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Dallas Cowboys Clinch 2016 Playoff Spot!

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Clinch 2016 Playoff Spot! 1

The Dallas Cowboys are going to the playoffs! Winners of eleven straight games (an America's Team record), the Cowboys get to sit back today and watch the rest of Week 13 unfold, having secured their win in Minnesota on Thursday.

With the Cardinals 31-23 win over the Redskins at home, the Cowboys are officially going to the playoffs! The best part about all of this is that the playoffs have seemed like a given for this team over the course of this winning streak, as nothing has phased Dak Prescott nor Ezekiel Elliott.

With just the most basic of achievements hit for 2016, the Cowboys will look to lock up the NFC East in their next game at the Giants. With a Sunday Night Football win, the division will be there's again.

Also with a revenge win over the Giants, the Cowboys could look ahead to clinching a first-round bye and home field advantage for the playoffs.

With the Chiefs already defeating the Falcons today, a Panthers win against the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football will give Dallas a chance to play for this bye on the road next week.

With the Cowboys next game also coming on Sunday Night Football, they'll know before kickoff how the NFC division leaders fared once again - with two of the three losing creating the same scenario.

For a much more complete breakdown of what the Cowboys will be playing for the rest of the regular season, check out all of the scenarios on Inside The Star ✭ right here:

//insidethestar.com/cowboys-headlines/dallas-cowboys-playoff-berth-division-and-first-round-bye-clinching-scenarios/

Sit back, enjoy the rest of this week's games, and know that playoff football is back in Dallas.

How sweet it is. ✭

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Clinch 2016 Playoff Spot!" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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9 Comments
  • John Williams

    When Tony Romo was injured, I thought 2016 would become much like what 2015 was. A slow painful season leading toward elimination from playoff contention at some point in November or December. Since that week 1 performance against the Giants, the Cowboys have put together a stretch of games that haven’t all been pretty, but have all been wins. They are a special group of players and with the opportunity to clinch the NFC East in week 14, this team should no longer be doubted as a contender for the Super Bowl. Their have been a lot of firsts this season for the Dallas Cowboys and their rookie backfield, why not add first rookie quarterback to win a Super Bowl to that list.

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      Spot. On. Thanks as always, John.

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      Spot on as always, John. Appreciate the comment.

      • John Williams

        You’re Spot On.

    • Russ_Te

      Everyone thought Dak was a project with certain skills like strong arm, quick release and mobility. The book on him was bad pocket mechanics, which turned out to either be totally wrong, or Cowboys coaches got him out of those in 1 camp.

      1st preseason game against the Rams, before Romo was hurt the next week, Prescott was already showing a whole-package that had him looking like a 4th-round steal. Then it turned out that he had poise and maturity to go with the physical tools.

      Solving QB and RB in one draft cannot be underestimated. It shifts the balance of power in the league. Dak only gets better, and the Cowboys can load up on defense now.

  • Russ_Te

    Arctic blast across upper half of USA this week, reports to be gone by next Sunday. Normal December day around 40 is forecast for NYC. Dallas is lucky if so.

    Pierre-Paul injured his groin in the Steelers game today and did not go back in the game. Figures to either be out next week, or well less than 100%. Good news, since historically the Cowboys have not been able to block him. Makes up for Claiborne being out.

    The Giants defense did give the Steelers some problems in the 2nd half. They are the much-better 2016 unit that we also saw in Week 1. But I think the Cowboys will go in with the standard plan of beating them up with the ground game. I would actually get Morris maybe 10 1st half carries so that Elliott is entirely fresh for that second half.

    Even if they do a good coverage job on the Cowboys receivers, Dallas has 2 items they probably cannot handle: Dak’s run threat that showed up big in MN, and also this might be the week to deliberately toss it to Elliott in the flat or on a screen, etc. The Giants will be preaching run-stop all week, and a few of those hits could be back-breakers.

    The Giants kept using Beckham on short routes this week and it didn’t seem to make sense. If they show that again, my nickel DB might be Wilcox. Ka-Boom!

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      Thank you so much for your comments, Russ. I agree with mostly all of this. Unfortunately, I don’t expect to see Wilcox back this week. Except Jones to have to come down a bit more if the Giants want to use their quick passing game. As we know, they may be able to get their yards, but the Dallas defense won’t break entirely. As always, will be up to Elliott and Prescott again – this time with a bit of redemption in play. Can’t wait until Sunday!

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      Thank you so much for your comments, Russ. I agree with mostly all of this. Unfortunately, I don’t expect to see Wilcox back this week. Except Jones to have to come down a bit more if the Giants want to use their quick passing game. As we know, they may be able to get their yards, but the Dallas defense won’t break entirely. As always, will be up to Elliott and Prescott again – this time with a bit of redemption in play. Can’t wait until Sunday!

      • Russ_Te

        Just guessing Wilcox will be ready. 17 total days from when he got the thigh bruise to next Sunday.

        I suppose using Beckham at times like a possession receiver is what they do, but it seems idiotic to me. More hits on him & less downs in which he’s pressuring the back line of the D. They probably look at Cruz to do that, but if I’m a DB I want Beckham in front of me, and I get a chance to ding him.

