Mavs Look to Bounce Back

Dallas Mavericks big man Zaza Pachulia has performed much better than expected. Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch
Dallas Mavericks big man Zaza Pachulia has performed much better than expected.
Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch

By Bryan Murphy

The Dallas Mavericks six game win streak came to an end Sunday at the hands of Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook poured in 31 points and 11 assists and was unguardable at times while making big shot after big shot down the stretch.

The Mavs had huge contributions again from Deron Wiliams and Zaza Pachulia. Pachulia has been on an absolute tear for the Mavs as of late, notching double-double after double-double and supplying Dallas with energy and hustle any given play.

Another big man who played well against the Kevin Durant-less Thunder was JaVale McGee. McGee made his Mavericks debut and looked mighty fine, scoring eight points on four-of-five shooting in just 11 minutes of action. If that is how McGee can perform after returning from a stress fracture in his leg, then Mavs fans will be eager to see how he produces once he is 100 percent and off of a time restriction.

The Mavs will need to shake off the nail biting loss in Oklahoma City as they continue their cruel road trip this week in a back-to-back against two division rivals.

First, the Mavs will head to Memphis to face a very talented and deep Grizzlies squad. Highlighted by All-Star Center Marc Gasol, Pachulia and Dwight Powell will have their hands full trying to keep him below his season average of 15.7 PPG and 6.6 RPG. Memphis has been without the services of Zach Randolph its last two games which has allowed for other players like JaMychal Green and Matt Barnes to log more minutes.

The Grizzlies deep roster is led by their floor general at point guard, Mike Conley. Conley is one of the most underrated players in the NBA while somehow being left off of the All-Star team each season. Averaging nearly 15 PPG and 7 APG, Conley will definitely be the guy to look out for in this game.

The Mavericks then have the daunting task of traveling to San Antonio to battle with the five time champion San Antonio Spurs. At 10-3 and second in the Western Conference, the Spurs are an even deeper team than the Grizzlies. With the acquisitions of veteran David West and 4X All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge in the offseason, along with the familiar faces of the Spurs’ big three of Duncan, Parker and Ginobli, the Spurs are serious title contenders. Not to mention, the Spurs have produced a budding superstar in Kawhi Leonard. Leonard is maybe having his best season yet, averaging over 21 PPG and only getting better.

This game will also be a chess match between two of the best coaches in the NBA with Rick Carlisle and Gregg Popovich. NBA fans will surely be in store for a pre-Thanksgiving appetizer.

After a few days off, the Mavs head back home to close out the week against the Denver Nuggets. This will be one of those games that Dallas really should win at home against a below .500 team that is trying to find an identity. The Nuggets have an electrifying 19-year-old rookie point guard, Emmanuel Mudiay, who played his high school basketball at Prime Prep in Dallas. Instead of being another “one and done” college player, he decided to play last season with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of China because of the NBA rule that says a player must be a year removed from high school before entering the draft. Mudiay is a former McDonald’s All-American and appears to be a force in this league for years to come. In the Nuggets’ most recent outing against the red-hot Golden State Warriors, Mudiay was able to cross over Steph Curry and then splash in a wide open three. Hopefully he doesn’t earn his way to more highlight reels like that against the Mavericks.

The Mavericks have been the second hottest team in the NBA the past two weeks behind only the record breaking Warriors. Let’s see if a tough loss to the Thunder and an even tougher two games on the road against Memphis and San Antonio will derail the Mavs and cool them off nearing the end of the first month of the season.

Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
11/24   @Grizzlies    7:00 pm
11/25   @Spurs        7:30 pm
11/28   vs Nuggets   7:30 pm

Cowboys Win in Romo’s Return

The return of Tony Romo inspired the entire Cowboys team to perform better than they had been. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
The return of QB Tony Romo inspired the entire Cowboys team to perform better than they had been during his absence. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

By Alex Al-Kazzaz

The Dallas Cowboys have snapped their seven-game losing streak. Tony Romo returned and led his team to victory against the Miami Dolphins. Tony Romo is now 3-0 for the year, and he’s the only QB to lead the Cowboys to a victory this season. Without Romo, the Cowboys went 0-7.

