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Tag:Dallas Cowboys
Posted on: December 12, 2011 2:27 am
Edited on: December 12, 2011 2:35 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 14

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 14 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.


1. They're Not Saying 'Boooooo' ...

True story: Just over two years ago, T.J. Yates came on the jumbotron at the Dean Dome during a North Carolina game as the lead-in to a UNC football video, said "I'm T.J. Yates and I'm a Tar Heel," and Yates, who was in the crowd, was booed mercilessly by Tar Heel fans in attendance.

One surprisingly strong senior season and a slew of injuries to Houston quarterbacks later, Yates is the starting quarterback for the first Texans team to ever make the playoffs. He's no figurehead, either, as his play in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 20-19 victory in Cincinnati showed.

We think that logic and common football sense says a rookie quarterback can't take a team deep into the playoffs, but does it? This Texans team's success is predicated on running the ball and playing defense.

And that's not too far off what Mark Sanchez and Ben Roethlisberger leaned on as rookies. Both those guys went to the AFC Championship Game, as a rookie quarterback mind you.

Yates is different than those Sanchez or Roethlisberger because he's matured under tough circumstances, his expectations are lower, he didn't leave school early so he's more experienced and he's got good mentors surrounding him on the roster.

If Houston gets into a shootout with an opponent or finds themselves with a huge halftime deficit, they're probably in trouble. But if that happens, it's not on Yates anyway -- the defense and rushing attack probably already let them down.

Just remember that when it comes time to debate the viability of the Texans in the postseason that the rookie quarterback under center is about as viable as the stereotype that the Texans can't stop anyone on defense.

2. Where It's Due in Denver

It's about time, in this LOL-worthy Tim Tebow saga that hit another high with Denver's 13-10 overtime win over Chicago Sunday, to give credit where credit is due. No, not the defense. No, not the running game. No, not the super-human effort from kicker Matt Prater on Sunday. No, not John Fox or John Elway.

Let's give credit to ... Josh McDaniels.

Remember, McDaniels is the guy that drafted Tebow and blossoming receiver Demaryius Thomas. Both might have been reaches when they were taken (25th and 22nd overall, respectively) and both looked like absolutely horrid selections pretty recently. But McDaniels obviously knew something about these guys and his premonitions and talent evaluation is paying off for Denver now.

Look, there are guys that were taken after Tebow and Thomas that are better overall additions to a roster (Dez Bryant, Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty stand out), and the value McDaniels wasted at those spots is disappointing. Also, given the Rams struggles on offense this year, handing credit his way isn't exactly the chic thing to do.

But as we get further from his nightmare regime in Denver and more ensconced in Tebowmania, it at least warrants a tip of the cap to McD for his decision to select two guys who are starting to fulfill the expectations that come with their draft slot.

3. Cowboy Down

We spent the better part of the podcast (you can listen above, just by clicking play!) trying to figure out who to blame for Dallas' failings in their 37-34 loss to the Giants on Sunday night.

But since Rex Ryan egged on some defensive coverages, Tony Romo egged on a big third-down throw to Miles Austin and Jason Garrett egged on clock management, isn't it possible that it's a systematic issue across the team as a whole?

We assume that because there's a new coach running the show, with different coordinators in place and some new players, that things are different. But things just aren't.

Jerry Jones knows this -- with the Giants at the goal line and the clock ticking down, an NBC camera caught him screaming "Timeout, Jason!"

Give credit where credit is to due to Eli Manning and the Giants for clawing their way back into this game, because it was a pretty magnificent comeback, something Eli's becoming quite proficient at this season.

But these Cowboys just can't close. We've seen it over and over this season and at some point, the bossman's patience for a lack of execution is going to run out.

4. Start 'Em/Sit 'Em?

The Packers have, with their 46-16 obliteration of Oakland in Green Bay, now officially clinched a first-round bye. Thanks to the 49ers losing to the Cardinals on Sunday, Mike McCarthy's team is just one win or one San Francisco loss away from clinching homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

But Sunday's victory came at a price -- star wide receiver Greg Jennings is likely out for the remainder of the regular season. Aaron Rodgers said that "hopefully" the Packers can get Jennings back in time for the team's first playoff game, following their bye, which is approximately five weeks from now.

