FRISCO, Texas – Here is how insanely unpredictable the NFL can be these days.
The Dallas Cowboys have the 28th-ranked defense in the NFL after five weeks. They have the 30th-ranked passing offense.
And when it comes to scoring, their 16.6 points per game ranks 30th; only Arizona and Buffalo are worse.
These would be the prime reasons for the Cowboys’ 2-3 record, matching their starts to the 2017 season, along with 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Yet, in the scheme of things, the Cowboys are only a half-game out of first place in the NFC East, themselves and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles tied for second, just behind the division-leading Washington Redskins, their 2-2 record nothing exactly to write home about.
In fact, when it comes to the entire NFC, 12 of the 16 teams have won no more than two games, and only two teams, the L.A. Rams (5-0) and New Orleans (4-1), have more than three wins.
The AFC is only a tad better, with eight teams having won no more than two games and also just two teams, Kansas City (5-0) and Cincinnati (4-1), with more than three wins heading into Week 6.
So if the Cowboys are in dire straits, with their head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback taking public and media opinion shots left and right, they’ve got a lot of company out there needing flak jackets.
· Who’s No. 1: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came under fire the other day when he said the Cowboys have been without a No. 1 receiver for “several years,” leaving head coach Jason Garrett to be asked for his definition of a “No. 1 receiver.” His answer was that guy defenses have to pay extra-special attention to once the offense breaks a huddle. Of course, Jerry’s point was taken as if a shot at Dez Bryant. That would come down to your interpretation of a No. 1 receiver because in spirit he has been, but his numbers over the past three seasons, i.e. “several,” certainly don’t qualify. Now, injuries did get in his way, but let’s remember, after his 2014 season, when 88 catches for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns earned him No. 1-receiver money, here is what followed: 31 for 401 and 3 TDs in the injury-shorted 2015 season (nine games); 50 for 796 and 8 TDs in 2016 (13 games); and 69 for 838 and 6 TDs in 2017 (played through injuries). And in two of those three seasons Jason Witten was the leader in receptions in 2015 and Cole Beasley in 2016. Nit-pickers beware.
· Still No. 1?: Speaking of No. 1 receivers, saw a recent suggestion that if Denver continues to spiral downward – someone’s description, not mine since the Broncos are, uh, 2-3 – that they might not want their “No. 1” receiver Demaryius Thomas around for 2019 at $14 million in the final year of his contract. Ironic, right? Since Dez held out in 2015 for Demaryius Thomas money: five-years, $70 million. The suggested landing spot for Thomas before this year’s Oct. 30 trade deadline was, of course, Dallas. As for the rest of this year, he would only cost the Cowboys $4.5 million for the final nine games. But what might the Broncos want in return? And would you trade for a guy going into the final year of his contract? Since 2012, Thomas had five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, interrupted by last year’s 949. So far this season, Thomas has 25 catches for 273 and two touchdowns. Worth a thought. But just beware paying age. Thomas will be in his 10th season in 2019, at age 31.
· Throwing Strikes: Suddenly this has become the narrative on Dak Prescott: He’s not an accurate passer. I get it, since his completion percentage after five games is 61.8 percent. But then if you believe that, then you have to tell me what’s happened? Why can’t he find the strike zone? Because in 2016 the rookie quarterbacl completed 67.8 percent of his passes. In the first 24 games of his career, before the protection roof caved in last year in the final eight, he was completing 65.2 percent of his passes, and ended up with a two-year total of 66 percent. Now suddenly he can’t shoot straight? Funny thing: In 2006, when Tony Romo took over for Drew Bledsoe at halftime of Game 6 in his fourth NFL season and started the final 10 games of the year, his first career starts, he completed 65.3 percent of his passes, followed by 64.4 percent his second year. Romo didn’t complete better than 67 percent of his passes until 69.9 in 2014. Just sayin’.
· Hurtin’ Jags: Already Jacksonville has ruled out for Sunday’s game two starters, running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and offensive tackle Josh Wells (groin), along with starting nickel back D.J. Hayden (toe). That’s trouble on the offensive line. The Jaguars already had lost their starting left tackle, Cam Robinson, for the season and now his backup, Wells. That makes new starter Josh Walker the third choice. Also, starting left guard Andrew Norwell did not practice Wednesday with a foot injury that’s left him in a walking boot. Neither did starting center Brandon Linder (knee). And without Fournette for the fourth straight game, and already sending rookie running back Corey Grant to IR, the Jags were forced to sign nine-year veteran Jamal Charles this week, knowing he did not even go to training camp with anyone, and rookie running back David Williams off Denver’s practice squad.
· Little Shots: Nobody likes the teeter-totter the Cowboys have been on so far this season. But time to embrace the continuation of the lose-one, win-one season since Sunday would be time for a win … This should tell you something about either running the ball in the NFL or just how good Ezekiel Elliott had been until the 54-yard performance against Houston: His 480 yards rushing still leads the league, and puts him on pace for 1,536 yards, nearly 200 yards more than last year’s leader: Kareem Hunt with 1,327 … And finally, when it comes to David Irving, had his personal family problems not gotten in the way through Saturday of last week, the Cowboys were going to play him Sunday on nickel downs against the Texans even though he only practiced once since last November. And while he’s expected to return to practice Thursday, no matter what he does before Sunday, my guess is he plays against the Jaguars if the problems have been resolved.
And that’s all folks.