My thoughts on the Cowboys performance
Offense: Returning from a broken collarbone, Romo slowly shook off the rust and finished with over 220 yards through the air with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams both had four catches for a combined 124 yards and each found the end zone once. The running game was phenomenal. Darren McFadden had 29 carries for 129 yards. The offense racked up close to 400 yards of total offense, 22 first downs, and had about 39 minutes of ball possession. Although, there were quite a bit of holding penalties and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty committed by Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant that allowed Miami to score within a minute later. Totally unacceptable. For this performance, the offense deserves an A-.

Defense: Possibly the best game for the defense so far this year. They held the Miami offense to only 210 yards of total offense, got three sacks, and intercepted one pass that was returned for a touchdown. Credit to Rolando McClain for the pick six. But the most amazing thing I saw from the defense is that they went the entire game without getting called for defensive holding nor pass interference. But they’re STILL not forcing many turnovers, but the defense got the job done in this one. For the first time in a while, the offense and defense were on the same page. For that, I have to give the defense an A.

Special Teams: Dan Bailey only attempted one field goal, and of course, he didn’t miss it! Chris Jones punted three times, but none of his punts were inside the 20, but he still did okay. There were no kick returns. Only 18 total yards of punt returns, but it didn’t affect the Cowboys at all. Special Teams only allowed 51 total return yards, which is outstanding. Special Teams also deserves an A.

On the 26th of November, the Cowboys will take on the undefeated Carolina Panthers at home. The Cowboys will need to practice harder than ever if they’re going to do the impossible and defeat the Panthers. They’ll need to put tremendous pressure on Cam Newton and sack him several times if they’re going to contain the tough Carolina offense. And of course, they’ll need turnovers. The offense will need to be ready as well. Carolina’s defense is strong. The Cowboys coaching staff only have three days to prepare for this test.

Stars Continue Best Start in Franchise History

The Roussel green heads were out Saturday as Antoine Roussel scored the game winner, on his 26th birthday. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi
The Roussel green heads were out Saturday as Antoine Roussel scored the game winner, on his 26th birthday. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Stephen Elliott

The Dallas Stars 17-4-0 mark (24 points) is the best in the NHL and the best 21-game start in team history.

The Stars finished their week with a win at home against the Sabres, Saturday. The win was their 5th straight and second in less than a week against Buffalo.

Sandwiched in between was a road victory against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. The win was the Stars 13th in 14 games against the Eastern Conference.

The week began with a 3-1 victory against the Sabres on Tuesday. Niemi saved 24 and posted his 7th win of the season. The Stars spent the latter half of the 3rd period on the penalty killed, but separated themselves on a Tyler Sequin empty net goal.

Lehtonen got the nod in the Capitals game, Thursday. This was the first major physical test against the Stars this year. Washington hit the Stars 19 times that forced turnovers. The scoring went back and forth until Spezza broke the 2-2 tie late in the 3rd. Lehtonen stopped 33 and earned his 9th win in 10 games.

Niemi and the Stars shutout the Sabres, Saturday, as Antoine Roussel ‘s first period goal proved to be enough. The game was moving along slowly when Jamie Olesksiak pummeled Nicolas Deslauriers in a head-trauma filled fight. Dallas’ power play struggled early but finished with a goal by Jamie Benn in the 3rd period.

The Stars face another Eastern Conference opponent before matching up against Central Division opponents. Dallas has a small sample size against the conference, so these next inner-division games will be good tests.

Weekly Notes
As mentioned above, Patrick Eaves returned to action against the Sabres, Tuesday for the first time since injuring his knee in the Oilers game back in mid-October. Patrick Eaves fill in with the Spezza line and Lindy Ruff says he balances their lines.

