2016 Plan I: Predicting Tony Romo’s Return And When The Cowboys Clinch The NFC East

    Listen to an version of this article on Bumpers!

    I've been writing this post, in my head, for the last 67 days. I said so with this tweet shortly after it was announced that would miss some serious time this season.

    2016 Plan I… what exactly is that? Through the horror of the 2015 season here at , I wrote a series of “plans” (for example 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen) that continually kept the Cowboys in the hunt for the East crown. In this particular plan I also shared a personal interaction that I had with Tony Romo a decade ago.

    Tony Romo… our . We are approaching the one year anniversary of when we last saw him take a regular season snap – 2015. The subject of when Tony will take his first one of this season has been hotly contested, and one that Owner/President/ has weighed in on frequently, and most recently this past Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

    “I don’t think that unquestionably Tony is going to be ready to go at some point near the end of the year, and we’ll be able to evaluate things at that time.” -Jerry Jones

    This sent into quite the tizzy. Why? Only the words, near the end of the year.

    These are big – albeit subjective – words, and ones that have some big implications if meant in particular contexts. I digested Jerry Jones' words and dissected them to the point that I had an epiphany regarding Tony Romo's inevitable return. I discussed this on Tuesday's episode of OchoLive.

    #OchoLive (11/1): Dissecting Jerry Jones QB Comments | Deadline | RJ's Epiphany On Romo Return

    Posted by Inside The Star on Tuesday, 1 November 2016


    You ready for my epiphany, Cowboys Nation?

    Tony Romo will return on Thanksgiving Day when the host the

    Why do I believe this? Consider the following:

    • Whether you are Team Tony or Team Dak you undoubtedly agree that the moment the Cowboys pull a healthy Romo in favor of Prescott is when the real controversy begins. There is no way the Cowboys want to have to cross that bridge. In their minds, obviously, if they bring Romo back he'll flourish and things will be great.
    • Tony Romo's kryptonite over the last two seasons has been short weeks. He struggled mightily on Thanksgiving Day in 2014 when the Cowboys lost to the Eagles, and that was because he was more healthy than ever at that point. It was the same story a year later when, after his return four days earlier in Miami, Romo played poorly against the Panthers before suffering the that would finally end his season. If Romo were to return on Thanksgiving Day he would not have to play two games in five days, he'd be making his debut and be totally fresh. The Cowboys play seven days after Turkey Day on Thursday, December 1st in Minnesota then get 10 days to rest before traveling to New York to visit the Giants.
    • The Cowboys are currently 6-1 and have three AFC games between now and the all-important Thanksgiving Day. Why does it matter that they're AFC games? They're less important. I'm not diminishing the value of any single game in the NFL, but the most important games are within your division and conference as those serve as the primary tiebreakers. Dallas is currently 2-1 within the and 5-1 within the NFC, no other NFC team has more than 3 wins in conference. This means that the Cowboys will – regardless of how the next three weeks go – enter Thanksgiving with those credentials at their back.

    This is the answer. This is when Tony Romo will return. Lock it up and throw away the key.

    So what of this plan, RJ? You just outlined Tony Romo's return, but you promised to tell me how/when the Cowboys will win the NFC East!

    I did promise, and here I am to deliver. Welcome to 2016 Plan I. It's beautiful. Here are the current NFC East standings:

    1. Dallas Cowboys: 6-1 Overall, 2-1 in NFC East
    2. : 4-3 Overall, 1-1 in NFC East
    3. : 4-3 Overall, 0-2 in NFC East
    4. Washington Redskins: 4-3-1 Overall, 2-1 in NFC East

    NFC East Through Week 14

    NFC East Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13
    Dallas Cowboys @ CLE @ PIT BAL WAS @ MIN @ NYG
    New York Giants PHI CIN CHI @ CLE @ PIT DAL
    Philadelphia Eagles @ NYG ATL @ SEA GB @ CIN WAS
    Washington Redskins BYE MIN GB @ DAL @ ARI @ PHI

    These are the next six weeks for the most storied division in professional football. This is all it's going to take, six painless weeks until you can order your merchandise. Want to know how? I'm always here to please. The next version of this data has wins highlighted in green and losses highlighted in red. I believe this to be a conservative approach to each team's chances over the next month and a half.

