Times are a Changing
2016 has seen a shift in the NFL. Teams like the Packers and Panthers who were both very strong in recent years are struggling mightily and may miss the playoffs. This shift has also opened the door to some teams that have been less than fortunate in recent years.
The Dallas Cowboys’ last Super Bowl win came in 1996, when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (27-17). Since then they have not reached the Super Bowl, nor have they come close. The Cowboys have not made it past the divisional round since 1996 and have been plagued with bad luck/untimely mistakes. Whether it was Dez Bryant’s disputed catch or Tony Romo fumbling the game-winning field goal’s snap, the Cowboys have always come up short.
In the AFC, the Oakland Raiders have not been to the Super Bowl since 2003, and have not won a Super Bowl since 1984. The glory days of former owner Al Davis are long gone, and his son, Mark, has not had the best tenure so far. The Silver and Black have not made the playoffs since 2003, and they have not had a record above .500 in any season since. The Raiders have had busts, disappointments and even a fight for relocation, as owner Mark Davis has been looking for a new home for Raider Nation.
However, 2016 tells a different story for these franchises. After years of disappointment, the two teams are leading their divisions in the latter half of the NFL season. The Cowboys are 9-1 and have won 9 straight, with a rookie quarterback, a rookie running back and an average Dez Bryant. Oakland on the other hand is 8-2 despite being in the hotly contested AFC West, having a mediocre defense and having relocation rumours swirling. How could this be happening? Is it finally time for one of these two teams to win a Super Bowl?
America’s Team is finally playing great football in Dallas. After Tony Romo went down in the pre-season with a vertebrae injury some people had written the Cowboys off already. However, young Dak Prescott has stepped up to the plate. Among starting quarterbacks Prescott trails only Tom Brady and Matt Ryan in QB Rating. Prescott a rookie, leads future hall of famers; Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Even more impressive considering his top receiver is Cole Beasley! Also Dak is not even the star of the team. That title belongs to Ezekiel Elliot, who has already set the Cowboys rookie rushing record with six games left to play. Elliott leads the league in rushing yards (1,102), carries (223), and first downs (64), and has become the face of the franchise. Also overlooked on the team is their defense, which allows only 18.7 points per game. The defensive unit led by veteran Sean Lee is no pushover and can grind out football games with the best of them.
The Raiders are led by 2015 Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr a top-10 player in just about every quarterback category. Carr is accompanied by sophomore standout Amari Cooper, who is in the top 10 in both receiving yards (900) and receptions (62), fellow redzone target Michael Crabtree and a run game that has featured three running backs (Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard). Their defense is still fairly mediocre, but its timely stops in the clutch have garnered wins and created drama and excitement in closely contested games. Things are truly trending in the right direction for the Raiders as they enter the backstretch of the regular season.
But, can either of these teams win the Super Bowl this year? It is plausible that Dallas or Oakland could walk out as Super Bowl Champs to end this season. More so for Dallas as they have a well-rounded defense to accompany their productive offense. However, both teams are led by incredibly young players and have the potential to be good for an extended period of time. Both teams will have deep playoff runs in the future and at least one of them will win a Super Bowl, possibly as early as this year. For once there is no true juggernaut in the NFL this season. There are no guarantees, anything can happen and I would not be shocked to see either of these teams in the Super Bowl, maybe even against each other. Ultimately both teams will have to make their respective conference championship games, where in all likelihood the Cowboys will probably have to beat the Seahawks and the Raiders will likely tango with the Patriots. You have got to beat the best to be the best, and that is going to happen sooner rather than later, as both of these franchises are on the cusp of being potential dynasties.
NFL First Down and Three & Out
- First Down: The Heart of a Lion: Somehow some way the Detroit Lions are in first place in the NFC North. With the Packers having a down year, and the Vikings’ recent slump Detroit has seized momentum and put together a record of 6-4. If they can beat the Vikings on Thanksgiving Thursday, they may just win the NFC North.
- Three & Out: A Bleeding Bengal: The Bengals needed to take a step forward this season and at least win a playoff game. Instead they are 3-6-1 after 10 games and lost Giovani Bernard to a torn ACL, as well AJ Green is out with a hamstring injury. This is all on top of the fact that the Bengals offense is averaging under 20 PPG.
