Here is your daily dose of Cowboys news…
The writing staff over at the Mothership makes their game predictions with most of them feeling pretty good about the Cowboys chances.
This game scares me to death. It’s a road game against a talented quarterback and a stingy defense, and the Colts absolutely need a win as they fight for their playoff lives. But I’m big on the “seeing is believing” mantra, and this Cowboys team has shown me plenty in the last month. They’re certainly deserving of the benefit of the doubt. This Colts team feels a bit one-dimensional, and I think the Dallas defense is good enough to limit Andrew Luck. After all, they’ve managed to do that against Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees in the last month. It’s going to be tough sledding on offense, but running games travel and I think 120 rushing yards from Ezekiel Elliott would go a long way in this game. Like all of these games, it’s not going to be easy. I think scoring will be hard to come by, and I think both Brett Maher and Adam Vinatieri will be busy. At the end of the day, I trust the Cowboys to figure it out and scrap their way to the NFC East title – something like 20-16.
The panel of experts over at SportsDay offer up their game predictions.
The Colts have won six of their last seven. Andrew Luck has thrown 18 touchdowns to five interceptions during that stretch. There are plenty of reasons to pick Indianapolis at home, where it’s won its last four. But it’s tough to go against the Cowboys lately. Regardless of how ugly things may look during the game, they seem to find ways to make the big plays late. I’ll say Cole Beasley breaks out, scoring his first touchdown since Week 6, and Dallas’ defense does enough in the final minutes. Cowboys 24, Colts 17.
Week 15: Previewing key NFL matchups, fantasy football and Greenline – PFF Preview Team, Pro Football Focus
Pro Football Focus prepares you for what you need to know for each matchup.
DALLAS COWBOYS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Key NFL Matchup/Stat: Amari Cooper has averaged 2.84 yards per route run since joining Dallas in Week 9, which ranks fourth among NFL wideouts with at least 100 routes run in the six-week span. He also has recorded a 141.7 passer rating when targeted in a Cowboys uniform, ranking fifth among the same group of wide receivers.
Stats to Know: Over the first eight weeks of the season with the Raiders, Cooper ranked a lowly 69th among wide receivers in fantasy scoring. Over the last six weeks with the Cowboys, he’s No. 1 with six touchdowns and a massive 641 yards. Cooper is locked in as a WR1 play this week.
Cowboys vs. Colts odds, line: Picks, predictions from expert who’s 5-0 on Dallas games – Staff, CBS Sports
The Cowboys head into Indy as the favorite with odds makers expecting to see a lot of points scored in this one.
Surging teams collide in Indianapolis on Sunday when the 7-6 Colts host the 8-5 Cowboys. It’s a 1 p.m. ET kickoff from Lucas Oil Stadium and the game has major implications on the NFL playoff picture. Indianapolis has won six of seven and is vying for the second AFC wild-card berth, while Dallas has won five straight and can clinch the NFC East with a win. Sportsbooks list Indianapolis as a three-point favorite. The Over-Under, or total number of points Vegas thinks will be scored, is 47.5 in the latest Cowboys vs. Colts odds.
Zack Martin out for Dallas Cowboys – Todd Archer, ESPN
For the first time in his NFL career, the Cowboys All-Pro guard will miss a football game.
Martin aggravated a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee during last weekend’s win against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the third time this season Martin went down with that injury during a game, but he had not missed a start. He did not practice this week. Rookie Connor Williams will replace Martin. He also took over for Martin last week. Williams started the first seven games of the season at left guard but lost that job to Xavier Su’a-Filo after undergoing minor knee surgery in October.
2018 Colts Preview: Colts/Cowboys, Week 15 – Jake Arthur, Indianapolis Colts
Colts base camp provides a game preview, including a golden opportunity for their defense without the presence of Zack Martin.
Can The Colts’ Defensive Line Take Advantage Of Banged-Up Cowboys Front?
The Cowboys have already been without center Travis Frederick all season, left tackle Tyron Smith has been banged-up as well, and right guard Zack Martin has not practiced this week. What was once considered the league’s best offensive line doesn’t have its All-Pro trio at full strength. With a Colts defensive line that tends to feast on offensive lines that don’t protect well, can the Colts’ front win this matchup? Dallas ranks dead last in the league in sacks allowed (48), and the Colts average 3.1 sacks in 10 games against teams like Dallas who rank near the bottom in sacks.
The Cowboys will be without an All-Pro player, but will get another All-Pro back.
Five things to watch vs. Indianapolis Colts – Stefan Stevenson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Here are five things to watch, including the return of Sean Lee and how he’ll be incorporated back into the defense.
5. General Lee Linebacker
Sean Lee is expected to be activated after missing the past five games with a hamstring injury. If he’s available, he’ll be used in a limited fashion as he’s eased back into game speed. Lee says that’s fine with him. And when he does get back out on the field, he won’t hold back. “Any role for me I’m excited for,” said Lee, who won’t be “If you don’t go out and play full speed and hard you’re not going to be any good and you’re not going to play anyway. So you might as well go out there and let it rip. It might rip. That’s part of the deal
‘It’s a non-issue’: How does Sean Lee’s return impact Leighton Vander Esch’s recent role for Cowboys? – David Moore, SportsDay
With Lee returning, some are wondering if this could mess up a good thing, but it will be nothing like that. Lee’s the ultimate teammate and he’s just happy to be a part of this good defense.