“He’s a shooter, so he should fit well with Spezz,” Ruff said. “He plays a two-way game, he plays the game the right way, he knows where to be, and he is a camping at the bit to get back in there.”

Jason Demers didn’t complete the second game against the Sabres as he left the with a lower-body injury. The status of his injury is still up in the air.

Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
11/24    vs Senators   7:30pm
11/27    vs Canucks   7:30pm
11/28    @ Wild          7:00pm

Video Game Review: Star Wars Battlefront

The force is strong with this one...
The force is strong with this one…

By Stephen Elliott

Star Wars Battlefront brings you into the action of galactic war between Rebel and imperial forces.

Shooting blasters and flying X-wings and Ty-bombers puts you right into the classic Star Wars battles that were in the movies. Still, there are some missing components to make this highly anticipated game not meet it’s exceptions.

Fun gameplay with beautiful visuals
Seeing Battlefront on the next-generation consoles is awesome. Just about every detail is exact during gameplay giving you the feeling of being in the movies’ most famous battles. Star Wars planets like Hoth and Endor are crafted beautifully from snowy hills with complex forts to tree houses in the forest. Playing out battles, like the ones on those planets, gives you the feel of galactic warfare.

The online multiplayer game mode like Walker Assault features a large 40 player attack and defend where Rebel soldiers try to take down two At-At walkers while Imperial forces invade the Rebel uplinks. The game mode implements soldier, hero and vehicle combat meaning the ability to control your own walker.

There is still classic team death-match like modes like Blast and Fighter Squadron, where you control your favorite aircraft while battling opponents from over the planet surface.

Yes, you can also play as the classic main characters in game modes, as well. Each battle in Walker Assault and Supremacy has hero pickups that transform you into your favorite hero or villain. There are designed hero game modes too, like Heroes vs Villains (self-explainable) and Hero Hunt, where soldiers try to take down a hero.

Lack of customization and appeal 
The game’s biggest downfall is its lack of a campaign or story mode. The majority of this game is based around online multiplayer, meaning the 59.99 game becomes more expensive if you do not have Playstation Plus.

Off-line game modes like Battle and Survival do offer co-op playability (not available for online), but the modes themselves are not appealing enough to keep you coming without online.

When you do play online, customizing your character and equipment is limited. You only have from a few blasters to choose from and cannot equip further attachments other than what came with the default.

All in all…
Battlefront fills the void fans of the franchise were hoping for. The lack of customizing is outweighed by the extremely detailed gameplay and simulations of the movies. The controls and elements during gameplay are easy to adapt to, as well, as it combines other popular first person shooter games to create their own style fit for galactic warfare.

If it doesn’t do anything else, it gets you geared up for the opening of The Force Awakens.

New York Jets vs Houston Texans Preview

The hungry Houston Texans defense led by J.J. Watt will be ready for the New York Jets on Sunday. Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal
The hungry Houston Texans defense led by J.J. Watt will be ready for the New York Jets.
Photo Courtesy: Rick Leal

By Darius Williams

Game Info
New York Jets vs. Houston Texans
Sunday – November 22 – 12:00 pm CT
NRG Stadium – Houston, Texas

The Houston Texans will welcome the New York Jets into NRG Stadium at high noon on Sunday and try to keep their heads above water in the AFC South race. The 4-5 Texans will have to try for their fifth victory without starting quarterback Brian Hoyer who is out with a concussion suffered in last week’s game.

Filling in under center for Hoyer will be former Texans quarterback T.J. Yates. Picked up off of waivers after the team cut backup Ryan Mallet, Yates will be making his first start since the 2011 playoffs.

The 5-4 Jets defense may present a challenge for the Texans offense. Ranked #4 in overall defense, the Jets are the league’s best at rushing yards a game, giving up only 88.1 per game. Passing against any secondary that has Darrelle Revis in it is always a task for any quarterback. The All Pro veteran returned to the team which drafted him and has helped the pass defense tremendously.