This begs the question: will McCarthy and Green Bay chase 16-0 with the same fervor as the Patriots?

Losing someone like Jennings is debilitating to their run at repeating as Super Bowl champions, but it's not a dealbreaker because of all the talent they have at the various skill positions. Losing Aaron Rodgers? That's a whole different story.

And what if someone like Charles Woodson or Tramon Williams or Clay Matthews was lost for the rest of the season playing in a meaningless game? Yeah, that would be bad.

There's no right answer that doesn't involve "winning the title" so it's unfair to judge whatever McCarthy and Ted Thompson decide to do. We don't know how things would play out in an alternate universe. But Jennings injury might be a bad sign for the chances at Green Bay running the table.\

5. Familiar Feeling

New England is streaking towards a likely No. 1 seed right now. And they have a  kerfluffle on the sidelines between Tom Brady and his offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien that everyone can talk about. And there's the whole "Can I draft Rob Gronkowski in the second round of my fantasy league next year?" debate that might be worth discussing when going over interesting things about this team. 

But I can't shake the fact that the Redskins piled up well over 500 yards passing between Rex Grossman and Brandon Banks (!) plus 120 rushing yards from Roy Helu and narrowly lost to the Pats 34-27.

Again: the Redskins did this. Back in 2009, New England got throttled by the Ravens in Foxborough, because Baltimore had a stout defense and Ray Rice went HAM on a Pats defense that couldn't shut him down.

This year? The Patriots defense, a season-long problem for the team, reminds a lot of that squad, in that they can't stop anyone who's physical and can play ball control. Or, really, they can't stop anyone -- only four teams have scored less than 20 points against the Pats, and one of those was quarterbacked by Tyler Palko.

There are a lot of good defensive teams headed to the playoffs in the AFC, with a lot of good running backs, and some pretty talented quarterbacks.

Brady and Belichick are great about covering up flaws on a roster, but when they run into a physical team in the playoffs, we might see a similar result from years past.

6. So You're Telling Me There's a Chance?

The 2011 NFL season wouldn't feel right if we didn't get a Lloyd Christmas-inspired false-hope run from the Eagles and Chargers, would it?

The Eagles are still alive after a 26-10 beat down of Miami, although making the playoffs at this point involves jumping a whopping five other teams, and is about as likely as the Eagles retaining Juan Castillo next season.

San Diego's path to the postseason should have been a little bit easier, because the Raiders lost and the Broncos were supposed to lose (see: Tim Tebow doing what Tim Tebow does). Now things are much murkier, as San Diego needs either the Jets -- a team they should have beaten -- to go 1-2 down the stretch, or the Broncos -- another team they should have beaten -- to lose. And the Bolts have to win

8-8 and 9-7, respectively, are doable based for the two teams, based on their schedules. But even that kind of effort might not be enough to save the jobs of certain people in certain positions for these teams.

7. Call It a Comeback, Kid

For the second time this season, four teams in a single week overcame 12-point (or more) deficits to win.

Why? Well, as it turns out, offensive points aren't the only exciting thing that's happened as a result of the offense-friendly rules the NFL installed over the past few years. Comebacks occur more frequently too.

And big comebacks as well -- Atlanta, Jacksonville, Houston and Arizona were all down by 12-plus points and mounted a comeback in Week 14 -- in Week 2, another four teams did it as well.

Limitations on members of the secondary, limitations on defensive players hitting quarterbacks and the middle of the field opening up because of defenseless receiver rules mean teams are able to sling the ball around more frequently.

Defenses simply can't clamp down on teams when they have a lead and if someone takes their foot off the gas (see: the Panthers vs. the Falcons on Sunday), a comeback is absolutely in the cards.

8. Taking Flight

Note to anyone who ends up in a December-only fantasy league: draft Shonn Greene. Dude gets unholy hot when the weather gets cold and he's doing it again this year, with four touchdowns and well over 200 yards the last two weeks, including a career-high 129 rushing yards in a blowout win against Kansas City Sunday.

