Houston vs. Dallas
by Robb Moore
My preseason prediction for the Texans was 8-8, give or take a win. I still think that’s where they’re going to end up. The quarterback play has been very ho-hum but, as anyone who watched the 23-17 win over Buffalo can attest, when you have J.J. Watt, any game is win-able.
My preseason prediction for the Cowboys was 5-11, give or take a win. It looks like I’m going to be very wrong about that one. The Cowboys are running the ball better than I ever imagined they would. I didn’t even think they’d try to run as much as they have so far.
And that brings us to this weeks game. Houston at Dallas. The Texas Bowl. It happens every 5 years and this game should be a battle. Houston is desperate to put last years 2-14 record far behind them and Dallas is trying to fix 15+ years of mediocrity. Both teams are on their way to doing just that.
Keys to winning:
1. Stop the run – Dallas is the #1 rushing team in the NFL. Demarco Murray is averaging 133.5 yards per game. The Texans MUST slow him down.
2. Take some shots downfield – The Cowboys secondary is depleted because of injuries and, well, just not being very good in general. Fitzpatrick is going to need to throw the deep ball to keep the defense honest.
3. Possession – The Texans will need to win the time of possession battle. That means, they need to establish the run early and often.
1. Line of Scrimmage – The Cowboys have been very good at controlling the line this year so far, thanks to 3 first round draft picks the last 3 years. That won’t be easy to do this week against a defensive front that stars J.J. Watt. And, it’ll be even harder if Clowney dresses.
2. Keep Tony Romo upright – The Texans can get to the quarterback in a big way. For Dallas to have a chance in this game, They will have to do a great job in pass protection.
3. Possession – Like the Texans, Dallas will need to control the clock. If the O-Line keeps playing the way they have been this season, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Dallas 28 – Houston 17
Throughout human history there have been tales of supermen accomplishing great deeds and performing fantastic feats. The ancient Greeks and Romans are notorious for their stories about Perseus, and Hercules. and countless other demigods that walked the realms of men and toed the line between Olympus and humanity. Logic dictates that these stories, fantastic as they may be, probably have some basis in fact. Maybe Hercules just happened to be the strongest guy anyone had ever seen and he picked up a few really heavy things. Stories pass around and a stone eventually turns into a mountain by virtue of tales being embellished hundreds of times over many years. It occurs to me that we are all living in the presence of a man for whom such legends don’t seem that far fetched. JJ Watt, modern day Hercules. Son of Gods and mortal men. Sent from on high to deliver the people of this sports hell-scape from the agony of awful football.
I believe I can say, without any argument from the sane among us, that JJ Watt single handedly won the game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, as much as a Defensive End can win a game all on his own anyway. Disrupting the quarterback, hitting the quarterback, and finally deciding enough was enough and intercepting the quarterback and returning that interception 80 yards for a touchdown. I sit at this computer screen in awe of this young man and can’t help but declare him Superman.
It’s not often that men of his caliber come along. Once in a generation athletes that can turn a sport on its ear are rare. We’ve been lucky in Houston to have one before in Hakeem Olajuwon (One could argue that Earl Campbell and Nolan Ryan deserve that respect as well) a man who, despite his late start in the sport of basketball managed to become one of the fifty greatest players in the history of the game. JJ Watt is this type of player. Young Defensive Ends will look to him in the future as a model for how to play the game of football. Future generations will look at his highlights and ask how it was possible for a man of his size to do the things he can do. Consider yourself lucky that you get to bear witness to this human marvel every football Sunday. Don’t feel bad for skipping church to watch the Texans play because when you do you are watching one of God’s most perfect creatures do exactly what he was intended to do on this Earth, and what greater worship can you give to the Lord than to sit back and admire his best work?
Yes, one day, hundreds of years from now, on the desolate wasted plains of the post-apocalyptic United States people will sit around camp fires and listen to the stories about our modern day Hercules that did battle in giant colosseums in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans. The golden haired half-god that could overpower dozens of men at once, leap ten feet in the air, and run the 40 in 2.5 seconds without ever breaking a sweat. They will listen and they will marvel and they will wish they could have been here to see it. Appreciate it folks. Hercules won’t be back for a long time.
In soccer they call it a Derby. In college it might have a snazzy nick-name and a corporate sponsor. The Astros and Rangers play for the Silver Boot trophy, but when the Texans meet the Cowboys this coming Sunday there won’t be very many scarves in the stands, no marching bands on the sidelines, and no gaudy trophy to lay claim on. The only thing the two NFL teams from Texas will be playing for on October 5th is a 1 in the Win column. Of course to the fans on either side of this game it means a little bit more than that. The game between these two teams is four years in the making, like a World Cup or a Presidential election, and pulls just as much weight as either of those events with those involved. Imagine if Argentina had won the World Cup in Brazil this summer…four uninterrupted years of one neighbor holding a trophy over the heads of another. The game between the Cowboys of (near) Dallas and the Texans of Houston could mean four more years of darkness if the right team doesn’t emerge victorious.
