We've waited nearly half the season and finally we get another NFC East division matchup. The Dallas Cowboys play the Washington Redskins on their turf this Sunday and both teams are fighting for a chance at the division this year. Both teams are tied at 3-3, currently good enough for second in the division.
The Philadelphia Eagles aren't making things any easier for the Cowboys, what with one total loss, but the Cowboys still have their sights set on the 2017 NFC East Title and rightfully so. It's been a tumultuous year for Dallas between suspensions, "oh wait, he's not suspended yet", and various lackluster performances from week to week, but all the ingredients are there. The Cowboys can be successful this season.
This week, the Cowboys face a team dealing with a major injury list. At one point this week as much as a third of the Redskins' active roster was on the injury report. That includes most of the offensive line, which is bound to be without more than one starter come Sunday. With the way DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving are playing, I'm expecting big things from our pass rush.
The Redskins have 10 players listed as questionable on the final injury report, and three out. The Cowboys have three players marked as questionable (Maliek Collins, Kyle Wilber, Justin Durant) with only two players out.
Dallas will be without kicker Dan "Automatic" Bailey this week and for several more to come, but you won't be stuck with Jeff Heath's terrible, albeit surprisingly not as terrible as expected efforts. The Cowboys signed free agent K Mike Nugent this week to fill in for Bailey.
Since his rookie season in 2005, Nugent has a career average of 80.8% on field goals and 96.9% on PATs. His long field goal record is 55 yards, which isn't bad. He's had season longs over 50 yards six times in his career, spanning from 2006 to 2016, so he's got some leg strength.
Is he Dan Bailey good? No, of course not. Is he good enough? Probably. When you have a guy like Bailey, nobody is going to measure up in his absence. The same reasons we all love Bailey are also why most will hate Nugent.
You just have to take what you get on this one and pray for Bailey's speedy recovery.
Chidobe Awuzie is out, again. Keep holding out hope, guys, he'll see the field eventually. Sean Lee is healthy, Anthony Hitchens too, and Jaylon Smith is still absorbing the game. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are 100%, and it looks like the whole offensive line will be a go on game day as well.
We're in good shape. It could be even better if we get the rain forecast for the game because the Redskins have a decent passing game. Rain favors the ground game and Dallas is definitely the stronger running team.
Oh yeah, almost forgot, this round of the Josh Norman vs. Dez Bryant drama is nearly concluded. Break out the beers cause that's reason enough to celebrate right there! But seriously, looks like Norman is good to go. They say he'll play.
As always, I encourage you to add your own predictions for the game in our comments section below.
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Redskins injuries underscore failed comeback attempt
Dallas got right in Santa Clara and despite a few bumps stays on the winning path. With the lead late, Dallas' rushmen seal the game - shining a bright light on the Redskins offensive line woes. A huge division win, but a little too close for comfort. Christopher Waetjen – @SingForTheDay
Cowboys 31 – Redskins 24
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This feels like a must win game for the 3-3 Cowboys, and one I expect them to get against a very good Redskins team. Washington will not be at full strength this week, particularly on the offensive line. When Dallas can control both lines of scrimmage, they win. I have this being the case on the road as Ezekiel Elliott scores twice on the ground. Sean Martin – @SeanMartinNFL
Cowboys 31 – Redskins 21
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Battle For the Fourth Win
Both teams will take that field with a 3-3 record. This game is quite important. Being at home, Washington will find a way to keep it close. However, they won't be able to win with a beaten-up roster. Not against this Cowboys team. Dallas is improving after an ugly start to the season, and with the offense hitting on all cylinders, they may become as unstoppable as they were during the 2016 regular season. Mauricio Rodriguez – @PepoR99
Cowboys 28 – Redskins 20
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Dak and Dallas Dominant yet again
With Dallas as healthy as they've been all season, they come out strong against Washington and get a big lead early behind Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Cole Beasley. With Washington missing so many players in the OL this week, DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving make a victim of Kirk Cousins. John Williams – @john9williams
Cowboys 28 – Redskins 13
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Finally, Back-to-Back Wins