Not coincidentally, it might be smart to not write off the Jets ever again. Somehow, someway, they manage to win enough games to sneak into the playoffs.

Rex Ryan's crew is doing it again, and even though this rendition of the Jets is clearly inferior to the previous two seasons, it's hard to count them out.

Twice in his two years as head coach, Ryan's used a formula to get to the AFC Championship Game despite fighting uphill to even get into the playoffs. And now he's doing it again.

The Jets last three opponents -- Buffalo, Washington and Kansas City -- are about as cream-puffy as it comes, but you only have to play the people on your schedule. So I'm really not sure why this wasn't as obvious an outcome as Greene being largely irrelevant for fantasy teams until now.

9. Get Your Mojo Running

Lost in some of the fantastic Week 14 action was the fact that the incredibly underrated Maurice Jones-Drew, the only elite skill-position player that the Jaguars have, set the franchise record for career touchdowns, surpassing the also incredibly underrated Fred Taylor.

"Mojo" did it on a day in which he went absolutely b-a-n-a-n-a-s, rushing for 85 yards and two touchdowns, and catching six passes for 51 receiving yards and a pair of scores through the air as well.

“Words can’t really explain how excited I am,” Jones-Drew said.

Jones-Drew's one of the prototypes for the modern NFL back -- small but powerful, quick, great hands and a secret workhorse. (Not to mention he's a stalwart in the community, and a good guy to boot.) Amid an often ugly offensive performance by Jacksonville on a weekly basis, MJD's been insanely consistent in 2011.

Dude deserves some love.

10. Great Expectations

It's fascinating to see that Raheem Morris and Steve Spagnuolo are two guys everyone agrees find themselves firmly on the hot seat. That's because last year, Morris and Spags were a combined one game away from both being in the playoffs last year.

Morris won 10 games with the surprising Buccaneers and even though Spagnuolo went 7-9, he had a shot at winning the putrid NFC West in the final week of the season.

The 17 total wins for the two teams has created a pretty terrible predicament for the coaches who nearly got them to the postseason though: both guys are looking like strong candidates to be fired after the 2011 season.

Tampa Bay lost its seventh-straight game in horrific fashion on Sunday when Blaine Gabbert and the Jags dropped a 41-14 bomb on the Bucs and the Rams are scheduled to start Tom Brandstater against the Seahawks. That will probably not end well.

The point of all this is that the NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me lately business and Spags and Morris have lost lately. A lot.

Muffed Punts

Leftovers from Sunday's Action ...
... Packers have now scored 466 points on the season, the second-highest total in NFL history through 13 weeks, behind only the Pats 503 in 2007.
... Drew Brees and Johnny Unitas are the only two quarterbacks in NFL history with 40-straight games with passing touchdowns.
... Rob Gronkowski has the all-time record for touchdown receptions in a single season by a tight end with 15.
... Eli Manning's 400-yard passing performance was the 14th over the season, an NFL record.

Worth 1,000 Words


GIF(S) O' THE WEEK

You can see video of KC kicker Ryan Succop executing the worst onsides kick in the history of football right here, but this GIF of the three-yard putt/kick is just mesmerizingly depressing.



And I'm double dipping this week again, as Jabar Gaffney's dive into the seats without being caught is just too much fun to ignore.


Hot Seat Tracker

  • Steve Spagnuolo -- Spags really, really needs a win on Monday night against the Seahawks.
  • Raheem Morris -- As noted above, this team won 10 games last year!
  • Todd Haley -- After righting the ship, the Chiefs are back to sinking. This may be related to "starting Tyler Palko" but still, Haley's the coach.
  • Jim Caldwell -- *stares blankly at Colts record*
  • Norv Turner -- Norv's fanning the hell out of his seat, but the Chargers might not have enough games left to make up for the bad start.

Award Worth Discussing of the Week

Aaron Rodgers has retired the MVP watch and the Colts are locked into Andrew Luck so I'm adjusting on the fly. Today's award worth discussing: Coach of the Year.

