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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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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Don

    December 28, 2016 at 10:08 am

    You are 100% right on that Chris and he will be resting during the Eagles game. Cleary gets the start.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      December 28, 2016 at 10:34 am

      Don, Cleary didn’t look too bad playing against Detroit, but is still a big downgrade from Tyron Smith. I’m sure they will give him extra help to protect Prescott’s blindside.

      • Don

        December 28, 2016 at 10:56 am

        No he didn’t look bad but we know he’s a back up at best. This will be good work for him at Philly. Talk about being thrown to the wolves !!! He’ll definitely need some help and I’m like you if Dak is taking some bad hits pull him..I think they will

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          December 28, 2016 at 11:07 am

          Now we just have to hope they don’t wait too long to pull the starters. That’s the main thing I’ll be watching against Philadelphia. I don’t want to see any of the key starters suffer any kind of injury or setback. I think I’ll probably be on pins and needles until the final seconds click off the clock.

  2. Brian Martin

    Brian Martin

    December 28, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Seeing Tyron Smith not being to finish the game because of a sprained MCL against Detroit was my worst fear. Luckily, he should be able to recuperate in time for the playoffs.

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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Smiley N. Pool / The Dallas Morning News

Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?

Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.

Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli Should Be On The Hot Seat

Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli

El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.

Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.

Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.

Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.

En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.

Scott Linehan Acknowledges Need for New "Wrinkles" in Cowboys Offense

Dallas Cowboys OC Scott Linehan (Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports)

Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan

Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.

Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.

A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.

Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.

Jerry Jones Delivers Vote of Confidence in "Real Deal" Jason Garrett

Head Coach Jason Garrett

El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.

Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.

Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.

Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.

Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches" 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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Star Blog

2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch

Kevin Brady

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Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL's Top 10 Rookies

As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.

It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.

Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.

No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.

Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.

There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.

Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.

Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.



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Star Blog

What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?

Kevin Brady

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.

Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.

They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?

Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.

Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.

Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.

Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.

Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.

This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.

The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.



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