• Dallas Cowboys defeat painful but not surprising

    It’s a hard-knock life in the NFL. Whether tasked with obstructing an otherworldly Doug Martin or caught on the wrong end of a J. J. Watt sack, NFL players earn their money with hard work and grit. But last Sunday, the most battered residents of Roger Goodell’s gridiron realm never strapped on pads. Game after game, they follow their team expecting a return to the golden years of the ‘90s, and week after week their beloved boys in blue repay them with a kick in the gut.

    The Dallas Cowboys’ defeat Sunday night in Atlanta at the talons of the Falcons was not a surprising outcome. The Falcons are the NFL’s only undefeated team. They’re the only team featuring two receivers in the top 15 in receiving yards, and in Matt Ryan they have a quarterback that knows how to connect with them. But the six-point defeat pains Cowboys fans as much as any other.

    Three of the Cowboys’ five losses this season have been by single possession deficits, and in all three the Cowboys have held the ball in the final minute with a chance to win. A field goal wide left, a dropped two-point conversion, and a Hail Mary touchdown grab ruled out-of-bounds by Dez Bryant’s enormous fingertips have all contributed to the anguish of Cowboys fans, who can’t seem to pinpoint the cause of their cyclical misfortune.

    Tony Romo had a solid showing, completing 25 of 35 passes for 321 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions. Dwayne Harris gave the Cowboys an added spark, scampering 39 yards on the first punt return. Kevin Ogletree reeled in a 60-yard toss in response to big grabs by the Falcons’ Julio Jones and Roddy White. Most impressive was the Cowboys’ zero turnovers on the game. Despite their positive performance, however, the Cowboys showed that where they are most consistent is in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    For the first time since his promotion in 2010, Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett does not boast a winning record. Sunday’s loss puts Garret at 16-16, and the pressure is certainly on the Princeton graduate to tip the scale back toward the win column next week in Philadelphia.

  • An early season analysis of the Houston Rockets

    James Harden is on the verge of becoming a superstar, if he is not already. With a 35 point and a 45 point performance in his first two games as the starting shooting guard and the focal point for the Houston Rocket’s offense, Harden proved he has what it takes to be a franchise player in the league. It has become unbelievably obvious that Harden’s potential was limited in Oklahoma City, having to play third fiddle to superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden. Harden now lifts the lottery bound Rockets team to a completely different stratosphere- a playoff team.

    Nevertheless, there are some serious obstacles the Rockets must overcome to really grow this season. Their first two wins of the season have masked the turnovers that could plague their offensive productivity this season. Although Jeremy Lin might seem to have turned out to be a solid point guard in the league, he is extremely turnover-prone. Add to that issue that Harden has to learn to play as the franchise player without turning over the ball too much.

    Another impending issue is the veteran presence. For a talented roster like the Houston Rockets to flourish during the late season and into the playoffs, veteran leadership and poise is a must. However, the only starter over 25 years of age is dominant rebounding center Omer Asik. That will not suffice as the season moves on.

    Eventually though, these problems will dissipate and the Rockets franchise will once again shine in the Western Conference. Don’t be surprised to see the Rockets contending for a championship within the next few seasons now that they have superstar James Harden to build around.

  • Halftime Blog: UT vs Texas Tech

    It took Texas three-and-a-half quarters to score 14 points last week against lowly Kansas, but this week it put up 24 points in one half against the Red Raiders top 20 defense.

    The Longhorns enter halftime with a 24-13 lead in large part thanks to the deep ball capabilities of David Ash and Mike Daivs. The pair connected twice on play-action passes with the first going for a 54-yard gain, which Joe Bergeron later punched in for a score. Then in the second quarter, the pair connected on again on almost the exact same play for a 75-yard touchdown run.

    Ash enters the half 9-for-13 for 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with the other score coming on a six-yard pass to Jaxon Shipley on the team’s first drive of the game.

    The defense played well against an explosive Red Raider offense, holding the group to only one touchdown and a pair of field goals. The unit still gave up 230 yards of offense, but it was able to hold on in the red zone and limit Texas Tech to 13 points.

  • Five things to expect this winter

    As quickly as it began, the Fall Classic came to a close Sunday night, as the Giants swept the Tigers to clinch their second title in three years. And while there is a long wait till April until we get to see Major League Baseball back in action, the Winter Meetings and subsequent offseason action will have more than enough fireworks to hold us over for the time being. Here are the top five things you can expect to see this winter.

    1. Zach Greinke signs a monster deal.
    If last year’ Winter Meetings are any indication, there is no way of knowing who will throw their hat in the ring for the high-priced free agents, and Zach Greinke’s negotiations don’t figure to be any different. The Angels are thought to be the frontrunner, who acquired Greinke at the Trade Deadline in a deal with the Brewers. The Rangers and Red Sox have also been rumored to be interested in the ace. There’s always the possibility of a dark horse candidate coming into the picture later, and the $144 million deal Cole Hamels signed mid-season appears to be the kind of deal Greinke is aiming for.