I find this race fascinating because you have four primary contenders, all with totally different situations.

There's Mike McCarthy of the Packers, who's threatening to run the table with a defending Super Bowl champ. Then there's Jim Harbaugh, who's made the a talented, underachieving 49ers team relevant again and quickly. They're the two favorites.

Then there's the underdogs: John Fox, who continues to win despite Tim Tebow flying under the radar in terms of media attention, and Gary Kubiak, who will not let a quarterback injury kill his season.

If McCarthy goes undefeated it's impossible not to give him the nod because, well, they didn't lose. But if the Packers falter at all, Harbaugh's sheen could fade enough down the stretch (a loss to Pittsburgh and struggles against Seattle and St. Louis maybe?) to let Fox and Kubes make a play for the award.

My vote, provided things play out the way they have so far, is for Fox, since he's winning with less in a way no one ever saw coming, well ahead of when people believed he'd win.
Posted on: December 11, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 10:36 pm
 

Report: DeMarco Murray has fractured ankle

Dallas RB Murray left in the first quarter with a lower leg injury. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

UPDATE II, 10:30 p.m. ET: Murray has a fractured ankle, according to multiple reports (including CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco), and is likely done for the 2011 season.
  
UPDATE, 9:24 p.m. ET:
Murray is getting X-rays on his right ankle and his return is questionable.


The Cowboys headed into Sunday night's game with two active running backs: DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. Late in the first quarter, Dallas was down to one after Murray had to be helped from the field after a lower leg injury.

With 5:11 left in the quarter, Murray took a pass from Tony Romo and was tackled by Giants linebacker Dave Tollefson. Replays appeared to show Murray twisting his ankle under Tollefson's body as they went to the turf. He laid on the field for several minutes before two Cowboys assistants helped him to the sidelines.

There is no official word on Murray's status, although we suspect he could be done for the evening. For now, Jones is Dallas' only active running back, to go along with two fullbacks. Jones' got his first carry after Murray made his way to the bench and it was good for 26 yards, down to the Giants 12. A play later, Romo found John Phillips for a 12-yard score. At the start of the second quarter, the Cowboys lead, 7-5.

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Posted on: December 10, 2011 12:09 am
 

Eli Manning is elite, Rob Ryan says

ManningBy Josh Katzowitz

Eli Manning caught all kinds of flak last August when he compared himself favorably to the one and only Tom Brady.

"I consider myself in that class," Manning said. "And Tom Brady is a great quarterback, he's a great player and what you've seen with him is he's gotten better every year. He started off winning championships and I think he's a better quarterback now than what he was, in all honesty, when he was winning those championships.

"I think now he's grown up and gotten better every year and that's what I'm trying to do. I kind of hope these next seven years of my quarterback days are my best."

I applauded Manning for it, because he showed some confidence and some fire that’s a bit unusual for him in the interview room. But you know what? He has played like an elite quarterback this year. He’s completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 3,705 yards, 23 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 96.0. According to Football Outsiders, Manning is basically a top-five quarterback this year.

But you don’t have to tell that to Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He already knows, and considering Ryan doesn’t mind talking trash about his opponents (ahem, Calvin Johnson and, um, the Eagles – both of whom beat Dallas after Ryan opened his mouth), the fact he’s praising Manning is highly complimentary.*

*Unless this is some kind of crazy double jinx Ryan is trying to pull off here and saying positive things in the hopes that he’ll fail. Which would be awesome.

“If you watch the tape the last two weeks, you don’t want to watch it,” Ryan said, via ESPN Dallas. “Eli Manning threw 22 straight completions against the Saints, hung up 35 points against the world champion defense supposedly [Green Bay]. We’re up for a big challenge here, but our guys are ready to go. We’re anxious about this game. We’ve done our preparation and we can’t wait until it gets here.”

So, elite or not elite?

“The guy’s playing excellent,” Ryan said. “He does a great job. He’s got an unbelievable touch. He will stand in there in the face of a damn hurricane and throw the ball. He’s really tough. We’re looking forward to this challenge. We’ve played some great quarterbacks during the year and this guy is no exception. He’s really playing well. He’s in that elite group for sure.”

