2014 NFL POWER RANKINGS Week 5: 49ers Back Into the Top 12

NFLTeams
A power ranking of all 32 NFL teams after week four play.

The Twist: Each week my top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. I reflect the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs.

I have one NFC team and one AFC team in the top two to reflect who may end up in the super bowl. I also include at least one team from each division in the top 12 teams.

This week several teams near the top were inactive so no change in the top 4 teams but there was some movement within the top 12 teams.

Change in Top 12:
The Falcons tumble out of the top 12 teams after losing at Minnesota. Their inability to win games played outdoors continues for the Falcons. Their defense was certainly exposed a bit Sunday.

It is the 49ers who take the Falcons place in the top 12 by handing the Eagles their first loss of the season. It was impressive to see how the 49er defense completely shut down the Eagles run game and beat them upfront.

Week 5 / Change
1. Seahawks (2-1) 0
2. Broncos (2-1) 0
3. Bengals (3-0) 0
4. Cardinals (3-0) 0
5. Ravens (3-1) +1
6. Chargers (3-1) +1
7. Eagles (3-1) -2
8. 49ers (2-2) +7
9. Panthers (2-2) -1
10. Lions (3-1) +1
11. Colts (2-2) +1
12. Patriots (2-2) -3
13. Texans (3-1) 0
14. Cowboys (3-1) +5
15. Packers (2-2) +2
16. Vikings (2-2) +9
17. Falcons (2-2) -7
18. Bills (2-2) -2
19. Giants (2-2) +3
20. Chiefs (2-2) +4
21. Bears (2-2) -7
22. Steelers (2-2) -4
23. Dolphins (2-2) +3
24. Jets (1-3) -3
25. Saints (1-3) -5
26. Redskins (1-3) -3
27. Browns (1-2) 0
28. Rams (1-2) 0
29. Bucs (1-3) +2
30. Titans (1-3) -1
31. Jaguars (0-4) -1
32. Raiders (0-4) 0

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Cowboy Play Caller Scott Linehan Sticks to His Guns and Runs the Ball

DeMarco Murray

DeMarco Murray

Sunday night was different for the Dallas Cowboys and their fans. And I’m not just referring to the final score where Dallas wins a prime time game 38-17. In this game it was the Saints, not Dallas, that found themselves passing the ball far more than running it. It was if the two teams switched roles this time. What has changed?

Saints QB Drew Brees passed for 340 yards which wasn’t a surprise at all. Thought it may have been more to be honest. But how many times have we seen QB Tony Romo be the one who passes for over 300 yards in a game only to come up on the short end of the final score? Far too often fans may answer. Romo was efficient in this game as he passed for only 262 yards but had 3 TDs with no INTs.

The Cowboys had a very balanced attack as they rushed 28 times (Murray and Randle combined) and Romo passed 29 times. Murray accumulated 149 yards on physical running that seemed to wear down the Saints defense. The Cowboys offensive line pushed people around up front as they seemed to impose their will. “We are running it and you can’t stop it”. It’s not been like that in a long time for the silver and blue.

It made me wonder what exactly has changed this season for Dallas?

They still have the same crazy old owner sitting up there watching the game and calling the shots as GM. No change there. Same head coach who would normally run Murray a few times at the first of the game then abandon it, and turn Romo loose passing the ball every play like a kid in a toy store. Garrett’s inability to manage the clock are well documented as well. None of that different. Even the same often criticized QB who too often finds a way to choke and turn the ball over late. So what changed?

Before the season play calling duties were handed over to Scott Linehan and he talked about staying committed to the run game. Naturally many of us, self included, were not convinced that they would actually stick to the run game. After all, talk is cheap and we had heard all that kind of talk before besides, Linehan did plenty of passing when he was at Detroit.

“Seeing would be believing” and after four games, we have been seeing it. The 2014 Dallas Cowboys are a run team and by gosh it’s working like we all thought it would if they would just do it.

Currently the Cowboys lead the NFL in rushing with 165 yards per game. Only one NFL team has more rush attempts per game and that is the undefeated Bengals. The Cowboys are in the top 3 teams in yards per rush.

This season defenses must respect the run threat and that is opening up the passing lanes for Romo and not allowing teams to pin back their ears and pass rush every play. Passing less but more effectively, if you will. What a concept.