Even with the game in Washington, the Cowboys have a much healthier team. If the "heavy rainfall" that is currently projected happens, it will enhance Dallas' advantage in the trenches and hurt Washington's finesse offense. Rivalry games are usually a slog and the rain will make it even more sloggy, which is good for the Cowboys. Jess Haynie – @CowboysAddicts
Cowboys 24 – Redskins 20
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Hail to the Cowboys
The Cowboys have scored 30 or more points the last three weeks, and they are going to have to continue that stretch if they plan on winning this key divisional game. With the way Philadelphia is playing, neither Dallas or Washington can afford a loss this week, but I have faith Dak Prescott & Co. can pull it out. I think this game looks similar to last year's Thanksgiving Day shootout. Kevin Brady – @KevinBrady88
Cowboys 34 – Redskins 28
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Cowboys Weather the Storm in Washington
The weather in Washington is going to be a huge factor in this game, but fortunately it favors the Cowboys. It's supposed to rain and be really windy, so I expect we see a lot of quick passes and a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott. This will likely be a sloppy game due to the weather conditions, but the Cowboys are built better to withstand the storm. Brian Martin – @BrianMartinNFL
Cowboys 24 – Redskins 13
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Losses are Bigger When Starting at .500
With how the Redskins are playing this season and the woes of a typical division game, I don't expect the Cowboys will have this easily in hand. The weather helps, but our defense will have to step up against the run, which they haven't been able to do very well. I believe the Cowboys dominate early and just hold Washington off in the second half. Bryson Treece – @BrysonTreece
Cowboys 20 – Redskins 17
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We're all predicting the Cowboys to win this game. With any luck, we see this team come out and build on what they did in California last week.
Share your game picks below and, as always, Go Cowboys!
Takeaway Tuesday: Randy Gregory is a Big Time Player
It was a dramatic win for the Dallas Cowboys but a win nonetheless. The Philadelphia Eagles gave the Cowboys one hell of a fight at AT&T Stadium in a great rivalry game. It was undoubtedly one of the most exciting games this season has seen as it ended with a walk-off touchdown that gave the home team the victory.
Here is this week's Takeaway Tuesday on what we learned from such a thrilling match!
Amari Cooper Trade Shouldn't Even Be a Discussion
Once a complicated debate, the Amari Cooper trade has a clear winner. It's simple, really. If it wasn't for Amari Cooper, the Cowboys would not be 8-5 en route to the NFC East title. Cooper has literally saved the 2018 season for the once 3-5 Cowboys team.
Since becoming a part of the Cowboys, the former Oakland Raider has accounted for 40 catches, 642 yards and six touchdowns. Last Sunday alone, he was responsible for 217 yards and three scores. Not to mention the amount of times he's moved the chains for this offense. The 24-year old can seriously play football. Despite struggles, this offense is very promising with that caliber of a WR1 and an elite RB such as Ezekiel Elliott.
What was it again? A first rounder? Should've asked for more, Raiders.
Randy Gregory is a Big Time Player
Gregory's journey to be back on a football field was a difficult one. But it was worth it. Versus the Eagles, his presence was constantly felt by Carson Wentz. He was able to get in five pressures, one of which resulted in a sack.
The last couple of games, Gregory has drawn a few costly flags, but his play is still amazing. He's one of the fastest defensive ends in the league and he continues to improve in bending around the corner. He has five sacks in the last eight games. If you weren't convinced #94 should be our starting right defensive end, you should be by now.
Tight Ends Rise
The lack of a tight end did not stand out this past Sunday. But Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin did. With Geoff Swaim out with an injury, this couple of young rotational players had their best games of their careers. Both were targeted in key moments of the game. Blake Jarwin had 56 yards in seven catches and a big third down conversion and Dalton Schultz finished the night with 37 yards.
A promising sign for the Cowboys moving forward. The offense is clicking at wide receiver with Amari Cooper, having a tight end (or a couple) stand up will only make this unit better.
Garrett Deserves a Round of Applause
Whether or not you think Jason Garrett is a good head coach, the guy deserves an applause. I get why you might not like him. In fact, I still question if he should be in Dallas in 2019 if the Cowboys fail to have success in the playoffs. But the way this team has come back from such a terrible start can't be ignored.
The players on this team fight for this guy. The Dallas Cowboys went from a team everyone had written off from playoff contention to legit Super Bowl contenders since they fired Paul Alexander and got Amari Cooper.