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 8:03 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 8:04 pm
 

Sensabaugh signs 5-year, $22 million extension

By Josh Katzowitz

Gerald Sensabaugh has waited three long years for this day. Hopefully, a five-year, $22.5 million ($8 million guaranteed) payday made the wait worth it.

As Rapid Reporter Nick Eatman reports, Sensabaugh has signed back-to-back one-year deals with Dallas since moving over from Jacksonville as a free agent.

But in the midst of the best season of his career with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan – the starting free safety has recorded 60 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles -- Sensabaugh has proven himself worthy of the long-term deal that he’s badly wanted.

After Friday’s practice, Stephen Jones -- the Cowboys executive vice president -- intimated that a new deal could be signed soon, saying, “That’d be great, you never know.”

Now, we do. And Sensabaugh has to be mighty pleased about it.



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Posted on: December 8, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: December 8, 2011 12:57 pm
 

Ware thinks Justin Tuck is jealous of Cowboys

By Will Brinson

A few years ago, when Jerry Jones' awesome monument to American excess (or, as you might know it: Cowboys Stadium) was built in Arlington, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck ripped the stadium, calling it a "dump."

The logical explanation, since Cowboys Stadium is, uh, pretty amazing, is that Tuck just hates a division rival. But Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware, asked about Tuck's comments in advance of Sunday night's game, has a different theory, however. He believes Tuck wants to be a Cowboy and is jealous.

"He says that because maybe he wants to play here," Ware said on Wednesday, per the New York Daily News. "Everybody wants to play for the Cowboys. If I wasn’t playing for the Cowboys I would call it that too, because I want to play for them."

Ware wasn't the only one with words for the Giants -- cornerback Mike Jenkins called Giants running back Brandon Jacobs a "bully."

This is probably accurate. The Giants have won the last two times they've headed down to Dallas, and Sunday night's game holds an even greater importance because of the one-game differential between the two teams in the NFC East standings.

Momentum should be on the Cowboys side this week, but mangled clock management by Dallas in an overtime loss to Arizona resulted in the Giants, losers of four straight, heading into Cowboys Stadium with a sense that they could reclaim the division lead.


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Posted on: December 7, 2011 10:43 am
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Film Room: Cowboys vs. Giants preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


A hallmark rivalry renews Sunday night with the first of a two-game series between the Cowboys and Giants that will likely decide the NFC East. We’ve recently grown familiar with the Giants as they’ve spent the past few weeks on football’s center stage (Patriots-Eagles-Saints-Packers!).

In examining whether they can break their slump and get back above .500, we take an in-depth look at how they match up with this week’s familiar foe.


1. Stopping DeMarco Murray
New York’s most valuable contributor Sunday night might just be Jason Garrett. The Cowboys’ play-caller unwisely drifted away from Murray in the second half against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving, and he all but abandoned Murray against the Cardinals last week (12 carries, just seven after the first quarter).

Garrett’s pass-first decision at Arizona was likely in response to the aggression of the Cardinals linebackers. They recklessly attacked downhill much of the game, often as part of designed blitzes. Garrett may have felt that passing against an iffy and over-leveraged Cardinals secondary was the best response.

That said, Garrett can’t simply let Murray become an afterthought. The rookie running back has been the stabilizing force of the Cowboys’ offense. In recent weeks, the Cowboys’ front line has played with enough power in the ground game that, with the help of fluid H-back John Phillips, it’s realistic to think they could push the pile against aggressive linebacking. Even if they couldn’t, Garrett could still feature his young back in the passing game. Murray has soft hands and is smart in protection. Screen passes are a great way to punish fast downhill linebackers.
 
Expect the Giants to attack with their second level defenders much in the same way the Cardinals did. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell knows that this might make Garrett one-dimensional in his play-calling. What’s more, the way to contain Murray is to make him go east and west early in the run. He has decent lateral agility and change-of-direction but only if he’s already built momentum.

