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Don’t Stop Believing: Cowboys Scenarios To Winning NFC East Title

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Blog - Don't Stop Believing: Cowboys Scenarios To Winning NFC East Title

The Dallas Cowboys are, through their first six games of the 2015 NFL season, 2-4. That's tough cookies.

There is one goal for this 2015 season - win the Super Bowl.

I'll have you know that this year is actually Super Bowl 50... the golden anniversary of the biggest game in sports.

Some simple math will tell you that means there have been 49 teams who have stood on top of the world, bathed in confetti, raising the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Of those 49 Super Bowl Champion teams... 0 have been 2-4 through their first six games. Zero. Goose egg. Zilch. Nada. None. It has never been done.

Enter the 2015 Dallas Cowboys.

Before I get you all excited let me pump the brakes on this ride a bit. We need to get into the playoffs before we even have a shot at the Super Bowl (duh). I'm here to tell you that the playoffs, even with a 2-4 record, are still well within reach. And everyone knows that to win the Super Bowl, all you need is a ticket to the dance. It doesn't have to be the first or the prettiest, any ticket gets you into the tournament.

"How is this possible? We're 2-4. Feels like we're 0-100. I know that the division is terrible, but what needs to happen for us to win it?"

I'm glad you asked!

This season has really come down to the next five weeks/games. Why these five? Well since you seem to just be full of questions today... the next five games carry the Cowboys through Thanksgiving. After the Cowboys play the Panthers on Turkey Day, they'll get 11 DAYS of rest before heading to Washington for a Monday Night matchup against the Redskins. The locker room after the Panther game is the next checkpoint on the 2015 season. We need to get there in good standing.

Of course there are games that are pivotal after that stretch, but these five in question are what's going to serve as the equalizer to get the Cowboys back in the mix for when the cavalry (a #9-shaped cavalry) returns... Not forgetting Dezzy Bryant either.

That crownie-loving cavalry, aka Tony Romo, is eligible to return in Week 11 against the Miami Dolphins. Now would you stop asking questions and let me drop knowledge on you? Sheesh.

As we enter Week 8 of the 2015 NFL season these are the standings within the NFC East:

  1. New York Giants (4-3)
  2. Washington Redskins (3-4)
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (2-4)

Here are the next five weeks/games for all four of those teams, which will effectively decide this division this year:

Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12
NYG @ NO @ TB NE BYE @ WASH
WASH BYE @ NE NO @ CAR NYG
PHI BYE @ DAL MIA TB @ DET
DAL SEA PHI @ TB @ MIA CAR

Alright so now we've laid out all the puzzle pieces... time to put it together.

We're going to look at this next stretch in three different hypotheticals: Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.

Plan A: Very Cowboy-friendly. I thought about naming this "pecan pie" because it's what solves all of our problems. Plan A assumes that all the breaks go our way, but it's not overly optimistic expecting the division rivals to lose every game.

Plan B: This is the most reasonable expectation for this stretch. Plan B, aka Ham Sandwich, is assuming that the other division teams win the games that they should AND that the Cowboys win/lose the games they should from a reasonable perspective.

Plan C: Defcon 5. This is break-the-glass-pull-the-fire-alarm type stuff. The good news about Plan C (aka Steamed Broccoli) is that the division crown is still attainable with it. It's just the scariest plan.

Plan A

Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Record After
NYG @NO - L @TB - W NE - L BYE @WASH - L 5-6
WASH BYE @NE - L NO - L @CAR - L NYG - W 4-7
PHI BYE @DAL - L MIA - L TB - W @DET - L 4-7
DAL SEA - L PHI - W @TB - W @MIA - W CAR - L 5-6

"I THOUGHT YOU SAID THAT PLAN A OR PECAN PIE OR WHATEVER YOU CALLED IT MEANT THE COWBOYS DOMINATED THIS STRETCH?"

Dude. It does.

As you can see I have deemed that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the sacrificial lamb of the NFC East as the only wins I gave the Giants and Eagles were against Famous Jameis. The lone Washington win was against New York, a game where we're definitely going to need Kirk Cousins to "like that."