Yates will need DeAndre Hopkins, the league’s leading receiver, beating some of the expected one on one coverage against Revis. Hopkins missed two days of practice this week with a sore knee. He does expect to be at 100% on Sunday. Alfred Blue and the rest of the runners that the Texans use must find away to keep the chains moving. Only averaging 3.3 yards per attempt, getting positive runs early in downs will help prevent the 3rd and longs, which will play into the hands of the Jets defense.

The Texans defense has been playing up to potential as of late. It welcomes back 2014 #1 overall pick Jadaveon Clowney who missed last week’s game with a back injury. The defense has not allowed a touchdown in 2 1/2 games. All Pro defensive end J.J. Watt has led the charge all season. Watt enters Sunday’s game with 9.5 sacks. Whitney Mercilus has played exceptionally well of late, recording 4 of his 6.5 total sacks in the last three games.

Prediction: Jets 24 – Texans 21

Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears Preview

Denver Broncos back up QB Brock Osweiler is wishing for a win for his 25th birthday. Photo Courtesy: The Brit_2
Denver Broncos back up QB Brock Osweiler is wishing for a win on his 25th birthday against the Bears on Sunday. Photo Courtesy: The Brit_2

By Da’Vince “Dino” Wright

Game Info
Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears
Sunday – November 22 – 12:00 pm CT
Soldier Field – Chicago, Illinois

The last two weeks have been horrible for the Broncos. Two straight loses to teams that they could’ve easily beaten. The defense has been erratic and the offense under Peyton Manning looked like a 10-year-old girl lost in the woods. The team as whole has still been playing good ball until the fourth quarter where the guys begin to unravel. Boneheaded penalties on both sides of the ball has been the demise of the Broncos. Let’s look at ways the offense and defense plan to turn around losing for the past two weeks.

Broncos Offense
Peyton Manning is no longer the key for this game. That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of 2012 draft pick Brock Osweiler. He’ll be making his first career start in place of the injured Manning. The start just so happens to be on his 25th birthday. If he can pull off the win, that would be an awesome birthday present to himself. Osweiler will be trying to jump start an offense that turned the ball over fives times last week. He has the arm to make plays, he just has to stay calm and make the right decisions. Look for him to target main threat WR Demaryius Thomas for big plays downfield. Staying in the “Pistol Set” gives him an head start if and when the line breaks down. It’s all about timing. C. J. Anderson who has to touch the ball at least 15 times in order to get into the flow of the game. The Broncos are ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing averaging 86.0 and 3.8 yards a carry.

Broncos Defense
The Broncos are number 1 in overall defense. Stopping Jay Cutler is key. Love him or hate him, this is the first time since Cutler left Denver that he feels comfortable in Chicago. Matt Forte is the weapon of choice. Although hes been hurt, he has not been ruled out for Sundays match up. Forte is a gifted runner and receiver out of the back field. Alshon Jefferey and Eddie Royal could also be sitting out because of injuries. The Broncos defense could be missing DeMarcus Ware this week. That being said, I believe the defense will bounce back and shut down Cutler and the Bears.

My Prediction
The Broncos will bounce back and win this Sunday. I really don’t pay attention to the point spread but it’ll be covered. Broncos 35 – Bears 21

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Vanderbilt Commodores

The Texas A&M Aggies are bowl eligible, but are trying to find some consistency.
The Texas A&M Aggies are bowl eligible, but are trying to find some consistency.

By Johnny Horton

Game Info
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
Saturday – November 21 – 6:30 pm CT
Vanderbilt Stadium – Nashville, Tennessee

Both teams got back on the winning track last weekend after a string of inconsistent play and tough losses. Texas A&M easily handled Western Carolina defeating them 41-17 while Vanderbilt took down Kentucky at home 21-17. This will only be the second true road game of the season for the Aggies who were embarrassed at Ole Miss a month ago falling 23-3. The Commodores are 3-2 at home but just 4-6 overall and will likely fail to reach a bowl game unless they can knock off A&M and Tennessee in their final two outings.

