The Debrief, Week 9: Cowboys surging with all eyes on them

Gregg Rosenthal catches you up on every little thing you must know as we flip from Week 9 to Week 10.

The Cowboys’ star operating again, Ezekiel Elliott, rushed for 93 yards and a landing Sunday, simply two days after a authorized victory in a federal appeals court docket allowed him to play. The staff’s proprietor, Jerry Jones, has been on the heart of the talk relating to participant protests through the nationwide anthem, with a place that has developed all through the season. The staff’s ex-quarterback, now a broadcasting sensation, returned house Sunday to nice fanfare and impressed some not-so-friendly hearth from one other former Cowboys legend turned entertainer.

We preserve watching. In a yr filled with politicized evaluation of tv rankings, the Cowboys ship. CBS had its highest rankings of the yr for Chiefs-Cowboys, a truth solely notable for its complete lack of shock. Like it or not, that is America’s Team greater than ever.

It may very well be a particular staff, too. Beneath the intersection of sports activities, sponsors, suspensions and civil rights that has overwhelmed this season lies a Cowboys squad quietly coming collectively. The vaunted offensive line has began to exert its will during the last 5 video games, gaining extra speeding yards (183 per recreation) with the next common (5.24 per carry) and extra speeding touchdowns than any staff in soccer over that stretch, all whereas averaging over 32 factors per recreation. On Sunday, the Cowboys leaned on the light-weight Chiefs protection till it buckled. Dallas took the sport over with two straight landing marches to open the second half that mixed for 25 performs, taking greater than 12 minutes off the sport clock. They had been simply the kind of drives that Tony Romo piloted again in 2014.

Rayne Dakota Prescott is taking part in sensible, environment friendly soccer with the standard lack of hype that follows profitable second acts. And he is getting extra badist from a protection that appears solely totally different with linebacker Sean Lee again on the sector and defensive finish David Irving having returned from his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s coverage on performance-enhancing medication. After an offseason the place badysts (ahem) anxious concerning the staff’s cross rush, Demarcus Lawrence, who had his personal suspension final season, is within the combine for the Defensive Player of the Year award. The aim in Dallas since this offensive line got here collectively has been for the protection to at the least be common and opportunistic, a gaggle that may play complementary soccer. Any unit that may maintain the Chiefs to 17 factors deserves respect.

The staff’s convincing three-game successful streak units up a captivating second half of the season, with the Cowboys attempting to chase down the Eight-1 Philadelphia Eagles within the NFC East. The prime of the NFC is filled with intrigue (extra on that under), however no video games are extra appetizing than the 2 Cowboys-Eagles clashes developing, together with the season finale.

The Eagles do not play once more till Nov. 19 for his or her journey to Dallas on “Sunday Night Football,” in what may very well be the primary Game That Truly Matters of the season. Elliott’s availability for that evening stays doubtful, a standing that has turn out to be routine. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to listen to oral arguments Thursday relating to the preliminary injunction in his case. There may lastly be readability for Elliott after the three-judge panel hears the case, in response to NFL Network authorized badyst Gabe Feldman, with the consequence being that Elliott both serves his six-game suspension or is probably cleared to play the remainder of the yr. Then once more, it is a case as soon as regarded as all however closed earlier than Week 1.

And so we wait, with the Cowboys caught on the heart of this divisive marketing campaign with a younger staff that does not determine to surrender its highlight. A season outlined largely by the star gamers it has misplaced would get a lift from such a high-profile recreation the place the eye wasn’t so targeted on who was lacking.

The Cowboys’ resurgence is one a part of a compelling NFC playoff image starting to take focus …

New blood rising within the NFC

In this muddled season, the place there have been complaints concerning the lack of groups really rising from the pack, the NFC is beginning to look somewhat stratified and wholly totally different from a yr in the past. The Eagles (7-9 in 2016), Saints (7-9 in 2016) and Rams (Four-12 in 2016) have performed so effectively and so constantly that something wanting a playoff look could be an enormous disappointment.

In an NFC decade largely dominated by the Seahawks’ and Packers’ consistency, this NFL season is beginning to remind me of the 2015 marketing campaign, which completed with a Panthers victory over the Cardinals within the NFC Championship Game. They had been dominant new groups on the prime of the game, and all the above-named groups run extremely schemed offenses which have led to large performs and large open receivers.

“They run this college offense,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris advised NFL Network’s James Palmer Sunday concerning the Eagles. “They form of run what the Chiefs do. They bought an choice to run, choice to cross. They run the learn possibility, the true possibility. It’s a school offense, and [Carson Wentz] is executing it superb.”

The secret is up entrance for all these groups. Wentz is being protected effectively, even in opposition to a powerful cross rush just like the Broncos’. The line can be robust sufficient to run when defenses know it is coming, like once they had been taking part in with an enormous lead on Sunday.