Obviously the Cowboys could surprise against Seattle on Sunday, they sure do get up for games against the Seahawks, but I thought a loss here was reasonable. As was a loss against the Panthers on Thanksgiving. Consider that the Cowboys will have four days rest after a game IN Miami. Remember Thanksgiving last year? No bueno.

The Cowboys would be tied for first in the division at this point with the home stretch ahead of them... with all of their Stars at their disposal. This is a huge victory.

Plan B

Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Record After
NYG @NO - L @TB - W NE - L BYE @WASH - W  6-5
WASH BYE @NE - L NO - W @CAR - L NYG - L  4-7
PHI BYE @DAL - L MIA - W TB - W @DET - L  5-6
DAL SEA - L PHI - W @TB - W @MIA - W CAR - L  5-6

"I don't feel so great about this scenario. We're a game back from first place, and we're tied with the Eagles for second!"

I'm telling you... everything is still a-ok here. To come out of Thanksgiving, with 11 days of rest in front of us, only one game back of the division would be incredible. The stretch after Thanksgiving, when you'll be searching everywhere for my Christmas present, leans a little bit more in the Cowboys favor than anyone else's. More on that later.

You might want to pause for a second here.

We're about to get into Plan C and it's... well it's not pretty. I'll just say that I'd rather have to watch every episode of Pretty Little Liars a thousand times than live this out.

Grab a tub of ice cream and throw a blanket over your head as I unveil this horror. Kind of appropriately since Halloween is this weekend. What are you dressing up as? I was thinking about going as Marty Mc-

"ENOUGH SHOW IT TO US ALREADY!"

Ok, relax. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Record After
NYG @NO - W @TB - W NE - L BYE @WASH - W 7-4
WASH BYE @NE - L NO - W @CAR - L NYG - L 4-7
PHI BYE @DAL - W MIA - W TB - W @DET - L 6-5
DAL SEA - L PHI - L @TB - W @MIA - W CAR - L 4-7

*sobbing*

"I should have just let you tell me about your Halloween costume. Now I've eaten all this ice cream and I hate myself. And you. This is terrible. My poor eyes."

Yea, the G-Men really like Plan C. I cautioned us all against the Giants getting too far ahead during the Cowboys bye week. Thankfully the Eagles managed to beat them two weeks ago or this would be even worse.

A few things about Plan C.

  1. The Redskins are 4-7... as they are in Plans A and B. They are not a good football team and Kirk Cousins should really celebrate what they did last week because that's the end of it. We do not need to worry about them.
  2. Philadelphia beats us at home, I know it sucks. Detroit isn't even a guaranteed loss for them, especially if they don't play like the Philly Sam Bradfords, but even then... they're going to beat the Bucs. The Dolphins should be able to take care of them, but they'll be in the race entering December here.
  3. The Giants are running away with this thing. They've got what could be two cake walks in front of them with New Orleans and Tampa Bay. We need to pull hard for the NFC South these next two weeks. Who dat.

Feeling better? Because I've got something that'll help. It's the schedule for each team after Thanksgiving.

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
NYG NYJ @ MIA CAR @ MINN PHI
WASH DAL @ CHI BUF @ PHI @ DAL
PHI @ NE BUF ARI WASH @ NYG
DAL @ WASH @ GB NYJ @ BUF WASH

There's a lot of good news here.

"BUT WE PLAY THE PACKERS IN GREEN BAY! AND THE BILLS IN BUFFALO!"

I'm really going to need you to quit interrupting so I can save the day. Thanks.

Look at the Giants. They've got the Jets, Panthers, Vikings... those are tough games against teams on the rise right now. Not to mention that they play the Eagles. So somebody's got to lose that game. Yay!

Washington might beat the Bears. Maybe.

I would feel bad for Philly if I didn't hate them with every ounce of me. Pats, Bills, Cardinals all in a row... ouchie. After those fun times they'll pancake the Redskins before they have to play the Giants! Someone is going to lose that game! Yay again!

"Not to interrupt or anything, RJ... but I'm with you now. I threw the ice cream away and everything. Bring this damn thing home."