Will Lee regain his starting job over rookie Leighton Vander Esch, who has been outstanding in the veteran’s absence?
“It’s a non-issue,” Lee said Friday afternoon after completing his first full week of practice since early November. “I’m just excited to have any role I have to be a part of this team. We have such a great group defensively. “I’m just excited to be part of it and blessed to be with this group.”
Lee hasn’t played since he injured his hamstring Nov. 5 during the loss to Tennessee. He was the starter at the time and was rotating with Vander Esch. A Cowboys team that has struggled dramatically in recent years without Lee has won five consecutive games during his latest injury. Vander Esch has come into his own and has played at a level where he’s in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The two are expected to rotate against the Colts. The difference: Vander Esch’s performance and the prolonged period Lee has been out would indicate the rookie will get the majority of the snaps.
The Cowboys will be without David Irving who is still dealing with an ankle injury, but they are hopeful he’ll be available to play next week against the Buccaneers. Tavon Austin has been out for several weeks with a groin injury, but has practiced this week in a limited capacity. He remains questionable for Sunday.
Final Thoughts: Life Without Martin; More – Bryan Broaddus, Dallas Cowboys
Broaddus gives us his final thoughts on the Indy game, including when we could be seeing Austin again.
I will have Tavon Austin on my final weekly inactive list for this game. Like Sean Lee, I was hearing a lot of positive news about the way Austin looked in practice and how well he was recovering from a significant groin injury. Austin played the role of T.Y. Hilton on the scout team and gave the defense an outstanding picture of the speed and quickness which these Cowboys defensive backs are going to have to deal with when facing Hilton. Look for Austin to be back next week against Tampa Bay, filling in potentially as your primary punt returner and maybe a snap or two at running back in certain situations.
Colts vs Cowboys Week 15: Matchups to watch – Chris Blystone, Stampede Blue
There are several key matchups to watch out for, including how familiar these two teams are with each others coaches.
Frank Reich vs Jason Garrett
This is the most important matchup of the day. Frank Reich will make his debut against the Cowboys as a head coach, though he has faced them several times before. These two coaches are quite familiar with one another from Reich’s time with the Eagles. Given that his defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus was coaching for the Cowboys last season it is safe to say that this Colts team should be as well prepared for the Cowboys as any team they’ve faced all season long. They know what will be thrown at them from two different angles.
Reich’s play calling on offense has been great at getting guys open and quickly getting the ball in their hands. His misdirection and pre-snap movement have been problematic for undisciplined defenses, and he will throw a lot at this Cowboys to try to keep them on their toes. How the Colts offense starts will be critical. Flat starts to their last few games have nearly been disastrous for them, and it puts a lot of pressure on a young Colts defense that plays best with a lead. If Reich has a solid script to start the game and can keep pressure on from ahead, it will be tough for Dallas to catch them, and force them into situations where the defense gets a chance to create turnovers.
Just in time for the Cowboys, Andrew Luck’s offensive line is whole again. – Albert Breer, SI.com
Did you know that Luck has been sacked just 16 times this season? Now you do.
The Colts get center Ryan Kelly for today’s showdown with Dallas, which is enormous. It’s not a coincidence that Andrew Luck wasn’t sacked once in the five games right before Kelly’s injury, then took (a modest) six sacks in the three games Kelly missed. Part of that is a result of Indy missing his leadership, in how he and the group communicate when he’s out there. And they’ve also missed his ability to get to the second level of the defense in the run game. On the other side of the ball for Indy, the injury to watch is safety Clayton Geathers’s knee. Geathers has been a revelation and, given Indy’s lack of depth at the position, his absence would be a problem. Coaches are optimistic he’ll play, and a decision will be made pregame. And as of early Sunday morning, they were also optimistic on T.Y. Hilton.
Matt Mosley recently took some reader questions. Here’s one of them:
Question: Is it too early to say the Cowboys won the Amari Cooper trade?
Mosley: It’s probably too soon to make that declaration, but the early returns are remarkable. And it appears the Raiders will get a pick somewhere in the 25-28 range, which is a lot better than where this thing was headed a few weeks ago. If Cooper is the long-term answer as a No. 1 WR that we think he is, then it will have been a very good trade. It’s starting to look like anyone who deals with Gruden or Mark Davis comes out the winner. What a mess.
Amari Cooper proving Cowboys owner Jerry Jones right – Mark Cannizzaro, NY Post
With his stellar numbers, Amari Cooper is proving Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made the right choice dealing for him — even if it meant giving up a 2019 first-round draft pick.
Who’s laughing at the Cowboys now?
The consensus around the NFL was the Cowboys overpaid for Cooper, whose production had declined in 2017 and early 2018.
Well, no one is questioning that trade value now.
“I’ve seen this guy play for a long time,’’ said Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott — who while at Mississippi State, lost to Cooper and Alabama in 2012, 2013 and 2014. “Playing against him in college, I knew just how great he was. I was almost astonished we were able to get that trade. I thought if we were getting a trade like that: What’s wrong?’ ”
Well, as it turned out, nothing.
Cooper has become one of those acquisitions that has just fit perfectly. The Cowboys were in need of better skill position help on the outside to prevent opposing defenses from stacking the box to stop running back Ezekiel Elliott. And Cooper was in need of a change of scenery — away from the floundering, if toxic, environment in Oakland.
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