – what I wrote in my scout in 2016 pre-draft.
-- Chalk another one up for Dallas personnel man Will McClay – I didn't think Demarcus Lawrence (7 tackles, 2.0 sacks) would be a good pass rusher in the NFL at all. He hasn't been good, he's been great. 2.0 sacks in this game and now 4.0 sacks on the season. I never saw it coming on tape or in the numbers. However, what I watched of him in the NFL -- he has been fantastic. There may be no more scouting I butchered more than totally dismissing Demarcus Lawrence. It's another reason why Dallas secretly has a great defense, this game didn't disprove that – they just had a bad game with a lot of stupid turnovers and things go against them. Just like the Patriots Week 1.
-- Because Dez Bryant is a disaster and Cole Beasley is Cole Beasley, and Terrence Williams shouldn't even be an NFL starter… Jason Witten (10-97-1/13) can be a top-five fantasy tight end in PPR this year no matter if he is 55 years old.
-- Denver 2nd year DT Adam Gotsis (4 tackles) is another log on the fire for the foundation of a great Denver defense – four tackles this week, five tackles last week. 4.5 per game from a DT is very good. He's a great, unheralded player helping push this defense higher.
Snap Counts of Interest...
23 = Benny Fowler
14 = Cody Latimer
6 = Ryan Switzer
5 = Noah Brown
56 = C.J. Anderson
20 = Jamaal Charles
53 = Derek Wolfe
44 = Adam Gotsis
65 = Rookie CB Jourdan Lewis (thrown to the wolves to set up the future)