Going to Green Bay and Buffalo is tough, I won't lie to you about that. The good news is that:

  1. This is an EXCEPTIONAL road team.
  2. The Cowboys have a score to settle in Green Bay. No way they are losing that game. Dez might break the single-game yardage AND touchdown records.
  3. The Buffalo Bills are coached by Rex Ryan so you know something is going to go wrong.
  4. Two games against Washington in December sound better than that ice cream you just tossed. Hello, Kirk Cousins. This is Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Tyrone Crawford, Demarcus Lawrence, Sean Lee, Rolando McClain, and the rest of Rod Marinelli's fun bunch. We can't wait to give you your Christmas present.

So have some faith, Cowboys Nation! Obviously we're rooting for Plans A, B, and C in that order... but even if Armageddon happens (don't want to cloooose my eyes) everything is going to be ok.

The next five weeks are really important, and specifically the next three. If we can come out of these next 21 days with two wins then we are well on the way to making Plan A a reality.

Get ready for Sunday. Plan A is going into effect and you won't want to miss it.


RJ Ochoa on Fancred

~ Follow RJ Ochoa on Fancred ~

What do YOU think? How realistic do you think Plans A/B/C are? I want to know! Email me your thoughts at Roel.Ochoa.Jr@gmail.com or Tweet to me @rjochoa!

Tell us what you think about "Don’t Stop Believing: Cowboys Scenarios To Winning NFC East Title" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

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Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas

Matthew Lenix

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Tony Pollard is Just What the Doctor Ordered in Dallas

The Dallas Cowboys have what many believe to be the best running back in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott. However, you can never undervalue the importance of depth at any position. When the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft came around, the Cowboys added another weapon to the backfield by selecting Tony Pollard out of Memphis.

If you’re looking for a dynamic player maker with the ability to take it to the house at any given moment, Pollard is your man. The former Tiger averaged a touchdown every 13 touches in college. That’s an absolutely insane statistic when you think about it. He also tied an NCAA record with seven kick returns for touchdowns. Long story short, he can get you six points at the blink of an eye.

The versatility in his game is outrageous and undoubtedly the reason why he was drafted. In addition to running for 941 yards on 6.8 yards per rush, he also had 104 receptions for 1,292 yards. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has to be salivating about the possibilities with his new toy. Having a running back that can not only carry the load as a runner but also line up at receiver keeps the defense honest. You never know what angle the offense is going to come from.

This has to be a sigh of relief for Ezekiel Elliott. Now, the Cowboys don’t have to overexert him and can bring Pollard in on third downs if need be. Not just to give Elliott a breather but to change the pace of the offensive attack. You can hand the ball off, throw it to him or run jet sweeps when he is on the field. This sets up a potential combo at running back that could be the leagues very best shortly.

Speed, quickness, and agility are all wrapped up in the Tony Pollard package. The Cowboys now have a running back that can line up at multiple positions if need be. Also, this prevents a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the body of Ezekiel Elliott. This combination has all the potential to set the NFL on fire in 2019.



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CB Byron Jones Not Expected To Return Until Week 1 Against NYG

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Coming off what was clearly the best season of his career thus far, Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones underwent surgery to hopefully fix a nagging hip injury.

While he earned both his first All Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2018, his first season as a full-time cornerback, Jones still has a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Some still criticize him for his lack of interceptions, and there's no doubt his stellar play slowed down a bit towards the end of the year.

I'm willing to wager that the slight decline had a lot to do with his hip troubles, but nonetheless he must come up with his elite level play once again to earn himself a nice contract somewhere in 2020.

Oh, did I forget to mention it's also a contract year for Byron Jones? As it is for so many important Dallas Cowboys, it seems.

So when will Byron Jones be able to return to the Cowboys' lineup? Well, the initial date reportedly set by Jones and the team was late July, giving him a chance to practice and play a bit before the season opener in September. But, according to the Team Site this week, that date may be pushed back a bit, and we might not see Byron Jones until that season opening game against the Giants.

