When the Green Bay Packers host the New York Giants on Sunday, fans of the Dallas Cowboys will likely be very invested in the outcome. The winner heads to Texas; either a red-hot Packers team or the Giants who've already beaten Dallas twice this season. You will hear a lot of mixed opinion about which team Cowboys fans would rather see.
It could all be a moot point, though, based on another game Saturday night. The sixth-seeded Detroit Lions travel to face the Seattle Seahawks and, if they win, would send the Giants-Packers winner to Atlanta instead. As the lowest seed in the NFC playoffs, the Lions would automatically play the Cowboys in the second round.
There is no debating it; the Cowboys would be far better off hosting the Lions next weekend than either Green Bay or New York. There feels, perception-wise, like a firm line of demarcation exists between Detroit and the rest of the NFC playoff teams. They are not perceived as a contender, same as Washington or Tampa Bay would not have if they'd claimed the 6th seed.
Dallas will have recent experience with whoever they meet next weekend. They played both the Lions and Packers in 2016, and of course had their annual meetings with the Giants. The Cowboys' last playoff appearances in 2014 also directly involved Detroit and Green Bay.
New York Giants
As we all painfully remember, the Giants swept the Cowboys during the regular season. They are the only team to beat Dallas in meaningful games this year. Giants fan will crow about this, as is their right, but the margin of victory was incredibly narrow.
In Week One, with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott playing their first professional game, the Giants escaped Dallas with a 20-19 victory. Dallas had a chance to win the game at the end but a poor choice by Terrance Williams caused the clock to expire.
In Week 14, New York was just a field-goal better as they again beat Dallas, this time 10-7. Dak Prescott was frustrated more than any other point this season as the Giants' defense starred, despite having just lost Jason Pierre-Paul.
Having to face the Giants again would excite some Dallas fans, who want to get revenge by bouncing them out of the playoffs. However, no team worries me more of the entire NFC field. It's not that the Giants are better than the Atlanta Falcons or even the Packers, but the rivalry with Dallas would take a playoff meeting to a different level of intensity.
As I've said before, I want our young players to be focused on strategy and execution. The less risk of emotion getting in the way, the better for these Cowboys. The Giants are the team most likely to bring out the worst in Prescott, and therefore are the last team I want to see during these playoffs.
Green Bay Packers
Before they went on a six-game win streak and Aaron Rodgers caught fire, the Packers looked lost in a Week 6 meeting with the Cowboys at Lambeau Field. Five fumbles and an interception prevented them from ever finding an offensive rhythm. Ezekiel Elliott crushed Green Bay with 157 rushing yards and Dak Prescott had one of his most productive days with three touchdowns.
This victory was nice for Dallas fans but it didn't come close to healing an old wound. The 2014 playoff loss in Green Bay, marred by controversy with the Dez Bryant "no catch" ruling, is arguably the most painful moment for Cowboys Nation of the last decade. They would love the opportunity for postseason revenge.
While I appreciate the storyline and the desire for payback, there's a saying that "living well is the best revenge." If the Cowboys can get to the Super Bowl, for me that will make up for every disappointment in recent memory.
Green Bay is good enough to beat the Cowboys. They're arguably the hottest team going into the playoffs of the three we've mentioned, and they certainly have the best quarterback. I would love to avoid them if possible.
In Week 16, despite having already clinched the top seed in the NFC, Dallas played to win against the visiting Lions. Even with a few defensive starters resting, the Cowboys clearly looked like the better team. Detroit was outclassed on both sides of the ball.
Much like the aforementioned 2014 game with Dallas and Green Bay, the Wild Card game that year between the Lions and Cowboys has left fans with sore feelings. Lions fans blame a controversial no-call involving Anthony Hitchens and Brandon Pettigrew for helping Dallas win. They seem to forget Matthew Stafford's two fumbles in the final drives, but that's another topic.
Having lost their last three regular season games, Detroit is somewhat limping into these playoffs. They are the weakest team and the Cowboys handled business once before. It is, by far, the best match-up we could hope for.
So tonight, as Detroit looks to pull off the upset in Seattle, let's all put on our temporary Lions fan hats and cheer them on!
So, who else is a temporary Detroit Lions fan tomorrow? #CowboysNation
Judging from the response to this tweet, I have a feeling you agree with me...
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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