By shooting the gaps, the Giants will push Murray to the perimeter, where he’s less dangerous. If the Giants continue to operate out of their big nickel package (two linebackers, three safeties), they’ll have enough speed on the field to chase the outside runs.

2. Cowboys passing game
Shooting the gaps against Murray will leave New York more susceptible to play-action passing and one-on-one matchups downfield. That’s a risk the Giants should be willing to take. They have a quasi-shutdown corner in Corey Webster.

They likely believe they can cover Jason Witten with one of their three safeties, or even with athletic linebacker Jacquian Williams. Williams was matched one-on-one against Jimmy Graham and Jermichael Finley the past two weeks. He was defeated in both matchups, but the Giants may be inclined to trust him again this week. Witten is elite, but he’s a prototypical tight end, not an insanely athletic hybrid wideout like Graham or Finley.

The Cowboys’ passing attack is interesting. Early in the season, it flowed through Witten. A few weeks ago, most noticeably on Thanksgiving, it was flowing through Laurent Robinson (a graceful, long-striding, deceptively fast street free agent who has blossomed now that he’s finally stayed healthy). Last week, it flowed through Dez Bryant, even though Bryant was defended by rising star Patrick Peterson. And keep in mind, last season, the passing attack flowed through Miles Austin, who may return this week from his hamstring injury.

In Dallas’ system, the go-to target is often determined by whom Tony Romo feels most comfortable with. Romo’s comfort may be influenced by the rhythm of the game. When things are grinding, Witten’s the guy. When everything flows, it’s Robinson. When it’s a sporadic, sandlot type game, he likes Bryant. The Giants will have studied the Cowboys’ offense all week. Whom they decide to put No. 1 corner Webster on will tell you who THEY think Romo likes most.

3. Tyron Smith
The first-round rookie right tackle from USC has been better than advertised, showing improvement with every start. Smith, the youngest player in the NFL, has uncommonly light feet for 310-pounder. He’s dripping with athleticism, which is evident when he lands blocks off short-area movement in the run game. His technique continues to be a work in progress – he was exploited by wily defenders early in the season and had a tough time against Cameron Wake two games ago – but it’s much better at this point than most expected.

That said, there may not be a worse player to face in a war of fundamentals than Justin Tuck. The seventh-year veteran has had a down season, but he’s still one of the craftiest – if not THE craftiest – ends in football.

If the Giants cared about our viewing entertainment, they’d move Tuck to the defensive right side and let Jason Pierre-Paul, the most dynamic young athlete playing defensive end today, go mano-a-mano against Smith.

4. Rob Ryan’s pass-rush tactics
Rob Ryan’s primary focus is on creating one-on-one situations for DeMarcus Ware. The league’s most prolific sack artist over the last five years almost always aligns on the open side of the offensive formation (i.e. away from the tight end).

To help ensure more one-on-ones for Ware – and to simply generate as much pressure as possible – Ryan walks safeties down into the box (Abe Elam’s physical strength is a plus for this), uses fire-X blitzes with his inside linebackers (where the left linebacker attacks the right A-gap and the right linebacker attacks the left A-gap) and often brings cornerback Orlando Scandrick off the edge from the slot (Scandrick is an excellent blitzer).

Ryan may want to be a bit cautious this week. Eli Manning is superb at identifying blitzes and audibling. Plus, it was on a double A-gap blitz that Ryan got outsmarted by Ken Whisenhunt with a screen pass for LaRod Stephens-Howling on the overtime touchdown last week. Ahmad Bradshaw is very good in the screen game.



5. Defending Cruz
Over the years, the Giants have had a field day going after Orlando Scandrick with slot receiver Steve Smith. Scandrick has drastically improved all-around in his third season. But the Giants also have a more dynamic slot weapon in surprising 1,000-yard receiver Victor Cruz. Cruz has big, ball-plucking hands and sinewy body control that allow him to make late adjustments to the ball. His powerful elusiveness after the catch makes him a threat to score on any play.

If Scandrick is blitzing or outside, the Cowboys are more likely to play a zone or some sort of off-coverage in the slot. The Cardinals had their outside and slot receivers align tight to one another last week, which the Cowboys defended by playing off-coverage inside. That left easy eight-yard completions on the table. Manning will gladly take those if given the opportunity.