    2. Shohei Otani comes state side
    The 18-year-old fireballer out of Japan has already made his intentions known that he plans to bypass the NPB league in Japan in favor of signing with an MLB team, but the question now is, where does he fall? The Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox are rumored to be the three front runners in signing the young right hander, with the Dodgers thought to have the lead amongst those in the know. What we do know is that the new CBA only allows a $2.9 million spending limit on international signings, so money will not be the most important factor in wooing Otani.

    3. Josh Hamilton continues his career outside of Arlington
    The former AL MVP could not strike a contract extension with the Rangers during the course of the season, and it appears as though he has worn out his welcome within the Rangers organization. A colossal slump, the dropped pop fly in Oakland on the last day of the season, or the 0-for-4 appearance in the Wild Card play-in game amongst a chorus of boos seem to indicate as much. While there certainly still is a possibility the Rangers may resign the transcendent talent, it will depend on what the market bears. The Rangers know what Josh Hamilton is good for, and also know the headaches he can cause each season. If a team decides to break the bank on Josh Hamilton for five or six years, you’ve probably seen Hamilton play his last game in a Rangers uniform. If no team does, however, the Rangers may extend a contract offer his way. This one will be interesting to watch unfold.

    4. Trades, Trades, Trades
    Without a crystal ball this could prove to be pretty useless, but we’ll give it a shot. Do the Diamondbacks move Justin Upton? Do the Rangers trade for Jacoby Ellsbury to replace Josh Hamilton? Is there any way the Yankees can unload Alex Rodriguez and his insane contract? Do the Angels do away with Dan Haren like they did when they sent Ervin Santana to the Royals on Wednesday? There are numerous possibilities floating around all 30 GM’s cell phones, and there is sure to be some sizeable moving and shaking going on this winter.

    5. One of the games greats calls it a career
    Mariano Rivera has been a boulder in the backside of the Yankees bullpen for the last 18 years, and has the all-time lead in career saves with 608. In early May, during batting practice in Kansas City, Rivera was shagging fly balls in the outfield when he buckled to the ground due to a torn ACL. While he hasn’t come out to say what his intentions are, it wouldn’t be a shock to anyone if “The Sand Man” called it a career and hung up the cleats. Rivera will go down as the best closer in the history of baseball, and is certain to be a first ballot hall of famer when his time comes. Now we sit and wait for one of the game’s greats to decide.

  • Vick's Ability as a Starter, Leader in Question

    It’s week nine in the football world, and with many predicted contenders beginning to play as expected, things are finally starting to make a little sense.  The Patriots blew out the lowly Rams in London 45-7, the 49ers crushed the Cardinals 24-3 on Monday Night Football, and the Broncos became the latest team to put a pounding on the Saints. Finally, some stability. But alas, it’s still the NFL, and things can turn around quickly in this league. That being said, here are a few things to look for this week in pro football:

    1) Michael Vick to be replaced?

    The four-time pro bowler and 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year has struggled all year with ball security, turning the ball over a total of 17 times. Nobody expected this type of play from Vick when the Eagles signed him to a six year, $100 million contract back in 2011, especially Andy Reid. With his job hanging in the balance, Reid is desperate to win, and rumors are circulating that Vick’s time as the Eagle’s quarterback is running out. Will he step his game up, or will we see Nick Foles under center for Philadelphia soon? Much of that depends on how Vick plays on Monday Night Football against the Saints.

    2) Power Outage

    The San Diego Chargers looked awful on Sunday, suffering an ugly 6-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The Bolts have now lost their last three games, and are faced with a short week as they play the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. Though it’s still early and they’re only a game behind in the division, the Chargers have a history of losing streaks in the Norv Turner era that have cost them shots at the playoffs. They need a big win over an awful Chiefs team to get back on track and stay on the Broncos’ heels.

    3) Marquee QB Matchup of the Future

    When the Panthers and Redskins take the field in Landover, MD, on Sunday, the two teams will have combined for a 4-11 record so far this season. However, these teams share a common bond beyond their poor play this year: hope. Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III have already become arguably the most electrifying players since entering the league in the past two seasons, and are expected to do great things for their franchises. Though both quarterbacks have a ways to go, this matchup could be a preview of much greater games to come between the two.

    4) Can the G-Men Keep Their Magic Going?

    The New York Giants are 6-1 since losing their opener to the Cowboys, a span that includes several games that easily could have been losses. After stunning the Redskins a week ago, New York did it again on Sunday, squeezing out a 29-24 win in Dallas thanks to Dez Bryant’s massive hand grazing the back of the end zone on what would have been the game-winning catch. They face another tough test on Sunday, when Big Ben and the Steelers come to town in what should be a great game.

    5) Boys-Falcons on National Television

    Sunday Night Football’s matchup features two teams headed in opposite directions, with the Dallas Cowboys heading into the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons. Although they’ve had some close games, the Falcons have looked dominant over the first half of the 2012 season, jumping out to a 7-0 record. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have looked inconsistent not only from game to game but also from half to half, nearly erasing a 23 point deficit on Sunday’s against the Giants after turning the ball over 4 times in the first 17 minutes. What makes this game interesting is that the Cowboys have a history of handing undefeated teams their first losses, beating the 9-0 Colts in 2006 and the 13-0 Saints in 2009. Can they do it again? Tune in on Sunday night to find out.