        Eli threw 39 times & force fed it to Beckham about 16 of those today. Every time Beckham didn’t catch it, he complained about not getting a call. The refs totally ignored him, which was comical.

        They didn’t target Cruz once. So I don’t know if that means they will emphasize spreading it around for next week, or if they are locked on at this point to featuring Beckham regardless. But Eli is not playing his A game this year and the offensive wheels are wobbling.

        A big game from a Cowboys DL’er like Lawrence or Collins or Crawford, will go a long way towards the W.

Game Notes

Snap Judgments: Cowboys’ Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win

John Williams

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Snap Judgments: Cowboys' Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win

The Dallas Cowboys evened their record at 1-1 with their 20-13 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night. The Cowboys linebackers had a huge impact on the outcome of the game and it wasn't just the guys at the top of the depth chart either. America's Team got contributions from guys at the bottom of the depth chart.

What a difference a year makes.

The Dallas Cowboys worked hard this offseason to fix the linebacker depth that failed them in the 2017 season. When Sean Lee or Anthony Hitchens -- or both -- were sidelined with injuries, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, and the rest of the linebacker group struggled to keep up with opposing offenses. Specifically, in games against the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers the major depth inadequacy was revealed.

One year later, the Dallas Cowboys have a linebacker corp that allows them to go five deep with Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Joe Thomas, and Damien Wilson all making considerable contributions for the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday nights victory.

Here are the final snap counts for the five linebackers that played a defensive snap against the Giants.

  • Jaylon Smith - 57 (84%)
  • Sean Lee - 41 (60)
  • Leighton Vander Esch - 28 (48%)
  • Damien Wilson - 17 (25%)
  • Joe Thomas - 14 (21%)

Jaylon Smith led the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night with 10 tackles (seven solo) and played really well roaming sideline to sideline and making plays. He was tasked with the difficult assignment of containing New York Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley and allowed four catches for 41 yards in his coverage area. Smith was credited with three stops or plays that result in a "loss" for the offense (per Pro Football Focus).  Smith led the team in snaps for the second straight week.

Sean Lee had a better game on Sunday night than he did in week one. PFF credited him with four stops, four tackles and an assist. Lee allowed two catches for 24 yards on two targets to Wayne Gallman and Evan Engram. Lee pulled his hamstring at the end of the game and was held out the rest of the way for precautionary reasons. He'll be an interesting name to watch on this week's injury report. Age catches up with everyone, but hopefully Sean Lee can stave it off for at least another season.

Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch saw a big bump in his snap count from week one (17) to week two (28). The rookie played well too. As many players seemed to struggle with tackling Saquon Barkley, Vander Esch was able to bring down the number two overall pick on several occasions. Vander Esch had seven solo tackles in his second career game.

Damien Wilson was the surprise player of the night. He had three tackles on the night, including one on special teams, a sack, and a forced fumble. Though his time on the field might have been short, his impact was certainly felt. His forced fumble led to a field goal that gave the Dallas Cowboys a 13-0 nothing lead. Wilson was also credited with two stops on the night.

Joe Thomas has been a good player for the team off the bench as well. Though he only had one tackle, it was good enough to be credited with a stop. He's a player that can play both the WILL and MIKE linebacker spots. As the fourth or fifth linebacker on the depth chart, Thomas is a great role player.

Other Snap Count Notes

  • Taco Charlton may not have started, but he played 84% of the team's defensive snaps. That number is up from 73% in week one. Charlton had a sack, a hit, and a hurry as well as three stops on the night.
  • Cole Beasley and Allen Hurns led the wide receiver group in snap percentage from week one to week two. The big difference at wide receiver was seeing Michael Gallup take the third most snaps on offense instead of Deonte Thompson. Thompson still had the bigger impact with four catches for 33 yards on five targets including two for first downs.
  • Geoff Swaim was the far and away leader at tight end in snaps with a 94% snap count. Only the offensive line and Dak Prescott had more snaps on the night than Swaim. He's the TE1 for the team, though he didn't have an impact in the passing game.
  • Rico Gathers only played five snaps, but there was concerted effort to get him the ball as he had two targets in his five snaps. He may not have come away with a catch, but it's a start.
  • Jourdan Lewis continues to be the odd man out on defense. He only played one snap.
  • Dorance Armstrong saw a snap jump from week one to week two going from 28% of the defensive snaps to 40% of the snaps. He had two hurries and an assisted tackle.


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Dallas Cowboys

Why Cowboys Need Tavon Austin More Involved Offensively

Brian Martin

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Why Tavon Austin Needs More Offensive Touches With Cowboys

Two games into the 2018 season and I'm still not quite sure what to make of the Dallas Cowboys offense. To me, there is a void of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. With the exception of Ezekiel Elliott and maybe Cole Beasley, there is a lack of consistency that is really hurting this offensive unit. Changes need to be made or someone needs to step up in a hurry.

Enter Wide Receiver/Running Back Tavon Austin.

