They’re Back! Official Referees Return Tonight

Time to celebrate – the official referees will replace the replacement referees in tonight’s Thursday Night Football game. After three weeks of bad calls and confusion the league and Referee’s Association have agreed to terms on an 8-year deal.

The NFL reports:

The NFL reached an eight-year agreement with the NFL Referees Association on Wednesday night to end the lockout, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the refs will be back on the field starting Thursday night.

The new collective bargaining agreement is the longest between the league and game officials in NFL history.

“The long-term future of our game requires that we seek improvement in every area, including officiating,” Goodell said in a statement released by the league. “This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating.

“We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it’s time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs.”

Goodell temporarily lifted the lockout so officials can work Thursday night’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens (8 p.m. ET on NFL Network). Officials will vote on the agreement Friday and Saturday in Dallas, and a clinic for them will be held after the vote.

Of course Cowboys’ fans will remember when Kevin Ogletree slipped on a referee’s hat in the endzone, that very well could have cost them a touchdown in the game against Tampa Bay. Who knows if it would have been a touchdown but fortunately the Cowboys beat the Bucs 16-10 and Ogletree was not injured.

The league released the following terms of the agreement:

» The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan then will be frozen.

» Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.

» Apart from their benefit package, the game officials’ compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 per year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

» Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.

» The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes and can assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.

Cowboys vs. Bears: Monday Night Football Preview

Two storied NFL franchises tangle up on Monday Night Football this week, with the Cowboys hosting the Chicago Bears looking for a second straight victory.

Dallas has been up-and-down so far this season.

The Cowboys opened the season with an impressive 24-17 win over the New York Giants, but then were dismantled 27-7 by the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2.

They rebounded last weekend, though it was definitely a struggle in that 16-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In a home opener that was mired by penalties (23 for a total of 174 yards), the Cowboys won thanks to a suffocating defense that held Josh Freeman and the Bucs to 166 yards of total offense. DeMarcus Ware had two sacks, Orie Lemon had a fumble recovery and Sean Lee had an interception.

Other than those defensive highlights, there wasn’t that much to celebrate. DeMarco Murray, despite getting into the endzone with an 11-yard run, finished with 38 yards on 18 carries, an average of 2.1 YPC.

Romo struggled to finish off drives and ended up 25-of-29 for 283 yards and an interception. His favorite target on the night was Miles Austin, who had five catches for 107 yards.

The Cowboys will be glad they get to stay home for MNF this week, with a tough-nosed Bears team coming to town itching to get to 3-1 on the season. Right now the NFL odds say Dallas is most likely to win, with the hosts favored by 3.5 points at most sportsbooks.

If the Cowboys have any shot of winning, they need to get after Jay Cutler, much like the Green Bay Packers in Week 2. Ware should be all over the place in this one and he could be a difference maker.

Silver and Blue Report: Backing Up a Big Win

The Dallas Cowboys could not have gotten off to a better start to this season, beating the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on their home turf, then getting a few extra days off before having to play again.

So the Cowboys beat a hated divisional rival, won a key divisional road game, got a little sweet revenge on New York and avoided what could have been a third-straight 0-1 start, all in one fell swoop.

Now the trick is to back that victory up with another one when Dallas heads to the Great Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday (4:05 PM Eastern, Fox). After all, what good is it to blast your drive 350 yards down the middle, then hit your next shot out-of-bounds?

Week 1: A Quick Review

In one of those games teams see coming and can’t avoid getting up for from the day the NFL schedule is released, Dallas outplayed New York last Wednesday night and earned a 24-17 victory. The Cowboys out-rushed the G-Men 143-82, held the ball for 34 minutes and got one of those wonderful games from QB Tony Romo. In the process Dallas won outright as 3.5-point underdogs on the NFL betting line.

Seattle, meanwhile, lost last Sunday at Arizona 20-16. The Seahawks outrushed the Cardinals 114-43 and held the ball for nearly 34 minutes, but in rookie QB Russell Wilson’s debut Seattle had two potentially game-winning catches for scores dropped in the final minute.

