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2016 NFL Mid-Season Analysis and Predictions

Photo: .sanden. Source Licence

Photo: .sanden. Source Licence

Marcus Mahtemework and Matthew Mardirossian, Staff Writers

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Marcus Mahtemework:

“Ezekiel who?” That’s what many mild NFL fans first thought upon hearing who the Dallas Cowboys had drafted with their fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft. A true power running back known to all viewers of college football and some avid NFL fans, the name Ezekiel Elliott was surrounded by a lot of hype regarding his exit from Ohio State University as he emerged into the national picture.

Early on he had distinguished himself from the other rookies when he showed up to the NFL Draft wearing a crop-topped shirt underneath his suit, which he was proud to brandish in front of the cameras. His level of ease with his outfit had indicated a confidence beyond his years from a kid who made it known early on that he was out to impress. Being a lottery pick in any major sports draft comes with a lot of pressure. Everyone is expecting you to perform at a high level against seasoned veterans of the game who feed upon rookie vulnerabilities for breakfast year after year. But, unlike the lackluster start that many members of his draft class have produced so far, Zeke has made a name for himself.

15425496924_45f986936a_oPhoto: .sanden. Source Licence

Coming from a long line of great Cowboys running backs like Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, and Demarco Murray, Elliot has embraced the role as the number one running back in the Cowboys organization as he continues to put up monster numbers in his rookie season. Throughout the first 12 weeks of the NFL season Elliott has made a strong case for not only being the frontrunner for offensive rookie of the year, but also for MVP candidacy. As a rookie he is the fifth player in NFL history with 1,000 rush yards and 250 receiving yards throughout their first 9 games of the season. He joins an exalted club as one of three rookies in NFL history who have surpassed this mark of 1,250 yards from scrimmage, the other two being Hall of Famers. He has exceeded over 140 yards for scrimmage in six out of nine games during his rookie season, a feat which no rookie has ever accomplished throughout a single season, much less nine games.

His consistent output of quality performances, and the fact that the Cowboys have had a ten-game winning streak with a rookie quarterback under center (see article by Matthew Mardirossian below), give Elliott a strong case for MVP candidacy. Many downplay his rise to stardom, attributing his stellar stats to the experience and quality of the big blockers in front of him. However, it takes more than luck to be the decisive factor in so many competitive games this season. With the Cowboys in flying form right now and a balanced return from both sides of the ball there is little doubt that they will win their division and make a deep push into the playoffs.

 

Matthew Mardirossian:

In one of the biggest shockers so far this season, the NFC East, which was the worst division in the NFL last year, is now the best division in the NFL. Currently, each of the four teams in the NFC East combine for 29 total wins this season. After Tony Romo suffered a fracture in his back, most believed that this division was bound for another lackluster year. The New York Giants had many questions surrounding their defense, the Philadelphia Eagles lost Sam Bradford, the Cowboys lost their quarterback for much of the season, and the Washington Redskins have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Many believed that rookie quarterback Dak Prescott had the ability to lead the Cowboys while Romo was gone, but not many thought that he could replace Romo. Twelve weeks later, Prescott has taken Romo’s spot as the starting quarterback and has led the team on a ten game winning streak. Even though the Redskins, Eagles, and Giants will compete strongly with the Cowboys, none will overtake them to win the division.

423122030_69c5a2d6e5_oPhoto: Kevin Coles Source Licence

The Dallas Cowboys have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. While filling in for Romo, Prescott has exceeded expectations. Prescott has broken many records and he is on pace to have one of the best seasons in the NFL. After a week one loss to the Giants it looked as if the Cowboy’s were bound for another tough season. When Romo got injured last season, the Cowboys were not able to rebound and they finished last in the division with a 4-12 record. As the weeks started to pass this season, the Cowboy’s went on a winning streak, and it became quite apparent that they were not going to have another bad season. This is mostly due to the new offensive weapons that the Cowboy’s have acquired. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has added a new dynamic to the offense, as he has consistently been one of the top running backs every week. Additionally, Dak Prescott has created a special chemistry with the offense making it one of the most explosive in the NFL. Although the Cowboys have a tough schedule ahead of them, they have already won ten games, so unless they falter in the end of the season, they are almost guaranteed a playoff spot. The Cowboys will win the division because they have an explosive offense that no team has been able to stop.

While the Redskins and Giants are bound for wild card spots, neither of them will dethrone the Cowboys and win the division. Like the Cowboys, the Giants have also exceeded expectations for this season. Even though they made many significant changes to their offense during the offseason there were many questions surrounding them going into the season. Eli Manning has once again led one of the top offenses and their defense has been playing well. Similarly to the Cowboys, the Giants face a tough schedule coming up, with an away game at Pittsburgh next week. Although they will most likely not win the division, the Giants look like they are in prime position for a wild card spot. They will be a threat come December as they have a veteran quarterback who has taken this team to the Super Bowl many times before.

The Philadelphia Eagles have shocked many this season. Coming off a rough season, most did not have high expectations for the Eagles. After losing their starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, to the Minnesota Vikings, there were many questions surrounding the team heading into the season. In the absence of Bradford second round draft pick Carson Wentz has stepped up and led the Eagles to an impressive record. Despite the fact that they are currently last in the division it would be foolish to dismiss them as they could challenge the Giants and the Redskins for a wild card spot.

The Washington Redskins have continued their success from last season. Even with one of the toughest schedules in the NFL, they have put up an impressive record. Coming off an impressive game with the Green Bay Packers, it seems that Kirk Cousins is primed for another record breaking season. Even though they lost to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving the Redskins kept it close the whole game, showing that they can contend with the best. Although they may not end up winning the division due to their two losses against Dallas, the Redskins are currently slated to be the second wild card team in the playoffs.

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