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Cowboys 2018 Playoff Scenarios: Week 16 Impact Games

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott, Buccaneers

Last week went about as poorly as possible for the Dallas Cowboys. However, they're still just one win away from clinching the NFC East. Hopefully they can right the ship this Sunday.

Not only were the Cowboys humiliated in Indianapolis, but both NFC East contenders won their games. Even if Dallas were to finish 8-8, they'd still hold tiebreakers over all three division rivals. They just need for Philadelphia or Washington to run the table and finish 9-7 overall.

One silver lining from last week was a loss by Seattle, which allowed the Vikings, Eagles, and Redskins to all pull a little closer for that 5th-seeded wild card spot. The Seahawks appear to be a cut above the rest of that pack, and they're the last of those teams the Cowboys want to see in the first round.

If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (12-2)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (11-3)
  3. Chicago Bears (10-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-6)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
  8. Washington Redskins (7-7)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Cowboys lost to Seattle earlier this year, but still remain the 4th seed as a division winner over a wild card team.
  • The Eagles are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker. They play each other again in Week 17.

The Carolina Panthers are 6-7 and not mathematically eliminated yet, but the news that Cam Newton is being shut down for the year sounds like they're throwing in the towel. We'll bring them back into the conversation if something miraculous occurs.

Here are this week's games involving the NFC playoff contenders:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys

Dallas had the "win and you're in" carrot in front of them last week in Indianapolis and we saw how that went. It's hard to argue that the team didn't get comfortable with their division and playoff positioning and just weren't up for that game like they should've been.

Any complacency the Cowboys developed over their five-game win streak got trampled on by the Colts. If they approach this one with Tampa the way they should, Dallas stands to win and clinch the NFC East.

Tampa has some incentive to lose, too. They are currently in the 8-10 range for their 2019 draft pick, and a loss could move them into the Top 5. Hopefully they're not above tanking.

Washington Redskins @ Tennessee Titans

The Skins eked out a win last week against the free-falling Jaguars. This week they get much stiffer competition in Tennessee, still vying for a wild card spot in the AFC.

All Dallas needs is for Washington to lose one game to be fully eliminated from the NFC East race. They split their head-to-head series this year and, no matter what happens the rest of the way, the Cowboys will have a better division record. We just can't finish a game behind them in overall record.

Ideally, Dallas will handle business against Tampa and make this a moot point. But if not, we'll take a Redskins loss happily.

Houston Texans @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Rams were supposed to do us a solid and knock out Philly last week, but they weren't up for it. Now we're looking to the Texans to do the same.


The good news is that Houston still has plenty to play for. They're trying to hang on to one of the top two AFC seeds and the first-round bye. They still haven't even clinched the AFC South yet, with the Colts and Titans still in range.

Hopefully, that means the Texans will go to Philly and bring the Nick Foles Memorial Run to a quick end.

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

If you think the Seahawks are the more dangerous playoff team than the Vikings, which I do, then you'd rather see Minnesota in the first round. With Dallas all but locked in to the #4 seed, we need the Vikings to move up to #5 over Seattle.

All Minnesota has to do is get one game on Seattle to move up the standings. With the Seahawks facing a tough game against Kansas City this week, this could be the best opportunity for that to happen.

Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals

Dallas can't catch either L.A. or New Orleans for a first-round bye at this point, so it doesn't really matter. But if you really want to look ahead and play the hypothetical game, then would you rather see the Rams or Saints in the second round?

Let's assume that Chicago and Dallas finished 3rd and 4th, respectively, and then win their first-round home games. Currently, the Saints and Rams are the 1st and 2nd seeds. That means the Bears would go to LA and Dallas would go to New Orleans.

Do you want to face the Saints again, or do you like the Cowboys' chances better against the Rams? If the answer is Rams, we need them to retake the #1 seed.

But if you'd rather face New Orleans again, would like to see Chicago overtake Los Angeles for that #2 seed, then we need the Rams to lose. It all depends on your favorite path for the Cowboys in the postseason.

Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers

As we just discussed, the desired result for the Bears depends on how you want to see the road lay out for Dallas in January. They need to keep winning if you want them to potentially move up into the top two.