What to look for when A&M has the ball
Quarterback competitions typically take place in spring camp and in August practices leading up to the start of the season. For the Aggies however the battle for the starting spot is still ongoing. Head coach Kevin Sumlin said after last Saturday’s win that Kyler Murray, Kyle Allen, and Jake Hubenak would all have a chance to earn the job based on this week of a practice. It’s hard to fathom that a team could be headed into its eleventh game of the year and still not know who the right field general to lead the team is but in all fairness injuries to both Allen and Murray have certainly played a factor. The starter will be announced just shortly before kickoff. Wide receivers Speedy Noil and Josh Reynolds were both suspended from the Western Carolina game for violating team curfew rules. It will be interesting to see if either can get out of the doghouse. If they can’t then the Ags will rely heavily on Christian Kirk to be the real offensive team leader as he’s been all year. Running back Tre Carson has continued to put up one hundred plus yard games against inferior opponents and should do the same again in this one.

What to look for when Vanderbilt has the ball
On the flip side Vandy knows who their starting quarterback is and it’s freshman Kyle Shurmur. That’s not necessarily a good thing though as their offense is ranked 116th in the nation and average only 15.4 points per game. They were shutout this season by the Houston Cougars and are all around really weak at moving the football. One bright spot though has been running back Ralph Webb who is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing for the season. Considering the porous A&M run defense, he could have a field day and help keep Vanderbilt in this one given the fact that they do have a top 20 defense nationally. Defensive End Myles Garrett was just named one of four Lombardi Award finalists and Shurmur will surely need to watch his back at all times when dropping back to pass.

As if one needed further proof of what a disappointment this season has been for Aggie fans, the coaches, and the players, they come into this game as only a six point favorite. The over/under is at only 41.5 as well, a total that A&M was averaging on their own through their first five games. Look for Vandy to play hard as they fight for a bowl and for A&M to continue to look like a team with no real direction.

Prediction: Texas A&M 27 – Vanderbilt 17


Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins Preview

Cowboys QB Tony Romo makes his return from injury this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins in a must win game. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
Cowboys QB Tony Romo makes his return from injury this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins in a must win game. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

By Zach Walker

Game Info
Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins
Sunday – November 22 – 12:00 pm CT
Sun Life Stadium – Miami, Florida

Who do the Cowboys need to shut down?
WR Jarvis Landry – While everybody is expecting Lamar Miller to tear up the Cowboys, and while he’s a huge threat, when the ball is in Ryan Tannehill’s hand, Jarvis Landry is going to be his best option. Landry, a former teammate of Cowboys’ fan favorite Odell Beckham, has a ton of upside, and as much ability. The way he plays the game is the ‘Antonio Brown/DeMaryius Thomas’ school of football, get the ball in his hands, see what he can do with it. With Mo Claiborne going down, the onus might shift to Byron Jones to be Landry’s shadow during the game, and I want to see it happen.

Who on the Cowboys, needs to step up?
The team around Tony Romo – The team is doing a pretty good job of collecting paychecks instead of wins. The team is going to be getting back their hero, their leader, their true leader, in Tony Romo. They proved that they couldn’t win without him, now they need to prove that they can win with him. They need to get a full team effort, much like the one that they got against Tampa Bay, only with the correct result this time. Without question, the offense is going to look different, it’s going to look normal again. He’s going to have a working running back, a fresher Dez Bryant, one that has had logged some quality miles back since his injury. Not to say that this is going to be a smooth game, there’s probably going to be hiccups, but this would look better if the team can play well around Romo.