Four games doesn’t complete a season obviously but if Linehan continues to call a balanced attack that commits to the run, the Cowboys will be a tougher team to beat this season than in the recent past.

Stick to your guns Cowboy. Pound the rock!

Cowboys Not Using These 3 Offensive Weapons

A look at three offensive weapons that appear to be way under used by the Dallas offense through three games this season.

1. Lance Dunbar
With new offensive play caller Scott Linehan taking over the Cowboys offense this year, it was expected that he may use RB Lance Dunbar similar to the way Reggie Bush was used with the Lions. I didn’t look for Dunbar to get a great deal of carries as it figured Murray would be the work horse but I did think Dunbar could be a very effective offensive weapon as a receiver out of the back field.

In three games Dunbar only has 3 catches for 21 yards and all those receptions came in the first game with the 49ers. He has had no targets at all in the last two games. On the ground, Dunbar has 11 carries for 27 yards for the year and all those attempts came in the Titans game.

With above average quickness, Dunbar has proven to be a very explosive player in the past and hopefully he will figure into the offensive attack more in the future. Against the Rams, the Dallas offense was just 5 of 10 at converting 3rd downs. Passing to Dunbar more out of the backfield could help move the chains a little more on 3rd down.

2. Gavin Escobar
Last season the Cowboys were criticized for rarely using their 2nd round TE Gavin Escobar as he only had 9 catches for the season. Talk has been that Dallas wants to use more multiple TE sets in 2014 but so far, Escobar only has 2 catches for a modest 12 yards. And the other TE James Hanna has been so absent that I’m surprised an Amber alert hasn’t been issued for him. Hanna has 0 catches and 0 targets this season. Last season Hanna had 12 receptions and he had a nice preseason but so far he has been forgotten.

With the Cowboys having success running the ball, it would seem that getting the TEs involved in the offense would be a natural development but so far it hasn’t. Escobar has demonstrated excellent hands and he has good height at 6-6 which can create mismatches with smaller defensive backs.

3. Dwayne Harris
It seems every season I’m disappointed in how the Dallas offense fails to get Dwayne Harris involved as a wide receiver and in 2014, I am again. On special teams Harris is a big contributor and in the past he has proven that he can make big plays that are game changers.

In the first game Harris ran the ball one time for 9 yards and he had one long catch for 56 yards. All his productivity came against the 49ers because in the past two games, Harris hasn’t even touched the ball at all on offense. This seems like a waste to me. It really appears to be a case of not using an explosive weapon.

Linehan should make it a point to get the ball to Harris at least a few times each game. Running a reverse to Harris could be an effective way to take the defense’s focus off Murray and throwing those bubble screen passes to a good runner like Harris would certainly test the open field tackling ability of defenders. Getting Harris the ball in open space will put a great deal of pressure on defenders and seems like a no brainer. Let’s hope it happens more going forward.

2014 NFL POWER RANKINGS Week 4: Seahawks Back on Top With O.T. Win Over Broncos

NFLTeamsA power ranking of all 32 NFL teams after week three play.

The Twist: Each week my top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. I reflect the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs.

Each week, I have one NFC team and one AFC team in the top two to reflect who may end up in the super bowl. I also include at least one team from each division in the top 12 teams.

Their dominance at home continues for the Seahawks after a big challenge from the Broncos that required O.T. to put them away. That win puts the Seahawks back at the top as the team to beat.

TOP 12:
IN:
The Falcons move into the top 12 teams after completely destroying the Bucs to go 2-0 in the NFC South.
The Lions move into the top 12 teams with an important division win over the Packers.
The Colts finally get their first win of the year. On one hand it was the Jaguars but also was convincing.

OUT:
The 49ers fall to 1-2 after losing a division contest with the Cardinals. That also makes them 1-2 in the NFC and makes me doubt their offense is going to be good enough to get them to the post season this year. Gut check time against the Eagles next week for the 49ers.
The Packers fall to 1-2 by losing a division game at Detroit. They need to win against Bears next week.
The Texans lose to an 0-2 Giants team which make me doubt if the Texans are really ready to contend with the Colts in their division.

