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Cowboys Playoff Scenario: Week 15 Impact Games

Jess Haynie

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Dez Bryant

Last week didn't go well for the Cowboys playoff hopes. While Dallas did their part by beating the New York Giants, the teams they needed to lose also handled their business. As such, we find ourselves in basically the same scenarios as last week and with fewer opportunities for movement.

With the Philadelphia Eagles clinching the NFC East, Dallas' focus turns solely to the Wild Card race. Catching the Eagles was a longshot, but Carson Wentz's injury might have opened that door wider if they'd lost to the Rams. Unfortunately, that option is now entirely out the window.

Here are the current NFC playoff standings:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-2)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (10-3)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)
  4. New Orleans Saints (9-4)
  5. Carolina Panthers (9-4)
  6. Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
    --------------------------------------
  7. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
  8. Detroit Lions (7-6)
  9. Green Bay Packers (7-6)
  10. Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

TIEBREAKERS

  • Los Angeles is ahead of New Orleans thanks to a head-to-head (H2H) victory in Week 12.
  • New Orleans has swept Carolina this year, giving them the H2H tiebreaker.
  • Atlanta has a H2H tiebreaker over Seattle from Week 11.
  • Detroit currently has a H2H tiebreaker over Green Bay from Week 9.  They play again Week 17.
  • Green Bay has a H2H tiebreaker over Dallas from Week 5

Now, let's get to the games on the Week 15 schedule that can impact the NFC playoff picture.

Dallas Cowboys @ Oakland Raiders

The Raiders, despite being 6-7 now, are still in the playoff hunt in the AFC. The 6th seed is only 7-6 and even the current AFC West leader, Kansas City, is 7-6 also. Oakland still has a puncher's chance, so they won't be laying down for the visiting Cowboys.

Obviously, Dallas can't afford another loss this year. There's a possibility that 10-6 won't even get them in based on tiebreakers and the high records of other teams, so 9-7 is as good as eliminated. "Just win, baby," the infamous quote of former Raiders owner Al Davis, is fitting for the Cowboys now and going forward.

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions

Detroit has the 7-6 record as the Cowboys, so it'd be nice to get them out of the way. The Bears shouldn't be much trouble for them, but the Lions are on the road next week in Cincinnati and then host Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 17. They shouldn't be the reason Dallas doesn't make the playoffs.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings aren't really an issue for the Cowboys, but their game next week against the Packers is. Minnesota can clinch the NFC North if they win this week, which means they may lose some fire in the belly when they head to Lambeau. A Minnesota loss here would have them hungrier to win in Green Bay, which would be in Dallas' best interests.

New York Jets @ New Orleans Saints

The best thing for Dallas would be the Saints and Panthers both going cold and allowing the Falcons to take the NFC South. That would pull Atlanta out of the Wild Card, where they are a major threat to the Cowboys with their H2H tiebreaker. That scenario is unlikely, though, so the better odds are for the Saints to keep winning and putting a loss on Atlanta next week.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants

If Philly keeps winning, that Week 17 matchup with Dallas may not matter for them. If they're 13-2 going into that final game, they may have already clinched the top seed and be able to rest starters. That is the best scenario for the Cowboys at this point.

Green Bay Packers @ Carolina Panthers

It's hard to say which outcome is better for the Cowboys here. Carolina is already two games up on Dallas, but the Packers have that H2H tiebreaker and now have Aaron Rodgers returning. With this week's game against Green Bay and then Week 17 in Atlanta, the Panthers can probably help Dallas more by winning out and hanging losses on the Packers and Falcons. They can have that fifth seed, so long as they help us get the sixth.

L.A. Rams @ Seattle Seahawks

Even if Seattle wins this one, Dallas can catch up next week when they play each other in Ezekiel Elliott's return game. However, the Rams have a H2H tiebreaker against Dallas so it behooves us for them to win their division and leave Seattle in the Wild Card race. We clearly should root for Los Angels in this one.

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you haven't figured it out by now... ATLANTA NEEDS TO LOSE. They need to lose now and keep right on losing through the end of the season. It's that simple.

 


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!

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys DE Dorance Armstrong Could Be Needed Quickly

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys DE Dorance Armstrong Could Be Needed Quickly

The Dallas Cowboys are stronger at defensive end than they've been in some time, but they still lack a specific type of pass rusher. Rookie Dorance Armstrong may be able to fill that role, giving him an early opportunity to contribute that many mid-round rookies can't find.

While DeMarcus Lawrence has become a beast and Taco Charlton is expected to do more as a second-year player, they are both better suited to play on the left side. It is that right side DE, the athletic type who can take on NFL left tackle, that the Cowboys haven't had since DeMarcus Ware left.

It was supposed to be Randy Gregory, but we all know the issues he's dealt with the last three years. His reinstatement request to the league is expected to go through, but even then we can't be sure the type of player he will be.

If Gregory isn't still the talent that Dallas hoped for in 2015, the next man up just might be Armstrong. He is a raw talent, still undersized for consistent NFL defensive end work, but he has the natural agility and style of play that best suits the weak-side rusher.