The Cowboys may defend the seam with safety help – which could keep Cruz, as well as surprising downfield producer Jake Ballard, in-check. In that case, Scandrick would be an underneath defender, where he’s most comfortable. The cost here is that this safety help would either water down some of the blitz designs or leave one-on-one coverage against Hakeem Nicks outside.

Rob Ryan’s best bet might be to mix and match with disguise, in hopes of setting up a Manning turnover.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 14 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 7, 2011 9:55 am
Edited on: December 7, 2011 10:21 am
 

Rolle: Giants making playoffs 'without a doubt'

By Will Brinson

One week ago, things looked pretty bleak for the New York Giants' postseason hopes. And if the playoffs started today, the Giants would be sitting at home.

But because the Giants flirted with breaking the Packers perfection, and because Dallas and Jason Garrett iced themselves, there's reason to be hopeful in New York. Or boastful, if you're Antrel Rolle.

"You ask will we make the playoffs?" Rolle said on WFAN in New York on Tuesday, per the New York Post. "Without a doubt. We will be in that postseason. And we all know once you get in that post season, that record is 0-0, let’s go to work."

Making a guarantee for a postseason spot is a bit aggressive, especially for a team riding a four-game losing streak and sitting one game back of the Cowboys in the NFC East race. (Though the two teams play Sunday night and again in Week 17.)

The good news for the Giants is that even though they lost Sunday, they probably had the "best" loss of any NFC wild-card contenders, and Rolle seems to understand that part.

"I like being able to dictate the outcome of how our season’s going to end or how it’s going to continue to go into the postseason," Rolle said. "We have total control, we are fully aware of that. If we go out there and we play with the intensity and emotion and passion we had this last Sunday, man, those teams are in trouble."

Of course, if the Giants played with the same intensity/emotion/passion they played with on Sunday against the Packers, they probably wouldn't have lost to the Eagles in Week 11 and they probably wouldn't have gotten whipped by 25 points by the Saints on Sunday night in Week 12.

But Rolle will get his chance on Sunday night to prove that he's right.

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 6:16 pm
 

Report: 2 teams have reached out to Jeff Fisher

Jeff Fisher could return to the sidelines in 2012. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Last week, Jack Del Rio became the first head coach to get canned this NFL season. He won't be the last. In fact, by the time the offseason rolls around, there could be up to 10 teams looking for new coaches.

One name mentioned at the top of most lists: Jeff Fisher, the longtime coach with the Oilers and Titans who was fired last offseason. Over the weekend there were reports that any interest he might have in the Chargers job (which almost certainly will be vacant the moment Norv Turner puts the finishing touches on another disappointing campaign) will hinge on whether general manager A.J. Smith is relieved of his duties, too.

Now that we're three-quarters of the way through the 2011 season, clubs have begun making plans for 2012. According to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora, two teams have reached out to Fisher about possible coaching opportunities.

"The Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, and St. Louis Rams could be possible destinations for Fisher," La Canfora wrote Monday. "Fisher has very strong ties to ownership in Dallas and New York; San Diego is the closest thing to a hometown team; and St. Louis' front office has ties to him as well, with Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff's father, Marv Demoff, being Fisher's longtime agent."

On Sunday, we posted a list of current coaches on the hot seat:

* Norv Turner (4-7)
* Steve Spagnuolo (2-10)
* Jim Caldwell (0-12)
* Tony Sparano (4-8)
* Todd Haley (5-7)
* Tom Coughlin (6-6)
* Andy Reid (4-8)
* Raheem Morris (4-8)
* Leslie Frazier (2-10)

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has since said that Frazier's job is safe, and there's a report that Reid can stick around if he dumps offensive coordinator Juan Castillo. But there's a good chance the other teams above could be in the market for new coaches (although we can't understand why Coughlin would be fired -- he's done well given all the injuries the Giants have endured this season).

Whatever happens, there's a good chance Fisher is back on the sidelines in 2012.

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