Week 4 Change
1. Seahawks (2-1) +1
2. Broncos (2-1) -1
3. Bengals (3-0) 0
4. Cardinals (3-0) +6
5. Eagles (3-0) +4
6. Ravens (2-1) -1
7. Chargers (2-1) +4
8. Panthers (2-1) -4
9. Patriots (2-1) -1
10.Falcons (2-1) +5
11. Lions (2-1) +5
12. Colts (1-2) +2
13. Texans (2-1) -1
14. Bears (2-1) +3
15. 49ers (1-2) -9
16. Bills (2-1) -3
17. Packers (1-2) -10
18. Steelers (2-1) +2
19. Cowboys (2-1) 0
20. Saints (1-2) +5
21. Jets (1-2) -3
22. Giants (1-2) +7
23. Redskins (1-2) -1
24. Chiefs (1-2) +4
25. Vikings (1-2) -2
26. Dolphins (1-2) -5
27. Browns (1-2) -3
28. Rams (1-2) -1
29. Titans (1-2) -3
30. Jaguars (0-3) 0
31. Bucs (0-3) 0
32. Raiders (0-3) 0

4 Unlikely Heroes in Cowboys Come From Behind Win Over Rams

Dallas trailed to the Rams 21-0 but to their credit, they kept battling and the guys who may have hurt them early in the game, helped them late in the game. A look at some unlikely contributions in the Cowboys 34-31 come from behind win.

Bruce Carter:
2013 was a tough season for Carter the 2nd round pick a few years ago. Patience was wearing thin from coaches and fans watching Carter get beat on pass plays. Early in the game the Rams moved the ball effortlessly in building a 21-0 lead. Coming into this game, Dallas was very thin at linebacker with McClain and Durant not playing. So no matter how bad Carter played, they really didn’t have any other options today.

But in the 4th quarter Bruce stepped in front of a pass in the middle of the field and returned the interception 25 yards for a TD. It was a play Dallas needed to get some room between them and the Rams.

Anthony Hitchens:
With McClain out with injury, the inexperienced rookie LB was asked to man the middle of the defense today. Hitchens didn’t have a perfect game and the game film will no doubt reveal mistakes in coverage but he finished as the Cowboys leading tackler today with an outstanding 10 solo tackles and 3 assist. Hitchens’ biggest contribution was when the Rams went for it on a 4th and one in the redzone, and Hitchens tackled the ball carrier for a loss in the backfield turning the ball over on downs.

Tony Romo:
Romo had a horrible first game against the 49ers throwing 3 picks and in the win against the Titans he just basically stayed out of the way and let Murray do his thing. In the 2nd quarter today, Romo threw a pick six to Jenkins of the Rams which put Dallas behind 21-0. At that point, fans couldn’t feel good about Romo and his recovering back.

No one could expect Romo to contribute with a scramble today but he did. Late in the game Dallas faced a 3rd and 13 when Romo took off for 16 yards, to help his team get a much needed first down. He went on to throw a TD pass to Terrance Williams on the drive. Romo made a bad play early with the interception but he kept fighting and helped his team get the win in the end.

Mo Claiborne:
So far this year Claiborne’s play has been criticized plenty even being rated by Pro Football Focus as the Cowboys weakest defender after two games. In the 2nd quarter Mo was burned by Brian Quick for a 51 yard TD pass. It was definitely a case of “here we go again” as Mo stretched out in vain to try to defend the long pass.mo rams

Dallas held just a 3 point lead when the Rams got the ball with 2 minutes left in the game. Given the way the Rams QB had passed for over 300 yards in the game, how could anyone feel good about the Dallas defense preserving the win? But it was Mo Claiborne that came up with an interception that sealed the come from behind victory for the Cowboys. An unlikely hero for sure.

Final Take:
I think this type of game today will be what we can expect more often than not from Dallas this year. And for them to come up with a win, they will need some turnovers from their defense and contributions from unlikely players.

Excellent examples from these guys of not hanging your head and instead moving on to the next play.

