Around the Dorm 9/23: Dez Bryant, NHL storylines, NL West race

In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Matt Bowker, asks our panel of experts three questions: Can the Cowboys survive without Dez Bryant, what is the biggest storyline for the NHL going into the preseason and what team owns the American League West?

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

1. Can the Cowboys survive without a number one Running Back and no Dez Bryant?

Kevin: The Cowboys can definitely survive without Dez and a true number one running back. The Cowboys still have, arguably, the best offensive line in football and I think Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden can both have some decent success behind it. Dez is a huge loss especially in the red zone but the Cowboys still have a very good quarterback in Tony Romo. He was able to put together an impressive game-winning drive last week without Dez in the lineup.  Another factor that plays into this is that Dallas’ defense has improved since last season. They, for the most part, shut down the Giants offense last week.  Lastly, the Cowboys can survive because they don’t play in a great division.  The Redskins are terrible, they just beat the Giants, and the Eagles with Sam Bradford and Sam Bradford’s knees didn’t exactly set the world on fire in Week 1.

Otto: I think they can survive. There are a lot of questions surrounding the entire NFC East. Tony Romo is the best quarterback in the division and he’s proven time after time that he can get it done. More importantly, the Cowboys have an outstanding offensive line. Bryant will not be out the entire year, in fact I predict for him to be active after Week 12. The Cowboys, regardless of their two big offensive skill player losses, will still be right in the hunt as we near the playoffs.

Michael: Even though I have ill feeling toward them, the Cowboys can most definitely survive without Dez Bryant. The game against the New York Giants, as much as I want to forget it, is proof enough of that. They play in a division that isn’t at its best, as the Eagles try to figure out what works best with new assets, the Redskins are… the Redskins and the Giants aren’t playing to their full potential. But besides being a favorite in the NFC East, their upcoming schedule places them against teams where their offense can take care of business without issue (teams like the Buccanears and Carolina). Brandon Carr really impressed me in Week 1, and I’m going to watch him during Week 2 to see if his solid play improves, along with the rest of Dallas’ defense. So maybe if the Cowboys were in another division they might have a bigger issue losing such a stud player, but the talent they have now along with where they play means Jerry Jones can sleep easy at night watching his oversized T.V. screen.

Kevin gets 3 points for crediting the defense. Michael gets 2 points for looking at the schedule and Otto gets 1 point for looking at Bryant’s return.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

2. As the preseason begins, what do you think is the biggest storyline to watch in the NHL this season?

Kevin: The obvious dark cloud hanging over hockey right now is what’s going to happen with Patrick Kane, but until the long legal process takes its course, it doesn’t necessarily have strong ramifications on the ice, so I’ll say the biggest storyline heading into camp is the wonder child in Edmonton — Connor McDavid. He’s supposed to be the best prospect since Crosby, maybe even since Gretzky. Those are huge expectations to live up to and he’ll be expected to produce right away. The Oilers have had many top picks come through the organization: Hall, Eberle, RNH, Yakupov, and they’ve still been terrible. McDavid is expected to not only produce individual greatness, but also make the team a contender

Otto: Patrick Kane remains to be the biggest storyline of the season and I think he will continue being it unless something big happens. He has been a huge distraction for their team and has generated a lot of news coverage. Many non-hockey fans have become aware of his accusations because of the nature of them. While he has not been indicted officially, the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding his case has only proven to be more of a distraction. Kane has proven himself to be a star in the league. He was even chosen to be on the cover of “NHL 16,” an honor that was rescinded because of the recent news. The best player of the reigning champs and winners of three of the last six Cups has shown himself to be a huge distraction this offseason.

Michael: This is a two part question. Unfortunately, the biggest news storyline going into the NHL season is whether or not Patrick Kane is going to that big penalty box up north. He’s making headlines in a sport where most news comes either during the playoffs or the Winter Classic/Stadium Series games. People are going to want to watch to see if he plays, the reactions around him and, finally, if mid season he gets called into trial. However, the biggest hockey-centered storyline is in Toronto. I’m excited to see the Maple Leafs under new GM Lou Lamoriello, and want to see if he could bring some of the Devil’s success up North. I’m curious what he can do, as the Devils went to the Stanley Cup Playoffs all but three times between 1998 and 2012 and won the Cup three times under him. The biggest storyline in the NHL depends on whether you watch “TMZ” or TSN.

Michael gets 3 points for taking a different route. Kevin gets 2 points for looking at McDavid and Otto gets 1 point for taking the obvious choice.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

3. Will the Astros or Rangers win the AL West?

Kevin: You have to say right now that the Rangers are going to win the AL West. They’ve been playing great baseball lately and the Astros have been on the decline over the last couple of months, allowing the Rangers to usurp them in the standings. They looked especially strong in this past series against the Astros which allowed them to take the lead in the division. The Astros have a talented baseball team but much of their roster lacks experience. The Rangers are a veteran-led team with a solid middle of the lineup and a pitching staff that just got two huge additions with the acquiring of Cole Hamels from Philadelphia and the return of Derek Holland. The Rangers looked dead a couple of months ago but they are clicking at the right time and should be able to hold win the division.

Otto: I think the Rangers will come away with the division championship. Top to bottom they’re a more talented team and have a lot more experience. Prince Fielder has shown that you can actually come back from a devastating neck injury, so he can basically do anything at this point. The top candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year Award has stepped up as the team’s leader and he is just on fire right now. The Astros, while an awesome story all year, I think will fall at the end. They rely too much on the home run ball and strike out too often. Their luck can’t last forever and the young guys’ lack of playoff hunt experience will catch up with them.

Michael: I think the Rangers will come away the division champs, and the reason lies in the words of country singer Jerry Reed: “When you’re hot, you’re hot.” Both teams are playoff caliber, however, the Rangers are putting it into high gear when they need to most. The first two of the recent games against the Astros were decided by one or two runs, but in the final two games they jacked up the scores in what amounted to 22 runs against Houston’s five. Veteran Prince Fielder are having career resurgences at the plate, hitting .313 with 21 home runs. The Rangers pitching rotation is also one of the best in the league. The Astros are not dead, they even play the Rangers again. But after a season of injuries, the Rangers are ready to keep their new lead into October.

Michael gets 3 points for using stats. Otto gets 2 points for mentioning the Astros’ shortcomings and Kevin gets 1 point for highlighting the Rangers’ resurgence.

Michael wins Around the Dorm 8-6-4