The 2-2 Dallas Cowboys and 1-3 rival Houston Texans headline Sunday Night to decide who is the king of Texas football. A game where strengths will battle strengths, key on these three players for America’s team.
Just about everyone understands the saying “rollercoaster of emotions”. A three-word summary detailing when the highest of joys and lowest of disappointments occur in a given amount of time. Whether in a single day or over the course of months, it can be described from a personal point of view, or a feeling towards something else.
Anthony Brown. What other clearer way to represent his time in Dallas so far. An unexpected stud, who stepped in after injuries spilled across the Dallas secondary in 2016, became an afterthought for fans post 2017 due to underwhelming performances. Now learning under new defensive passing coordinator, Kris Richard, Brown has put the Jourdan Lewis truthers to rest, what seems like a return to his form two years ago.
The historical pace Texans QB Deshaun Watson was set on before his 2017 ACL injury, is largely in thanks to the WR talent they have. Arguably a top 5 player at the position, DeAndre Hopkins can do just about anything he wants to with an insane catch radius. Additionally, and possibly the key to this passing game, is the blazing fast Will Fuller. According to Ben McDaniel of fantasycpr.com, Watson’s Numbers with/without Fuller compares as such:
5 Games With Fuller
Quarterback Rating – 116.96
99/156, 1,481 yards, 18 touchdowns, 6 interceptions
20/31, 296, 3.6 touchdowns, 1.2 interceptions per game
32.02 DraftKings points per game
3 Games Without Fuller
Quarterback Rating 76.35
Total Stats – 54/91 602 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
18/30, 201 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception per game
18.6 DraftKings points per game
A player they like to move all around the field, Fuller has caught 17 of the 25 passes intended his way, averaging 15.5 yards per reception. This matchup may speak more to Awuzie or Jones at the end of the day, but it’s the newcomer of this group that Brown will have his hands full with.
A 4.43 gadget out of Texas Tech, the career of Keke Coutee shot out explicitly in their win against the Colts last week. Making his first appearance, Coutee caught 11 of his 15 targets for 109 yards. An excellent route runner who understands a vertical offense inside and out, he can hurt opposing teams in a variety of ways.
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 3, 2018
Having both Hopkins and Fuller being able to take the top off of defenses, expect Coutee to become that quick hot-route/mid-level guy for Watson.
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 3, 2018
It has only been one game, but his versatility has been an issue and made himself a career since his Red Raider days. Whether it’s from hitches & slants or motioning into a sweep, Coutee has YAC ability that Brown will need to account for as well.
Watson has been on a record-setting tear as of late (https://twitter.com/texanspr/status/1047176891050778624?s=21), and Brown should see a combination of Fuller/Coutee to continue this streak.
A tremendous pure talent for this game, Collins has had his fair share of bumps and bruises playing RT. Quick and strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the best of them, it still could not be enough to what’s waiting for him Sunday night.
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In a 4 year span from 2012-14, the demigod DE JJ Watt would have 17.5 sacks or more in 3 of the 4 seasons. As close to a defensive MVP as we have seen since Lawrence Taylor in 1986, Watt received 13 of the possible 50 votes in 2014. Totaling 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, one interception, one safety, two defensive touchdowns, and 51 QB hits, it was as great as a year any defensive player could ever dream for. Not only that, his three targets when on offense would result in three touchdowns for the Texans. Offense reigns in this league and Watt experienced it first hand, but it will never be forgotten. The league is being reminded this year.
In the last three games alone, Watt has garnered up 5 sacks & 4 forced fumbles. No matter the talent he faced, this should be a warning for Collins. Coming off back-to-back season-ending injuries, the question has been looming if Watt would ever return to such dominance.
Despite the loss, @JJWatt lived in the backfield on Sunday.
Highlights from his 3-sack outing! pic.twitter.com/Cpj6QNsRcM
— NFL (@NFL) September 24, 2018
Yes, the answer is yes, and despite it being against the Giants OL, the tenacity and speed have returned. The energy will be high in NRG stadium and it begins with Watt. The best Collins can do is have a short-term memory. Though a TFL or sack may be given up, the last thing La’El wants is for Watt to get into a groove. The intangibles are there to keep up, but the game is long when facing someone in the echelon of Watt.
Why Ezekiel Elliott? Everyone knows every week the key to stopping Dallas, is to stop Zeke. The NFL’s rushing leader with almost a 100-yard lead at 426, Elliott is in shape. Though this could be more directed towards Scott Linehan, Zeke reminded this staff what he is fully capable of.
Built to bruise defenses late in the game, the shift of the NFL has outdated Dallas offense. Specifically for RBs, teams are more so modeling after the New England Patriots, to have a RBBC (running-back-by-committee) that are quick and mismatches for LBs in the passing game. For premier backs, it’s an added bonus to have one that does all, and Zeke is quickly (finally) becoming that guy for this offense.
Last week against the Lions, Elliott would amount to 152 rushing and 88 receiving yards, with a touchdown and clutch catch to set up Dallas for the GW field goal. Designed perfectly, this is a prime example of how you get the ball in your best player’s hands.
Context: 4th Quarter, 1:23 remaining. It's 2nd-and-10 from DAL's 41-yard line.
Result: 34-yard catch by Ezekiel Elliott pic.twitter.com/WYxtEWc1eJ
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 2, 2018
Put defenses in a bind, lining LBs one-on-one on an island down the field, where 99% of the time they will not have the athleticism to run down the field with Elliott. Not only does this extend the playbook to new possibilities, but more space is also created on the field, Dak is given a valuable option to a weak passing game, and it opens’ defenses up.
Elliott & this offensive line has the ability to run, as they average 106.5 yards per game, but the Texans boast the 9th ranked rushing defense (94.2 yds/game), while giving up 288 passing yds/game (27th). A defensive front led by JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney rushing off the edges, the strength of this Cowboys offense will be given fits.
It’s easy to say Zeke must go off if Dallas wants to win, but more so will Linehan continue to use him like last week? The execution falls on Elliott, but if given the opportunity to start producing for this offense in a modernized direction, watch out.
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