It’s really strange how momentum can change the whole outlook of a National Football League team. A break here, a break there and the goals every team sets for itself before the season begins all of a sudden pop into focus.

At the halfway point of the 2018 season two weeks ago, the Dallas Cowboys were floundering with a very sub-par 3-5 record with games coming up with the defending world champion Philadelphia Eagles and the not-so-shabby Atlanta Falcons.

One loss of those two games would really make it very difficult to earn a playoff berth and two would take a miracle to get into the post-season.

It wasn’t exactly a miraculous play or a favorable call from the game officials that righted the Cowboys’ sinking ship but the outstanding play of star running back Ezekiel Elliott and rookie middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch that played a huge part of turning things around for the Pokes.

Elliott suddenly returned to the form he displayed his rookie year when he and Dak Prescott were instrumental in Dallas going 13-3 and getting into the playoffs.

The last two weeks Zeke has been breaking into the secondary and either mowing down the opposing cornerbacks or merely leaping over them like a hurdler.

In both cases, he’s making it much easier for Prescott to search out his targets by keeping the defense honest and aware of his presence.

The bottom line is that Elliott has gained 151 yards rushing and another 50 catching passes against the Eagles in the Cowboys’ 27-20 victory and then got more than 200 yards of total offense Sunday in the Pokes’ narrow 22-19 win at Atlanta, thanks to new kicker Brett Maher’s 42-yard field goal as time expired.

The extended drives by the offense gave the defense time to rest and recoup which really showed up the past two weeks.

The leader of the Cowboys’ defense for the past few years has been Sean Lee, but the fact he’s been injured more than healthy the last three seasons prompted owner Jerry Jones to nab a middle linebacker in the draft to spell Lee, who currently is nursing a hamstring problem.

Vander Esch was drafted in the first round from Boise State and has already reaped huge dividends. Cowboys fans don’t even know Lee is not on the field because Vander Esch got some great tips from Lee on how to handle certain situations.

Dallas and Atlanta both displayed rock-ribbed defenses with Bridge City’s 43-year-old veteran kicker Matt Bryant keeping his Falcons in the game by booting four field goals. Dallas held a slender 6-3 lead as the first half became a battle of field goals between Bryant and Maher.

Vander Esch had an errant Matt Ryan aerial bounce right into his arms for his second interception in as many games and returned the football 28 yards to the Atlanta 31. Two plays later Elliott burst up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown and Maher’s extra point put Dallas ahead 19-9 early in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons used Bryant’s fourth field goal and a touchdown pass to Julio Jones to tied the game at 19-19 with less than two minutes remaining.

Zeke was at his best after the ensuing kickoff as he powered his way up the field, despite three timeouts by the Falcons, putting the Cowboys in position for Maher’s game-winning field goal.

Two weeks ago, the Dallas Cowboys were ready to fold their tent and run up the white flag on the 2018 season.

But thanks to some great individual efforts by many of the Cowboys, they will be playing for a first-place tie against the NFC East Division-leading Washington Redskins in the annual Thanksgiving Day game tomorrow at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

KWICKIES…Congrats to the Lamar Cardinals for finishing the regular season with six straight victories, with the last one a narrow 21-17 win over my alma mater, the McNeese State Cowboys Saturday night in Lake Charles. Lamar soundly out-played the Cowboys, garnering 448 yards of total offense to the Pokes’ 305. And for their great finish, the Cardinals have been invited to participate in the XCF Playoffs with a first-round game against Northern Iowa later this week at a site to be determined.

There was little change for the top teams in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll with the first six teams—Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia and Oklahoma—remaining the same as last week. No. 7 Washington moved up one place, No. 8 LSU jumped two spots and was tied with Central Florida which came up three places and Ohio State which dropped one place to No. 10. Two teams jumped into the poll—No. 23 Army Black Knights and No. 24 Pittsburgh.

One of the games in the college football spotlight this week will be LSU at Texas A&M as the Aggies try to get back in the Top 25 with a win. The Las Vegas Boys rate this game even. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday and will be televised on the SEC Network.

It looks to me that all a college ball carrier has to do before being tackled is to lower his head, causing a helmet-to-helmet incident which usually gets the tackler ejected from the game for targeting.

During the recent election, 69 per cent of Florida voters chose to eliminate greyhound dog racing, which will mean more than 3,000 people will be unemployed and 8,000 dogs will be up for adoption.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Dallas Cowboys weren’t the only Texas team that squeaked out a victory Sunday. The Houston Texans also saw their game against the Washington Redskins end with a field goal, but fortunately it was a 63-yard game-winning effort that fell short, insuring the Texans their seventh straight victory, 23-21. The win marked the first time since 1925 (93 years) that a team started the season 0-3 and then won seven in a row. That team was the New York Giants and tied the 2011 Texans for the longest win streak in franchise history. Head Coach Bill O’Brien is 28-1when the Texans are leading at halftime.