The Penalty Box
- The Detroit Red Wings have lost their last four games and are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games with their only wins coming against the Flyers and Canucks. It is looking grim in Hockeytown.
- The injury bug has claimed the likes of Steven Stamkos, Johnny Gaudreau, Bobby Ryan and Mika Zibanejad within a week, frustrating for both players and fans.
Stars of the Week
- The Los Angeles Kings’ #1 goalie is Peter Budaj and Darryl Sutter has managed to get this team into a wild card playoff position. The Kings have won three straight all without their captain Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter has been red hot of late.
- Last year people questioned John Tortorella in Columbus, as the team struggled. The Jackets have beat the Blues, Stars, Ducks, Rangers, Capitals (twice) and destroyed the Habs (10-0) ALL in the month of November. I think John has earned his paycheck.
The Weekly Rap
- The Raptors are 1-4 in their last five, albeit three of those losses came to the Cavs, Warriors and Clippers. Excuses aside the Raptors had a bad week and cannot get into freefall with the Celtics hot on their tail.
- Also to couple with their troubles of facing the best of the NBA, the Raptors had a controversial loss in Sacramento after Terrence Ross’ game-tying three was waved off. The referee and league explanation of a clock malfunction was not accepted by the Raptors and they have opted to protest the game’s result.
Top 5 NBA Power Ranking:
- Clippers (13-2)
- The Clippers are perfect on the road (6-0), they also beat the Raptors and Bulls this week led by their usual three-headed monster of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
- Warriors (12-2)
- The Warriors are cooking, as they have won eight in a row, are 8-1 on the road and Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are all averaging over 20 PPG respectively.
- Cavaliers (10-2)
- The Cavs have two losses and in one of those losses LeBron did not even play, so to be honest the Cavs are 10-1 as James is proving once again he is the best player in the world, averaging close to a triple double (23.2 PPG, 9.0 APG, 8.4 RPG).
- Spurs (11-3)
- Gregg Popovich has one of the best teams in the league, water is also wet. It is the same old story in San Antonio with a few fresh faces. Kawhi Leonard is having a career year offensively, while continuing to be a lockdown defender.
- Grizzlies (9-5)
- The Grizzlies beat the Clippers on the road, and Marc Gasol even did the Vince McMahon walk to celebrate. The Grizzlies have won five in a row, thanks to the usual suspects (Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph). Help has also come from a resurgent Vince Carter and the likes of JaMychal Green and James Ennis.
DOTA 2 News
Virtus-Pro on the Rise
- The CIS region is finally competitive again, or VP is at least. The Russian squad shockingly took down OG with ease in the Summit 6 Grand Final, sweeping them 3-0.
Sonneiko join Vega Squadron
- After Natus Vincere surprisingly dropped the coveted star support player, he was quickly grabbed by Vega Squadron to fill the void left by Fng’s departure from the team.
What to watch this week?
- Tuesday: Senators at Canadiens 7:30pm ET, Thunder at Lakers 10:30pm ET
- Wednesday: Penguins at Rangers 7pm ET, Raptors at Rockets 8pm ET, Blackhawks at Sharks 10pm ET
- Thursday: Thanksgiving NFL Football: Vikings at Lions 12:30pm ET, Redskins at Cowboys 4:30pm ET, Steelers at Colts 8:30pm ET
- Friday: Flyers at Rangers 1pm ET, Blackhawks at Ducks 4pm ET
- Saturday: Blackhawks at Kings 10:30pm ET, Ducks at Sharks 10:30pm ET
- Sunday: 104th Grey Cup, Redblacks vs Stampeders 6pm ET, Sunday Night Football Chiefs vs Broncos 8:30pm ET
- Monday: Stars at Blues 8pm ET, Hawks at Warriors 10:30pm ET
Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe for helping with the editing work and a big thank you to you the reader for taking your time to read my work! Appreciate it! Hope you continue to read along, if you have any suggestions/comments/questions, please feel free to inbox me or talk to me on Twitter @sassysaslove.