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NFL16 Cherry Picks W14: Are 11-1 Dallas Cowboys Super-Sizing or Just Surviving?

5 Dec

Monday Minute Waltz – NFL Week 13

The two most annoying words in sport today: fantasy points.

Mr. Bortles: “Trying to do too much (NFLN)” or just…plain…bad…judgment?

Larry Fitzgerald’s 2Q sideline handshake w/Redskins opponent DeSean Jackson was probably not the un-“selfish” play Cards’ coach Bruce Arians had in mind.

— — —

I don’t know who first uttered that buoyant phrase, ‘a win is a win is a win,’ but it’s point is pretty hard to dispute.

It’s the sentiment I expect was expressed by each and every Dallas Cowboys player & coach on their return flight home last Thursday nite following their narrow victory (17-15) over the hosting Minnesota Vikings.

cowboyshat-wc-5-16-8-dukeha-109ksb4That the Cowboys won their eleventh (11) straight contest and continue to have most people in the sporting biz thinking them colossal are morale boosters, for sure. That they won by the skin of their collective teeth is not all that disconcerting in that nearly every title team that’s hoisted the hardware had a close game or two on their road to Titledom.

The Minnesota win was valuable. Dallas won on the road, on short rest, topped a contender, a team that should’ve been highly motivated for victory to 1) keep playoff hopes alive that’ve been fast fading and, 2) win one for the Zimmer as head coach Mike was unexpectedly absent having emergency eye surgery (Detached retina?).

But how you win can be as important as how you lose.

‘Winning ugly’ has become a cute characterization today but in fact can be an omen, a warning sign of deficiencies that if not attended to forthwith will turn into big trouble down the road upon entering the playoff expressway.

The foreboding flipside to the Cowboys win last Thursday is in their failure to trounce a team that started hot (5-0) but has gone fairly frigid (1-5) since a week 5 win over the equally troubled Houston Texans.

garrett-j-wc-1998-user-archbridge-11kAdded to that, the host club’s home-field advantage was just lesser in that they were without their head coach and spiritual guide in Zimmer. Special teams man Mike Priefer, a key figure in the Chris Kluwe case, did a fine job filling-in and may’ve made identical calls to his absent boss but it’s just not the same.

In short, the Vikings were vulnerable, easy prey and the Dallas Dudes didn’t take full advantage. Cowboys’ failure to flex goes not only to the skill issue (do they have enough), but also to psychological aptitude as well, i.e., killer instinct.

Put more philosophically, does Dallas have the spirit of a champion?

Since their bye week, and setting aside the cakewalk win over Cleveland (35-10), in their five following victories, the Cowboys have won by an average score of 5.6 points. That’s less than a TD and that’s a close game. And had the Vikings game officials viewed the closing helmet hit on Vikes QB Bradford with an eye keener to protect passers from unnecessary harm, that average might even be lower.

Now comes the final stretch. All four of the Cowboys’ remaining opponents are contenders, some more serious than others but contenders, nonetheless.

First up are the Giants, a scheduled meeting whose timing is probably much to the liking of head coach Jason Garrett.

prescott-9-18-16-k-allison-187kThe division rival from New York (8-4), even with last Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh, G-Men are the only team in 2016 with moxie enough to topple the ‘Boys, taking the win in opening week (20-19). Garrett would just assume play the re-match now in the Metropolis having enjoyed a 10-day rest in preparation.

Next up is an AT&T call from the Buccaneers, who are, at least this week, one of the hottest clubs in the League at 7-5, followed by a visit from the roaring Lions (8-4), at least this week. Closing out the regular slate is a rematch with division foe the Eagles (5-7) whose losing mark should not belie their competitive play and the fact they’ve chalked up convincing wins over the Steelers, Vikes and bad-luck birds of Atlanta.

If the Cowboys, who qualified for the post-season on their Minnesota win and Redskins loss (@ AZ), close out strong (3-1), do so with emphasis (8+) and hold home-field, Super LI may be just their size come February.

cherries-wc-cca-b-kua-6-1-08-3-3mCherry Picks Week 14

OAK (9-3) @ KC (8-5) GTW: 12.8 NFLN 8:25: Chiefs win
Steelers (7-5) @ Buffalo (6-6): 12.11 CBS 1:00: Bills win
Broncos (8-4) @ Tennessee (6-6): CBS 1:00: Denver wins
Washington Redskins (6-5-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles: Fox 1:00: Philly wins
Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) @ Miami Dolphins (7-5): Fox 1:00: Cardinals win
Houston Texans (6-6) @ Indianapolis Colts (5-6): CBS 1:00: Colts win
New Orleans Saints (5-7) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5): Fox 4:25: NO wins
Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) @ Green Bay (6-6) GTW: Fox 4:25: Seahawks win
Dallas Cowboys (11-1) @ New York Giants (8-4) GTW: NBC 8:30: Giants win
Baltimore (7-5) @ New England Pats (10-2): 12.12 Disney 8:30: Patriots win