Just looking at Tavon Austin you would probably put him in the category with Cole Beasley, a small/diminutive WR who should strictly be playing out of the slot. That's typically where the smaller WRs get placed in the NFL because teams would like you to believe that due to their diminutive stature, they can't succeed on the outside.

Well, guess what? The passing game is changing around the league and we're starting to see more of these smaller/quicker WRs earn more prominent roles. The reasoning is these types of receivers are generally known to be better route runners, who are more capable of creating separation on their own.

The Dallas Cowboys must be buying into this philosophy because during the offseason they pretty much revamped the entire wide receiver position with that thought at least in the back of their minds. They didn't bring in a lot of "undersized" WRs, but they did focus on adding pass catchers who can run better routes and create separation on their own.

Wide Receiver Tavon Austin is one of those pass catchers Dallas brought in to improve their passing game. Austin really hasn't been utilized as much as I thought he would in the first two games, but he is starting to look like a dynamic weapon the Cowboys can't ignore much longer.

Tavon Austin's first TD with Cowboys

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

Last Sunday night against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys finally decided to utilize Tavon Austin's speed in the passing game. The result, a 64 yard touchdown pass from Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Austin's speed to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally is something the Dallas Cowboys need to incorporate more of into their offensive game plan. Forcing opposing defenses to have to cover more of the field should create more opportunities for big plays in both the running and passing game.

Stretching the field vertically with Austin's speed will open up things up underneath in the passing game. It takes at least one, possibly two defenders out of the play, leaving nine to defend against 10 Cowboys offensive players. That benefits Ezekiel Elliott in the running game and the other WRs running those underneath routes.

Stretching the field horizontally mostly helps the running game, which is great news when you have a dynamic running back like Zeke. Utilizing Austin's speed on jet sweeps or reverses forces the edge defenders from crashing down on inside runs. It also forces the linebackers to hesitate more because they have to respect the threat of both an inside or outside run.

Against the Giants, Tavon Austin turned three touches into 94 total yards, two receptions for 79 receiving yards and one rushing attempt for 15 yards. Imagine if the Cowboys were to give him about 10 touches a game. It seems like such a simple thing, but I think it could have a huge impact (for the better) for the entire offense.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys need to get Tavon Austin more involved?


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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott’s Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott's Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark

When the Dallas Cowboys took the field last Sunday against the New York Giants, they did so very differently than last week, starting with a 64-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott to connect with WR Tavon Austin in the third play of the game. Although there are still many things this team must continue to work on, they looked like a very improved unit in week 2.

Here are my main takeaways from the Dallas Cowboys' first win of the year. Let me know what yours are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL and let's talk football!

Cowboys' Secondary Capable of Holding Top WR

If there was one player who could've changed the outcome for the New York Giants, it was WR Odell Beckham Jr. Widely recognized as one of the best wideouts in the nation, Beckham was the biggest challenge the cornerbacks, led by Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie, have had in the first two weeks.

None of them followed Beckham all over the field, each stayed on their side of the field and still managed to limit him to four receptions for 51 yards in nine targets. The Giant's offense is not known for being one of the best in the league, but it's the fact that this defense was able to limit exactly the player they needed to. They did their job.

Also, props to the defensive line for keeping the pressure on Eli Manning.

Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Bounce Back Against Giants

Taco Charlton Was Dominant VS Nate Solder

With Randy Gregory ruled out for the game, Taco Charlton had a golden opportunity to stay on the field for more snaps. He took advantage of this, as he finished the night with three tackles, one for a loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.

Charlton still has a long way to go in order to prove he was worthy of a first round pick, but we can't deny he hasn't stopped developing. It will be interesting to see how he does now that Gregory is expected to return for week 3.

Dak Prescott's Legs Give Offense a Needed Spark

One of the things I liked the most about the Cowboys' game versus the Giants was how Dak Prescott was utilized. Criticized after a poor performance in Carolina, Prescott came out with a chip on his shoulder.

We've been talking a lot about how Scott Linehan must play Prescott to his strengths and that's precisely what he did by letting Dak run for 45 yards in seven carries. It's completely understandable if the Cowboys don't want to run him as much as the Panthers do with Cam Newton, but the truth is, if #4 hurts defenses with his leg, Ezekiel Elliott won't receiver all of the defense's attention.

Also, shoutout to how they used Tavon Austin. With Elliott, Prescott and Austin being a threat on option plays, this offense could take a step on the right direction.

If Activated, Where Does Rico Gathers Fit Offensively?

Rico Gathers Will Be Used

The Cowboys' Rico Gathers project is moving in the right direction. The 2016 sixth-round pick was active for the first time in his career last Sunday. The first question that popped into our heads was whether or not he'd be actually used in the game. He was.

He even managed to get open in the end zone in a play that could've been TD but Prescott didn't throw a good pass. However, the mere fact that he was able to get open and that the coaches actually put him on the field told us a lot about his future. Cowboys Nation should be excited to see him involved.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Prescott’s Legs Give Offense a Much Needed Spark" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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