Sunday’s Betting Line

As of Wednesday AM most NFL betting outlets were listing Dallas as three-point favorites on the road for Sunday’s game.

Recent History

These teams just met last November, with the Cowboys coming away with a 23-13 victory. Dallas ground out a 23-6 fourth-quarter lead but allowed the Seahawks a late score for the back-door cover on the NFL odds board as 11-point underdogs.

The Cowboys out-gained Seattle that day, but only by a 442-381 margin, and they out-rushed the Seahawks, but only 163-162. However, Dallas picked off Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson three times.

Mr. Jackson is no longer a member of this Seattle team, having been traded to Buffalo.

Cowboys Notes

Nose tackle Jay Ratliff sat out practice Wednesday as he continues to rehab a high ankle sprain. Look for him to sit out another week and possibly return for the home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sept. 23.

Safety Gerald Sensabaugh returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out Monday because of concussion-like symptoms. Although he worked on a limited basis, he said he was fine and would play against the Seahawks.

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware was also limited in practice with a hamstring injury that has bothered him since training camp. He played and had two sacks against the Giants. He will play against the Seahawks.

Ten things I saw in the Cowboys 2012 season opening victory over the Giants

To all the so called experts out there who said there was no way the Cowboys could go into MetLife Stadium and beat the Giants. Well, all I can say is better luck next time with your predictions. I’m not big on writing game recaps because we all saw what happened and we all saw the final score…24-17 Cowboys!! The Cowboys not only got off to a great start in 2012, they did it on the road against a division rival. I understand that this was only one game, but it was a BIG game. The Cowboys needed to come out and not only play well, but they needed to prove something to themselves. They did just that and now can use it to build on instead of starting from a 0-1 hole. And as far as this Cowboys fan is concerned, any win over the Giants is a great win!

So what did I see last night?

1. I saw a team that even when things weren’t going their way still stood strong and fought.

2. I saw Kevin Ogletree take advantage of his opportunity while other players like Dez Bryant and Miles Austin were being taken out of the game by the Giants defense.

3. I saw DeMarcus Ware do what he normally does. Two sacks, five tackles and was all over the field, but last night he seemed to do it with anger, which I loved.

4. I saw Jason Witten being the warrior that he is playing injured. He may not have been affective for the most part, but he was out there fighting and I’m sure that meant a lot to the team.

5. I saw great coverage for the most part from the Cowboys rebuilt secondary.

6. I saw new Cowboy Ryan Cook come in early and do an outstanding job at center for the Cowboys and may have just taken away Phil Costa’s job.

7. I saw 13 penalties for 86 yards, most of them coming along the offensive line which needs to be corrected. One penalty I did not mind was on Tyron Smith as he prevented the touchdown on the interception return. Even though it was a horse collar and he could have hurt the player, he still prevented the score.

8.   A saw DeMarco Murray run inside, run outside and never gave up even when the holes weren’t there. I saw him go out of his way at times looking for contact. He is a difference maker in so many ways on offense.

9. I saw Bruce Carter showing his speed at linebacker as well as toughness as he collected five tackles. I also saw Sean Lee continuing to be a defensive leader as he forced a fumble and had 12 tackles, 10 of them solo.

10. I saw Tony Romo extend plays with his feet as he connected with eight different receivers. I saw accurate passes and control of the game throughout.

In the end the Cowboys played a great game and beat the World Champs in their own building. Now they have 11 days until they visit Seattle in Week 2. Let’s hope that this victory is a sign of things to come in 2012 and building block to their season. Congrats to the Cowboys on a job well done. As Walt Disney once said…”Keep Moving Forward”

Cowboys Aiming To Make Week 1 Statement Versus Giants

The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys kickoff the 2012 NFL season on Wednesday night in what should be a dandy. Both teams have aspirations to not only claim the NFC East title, both believe they are good enough to win the Super Bowl.

The Giants won the division with a 9-7 record last season but they had to beat the Cowboys in Week 17 to claim it. The Cowboys finished 8-8.

The Cowboys went to work in the offseason to fix a number of their areas of weakness, starting with their offensive line and secondary. We’ll know just how much they’ve improved in those areas tonight.

Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings are two new starters at guard for the Cowboys and they’ll have to keep the Giants ferocious pass rush away from Tony Romo. If he gets time, he should be able to pick apart a Giants secondary that is banged up. Starter Prince Amukamara is out and Jayron Hosley is also expected to miss the game.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys spent plenty of money and draft picks to acquire cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. The hope is that they can upgrade the Cowboys in the secondary and provide the team with better coverage, which was a big weakness last season. If that’s the case, the Cowboys front seven should be able to get to the quarterback more often and force more mistakes.

The Giants should be buoyed by the raising of their championship banner and a raucous home crowd. They’ve won three of the last four in this series as Eli Manning has been just a tad sharper than Romo in those contests. That’s why the NFL odds makers have the New York Giants listed  as a four-point favorite for Wednesday night’s opening affair.

If there was ever a statement game for the Cowboys in this new season, this game certainly qualifies. A win against the defending Super Bowl Champions in their house, would send a loud message to the rest of the NFC that the Cowboys are back and better than ever.

It’s time for my 2012 NFL predictions

Every year before the start of the season I make my predictions. I do it just to have a little fun. I can’t remember ever being right, but there is always a first time for everything. Maybe this season will be the first. Sometimes I try to find an interesting angle when I pick my Super Bowl teams. For example, two years ago I predicted an all Texas Super Bowl with the Cowboys and Texans playing in Cowboys Stadium in Super Bowl XLV. So much for that prediction! This year I thought of another angle that I’m going with.

Here are predictions for 2012.

AFC Division Winners

Buffalo Bills

Baltimore Ravens

Houston Texans

Denver Broncos

AFC Wildcard Teams

New England Patriots

Oakland Raiders

NFC Division Winners

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers

NFC Wildcard Teams

Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions

AFC Championship Game

Denver over Baltimore

NFC Championship Game

Dallas over Green Bay

Just as it was back in 1977 in the New Orleans Superdome, when the Cowboys beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XII, 27-10. This year it will once again be the Cowboys beating the Broncos by the same score in Super Bowl XLVII in the same New Orleans Superdome.

Super Bowl XLVII

Dallas Cowboys over the Denver Broncos, 27-10

Those are my official 2012 NFL predictions. Enjoy the season everyone and hopefully this is the year I’m actually right with my picks.

Want To Know The Best Part About Labor Day?

Do you know what the best part about Labor Day is? It’s not that it’s national slacktastic day or that it gives us a reason to have a cookout and invite people over. In my world the best part about Labor Day is knowing that it’s football season baby! Luckily enough our beloved Cowboys kick the season off in two days against the much hated Giants in the NFL season opener. Wednesday night cannot come soon enough!

We’ve been longing for our football to return since New Years Day, the last game of the season which unfortunately we lost to the Giants who went on to win the Super Bowl. Yeah, whoever is in charge of marketing and the schedule planning was brilliant this year. A huge stage has been set for all to see – America’s Team looking for redemption against the Super Bowl Champions. We will have our revenge, oh yes we will. Hey Mr. Manning BEWARE! – DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee are coming for you!

So go on and enjoy your Labor Day, just don’t get any barbecue sauce on your favorite jersey because our Cowboys kickoff  in two days! Did you hear me? TWO DAYS!

Be sure to join our Gameday Live Chat beginning at kickoff (although many of us are here early). The chat is always open to stop by and say hi anytime! GO COWBOYS! 


Excitement and concern as the Cowboys enter the 2012 season

With the Cowboys preseason over and the 53 man roster set, it’s now time to get the 2012 season started. With every season comes new hope and excitement. This season is no different. I’m excited for some of the new players like Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr, Cole Beasley, Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilber. The 2012 Cowboys have a nice mix of experience and youth. Of course the core players of Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee are still in place and are ready to make a run at a championship. The excitement level is high and I can’t wait to see what kind of team the Cowboys will be in 2012.