Record: 58 – 68 – 2

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: J.Garrett, wc.cca, K.Allison, 9.18.16; Cowboys-helmet, wc, DukeHa, 5.16.18; Garrett, wc, User.Archbridge, 1998; RD.Prescott, wc, K.Allison, 9.18.16; cherries, wc, B.Kua, 6.1.08; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 12.5.16 @ 4:20pm EST; Copyright © 2016

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NFL16: No Herschel Heist (’89), But ‘Holy Crap,’ Vikes!

5 Sep

The Herschel Walker deal. If you followed NFL football 25 years ago you know what those words mean.

The Minnesota Vikings, specifically, their brain-trust of Mike Lynn (GM), head coach Jerry Burns and owner Max Winter, bet a good share of the fjord (farm) on the Dallas Cowboys All-Pro ball-carrier in hopes it would put ‘em over the top, i.e., get the Norsemen back on the Super stage.

The date: October 12, 1989.

The details: Vikings received former Heisman-winner Herschel Walker (UGA), who’d run wild in the defunct USFL (5562 (3)) and vacillated from exquisite to pedestrian in parts of four seasons with Dallas (3), plus four mid-round draftees (J. Reed). Cowboys got five Purple players and an armload of draft picks, most conditional but realized as three (3) 1Rs, three (3) 2Rs, a 3R and 6R., a pool from which toppers Alvin Harper, Darren Woodson and Emmitt Smith were had.

The general impression of the day? Lots o’ shock and a bit of awe.

..........Spielman.wc.8.4.14.M.Deery.wideMy personal take: Gilding the lily or, in those famous words of Elizabethan penmeister Edward de Vere (Shake-a-Spear), the Norsemen were “add(ing) another hue unto the rainbow (King John (1590s)).”

Talented Vikes had been knocking on the door the season prior, making NFCC and taking eventual winner DC down to the wire, unable to punch it in as final seconds ticked off. Darrin Nelson was their top ground-man (6-800 / 4.5+ per) and had a fine QB in Wade Wilson, a stout line (Zimmerman, Lowdermilk & Irwin), All-Pro TE Steve Jordan and all-everything in Anthony Carter. D wasn’t too shabby either with padded-up Pro Joey Browner in the secondary, Studwell & Solomon in the middle and pass-rush ruffians Chris Doleman and Keith Millard.

Pretty nice “rainbow.”

The result: Herschel was competent in his 2.75 years in purple (4.1 (3.2 PS (89))), but then so was Nelson. Some say he wasn’t employed properly. And that’d be balderdash. Imagine Gale Sayers, Chuck Foreman or Jerome Bettis failing to be used properly. Not possible. Hersch was rated the same (1514 (‘88)). When the handwriting was on the wall, Walker ran like he’d hit that wall and showed no interest in scaling it, not in Minneapolis.

Dallas parlayed 3-4 of Minnesota’s umpteen players & picks into key contributors to three Super Bowl wins in the 90s. Good but not a great result, and even then could’ve just as easily produced nothing of serious value.

..........Walker.5.14.10.wc.USArmy.J.VannucciDrafts are always a dice roll, regardless of research and pre-draft hype. Just as often as not, no matter the # of selections, any draft can be a bust, resulting in few or no long-term player benefits for the club.

More than the benefits Dallas received from Minnesota’s largesse, due in credit to the Cowboys and luck, it was the high expectations for Walker, poured by Jones and guzzled up by Minnesota dealers, that went unfulfilled and borne by the Vikings, which constitutes the crux of this historical trade.

And that’s the backdrop for what transpired last week on the NFL wheeler-dealer front, to offer some perspective on Saturday’s surprising Sam Bradford deal engineered between the Vikings current brain-trust in Rick Spielman (GM), Mike Zimmer (HC) and owner Zygi Wilf, and the Eagles inner-circle of Howie Roseman (GM), head coach Doug Pederson and their owner Jeff Lurie.

You can’t say Philly got a Herschel haul like Dallas did, getting two draft picks and cash (1R (‘17) + 4R (18) + $7M ($18M)), or that Minnesota mortgaged their future on the 6th-year signal-caller from OKC, (b.1987) as they did in 1989. But to those fans with a long memory, the vibrations that emanate from this present song will strike familiar flat notes with the former ditty of disaster.