    NFC East Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14
    Dallas Cowboys @ CLE @ PIT BAL WAS @ MIN @ NYG
    New York Giants PHI CIN CHI @ CLE @ PIT DAL
    Philadelphia Eagles @ NYG ATL @ SEA GB @ CIN WAS
    Washington Redskins BYE MIN GB @ DAL @ ARI @ PHI

    Say this actually happened. This would mean:

    1. Dallas Cowboys: 11-2 Overall, 4-1 in NFC East
    2. New York Giants: 7-6 Overall, 2-2 in NFC East
    3. Philadelphia Eagles: 7-6 Overall, 0-4 in NFC East
    4. Washington Redskins: 6-6-1 Overall, 3-2 in NFC East

    Why did I stop at Week 14? What do all of these colors mean? It all makes sense, my friend.

    At this point there would be three games left in the season. Because the Cowboys play the Giants, who I believe will have the best run in the next five weeks of our NFC East foes, in Week 14 they have a chance to deliver the finishing blow and get to 11 wins which would be mathematically impossible for the Giants and Eagles with only three left.

    If you want you can even forget the games, forget the colors. Here is the recipe to the Cowboys winning the NFC East over the next six weeks:

    • Cowboys Win Five Of The Next Six: This includes games against Cleveland (duh), Baltimore (extremely winnable, I was just being conservative), Washington without Trent Williams, and Minnesota who just saw their resign.
    • Giants And Eagles Both Go 3-3: This is very feasible because you're talking about teams that are 4-3 currently, so that's their pace. What makes things particularly interesting is they play each other in Week 9 so one of them will already be one third of the way there. I'm of the belief that Cowboys Nation should root for Philadelphia to win this game because their five weeks following Sunday are more difficult than New York's. Additionally if Philadelphia does win and the Giants are one third of the way there, the fact that Dallas also plays New York in this stretch gives us the chance to account for the second third… meaning they would only need to lose one of their other four games.
    • Redskins Win No More Than Three Games: Here again we have the benefit of playing the Redskins in this stretch. Assuming the Cowboys win on Thanksgiving when I have predicted Tony Romo will return, this means they would have to go a perfect 4-0 just to prolong their hopes of defending their NFC East title from a season ago. Three of those other four games will be played without the services of Trent Williams so that's a tough sell.

    This is all very manageable, if not likely. We have eight weeks of data in order for us to draw conclusions about these teams and discern what will happen over the course of the next six.

    Tony Romo will return on Thanksgiving Day and the Cowboys will clinch the NFC East on Sunday, December 11th in New York. Huzzah.

    What do you think of my thoughts on Tony Romo's return and Plan I? Let us know! Comment below, Email me at, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!

    RJ Ochoa
    RJ Ochoa
    I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!


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    Tommy (@TommyVictorySec)

    interesting prediction on other NFC East teams. Jones nor Garrett know themselves what they will do because it will depend on our record and “how healthy Romo is”. I think Dak loses starting job (against Skins or later) if Cowboys drop below #1 NFC seed. Here are the scenarios in the next 3 to 5 weeks as I see it. I do not really see Romo starting against Steelers in any circumstance EXCEPT Dak hurt.
    In ~3 weeks vs Ravens:
    1) we are 8-1 Dak starts, Sanchez backup, Romo non-Active
    2) we are 7-2 Dak still starts, Romo backup active roster
    3) we are 6-3 AND Romo is “ready” Romo starts, Dak backup. (unless they are somehow still #1 seed in NFC, unlikely).
    In ~4 weeks vs Redskins:
    4) if we are 9-1 then Romo backup, Sanchez cut IF coaches need someone from street or PS to fill injury hole elsewhere
    5) we are 8-2, then #2 above
    6) we are 7-3, then #3 above if we are no longer #1 seed NFC, #2 above if we are still #1 seed NFC
    7) we are 6-4 then #3 above
    In ~5 weeks @Vikings
    8) we are 10-1, #4 above
    9) we are 9-2, #2 above if we #1 seed NFC, #3 above if we are not #1 seed

    After Vikings game, if we are 11-1, Dak will start the rest of the season unless hurt. If we are 10-2 or 9-3, that is where controversies may start. Romo should be “100% ready” by week 12 and Garrett’s call will be heavily influence on our NFC seeding. If we are #1 seed (at 10-2 or 9-3) then it’ll depend on if coaching staff feels Dak made the mistakes to cause those losses.