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Don’t Stop Believing, Part Deux: Cowboys’ New Plan For Playoffs

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Blog - Don't Stop Believing, Part Deux: Cowboys' New Plan For Playoffs 1

My Dad and his best friend, let's call him Danny, have been inseparable since they were three years old.

Danny is very close to me as a result, he's family, and I just spent a weekend visiting with both him and my Dad. Danny absolutely loves the number 7 and does whatever he can to reference it. He's beyond serious about it.

"How long until dinner is ready?" -Anybody

"About 7 minutes." -Danny

"How many limes did the recipe call for?" -Anybody

"I'd go 7 to be safe." -Danny

You get the picture.

Cowboys Blog - Don't Stop Believing, Part Deux: Cowboys' New Plan For Playoffs

I'd been monitoring the mileage on my car for a few months as I was coming up on a milestone that I knew I had to document when it happened. I'd been looking ahead to try to figure out when it would happen and as fate would have it... the opportunity came on my way to visit my Dad and Danny.

I pulled over, safety first, to make sure that I could capture the perfection on my iPhone. I snapped the photo and texted it to both my Dad and Danny with Danny's signature line, "Yea baby!!!!!!!". He responded, "Badasss!" ...no I did not misspell that, including the extra "S" makes the word 7 letters long. I told you this dude was serious.

This glorious moment all happened because I was looking ahead and making sure that I didn't miss it. If you know me or you read my Don't Stop Believing post here at Inside The Star then you know that looking ahead is a relatively common thing for me.

Two weeks ago, before the loss to the Seattle Seahawks, I laid out three scenarios for the Cowboys to capture the NFC East Crown. These scenarios ran through Thanksgiving and ranged in optimism: Plan A was very Cowboys friendly, Plan B was average, and Plan C could have been written by Eli Manning himself (assuming he wouldn't get too confused writing).

Plan A seemed well within reach until Sam Bradford hit Jordan Matthews for the game-winning touchdown in overtime of last Sunday Night's game. Sadness filled the hearts of Dallas Cowboys fans as both Plan A and Plan B completely hinged on the Dallas Cowboys beating the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9. It had to happen or we'd be staring Plan C squarely in the face.

Cowboys Blog - Don't Stop Believing Part II: Dallas Cowboys Plan To The Playoffs

So here we are. Plan C completely populated by Dallas Cowboys fans. The lone light of optimism here is that the New York Giants lost to the New Orleans Saints the same day that we lost to the Seahawks.

"Why did you stop after Week 12, RJ?"

The Cowboys play on Thanksgiving that week and their next game after is on Monday Night Football of Week 13. That is 11 days of rest in between games, or as I referred to it as a "mini bye", that was going to give us the time to get ready for the run through the end of the regular season.

Things have changed.

I've been asked about my proposed "plan" for the NFC East now that the Cowboys have lost the game that my top two plans needed in the way that you and I need oxygen. We were all left in a daze after the loss to the Eagles, but I took a long look at the schedule for the four teams in the NFC East and tried to put the puzzle together: How can the Cowboys still win this division?

I believe that I have found the key to the 2015 NFC East Championship door for the Dallas Cowboys. Let me be clear that this new "plan" is in relation to what we need to happen. Let me also be clear that these are not predictions or guarantees. This plan is what a plan is... a hope for how things work out. The Cowboys are in a precarious place now where they need hope and help... a lot of it.

There is one last thing that I want to make clear before we get started.

The 2015 Dallas Cowboys are 2-6. No 2-6 team in NFL History has EVER made the playoffs.

These Cowboys are either going to make history or they're history.

Let's begin.


The NFC East Standings through Week 9:

Total Wins Total Losses Division Record
1. New York Giants 5 4 2-2
2. Philadelphia Eagles 4 4 2-2
3. Washington Redskins 3 5 1-1
4. Dallas Cowboys 2 6 2-2

Obviously we've got some work to do, and we've got eight weeks to do it. Here is the schedule through the end of the regular season for the NFC East:

Team/Week 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
NYG NE BYE @WASH NYJ @MIA CAR @MINN PHI
PHI MIA TB @DET @NE BUF ARI WASH @NYG
WASH NO @CAR NYG DAL @CHI BUF @PHI @DAL
DAL @TB @MIA CAR @WASH @GB NYJ @BUF WASH

There are some things that we are going to have to assume. The sake of our season depends on them:

  1. The Cowboys will sweep the Redskins (2 wins).
  2. The Cowboys will lose no more than once through the Saturday Night Game against the New York Jets in Week 15 (Giving them at worst a 7-7 record at that point).
  3. The Patriots will take care of both the Giants and Eagles (1 loss each).
  4. The Giants will lose one of, hopefully both, their games against the Jets or Dolphins (1 loss, hopefully 2).
  5. The Eagles will lose to the Cardinals (1 loss).
  6. The Eagles will lose one of, hopefully both, their games against the Dolphins or Bills (1 loss, hopefully 2).
  7. The Redskins are not in this race and cannot be counted on to beat anyone within the division.

