Dak & Zeke: The Ultimate Dynamic Duo

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns

Seems like Giants fan just can’t catch a break eh?

At the mid-way point of yet another very entertaining NFL season, as always there have been many surprises. Some are good, some are bad. There are many to choose from, like the Panthers 3-5 record, the amazing play of guys like Matt Ryan and Derek Carr that are thrusting them into the MVP conversation, and the smooth transition of Terrelle Pryor Sr. from quarterback to wide receiver. The most surprising of them all, though, has been the Dallas Cowboys and the phenomenal football they’ve been playing. Even more surprising is the fact that the reason the Cowboys have been playing so well isn’t due to the usual suspects like Tony Romo or Dez Bryant. It’s because of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott; two rookies who have been playing some of the best football we’ve seen in a while.

Looking at the two of them, it is much easier to see why Elliott is so successful. This guy was the top running back in last year’s draft and the fourth overall pick, for good reason too. After rushing for nearly 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns in 3 seasons at Ohio State to go along with about 450 receiving yards, this guy had every NFL team drooling at his tape. He’s also living every running backs dream situation in Dallas, where he gets to play behind the best offensive line in football every week. But even with all the hype surrounding Elliott, I think it’s safe to say that he has surpassed expectations by a longshot.

When it comes to Dak, it’s not as easy to see that he has been playing as well as he has. After having an up-and-down draft process, Dak fell all the way to the fourth round and was taken by Dallas with the 135th pick overall back in May. Through 4 seasons at Mississippi State, Dak put up some impressive numbers. He threw for 9,376 yards and 70 touchdowns, earning a total passer rating of 146.0. He also proved to be productive with his feet, rushing for 2,521 yards and 41 touchdowns. Many people will forget that this is the same guy who led Mississippi State to a 9-0 start (10-3 overall) in 2014 where they were ranked the best team in the country for five consecutive weeks. After seeing all this you may be asking yourself why Dak wasn’t the first quarterback taken in the draft. The main reason is because in the 2015 season, Dak’s production dipped a bit, but that was mainly due to the fact that he was constantly getting beat up every play since the Bulldogs had poor protection. Going into the draft I personally was very high on Dak even though lots of people had doubts and weren’t sure about how he would fit into the game’s highest level of competition. I always enjoyed watching him play in college and I thought he would be a good NFL quarterback at the very least. So far through his first 8 weeks in the NFL, he’s proven that he isn’t just a good quarterback, he’s an excellent quarterback.

For those of you who don’t know, let’s take a look at just how well these two are playing. Elliott has been lighting up the football field on a weekly basis, totaling up about 900 yards and 7 touchdowns so far. If he keeps up this pace, he should be nearing 1800 yards and 14 touchdowns by the end of the season, but it’s not likely that will happen. Nevertheless, this guy has been the best back in the league and leads the NFL in rushing. He’s averaging 5.0 yards per carry and putting up a strong MVP case, even though I would cool down the hype on him actually winning it this year.

Dak, proving draft scouts are very overrated, has been near-perfect so far in the beginning of his NFL career. He’s thrown for 2,020 yards and 12 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 104.2 and completion percentage of 66.45%. He’s also done a nice job rushing the football with 125 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. The most impressive stat, though, has been the tremendous job he’s been doing in regards to taking care of the football. Not only has he only thrown 2 interceptions on 248 passing attempts, which is remarkable for anybody let alone a rookie, but he didn’t throw his first interception until Week 6. Dak has already broken Tom Brady’s 162 passes without an interception to start a career, an NFL record, with 163 passes. If he keeps up this kind of play this will be the beginning of a long list of records Dak can break throughout his career, barring any major setbacks.

These two have been angels sent from above for this Cowboys team. With a below-average defense where promising players like Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence are suffering suspensions for violating the NFL’s drug policies, Dez still dealing with some lingering injuries, and the ever-so-fragile Tony Romo suffering yet another injury after messing up his back in the preseason, this team was expected to their second disappointing season in a row. But thanks to Dak and Zeke, they have been arguably the best team in football. As a Giants fan I’m very scared as long as these two are healthy. Thankfully were doing pretty well too *knocks on wood*, but the Cowboys have cushioned themselves a nice lead in the NFC East. How about the NFC East by the way, going from the worst division in football to the best in just one season. Dak and Zeke are two big reasons for that. But anyway, I’m getting off topic.

The sky is the limit for these two. They’ve been really fun to watch and show no signs of slowing down their red-hot play. The fact that they’re rookies makes it all the more exciting not just for the Cowboys, but the NFL as a whole. They are prime examples of the fact that more players have recently seemed to be seeing smoother transitions into the NFL from college, and that colleges are doing a fine job of preparing their players for life in the pros. They represent the future of football and they’re making it look pretty darn great.

The 31 other NFL teams better watch out because Dak and Zeke aren’t some phonies or pleasant surprises that will eventually burn out. They are the real deal.