.........Bradford.wc.USEmbassyLondon.thm.10.23.12Sam’s got real upside, there’s no doubt about that.

He’s a quality pocket-passer in his prime, more NFL vetted than was Walker. When healthy, he averages 3500+ pass, C% 60+ and a 20-13 TD-ratio. Not elite #s but solid, enough to help get one to the Conference title.

Bradford’s downside is that he’s injury-prone, beginning at close of his college days in Norman (UO) and a state which has subtracted time from two of his five pro campaigns (2010 / ‘13). One more concern not so easily quantified as injury debits and TD credits is Sam’s leadership level, more specifically, clutch capability. A question (?) mark.

Most perplexing and vexing about Minnesota’s adding Bradford, as too in the Walker case, is its arguable non-necessity. No gilding the lily here but the need is questionable because the quarterback spot appeared already well in-hand with veteran field general Shaun Hill’s patient presence on Vikings’ roster.

Some media report that Hill has been penciled-in as Vikings’ Week 1 starter.

The 10-year QB who’s been clip-boarding and offering insights to the project that has proven to be TD-challenged Ted Bridgewater, had been prepared for just such a circumstance yet couldn‘t have expected he’d be used merely as a bridge-QB, to bide time for a newly signed rosteree in Bradford to get acclimated.

.........Hill.wc.10.4.15.J.Beall.738kLoyalty is no favored virtue today, neither is composure (v. panic), but Hill under center gave Minnesota an experienced, proven presence in what could be Adrian Peterson‘s swan song in Land of 10,000 Lakes.

When given the opportunity, Shaun Hill has proven a quite capable matriculator.

The Maryland Terrapin began in brief with the Vikes in 2005, then moved to San Fran. As a starter for parts of 3 seasons he compiled what could be called an impressive rookie record in W-L (10-6), C% 62+, TD-ratio (23-11) and pass (3400+). That was a 49ers club that, like this current Minnesota group, was building to contendership (Singletary to Harbaugh) while his next stop was in Detroit which hasn’t had an NFL title since Bobby Layne.

As to Mr. Bridgewater, sidelined for the 2016 season with an ACL tear, he’s gotta’ be scratching his head as well.

It’s one thing to have your back-up fill the breach when you go down but to bring in a hired-gun still in prime, that can change the 2017 dynamic drastically, depending on the Vikes 2016 and if Ted returns in-tact, not unlikely given the wonders worked by today’s surgeons (See; All-Day (ACL)).

......Bridgewater.8.4.14.wc.M.Deery.6.5mCommentators must remember to tailor their views in knowledge they are not often privy to all facts and devilish details which imbue these sort of deals (moi). But as that wise Assyrian named Ahikar wrote many centuries ago, ‘a sparrow in thy hand is better than a thousand sparrows flying (Wikipedia)’ or an Eagle who went 7-7 (25-37) with 14 INTs. Put another way, ‘If it works, don’t fix it,’ Mr. Spielman.

If this deal proves a win-win for both teams, that’s just terrific. God knows Philly and Minnesota could use some good fortune.

While Eagles roll the dice in going all-in on rookie Carson Wentz who’s cut his QB-teeth on FCS competition (NDSU), then enticed Vikings to bite by assuming lion’s share of Bradford’s 2016 pay ($11M ($18M)), it’s the Purple who engage a slightly more risky game of chance in the Bradford deal in betting multiple top draft picks in apparent pass on a ready n’ able substitute in Mr. Hill.

Curses don’t exist except in minds of the malleable. The many misfortunes borne by NFL’s Minnesota franchise come not from boogie-men and demonic spells, nor a lack of generally wise management (2009 pick-up of Brett Favre, while costly in salary, proved sage (NFCC10), for a season, anyway), but instead from the lack of two All-Pro virtues: Patience and trust.

Of course, knowing when to make “adjustments (SB4)” and employing the art of tackling (NFCC 1999, ‘01) rank pretty high on that list, too.

......NFL-symbol.wikiproject.6kbSteven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: Vikings, wc.cca, wordmark, 2004; R.Spielman, wc, M.Deery, 8.4.14; H.Walker, wc, USArmy, 5.14.10, J.Vannucci; H.Walker, RepPeterson, wc, 5.5.4, wc, PE4Life; Viktor, wc, M.Mekuk, 11.7.10, MN-NG; S.Bradford, wc, 10.23.12, USEmbassyLondon; S.Hill, wc, 10.4.15, J.Beall;
Posted: 9.5.16 @ 2:32am EST; Copyright © 2016