Sean's Scout: Defensive End Dorance Armstrong Has Upside to Fill Marinelli's Rotation

Dallas Cowboys DE Dorance Armstrong

Veteran Kony Ealy is more like Lawrence and Charlton, bigger and more suited from the strong side. Another option, Charles Tapper, has yet to prove he can get through a single game without injury.

Rookies have not had a hard time finding early work in Dallas lately.

Obviously, it didn't take Quarterback Dak Prescott long to make an immediate impact. We've also seen the same from Cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown, Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins, and Safety Xavier Woods.

With the difficulties that guys like Gregory and Tapper may have getting back into football shape, Armstrong could have a leg up in training camp. The Cowboys won't hesitate to give him the work if he's the best man for the job, regardless of draft status or tenure.

These new look, new era Dallas Cowboys are all about meritocracy, so Dorance Armstrong could rise quickly if he performs. It would make for a nice immediate return on a fourth-round pick.


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Dallas Cowboys

CB Jourdan Lewis Addresses “All Or Nothing” Scene With Dez Bryant

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Rookie CB Jourdan Lewis Announces Signing With Dallas 1
Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

When the newest season of Amazon's All or Nothing featuring the Dallas Cowboys came out, people immediately were drawn to one scene in particular.

That scene featured then veteran Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis, as they battled it out all day in practice. Lewis and Bryant were in each others ears, as Lewis wanted to make it known to Bryant that he isn't the same type of corner he's used to seeing in practice.

Jourdan Lewis was asked to give his side of the story recently, and DallasCowboys.com recorded his response. The following video is courtesy of "Ed It Channel" on YouTube.

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Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Lewis addressed rumors that the rivalry was "fake" or staged due to the fact that Bryant knew that Lewis was mic'ed up. He says that the competition was organic, and that when put on the field with each other their competition improved both of their play.

Dez Bryant is gone now, but hopefully the Cowboys will be able to replace that competitiveness on the practice field and allow for tempers to flare from time to time.


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Player News

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Embraces Lack of No. 1 Wide Receiver

Sean Martin

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Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Embraces Lack of No. 1 Wide Receiver

As I wrote exactly a week ago, in discussion of maligned Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Terrance Williams:

"...this won't be the first look we have at the status of the Cowboys receivers. I'm already on record having high expectations for Michael Gallup, and believe Cedrick Wilson was one of the steals of the draft for the Cowboys in the sixth round. The unproven nature of this pass catching unit (through to TE with rookie Dalton Schultz) is going to make for fascinating training camp battles, competing for spots in an offense that could still be one of the league's best".

Here we are again, with an emerging leadership voice of the Cowboys speaking about his wide receivers. Dak Prescott told Pro Football Talk that he, "doesn't know if any team in the league necessarily needs a No. 1 receiver".

This is a bold statement from a third-year quarterback that's already told Cowboys Nation this offseason that he wants to be the best to ever play for the franchise. Beginning the journey towards becoming a Cowboys legend must start with Prescott securing his status as the Cowboys franchise QB in 2018 - by throwing to Williams, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, Cedrick Wilson, and Allen Hurns.

This will be no easy task for Prescott, but the Cowboys have never wavered in their commitment to building this team around him. Left with no choice on personnel decisions like Jason Witten's retirement, the Cowboys are well-prepared to also deal with the loss of Dez Bryant.

If they weren't, Bryant would still be in Dallas, and as it stands now he remains a free agent. New to the Cowboys offense is not only Gallup, Wilson, and Hurns but also Tavon Austin as a pass-catching running back.

Strength in numbers must be the message for the Cowboys offense this season. Relying heavily on Ezekiel Elliott and a punishing offensive line will be what keeps opposing defensive coordinators up at night, but so too must be the diverse nature of how the Cowboys can line up on the outside.

Allowing Prescott to serve as a "point guard" like QB could lead to the Cowboys turning plenty of heads with their all-around play in 2018. Anybody writing them off simply because of unproven wide receivers lacks a complete understanding of the roster and how Scott Linehan plans to change his offense.

Sure, it's possible that Linehan fails to prove himself as a play caller worthy of the talent the Cowboys possess on offense - but the talent is there. In Prescott's rookie year, Cole Beasley emerged as his go-to receiver, only to regress in 2017.

With the Cowboys shipping Ryan Switzer to Oakland during the draft, Beasley has a clear path back towards developing this chemistry with Prescott out of the slot. The same should go for Allen Hurns, despite arriving in Dallas as a free agent this year.

Hurns has talked about holding himself to a high standard, despite joining the Cowboys to play with Dez Bryant initially.

"I felt it was a big opportunity to come to Dallas to play with Dez. But with him not being here, it’s a bigger opportunity. It's a matter of me making the most of the opportunity"

Plenty of Cowboys receivers will have a chance to make the most of the opportunity to play in this offense. Hurns' spot as an outside starter feels safe, as he could be the big "No. 1" target Prescott needs to either find in the red zone or distribute the ball elsewhere.

The amount of change the Dallas Cowboys have gone through since drafting Dak Prescott is a cruel reminder of how difficult reaching the pinnacle of sports can be. The Cowboys biggest challenge to reach the playoffs again in 2018?

Silence the doubt that a declining Dez Bryant no longer being with the team will derail the efforts of this deep and eager-to-compete WRs room.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Embraces Lack of No. 1 Wide Receiver" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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