 

 

108 Years in the Making

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The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series! Wait, what? No that’s impossible. Well you better believe it, cause it happened. It finally happened. As unusual as it sounds, the Cubs have finally done it. They have broken the curse. The 108-year curse. The curse that has made generations of Cubs fans hopeless and depressed. The curse that has led to superstition, heartbreak, and endless headaches. It’s all over. The longest curse in sports history is now over. And it was one hell of a way to end it too.

It wasn’t just the fact that the Cubs came back from a 3-1 deficit (looks like Cleveland suffered a little deja-vu), it was also how magical Game 7 was. It was literally a movie script, with the Cubs tying the series up, the Cubs being on a mission to end the dreadful curse, the Cubs leading 6-3 heading into the 8th, the Indians tying it up, the rain delay, the game going into extra innings, and the Cubs getting it done in extras to seal the World Series. It was simply phenomenal. There aren’t any other words to describe it. This was definitely the best baseball game I have ever seen, and its most likely a top 10 baseball game all-time.

Going into the season you knew the Cubs were the team to beat across the MLB. After losing to the Mets in the NLCS last season, the Cubs were more determined than ever to win it all this season. With a lethal core of skill position players in Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Baez, to go along with a superb ace in Jake Arrieta and some other quality pitchers in the rotation (Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester), this team was going to pick up right where they left off. Then after adding some a few quality ball players in free agency like second baseman Ben Zobrist and outfielders Jason Hayward and Dexter Fowler, you knew the Cubs weren’t messing around one bit. Even after all this, they trade for arguably the best closer in the league, one that I desperately hope the Yankees bring back this offseason; Aroldis Chapman. Yeah they gave up some of their best young prospects to the Yankees, and as a Yankees fan that makes me smile, but Chapman was exactly what the Cubs needed to put the finishing touches on this insane lineup and show everybody that they were all-in this year.

It wasn’t all magic for the Cubs this season, though. Even though that seems like ancient times now, disaster stuck early when Kyle Schwarber collided with Dexter Fowler in the outfield during the third game of the season, resulting in Schwarber tearing ACL, LCL, and his season along with it. One of the bright young stars in the MLB going down with a serious injury is usually such a fatal blow that the team he’s on wouldn’t be able to fully recover from. But, the Cube were prepared for something like this. The Schwarber injury definitely a hard pill to swallow, no question about it, but it didn’t effect their play at all. The Cubs went on to have the best record in the league, finishing 103-58. The games they won almost doubled the amount they lost. Pretty impressive.

In the playoffs, the Cubs picked up right where they left off in the regular season. The divisional round was led by the steady bats from Bryant and Baez as the Cubs routed the Giants in a 3-1 series. Then in the NLCS, guys like Rizzo and Russell started finding their groove after suffering through a postseason hitting slump. Zobrist and Fowler were reliable batters too and started to pick up their hitting as well, which proved to be crucial in winning the series. After putting the Dodgers away in six, the time finally came. Their first trip to the big stage since 1945. They had the opportunity to make sports history, and lets be honest, we all wanted to see them do it. Schwarber was able to be activated as a DH during the World Series, which was huge. This was yet another powerful bat that helped significantly against the Indians. The quality bats from the star players, and the reliable pitching propelled this team even when they were down 3-1.

Lets take a moment now to realize just how good of a general manager Theo Epstein is. Not only did he manage to break the longest curse in sports history with the Cubs, but lets not forget he also broke the Red Sox 86-year championship drought as their general manager in 2004. And he’s still only 42 years old! That means when he broke the Red Sox curse he was only 30 years old. I don’t know about you but I find that amazing. I would think that if anybody could break two of the biggest droughts in sports history, it would be a well-experienced, seasoned manager who has been around for a long time. But no, this new guy steps onto the major league stage in 2002 as the youngest general manager in MLB history at only 28 years old. Two years later he ends the Curse of the Bambino and delivers to the Red Sox their first World Series title since 1918. Now that’s a guy who’s good at what he does.

If I were the Indians, who now have the longest championship drought in the MLB, I would be trying everything I can to find a way to land Epstein somehow, even though you guys didn’t have such a bad season yourselves. But good luck with that Cleveland, cause Epstein is going to be in Chicago for at least another five years after signing a massive extension earlier this season. Besides, you have yourselves a pretty good general manager in Mike Chernoff. You’ll be fine.

The Cubs are at the top of the league, and they aren’t coming down anytime soon. This team has all the signs of a dynasty waiting to happen. This team is so loaded with amazing, young, quality players that its hard to believe sometimes. As long as the majority of their key guys stay healthy and with the team, this is an incredibly special group that should be in title contention for the better part of the next decade at least, probably longer since their farm system isn’t too shabby either.

I wish every World Series could be as exciting and nail-biting as this one. This series was one of those moments in sports that people dream of getting to witness. Not very often do you have two teams with the two of the biggest championship droughts in sports squaring up against each other. It was one of those very rare instances where it was already guaranteed that this was going to be a historic series no matter the outcome. We, as sports fans, need to cherish moments like these and feel grateful that we got to be a part of history because it doesn’t happen a whole lot, especially a moment like this in particular. I can say for a fact that this World Series was the greatest I have ever seen, and game 7 was arguably the greatest game I have ever seen.

Congratulations Chicago, well deserved. Looking forward to next season.