Jared Goff and Drew Brees have loved equally improved safety and wonderful operating video games behind them. While the Saints and Rams run extra standard badaults than the Eagles, the well-rounded nature of all three groups stand out. They can beat you with the cross, the run or on protection.

The NFC appears extra intriguing and compelling down the stretch than the AFC as a result of this trio is so new, remodeled and largely sudden. They even have among the finest groups from the previous few seasons chasing them, with Seattle, Dallas and Carolina all within the combine. Minnesota has maybe the most effective protection within the convention and holds the most effective story potential in its again pocket, with Teddy Bridgewater a chance to return to the beginning lineup for a first-place staff after struggling a devestating knee harm in August 2016.

The convention upheaval has been enjoyable, however the rising indicators that these groups are right here to remain is simply what this season wanted.

Speaking of surprises …

Week 9 tales that might have been arduous to fathom in August

1) The Falcons’ offensive struggles. On Sunday, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan bought the ball again with 2:18 left, down by three factors in Carolina with an opportunity to change the trajectory of a Falcons season gone amiss. After one other quick begin by the staff and one other blown lead, this time a 10-point benefit misplaced within the second quarter, Ryan was in place to interrupt hearts on the street within the Falcons’ first NFC South recreation.

They went 4 and out. A predictable swing cross on first down was adopted by two performs with stress up the center on Ryan. Atlanta’s offensive line caved in repeatedly from the within, because it has for a lot of the season, with Carolina’s Kawann Short doing the soiled work Sunday.

On fourth down, Atlanta wished a cross interference name that did not come. Bad execution adopted by dangerous luck is typical of a Falcons season that is still mediocre regardless of a roster that must be able to win now.

2) The Panthers are placing every little thing on Cam Newton. Newton led the Panthers in speeding for the fourth straight recreation, with the staff apparently abandoning any offseason idea of attempting to maintain him wholesome and avoiding hits on this post-shoulder surgical procedure part of his profession. With so little else engaged on offense, Carolina coach Ron Rivera appears to be taking a YOLO strategy somewhat than worrying about long-term ramifications.

three) Jacksonville’s utter dominance. The closest of Jacksonville’s 5 victories this season got here Sunday over Cincinnati — by 16 factors. The newest convincing win should not have even been that shut, with the Jaguars gaining 26 first downs in opposition to solely eight for the Bengals. The Jaguars have cruised in back-to-back video games with out No. Four total decide Leonard Fournette, with Blake Bortles’ season going from “Hmm … not so bad” to “What’s happening here?”

In a pbad-first league, the most effective cross protection will at all times have an opportunity. No staff is harder to throw in opposition to than Jacksonville, and the addition of defensive deal with Marcell Dareus from Buffalo ought to make them harder to run in opposition to, too.

Marcell Dareus posted a 40% run stuff charge for #Jaguars, simply the very best of Week 9. Second place was 25% #NextGenStats (min. 5 run performs)

��� Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB)
November 6, 2017

Four) The Giants’ defensive disappearing act. As dangerous because the Giants’ offense has been this season, the staff’s protection is way extra disappointing. Allowing the Rams to attain 48 factors within the first 42 minutes Sunday was the nadir for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s group, which has been lower than the sum of its elements since Week 1 in Dallas. Safety Landon Collins, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate final season who has performed fantastic this season total, had certainly one of his hardest days as a professional in opposition to Los Angeles.

5) Starting Savage spells doom for Texans. It’s straightforward to choose on Texans quarterback Tom Savage after he began Sunday’s recreation in opposition to the struggling Colts protection finishing 9 of 27 pbades. The crazier half right here is that Texans coach Bill O’Brien, after watching Savage and rookie Deshaun Watson up shut all offseason, selected to make Savage the Week 1 starter. Watson was a real taking pictures star in his time at quarterback earlier than tearing his ACL in apply final Thursday, whereas the Texans’ season is all however over now that Savage is behind heart.

6) The Packers offense is hard to observe. Give Matthew Stafford credit score for dealing in a second straight wonderful prime-time efficiency by the Lions quarterback throughout Detroit’s 30-17 victory. The Lions are very a lot within the playoff hunt at Four-Four contemplating the staff’s schedule forward.

With that mentioned, the Lions caught a schedule break. They bought the Brett Hundley Packers somewhat than the Aaron Rodgers Packers and the preventing Hundleys seemed as restricted following the staff’s bye week as they did earlier than it. This Green Bay squad seems headed for third place or worse within the NFC North, and hopefully the parents within the NFL’s league workplace can see that.

On November 26th, the Packers are scheduled to go to Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football. On that very same day, there may be an unimaginable Rams-Saints matchup in Los Angeles that highlights all that’s holy about 2017 soccer. Don’t inform me about rankings. The sport will develop with the most effective video games and the most effective groups being seen by essentially the most followers. Contact your native elected official or maybe the NFL’s Twitter account with #FlexNOLA to help the change.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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