A big game tonight would go a long way for Dak Prescott
Thursday night, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will play in a third straight nationally televised game when Washington comes to Dallas (8:25 p.m. ET, NBC). Prescott could use a big performance for several reasons. Most notably, Dallas and D.C. both enter the game at 5-6. In an ultra-competitive NFC, either team would likely have to win out to snatch a playoff spot from the likes of Carolina, Seattle, and Atlanta, making this evening's festivities something of an elimination contest. But Prescott's reputation is also on the line.
While Jared Goff and Carson Wentz have soared this year, the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year has failed to keep up. And with injuries piling up along his offensive line, plus a suspension sidelining Ezekiel Elliott, Prescott has been even worse. Since the last time these teams met Oct. 29, Prescott has had the lowest touchdown percentage in the league with an interception rate higher than fellow Lone Star QB Tom Savage. Over the last two weeks, Prescott has thrown more interceptions than he did during all of 2016. The Cowboys have lost three straight and failed to score 10 points in any of those defeats.
After the latest loss, 28-6 at home to the Chargers on Thanksgiving, Prescott said he spent the next few days searching for answers. “It's frustrating, it's shocking,” he said. "You look around and you see the Pro Bowlers and the talent that you have, [I'm at a loss for] words for why it's happening." Maybe he's trying to overcompensate for the missing pieces around him, maybe he's simply going through a slump, or maybe he's just not capable of single-handedly carrying an NFL team. Few are. In the midst of Prescott's struggles, Jerry Jones once again gave him full support, going as far to say, "Thank God for Dak." Jones has also backed coach Jason Garrett amid the slide, but local columnist Tim Cowlishaw wrote Wednesday that Garrett may actually be on the hot seat.
Across the field, Kirk Cousins will be playing on yet another one-year deal, starting his closing argument that he deserves to potentially become the league's highest paid player. However, after the past month, he won't be the only one hoping to prove something Thursday night.
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1. We have a few more details on how exactly Eli Manning ended up getting benched in New York. Giants co-owner John Mara said Wednesday that he first spoke with general manager Jerry Reese about the possibility a few weeks ago, and that they hoped to let Manning continue to start while getting Geno Smith and Davis Webb game reps as well. “I did not expect Eli to react by saying go ahead and start the other guys,” Mara said. “That took me by surprise a little bit . . . I respect him so much, I’m not going to argue with him.”
2. The Athletic got an exclusive interview with Raiders WR Michael Crabtree about his fight and suspension. For non-subscribers, The Mercury News summarized the key takeaways, including Crabtree refuting ESPN's claim that he taped down his chain before the game.
3. Here are more than 3,000 words on a bad gambling beat from over 19 years ago that cost one man a life-changing 10-game NFL parlay. While we're in the betting section, The New York Times reported that college football is gaining on the NFL among Vegas patrons.
4. ESPN is reporting that the NFL agreed late Wednesday night to donate nearly $100 million to "projects dealing with criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education" after coming to an agreement with a group of players. That agreement does not contain any requirement that players stop protesting during the national anthem. Meanwhile, a rift has developed among the most visible player activists.
5. Carson Wentz has played so well, even The Wall Street Journal is taking notice.
6. Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan, a key cog in that defense, is practicing for the first time since straining his calf in October. He expects to play Sunday in Jimmy Garoppolo's first start as a 49er.
7. Pay attention fantasy owners: Even though Derrick Henry has been more effective of late, he's not expected to supplant DeMarco Murray as the Titans' lead runner.
8. The Chiefs' problems go beyond Alex Smith and Andy Reid. Look at the offensive line and wideouts on offense and disappointments on defense instead, writes Sam Mellinger.
9. Want to kill 10 minutes? Take this short NFL referee quiz. In the name of honesty, I'll own up to my less-than-perfect score.
10. After serving nine years for armed robbery, O.J. Simpson is now a target of both vitriol and requests for selfies.
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