"As for Jones, all along the Cowboys have been targeting his return for the season opener, but hopefully at that. So, don’t expect to see much of Jones in training camp, and if so, certainly no more than individual and walk-through drills." - Mickey Spagnola

Ultimately, as long as Byron Jones is good to go when the regular season starts, that's all that matters, but the fear of rust when Jones returns is a real one.

It's tough to go from no live football straight to the meaningful games, but if anyone would be able to do it it would be the guy with the freakishly athletic traits. The guy who can get out of the bed in the morning and set athletic records at the Combine.

And, of course, that guy is Byron Jones.



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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

Matthew Lenix

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Dak Prescott: Calm Under Pressure

When the 2016 NFL Draft came around the Dallas Cowboys were in search of the heir apparent to Tony Romo. Unfortunately, coming off an injury-plagued 2015 season, Romo would find himself on the shelf again after suffering a broken bone in his back during a preseason game against the Seahawks. However, the Cowboys had an ace in the hole, in the form of Dak Prescott who they drafted in the fourth round.

The idea was the groom him for a few years before taking the keys to the car so to speak from Romo, but fate had another idea in mind. Prescott would be thrust into the starting lineup against one of the Cowboys most hated rivals to start the season, the New York Giants. Added to that, was the pressure of living up to Romo's stellar resume as the franchise's all-time leading passer. After struggling in a tough 20-19 loss, no surprise there for a rookie quarterback, Prescott began to take flight.

Over the next eleven games he wouldn't suffer a single loss as the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 11-1. What made this streak more impressive was the efficiency of Prescott. He threw 19 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions over that span. In the process, he set an NFL record for the most passing attempts to start a career without an interception with 176. This broke the previous record held by Tom Brady of 162. It didn't stop there, as he also set a rookie record for completion percentage (67.8), was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

The Cowboys would finish 13-3 and win the NFC East. With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the franchise only winning two postseason games in 21 years, Prescott was definitely under the microscope. After the offense struggled to produce points in the first half and fell behind 21-3, Prescott lead a furious comeback. Helping the team storm all the way back to tie the game at 28 and again at 31. He finished with 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first playoff start against future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers. Even though the team lost 34-31, Prescott proved how much of a gamer he was as he basically went yard for yard and point for point with one of the NFL's elite signal-callers. It was clear the Cowboys were in good hands going forward.

2017 started off well as the Cowboys were 5-3 and firmly on pace for another playoff run. Unfortunately, All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott lost his fierce battle with the NFL over domestic violence allegations, and Dak along with the offense struggled. After a 9-7 season and falling one game short of a Wild Card berth, the pressure on Prescott heading into the next season was immense.

Once 2018 came about Prescott had more pressure than ever with Elliott back for a full season. After a slow 3-4 start the Cowboys traded for Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, providing the team with it's first true number one receiver since Dez Bryant. Putting even more expectations on Prescott to turn things around, and boy did he ever.

He would complete 71.6% of his passes in the final eight games of the season, and the Cowboys won seven to finish 10-6. Now, with another division title under his belt, came a playoff matchup with Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Russell Wilson.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were hanging on to a 17-14 lead. They faced a 3rd and 14 inside the redone with just over two minutes left. After dropping back a few steps, Prescott scrambled for 16 yards setting up a first and goal from the one-yard line. The team held on for a 24-22 victory but here's why that scramble was so important.

If the Cowboys don't convert that 3rd and long that would've set up a field goal attempt. Assuming it would have been successful, that would've only put them up 20-14. Giving Seattle a chance to more than likely win with a touchdown and an extra point or two-point conversion. Prescott essentially won the game with that 3rd down run. Proving once again there's no situation he can't handle.

He's set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. No quarterback has won more games than him since 2016 except Tom Brady. No one has more game-winning drives than him since he entered the league. His 13 primetime victories are tops in the NFL over the last three seasons. Simply put, Dak Prescott is a winner and doesn't fold under pressure, instead, he embraces it. There are no bigger lights in the NFL than the ones that shine in Dallas. With those lights come huge expectations and pressure, and it's clear this young man is made of the right stuff to handle it.



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