Even with the excitement and all the talent the Cowboys have on their roster and the new players with so much potential, there is also concern. My first concern is how the offensive line will come together this season. With two new guards in Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, center Phil Costa who has been less than impressive and tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free switching sides, it’s something that will be looked at early and often. I think Costa will benefit from having Livings and Bernadeau on each side and he won’t struggle like he did in 2011. The one player I worry about is Doug Free. If preseason is any indication he is going to be the weak link on the Cowboys line and he should be watched closely. If these chosen five players do come together and become a solid unit the first player who will benefit from it is Tony Romo who seemed to get hit throughout the 2011 season.

In 2011 Romo seemed to be under constant pressure, but was able to put up some good numbers despite the offensive line. With a solid offensive line in front of him Romo will have the time to find his weapons in Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. It seems as though Kevin Ogletree has become the Cowboys third receiver and that worries me. Ever since joining the Cowboys Ogletree has been inconsistent at best. Dwayne Harris once again has shown signs of being a really good receiver during the preseason, but he showed those same signs in the 2011 preseason and then did nothing in the regular season. The player I’m really hoping gets a chance to play is rookie Cole Beasley. To me if Beasley is given the chance can own the middle of the field. He seems to catch everything thrown his way and can take a hit as well. I believe he can also be a difference maker as the Cowboys punt returner. But he needs to given the chance and I’m hoping Jason Garrett will give it to him.

The running game now belongs to DeMarco Murray who rushed for 897 yards in 2011 before being lost for the season with a broken ankle. Murray has shown no signs that his ankle will affect him in 2012 as he showed great quickness and speed in the preseason. Felix Jones will be the change of pace back and Cowboys fans are hoping he can stay healthy for a full season. Jones will also most likely help out on kick returns as well. Phillip Tanner is back from injury and will be the short yardage back. Free agent fullback Lawrence Vickers is going to greatly improve the running game with his toughness and leadership.

Some say that defensive line pressure will make a weak secondary look good. With the Cowboys I believe it’s the exact opposite. The Cowboys secondary has been rebuilt with new corners Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne. Gerald Sensabaugh is back at safety and will be joined by Barry Church who has been promoted to a starter. I’m also hoping that Mike Jenkins can come back from his shoulder injury and be given the chance to play some in the slot. My reason for wanting this is because I believe Orlando Scandrick is the weak link in the secondary. He seems to always give up the big play or ends up being called for a penalty. If the rebuilt Cowboys secondary can do a better job in coverage compared to 2011, when they were ranked 23rd and opposing receivers seemed to always make a big play, it’s going to greatly improve the defense and allow more pressure on opposing quarterbacks..

The only constant pressure in 2011 seemed to come from DeMarcus Ware who collected 19.5 sacks. The Cowboys need to do a better job getting to the quarterback. Last season opposing quarterbacks had way too much time to set up and make a play. I think this season will be a big year for Jason Hatcher who had 4.5 sacks in 2011 and I’m hoping that rookie Tyrone Crawford is everything the Cowboys think he is when they drafted him in April. As far as stopping the run, the Cowboys defense was ranked 7th in 2011 and I believe in 2012 they will once again be in the top 10 as far as rushing defense. The Cowboys need Jay Ratliff get healthy and stay healthy so that he can clog up the middle and disrupt the running lanes, which will allow Sean Lee, Dan Connor and Bruce Carter to get the job done in the running game.

When it comes to the kicking game I don’t think there is a Cowboys fan alive that doesn’t feel like Dan Bailey will miss when he lines up for a field goal attempt. Bailey made 32 of 37 field goals in his rookie season, which included 26 straight at one point. Bailey picked up where he left off last season as he made all three of his field goal attempts in the preseason. The punting job has been given to Chris Jones as the Cowboys said goodbye to Matt McBriar. This preseason Jones averaged 45.8 yards on eight punts and also kicked four of them inside the 20 yard line.

So there are my thoughts as the Cowboys get ready for the 2012 season. Even with my concerns about the offensive line and defensive line I’m excited to get this season going. I’m excited to see the veterans continue to grow and get better and I’m excited to see the new players get out on the field and show what they can add to the Cowboys. I want nothing more than to beat the Giants come next week. Beating them will do a lot for the Cowboys as a team and set the tone for the season.