I know, I know... you just want Dallas to get to the playoffs and not worry about this other stuff. But if any ripple or wrinkle can help the Cowboys in the postseason, why shouldn't we root for it?

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New Orleans Saints

Another mostly irrelevant game; the Saints just need one win to lock up a first-round bye. If you'd like Dallas to avoid a road game in New Orleans next month, though, then we probably want the Saints to drop to the #2 seed.

Pittsburgh is in a tight battle with Baltimore for the AFC North, and the loser isn't guaranteed a wild card spot. That means the Steelers will give the Saints everything they've got, and maybe help knock them down a peg in the NFC standings.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Seattle Seahawks

As we've discussed already, Seattle is not the team I want to see in the first round. Give me Kirk Cousins or Nick Foles over Russell Wilson.

Assuming Dallas remains the #4 seed in the playoffs, we need Seattle to drop to #6. They play the Cardinals next week, so this is the best chance for that to happen.


Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Game Notes

DL Kerry Hyder Impressive In Cowboys Week 2 Preseason Win

Kevin Brady

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Kerry Hyder

Kerry Hyder joined the Cowboys this offseason on a one year deal, and while the four-year NFL veteran has put up some solid tape in his time around the league, it was hard to project just what he could bring to the Cowboys defense.

Listed at 6'2" 270 pounds, Hyder is a bit of a tweener on the defensive line. Though the answer to "will he play tackle or end" seems to be "both" to this point in the preseason.

As he fights for his life on this deep defensive line, Kerry Hyder had himself a day in the Cowboys 14-10 victory over the Rams last weekend.

Hyder made an excellent play defending a screen pass in the first quarter, reading the play perfectly and reacting quickly to running back Darrell Henderson coming out of the backfield. Hyder also created some pressure on the quarterback, and finished with 3 combined tackles in very limited playing time.

Hyder's versatility is working well for him as he looks to make the final roster. Like a Tyrone Crawford type player, Hyder will be able to move inside and out depending on the situation. This allows the Cowboys to be flexible in how they structure their depth chart on defense, and in how they decide to rush the passer on third down.


A pass rushing package involving Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence on the edge with the combination of Hyder and Maliek Collins on the inside could turn out to be a very dangerous one for opposing offenses to deal with.

Rod Marinelli spoke to this versatility a couple of months ago, showing just how much he values what Kerry Hyder can bring to this team.

"Maybe you adjust him sometime, once in a while – in a one-on-one pass rush situation, stick him over a guard and start to get a feel for it.” - Rod Marinelli

Earlier this offseason, I wrote that Kerry Hyder could end up being Rod Marinelli's next great under-the-radar find on the defensive line. And if he continues to play with the hustle and awareness that he had on Saturday, he's going to make Rod look very smart in his evaluation.

Kerry Hyder is making it very difficult for the front office to let him go. And, at the end of the preseason, I do expect Kerry Hyder to find himself on the Cowboys' active roster. Especially considering how Mike White is playing at quarterback, and how his release could open up an extra spot at a different position group.


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Game Notes

#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he’s no Longer Darrell Henderson’s Backup

Brian Martin

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#DALvsRAMS: Tony Pollard Proves he's no Longer Darrell Henderson's Backup

For the better part of three years Tony Pollard was forced to play second fiddle to Darrell Henderson during their time with the Memphis Tigers. But, Saturday night in the second week of preseason Pollard emerged from the shadows and proved he's no longer Henderson's backup.

Tony Pollard put on an impressive show Saturday night against the Los Angeles Rams. He touched the ball a total of six times and turned it into 51 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 42 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards per carry, and had one reception for 9 yards. All in all it was an impressive performance and one that arguably outdid his former teammate, Darrell Henderson.

Tony Pollard is starting to look like a real weapon for the Dallas Cowboys. It's still a small sample size, but in the first two preseason games he's proven the jump up in competition isn't too big for him. As a runner he's been decisive, picking up what yardage is given and not dancing around. He hasn't been utilized much in the passing game yet, but that time will come.

The Dallas Cowboys couldn't be happier with the way their rookie RB has performed thus far. He's everything they've said he was, and quite possibly much more. Maybe those Alvin Kamara comparisons weren't that far off after all.