Dak Prescott is One of the Best Facing Adversity
Dak Prescott's career continues to cause a great debate among Cowboys' fans. You see, in the NFL, things are not white or black. When judging a player, there are a lot of gray areas. Take last night's performance from Dak Prescott. He threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball once and pretty much played bad football for three quarters. But his night ended with 455 yards and three touchdowns and a 78% completion percentage in 54 attempts.
In the NFL, not any quarterback comes back from turning the ball three times. With the help of his tremendous defense, Dak did. In the fourth quarter, he completed 17 out of 20 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. His performance was clutch.
This isn't a one thing either. Since 2016, Dak is tied for the most game-winning drives in the NFL. Prescott might be inconsistent and can have some pretty bad plays. But he's one resilient quarterback. As T.O. would've said: "that's my quarterback."
In Swaim’s Absence And Among Witten Rumors, Jarwin And Schultz Shine
"Starting tight end for the Dallas Cowboys" has been about as stable a position as there is in sports over the last decade. It's been Jason Witten. End of story.
Beginning in 2018, however, that stability went out the window with Witten's retirement. The starting role was left in the hands of Geoff Swaim, with even younger and more inexperienced players filling out the depth chart behind him. There was clearly reason for concern, and once Swaim went down during the Cowboys' win in Atlanta, those concerns only grew.
Swaim's absence has brought with it rumors of a Jason Witten return, with reports last weekend even suggesting that Jason Garrett reached out to Witten to see if he's looking to end his retirement and rejoin the Cowboys.
His absence has also brought about the emergence of two young tight ends, however, who are each succeeding in their own ways and showcasing why the Cowboys felt confident in allowing them to take the bulk of the tight end snaps while Swaim is injured. Those tight ends, of course, are Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz.
Last Sunday during the Cowboys big overtime victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, both Jarwin and Schultz had impressive days. Blake Jarwin has become one of the go-to third down options for quarterback Dak Prescott, extending drives and getting open over the middle of the field. Jarwin had a career best 7 catches for 56 yards on Sunday, including a spectacular third down grab to make up for Prescott's poor ball placement on his crossing route.
Blake Jarwin looks like the big, athletic, middle of the field threat that many fans wished Rico Gathers could be. The next step in unlocking his potential would be to get him more involved in the red zone. Dallas is struggling to convert and-goal situations into touchdowns, and logic would say a big target like Jarwin should be able to help in those moments.
Fourth round rookie Dalton Schultz had a good day as well, catching 3 balls for 37 yards including a 16 yard reception down the seam. Where Schultz really shines, however, is with his run blocking, as he did at Stanford. The move to more of a zone blocking scheme has benefited Schultz as a run blocker, just as it has the entire Cowboys rushing offense.
Schultz looks to be improving as a pass catcher by the week, and a year in a professional offseason program should do him wonders in terms of play strength, in turn helping him as a run blocker. He may not ever turn into a top 5 or 10 tight end in football the way Witten once was, but he is clearly already a functional and valuable player on this roster.
The Cowboys are insanely young throughout most of their roster, and tight end is one of those young spots. Tight end is also a spot you typically don't want (or need) to address within the first round of the NFL Draft. Dallas is secretly in a good spot moving forward at tight end, with Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz emerging as solid players.
This doesn't mean the Cowboys shouldn't look around in the offseason to see what's available, but they should also feel comfortable with what's on their roster at the moment.
Sean’s Scout: Resilient Prescott Inches Cowboys Closer to NFC East Title
If an overtime win over the defending Super Bowl champions that ends their dreams of repeating while increasing your own playoff odds can be both ugly and beautiful, then the Dallas Cowboys 29-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles was certainly that - and a whole lot more.
Extending their winning streak to five didn't come without the Cowboys toying with a total collapse, as Quarterback Dak Prescott turned the ball over three times. Fresh off a win against the New Orleans Saints where the Cowboys managed just 13 points, the Eagles pushed this defense to the edge thanks to continued struggles on offense.
In overtime, Prescott made sure Carson Wentz and the Eagles would never see the ball, putting four indescribable quarters behind him to lead a game-winning touchdown drive. The Cowboys are a win away from claiming the NFC East. The full scope of how this season has turned on its head goes well beyond this most recent Cowboys win, at least back to their first win at the Eagles five weeks ago.