Can the Texans win? Sure. The Cowboys shellacked the Saints on Sunday night this last week, but the Cowboys have also been very inconsistent this season. If we see a focused Texans team that doesn’t make mistakes and forces turnovers, like the team we saw in games 1 and 2 this year, then we have a damn good shot of going into Arlington and stealing this game from the favored Cowboys. And if JJ Watt continues to morph into Captain America every Sunday afternoon and gets in Tony Romo’s face as much as he did RGIII and EJ Manuel then we should be on easy street…
There’s always a “but” though, isn’t there? If the Texans allow DeMarco Murray to get going like they allowed Rashad Jennings two weeks ago in New York then they will almost certainly have a repeat of that abysmal performance this week in Dallas. There really is no middle ground here. They have to play as close to flawless as they can because Dallas is just flat out better than they are when it comes to moving the football down the field to score. The Texans will have to score early and often and not get into a position where they have to play catch up.
Before the season I had this penciled in as an L for the Texans, but the blatant homerism in me just won’t allow me to pick the Cowboys over my team. My prediction? (Other than pain?)
Texans 23 Dallas 17
This is the face of the cancer that is infecting America’s Game
I had intended of my first post here to be more…me. I wanted to show a little bit of who I am and what can be expected in the future when you click a link to something with my by-line, but seeing as how the National Football League, an entity that has its hands firmly gripped around a big chunk of my spare time every fall and winter, has decided to use this week to make a fool of itself I thought I’d lend further commentary on the subject of “Elevator-gate” or whatever lame label the sports media-at-large (read: ESPN) decide to call this latest scandal. I want to present this in a way that I haven’t yet seen it presented so as not to bore you with a rehashing of things already said or written. Hopefully the following doesn’t make you stop and think: “So-and-so said it better”.
I suppose the best thing to do would be to start from the beginning with a little background on this entire ordeal. It all started in a casino in Atlantic City. Baltimore Ravens’ Running Back Ray Rice and his fiancee Janay seemed to be bickering as they stepped into an elevator, the argument quickly escalated to a point where Mr. Rice decided it would be a good idea to land a left cross on his lady’s chin and knock her out. Since unconscious women rarely stand up and walk off of elevators under their own power Rice was forced to grab the arms of the woman he loves and drag her limp form out into the lobby. We, of course, know all of this because casinos have been video-taping every square inch of their properties since it became practical for them to do so, and TMZ has made it their business to acquire any and all embarrassing footage of everyone you’ve ever heard of and broadcast it to the world. What none of us knew, or rather what none of us had seen with our own eyes, until this past Monday was what actually went on inside the elevator between Ray Rice and his, now, wife Janay because only the exterior camera video had been released to the public. Certainly we could infer from the context clues that what happened inside the elevator was not pleasant, but, in the greatest case of “Pics or it didn’t happen” in the history of the universe, since no one had actually seen the punches land it was almost as if they hadn’t happened at all. We saw Janay walk onto the elevator on her own and minutes later saw her being dragged like a sack of laundry out of the same elevator. The NFL essentially peek-a-booed us all into thinking that when those elevator doors closed the Rices ceased to exist until the doors opened again and Ray pulled his fiancee out into that lobby.
Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Ray Rice for two games this season based on that video and on interviews he and others conducted with Ray and Janay Rice. The NFL claims that they consulted with New Jersey local and state authorities who were investigating the incident based on its criminal nature and determined that Ray Rice missing 1/8th of the NFL season was punishment enough for his actions that night in February. The NFL said that it had never been given access to the video from inside the elevator, despite several lauded NFL reporters saying otherwise, and we were expected to believe them. After all, why would they lie? Wouldn’t it be in their best interests, the team and the league, to have someone who committed such an unforgivable act out of sight? For a commissioner who hands down severe penalties for marijuana use and DUI offenses wouldn’t it make sense that, just one year removed from an active player committing a murder/suicide that claimed the life of the mother of his child, the commissioner would take a heavy stand on violence against women? After public outcry on the leniency of his punishment of Ray Rice Roger Goodell admitted that the NFL had made a mistake and he revealed new minimum punishments for domestic violence offenses. Under the new policy any league employee found to have committed an act of assault, battery, domestic violence, or sexual assault would be suspended for six games without pay for a first offense and for an entire year for a second. The employee could then file an appeal to be reinstated after that year but reinstatement was not a guarantee. On one hand this seems like a fair reaction to a mishandling of a delicate situation. Six games is more than a third of the season, it takes money out of the offender’s pocket, and it escalates should the behavior not be corrected. Yes, on the surface it’s a good policy to have on the books, but it raises an obvious question: Why wasn’t it on the books already?