We all know Ezekiel Elliott will return to the Dallas Cowboys at some point, but for now Tony Pollard doesn't look completely out of place as their lead back. He still needs to work on his pass protection, but everything else he's been asked to do he's excelled at.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited about seeing what No. 36 can do when these games start to matter in 2019. He will once again have to accept a backup role like he did behind Darrell Henderson in college, but you can bet the Cowboys coaching staff will reward him based on his play so far in preseason.

Pollard's versatility to be a weapon as both a runner and receiver in the passing game should make him a unique chess piece in the offensive game plan each and every week. He's been exciting to watch so far and we haven't even seen him in the return game yet, which was a big part of his game in college. I'm personally expecting big things from him this season. What about you?

What do you think of Tony Pollard's preseason performance so far?


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Game Notes

The Brady Report: Tony Pollard, Devin Smith Steal The Show On Offense

Kevin Brady

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The Brady Report: Tony Pollard, Devin Smith Steal The Show On Offense

The Dallas Cowboys earned their first win of the 2019 preseason on Saturday night, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 14-10 in Hawaii.

Despite the low scoring affair, there were certainly standout performances from both offensive and defensive players for Dallas. Some who are looking to earn a roster spot, and others who are rather solidified in their place with the team.


Let's get into some of my game notes from the Cowboys preseason victory.

  • Tony Pollard. I mean, I've said enough right? The rookie running back was awesome in his one drive of action Saturday night, rushing 5 times for 42 yards and a touchdown on the team's opening possession. Pollard was decisive, patient, and comfortable in the zone blocking scheme, and seemed to know exactly where and how to run on each rep. Pollard is looking like a complete back, rather than just a receiving threat for the Cowboys offense going forward.
  • While undrafted free agents Jon'Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton have garnered much of the attention, it was Devin Smith who impressed the most out of all the Cowboys' down-roster receivers this week. He caught 3 balls for just 24 yards, but had a fantastic touchdown grab from Cooper Rush in the third quarter.
  • Speaking of Cooper Rush, he's your backup quarterback for the 2019 season. The coaching staff gave Mike White a chance to work with the 2's this week, allowing him equal ground for competition with Rush. But even with this opportunity, Mike White did not play well whatsoever. He's indecisive in the pocket, abandons clean protection, runs into pressure, and just looks kind of lost out there. Hopefully White can improve, but Rush is certainly deserving of the QB2 spot going forward.
  • While Rush solidified his position as the QB2, QB1 Dak Prescott led another impressive drive on Saturday night. Prescott has command in the pocket and of the entire offense, and he orchestrated an excellent touchdown drive in his own possession this week. Prescott went 5/5 for 64 yards, but the highlight of the game for Prescott was his third and seven completion for 31 of those yards to Michael Gallup. He and Gallup seem to be connecting this preseason, and if that's going to happen regularly, look out.
  • Now to the defense. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins continues to show signs that 2019 could be a career season for him. He was disruptive in limited playing time this week, and showcased a scary spin move on the inside. He can be an electric interior pass rusher for the Cowboys, and he looks to be "putting it all together" this year.
  • Jourdan Lewis is too good to rot away on the bench, guys. Though he did get beat for decent completion in the first half, Lewis was also sound as a tackler and sticky in coverage once again this week. Lewis looks to be playing at the highest level we've seen from him yet, but once Byron Jones comes back he may not be getting the playing time he'd easily earn elsewhere. Dallas has a bit of an embarrassment of riches at cornerback right now, and Lewis just needs to keep competing every week.
  • Lewis' Michigan teammate Taco Charlton had a decent night himself. While Dorance Armstrong has been the talk of the town at defensive end, Charlton deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage and was credited with 2 quarterback hits against the Rams. He wasn't creating the level of pressure you'd hope to see out of a former first round pick playing that deep into a preseason game, but you can tell he's looking a bit better as of late. Still, there's a whole heap of defensive ends on this roster who are flat out better than him right now.
  • The Cowboys linebackers showed up to play on Saturday night. Of course, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch are who they are, but Justin March-Lillard led the team in tackles with 6, and Justin Phillips came away with an exceptional interception in the third quarter. He made a play on the ball that you don't expect to see from any linebacker, let alone someone of his roster status. This is a really deep linebacker room, and there's a strong chance the Cowboys will have to let go of a good player.


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