For now, my first attempt at sorting out what we saw at AT&T Stadium on Sunday will have to do, with another post game edition of Sean's Scout.
- With both Tight Ends Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz setting new career highs in receptions, I was waiting for the Cowboys patience on offense to pay off with a big play on the outside, finally provided twice by Wide Receiver Amari Cooper.
In the Cowboys previous win over the Eagles, their receivers had their way with a depleted Philadelphia secondary. Dealing with injuries at cornerback mid-game that are still effecting this group, the Eagles were in no position to line up against Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Cole Beasley.
The counter for the Cowboys offense this week was to use heavier formations, pound Ezekiel Elliott, and get their tight ends involved more than they've been all season. Perhaps the only normal thing to come out of this game was Elliott's 40 touches.
Despite it being a career high, there's no reason Elliott shouldn't be this involved in the Cowboys offense. The Cowboys patience with Elliott was eventually rewarded when Cooper scored from 28 yards out to break a 6-6 tie, and again from 75 yards to put Dallas ahead 23-16 in the fourth quarter.
If not for a few missed shots to Michael Gallup and a missed Brett Maher field goal, the Cowboys efforts on offense could have kept this game out of overtime, though their execution on the winning drive is hard to dispute.
- The Cowboys are last in the league at scoring touchdowns in the red zone over their last three wins, something that has to change quickly in preparation for the playoffs.
The Cowboys were 3 of 5 in the red zone in the win that started this streak in Philly, and 2 of 3 the following week at the Falcons. Their decline on offense has been a recent trend that must come back up over the last three weeks of the regular season.
Only six of Elliott's 40 touches came in the red zone, which feels inexcusable from Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, considering also it was an adjusted play call by Cooper and Prescott that created their long touchdown to force overtime.
Perhaps the trust the Cowboys showed in Schultz and Jarwin will lead to more red zone opportunities for tight ends, of which the Cowboys have no true middle-of-field threat.
- There is no reason for Prescott to be falling away on his first interception in the end zone, targeting an open Cooper to the back corner.
Prescott never saw Rasul Douglas break off his man and end up under a throw to Cooper that was placed in a horrible spot. Cooper was open, but thrown into coverage on a ball he never really came close to.
After another look at the play, it's even more disturbing to see Prescott's mechanics. Sliding in a clean pocket, Prescott was falling away slightly when he released the ball. The Cowboys defense would bail out Prescott after probably his most egregious turnover, forcing a three and out.
This was not the case after Prescott's second interception that turned into the Eagles first touchdown, or fumble that lead to a tying field goal.
- For as good a pass rushing duo as DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory are, Defensive Tackles Maliek Collins and Tyrone Crawford don't get enough credit for their all-around game.
Before kickoff, I wrote about the Cowboys not needing David Irving, who missed his sixth straight game. This is a compliment to not only Collins and Crawford, but Antwaun Woods as well. All three played their part in keeping the Eagles offense in check once again.
Crawford may be playing the best football of his seven-year career. No longer struggling to fit in as either a defensive end or tackle, Crawford is simply a leader by example for the Cowboys defense wherever he lines up.
Carson Wentz is a quarterback you have to make reset his feet defensively, and Crawford was able to force this a number of times. His speed rush ability paired with the power of Collins and Woods on the inside is incredibly disruptive for Dallas.
Following Maher's missed field goal, Crawford turned in one of the hustle plays of the season for the Cowboys to strip Wentz. Beating the left guard off the snap, Crawford dipped Jason Peters at left tackle on his way to a forced fumble that produced another field goal before the half.
This game was that close to having a first half all about the Cowboys taking advantage of Eagles mistakes, instead leaving points on the field and letting the Eagles punish second half mistakes on the way to overtime.
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With a win at the Colts, vs. the Buccaneers, or at the Giants the Cowboys will have gone from 3-5 to NFC East champions for 2018. The merits of just how good this division is will be worth discussing prior to the playoffs, but with two wins over the Eagles and one over the Redskins within an ongoing five game win streak, the Cowboys are objectively one of the hottest teams in the league right now.
Amari Cooper has probably made six or seven plays "better" than his miraculous overtime touchdown, proving his worth more and more each week, though his winning score will surely be a lasting moment from the Cowboys week 14 win.
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