2014 NFL TEAM POWER RANKINGS Week 3: Broncos Take Over Top Spot

NFLTeamsA power ranking of all 32 NFL teams after week two play. The Twist: Each week my top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. I reflect the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs each week. Each week, I have one NFC team and one AFC team in the top two to reflect who may end up in the super bowl. I also include at least one team from each division in the top 12 teams. NEW LEADER: The Seahawks lost on the road at San Diego while the Broncos managed to hold off a late threat by the Chiefs to remain undefeated. So this week the two teams swap places at 1 and 2. With the Broncos going to Seattle next week, it may be a short time spent at the top for the Broncos. After week 2 Biggest Surprise Teams: Bills– Can’t say I had much confidence in the Bills and their QB play before the season but here they are 2-0 and at the top of the AFC East. Are the Bills for real? Starting to look like it. Texans– Finished at the bottom of the NFL in 2013 but are now 2-0 and at the top of the AFC South. Biggest Disappointing Teams: Saints are “road kill”- As the joke goes, the Saints are changing their name to the N.O. Possums because they get killed on the road. The Saints are 0-2 on the road this season similar to their performance away from home last year. They need a home game in the worst way. Chiefs– Made the playoffs last season but are struggling this year at 0-2. Yet to recover from that epic playoff melt down last season.

Week 3 – Change
1. Broncos (2-0) +1
2. Seahawks (1-1) -1
3. Bengals (2-0) +1
4. Panthers (2-0) +2
5. Ravens (1-1) 0
6. 49ers (1-1) -3
7. Packers (1-1) 0
8. Patriots (1-1) 0
9. Eagles (2-0) +1
10. Cardinals (2-0) +1
11. Chargers (1-1) +1
12. Texans (2-0) +7
13. Bills (2-0) +8
14. Colts (0-2) -5
15. Falcons (1-1) -2
16. Lions (1-1) -1
17. Bears (1-1) +6
18. Jets (1-1) -1
19. Cowboys (1-1) +7
20. Steelers (1-1) 0
21. Dolphins (1-1) -5
22. Redskins (1-1) +8
23. Vikings (1-1) -5
24. Browns (1-1) +5
25. Saints (0-2) -9
26. Titans (1-1) -2
27. Rams (1-1) +3
28. Chiefs (0-2) -1
29. Giants (0-2) -7
30. Jaguars (0-2) -5
31. Bucs (0-2) -3
32. Raiders (0-2) 0

The NFL: Five Things We learned in week 2.

ap_roger_goodell_mt_140911_16x9_9921. The Cowboys can win the less Romo throws the ball. The Cowboys figured out how they can win a game. a) Don’t let Romo pass much. b) keep the defense off the field. When Romo just hands the ball to Murray, and the Cowboys dominate time of possession, suddenly their defense isn’t so bad and Romo stays out of trouble. .Against the Titans, the Cowboys rushed for over 200 yards and held the ball for 2/3 of the game. Now that’s the formula they won with back in the day.

2. The Redskins offense is much more effective with Kirk Cousins at QB instead of RG3 and out. It took RG going out with an ankle injury early in the game Sunday for the Redskin leaders to figure out that their best chance to win is with Cousins running the offense. Or maybe they don’t want to admit they invested too much into RG. Last week a total of 6 points with RG at QB and this week 41 points with Cousins. Pretty emphatic I would say. As Cowboy fans, let’s just hope for a speedy recovery for RG and a return to the bench for Cousins.

3. The New Orleans “Possums” get killed on the road. So far the Saints are 0-2 on the road and last season wasn’t much better as they were 3-5 away while going 8-0 at home. Let’s just go ahead and change it to the N.O. Possums since, (all together now) “they get killed on the road”.

4. These Falcons can’t fly out doors. By losing at the Bengals, the Falcons have lost seven games in a row played in outdoor stadiums. Plans for their new stadium allow for the top to open but they may want to consider keeping it closed all the time.

5. Video evidence. There is a saying in business that, “nothing is more devastating to an opinion than a number”. For the NFL I would say we found out nothing is more devastating to an opinion than a video. As in the Ray Rice in the elevator video, that dominated NFL news this week and caused the shady NFL commissioner to do a 180 on his opinion. It made Goodell look bad or maybe he made himself look bad by evidently conducting a drive by investigation to keep a star player on field as much as possible.

Anyone else think the main stream news has become like TMZ and TMZ has become the news?

On to week 3!