As I noted before, just over a year ago Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend, and the mother of his child, Kasandra Perkins in her home before driving to the Chiefs’ facility at Arrowhead stadium and committing suicide in the parking lot in the presence of members of his coaching staff. Another former NFL player, Rae Carruth was a Wide Receiver for the Carolina Panthers and is currently serving a 24 year prison sentence for conspiracy to commit murder after he hired someone to kill the mother of his unborn child. Cherica Adams died because of Rae Carruth, and their son lives in spite of his efforts to murder them both. You see, Ray Rice isn’t the first NFL player to commit an act of violence against a female, hell, he’s not even the most recent. Just two weeks ago San Francisco defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested for an incident involving his pregnant girlfriend. The NFL has had issues with domestic violence for years and never bothered to put a policy in place to punish those that inflict harm on others until it became a matter of public opinion.
“Yeah, Yeah, I know all that,” you’re thinking to yourself, “you said you were going to come at this from a different angle!” Well here it goes:
There is another organization taxed with managing organized sports that has had its share of ups and downs when dealing out punishments; of course I’m talking about the NCAA. It’s reasonable to assume though that due to the sheer number of entities which exist under the umbrella of the NCAA that their job is just a bit harder than that of the NFL. The NCAA has to police multiple sports and hundreds of thousands of student-athletes at over 1200 institutions so mistakes are sure to be made, but unlike the NFL the NCAA puts part of the onus of compliance on the institutions themselves which brings me to my point: The NFL, in the case of domestic violence by its employees, has shown a severe lack of Institutional Control as it is defined by the NCAA, and those responsible for that lack of control should be punished accordingly. What I’m saying is, that if Roger Goodell’s NFL was a university under the purview of the NCAA there would be a very convincing argument to be made that it deserves the “Death Penalty”.
The NCAA defines Institutional Control thusly:
PRINCIPLES OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL
AS PREPARED BY THE NCAA COMMITTEE ON INFRACTIONS
- “CONTROL” IS DEFINED IN COMMON-SENSE TERMS.In determining whether there has been a lack of institutional control when a violation of NCAA rules has been found it is necessary to ascertain what formal institutional policies and procedures were in place at the time the violation of NCAA rules occurred and whether those policies and procedures, if adequate, were being monitored and enforced. It is important that policies and procedures be established so as to deter violations and not merely to discover their existence after they have taken place. In a case where proper procedures exist and are appropriately enforced, especially when they result in the prompt detection, investigation and reporting of the violations in question, there may be no lack of institutional control although the individual or individuals directly involved may be held responsible.
I have already made it quite clear that the NFL had absolutely no policy in place to either deter OR properly discover incidents of domestic violence by its players or other employees, and even if it had a policy in place for punishment it had become clear in the last 48 hours that the NFL’s investigation of the incident involving the Rices was lacking in one of two ways. They either did not do their due diligence in pursuing a copy of the video from inside the elevator (A video they claim to have been denied by law enforcement but that was somehow acquired by a third party media outlet and released on the internet) or they had a copy of the video, as was reported by the Associated Press, and disregarded the severity of what the video portrays.
Roger Goodell has claimed that if anyone at the NFL office had access to the video in question that he was not made aware of it. He is claiming ignorance of the content of the video and saying that he didn’t view it until TMZ released it in the early hours of September 8th. He is either lying to cover up the fact that he saw the video and didn’t find it completely offensive or he is lying to cover up that no one in the NFL, one of the most powerful entities in this country, could gain access to a video that a glorified tabloid managed to get their hands on. If that doesn’t smack of a lack of institutional control I don’t know what does.
The NFL owners owe it to their fans, to their players, and to the wives and girlfriends of their employees to give Roger Goodell and the people involved in the Ray Rice investigation the SMU treatment. Shut them down for good. Make it so they never recover. The NFL is on the precipice of something it never anticipated. If Goodell is allowed to continue to be the face of the league then the NFL will become a laughing-stock. They should cut ties while there’s still time to save face, because right now they have a commissioner that thinks touchdown celebrations and smoking a joint in the offseason warrant more punishment than physically assaulting someone who can’t defend themselves, and that means that the system is broken.