Which group will give the Cowboys fits?
The Dolphins pass rush – Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. That’s two pretty damn good reasons to get back on top of your game for your quarterback’s first game back. Those two working together haven’t paid the dividends that all Dolphins fans would have expected to this point but for the return of Tony Romo and a very emotionally charged game for the Cowboys, they could break out, and it’s going to be up to the Cowboys offensive line to keep Romo’s jersey clean. Suh gave the Cowboys EVERYTHING he had in the Lions playoff game last season, and all it might take to unlock that monster is going up against the last team that got the most out of him last.

Which group will give the Dolphins fits?
Tony Romo – Matt Cassel was no Brandon Weeden, but he’s also no Tony Romo. This is Romo’s language, he’s the only one apparently who can speak it. This offense is his shorthand and he’s the only one who can decipher his own notes on this. In a lot of ways you can kind of tell that the rest of the team didn’t believe from game to game that they had what it took on offense to win these football games but with Tony Romo, the hope has arrived. Romo might need to scale back the emotion and angst in his first game back. He’s going to want to save this team, but doing too much could have a negative impact. They just need the only man that can make this team believe that they still have a chance.

What will it take for the Cowboys to win?
The team must realize that this is a now elimination game per game season, that they are now playing seven sudden death games in a row. Every play is going to mean something. Every possession is a chance to claw back into the thick of the division race.

Prediction: Dallas 27 – Miami 20. Hate to root against a former Cowboy and Clifton Cub, but sorry Dan, we need this win.

#18 TCU Horned Frogs vs. #7 Oklahoma Sooners Preview

The TCU Horned Frogs are going to rely heavily on the services of RB Aaron Green to keep them in the game against the Sooners. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi
The TCU Horned Frogs are going to rely heavily on the services of RB Aaron Green to keep them in the game against the Sooners. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Darius Williams

Game Info
#18 TCU Horned Frogs vs. #7 Oklahoma Sooners
Saturday – November 21 – 7:00 pm CT
Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium – Norman, Oklahoma

The news issued by TCU coach Gary Patterson was one of concern for the legion of Horned Frogs fans. All American candidate wide receiver Josh Doctson is done for the remainder of the season. The wrist injury suffered against Oklahoma State on November 7 has continued to be an issue for him. This could be a huge obstacle to overcome for quarterback Trevone Boykin. Well that is if he plays Saturday as well. Patterson also said that his Heisman Trophy candidate signal caller is a “maybe” for the game.

Without two of the nation’s top players, walking into the Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium Saturday night at 7:00 PM and coming out with a victory over the #7 Oklahoma Sooners will be a difficult task for a #18 ranked TCU team that has been reeling of late. They survived a scare last week at home to a winless Kansas Jayhawks team, 23-17.

If Boykin is unable to go, the task of leading a beat up offense against the best defense in the conference will fall on the shoulders of redshirt freshman quarterback Foster Sawyer. Bram Kohlhausen, the season long backup to Boykin, did not perform well in relief last week. Help for whomever is under center Saturday can come from a solid running attack headed up by Aaron Green and Kyle Hicks. The two combined for 226 yards last week, with Green leading the way with 177 yards on 30 carries. An effort similar to that will go a long way in helping whichever quarterback is in the game.

The Frogs defensive unit, the much maligned defensive unit, will face its toughest challenge all season with the Sooners high powered and well balanced attack. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is playing the position at an elite level recently. Since the horrendous loss to Texas back in October, he has completed 74.7% of his pass attempts and led an offense that has averaged 55.2 points and 618 yards a game. He has had help along the way with the outstanding running tandem of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Mayfield spreads the ball around in the air but his favorite target is receiver Sterling Shepard.

Oklahoma will be looking to avenge a 37-33 loss to the Frogs last year in Fort Worth. Coming off a great victory over then #6 Baylor, the Sooners are looking unbeatable these days. If not for the slip up in Dallas against rival Texas, they would definitely be ranked in the Top 4 by the selection committee. A victory over TCU will go over well with the voters. A huge victory will get a rise in the polls.

Prediction: Oklahoma 48 – TCU

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