So we're banking on those seven things coming true. Remember that number. Obviously any extra losses from Philly/New York are more money in the bank. It should also be obvious that these losses are interchangeable.

So for example I'm saying that it's necessary for the Eagles to lose to the Cardinals, but if they lose to the Lions we can sub that loss in its place. Got it? Good.

We're talking about the bare minimum here. These assumptions are not disputable the rest of the way. We need those dominoes to fall. Let's continue.

"Alright, RJ. Let's say those seven things, or a set of circumstances amounting to the same results, come true. What does that mean?"

Here is the NFC East schedule again - this time I've highlighted games that I think each team will win in green and games that I think each team will lose in red.

Let me be crystal clear the games I'm counting as a loss are those in which I believe the teams that the Giants/Eagles/Redskins are up against would be favorites, and vice versa for the green.

Obviously there are more projected wins for the Cowboys because you asked what was necessary and that's it - more wins for America's Team.

As you can see I've left Weeks 16 and 17 untouched.

Team/Week 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
NYG NE BYE @WASH NYJ @MIA CAR @MINN PHI
PHI MIA TB @DET @NE BUF ARI WASH @NYG
WASH NO @CAR NYG DAL @CHI BUF @PHI @DAL
DAL @TB @MIA CAR @WASH @GB NYJ @BUF WASH

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! What's this blue? You only explained red and green! I'm lost."

The blue games are toss-ups. That's the help that we need. Counting just the green/red games would yield the following amount of wins through Week 12 for each team:

Giants 6
Eagles 6
Redskins 4
Cowboys 7

The Giants and Eagles both have two blue games. We need at least one of those games to be losses for both of them (both would be great), which was part of the list of seven things we needed.

Assuming that they each did lose one of the blue games that would give the Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys all seven wins through Week 15. I told you to remember that number - it's going to mean everything.

Let's give each of those three teams seven, a very lucky seven, wins through Week 15 then. This is what we'd be looking at for them over the final two weeks of the season with all  three tied at 7-7:

Week 16 Week 17
New York Giants @MINN PHI
Philadelphia Eagles WASH @NYG
Dallas Cowboys @BUF WASH

Week 17 is a huge deal here. The Giants and Eagles play one another - which means a guaranteed loss for one (yay!) and a guaranteed win for another (boo!). We need that to fall exactly how we want it... which would depend heavily on those blue games and what happened in Week 16 (but remember we can't count on the Redskins for anything).

Remember when I talked about how we had to assume that the Cowboys would sweep the Redskins? That would give us a 4-2 division record. This is absolutely essential to this whole process because as things stand the Cowboys/Giants/Eagles are all 2-2 within the division. Both the Giants and Eagles play the Redskins one more time (a win for each) and then play each other. That means that one of them is going to end up 3-3 and one 4-2 as well.

We don't know which team we want to win that game yet because there are still so many games left to be played. That's a problem for six weeks from now when you're in the middle of Christmas shopping.

We just have to focus on getting to 7-7 - at the absolute worst - through these next six games because it's not only optimistic - but actually likely - that both the Giants and Eagles will be 7-7 at that point as well. 7-7 is what it's going to take.

These are the average winning percentages of the opponents that each team in the NFC East is going up against through the next six weeks:

New York Giants .675
Philadelphia Eagles .521
Washington Redskins .521
Dallas Cowboys .583

The Cowboys have the second toughest road, but this is the only one available for us - we are not allowed to be picky. The Giants have a difficult path while that of the Eagles isn't as intimidating. Those little blue smurfs are going to have to do us some huge favors and give us some wind in our sails.

So there you have it - a new plan. As I mentioned earlier these wins and losses are all interchangeable, but from a numerical standpoint the magic number is 7. We have to be at 7-7 and pray that both the Giants and Eagles are at 7-7 as well. It's all possible - we're just going to have to catch some breaks and play good football. It's time to get started.

Tony Romo on Twitter

Thank you for all your prayers and support. No surgery needed. We're just getting started cowboys nation. See you soon

This is the last week without Tony Romo so things are about to get interesting. Hopefully this plan will serve as a great frame of reference, or barf bag, for you while we ride this roller coaster through the second half of the season.


RJ Ochoa on Fancred

~ Follow RJ Ochoa on Fancred ~

What are your thoughts on my new Plan for the Playoffs? I want to know! Email me at Roel.Ochoa.Jr@Gmail.com or Tweet to me @rjochoa!

Tell us what you think about "Don’t Stop Believing, Part Deux: Cowboys’ New Plan For Playoffs" 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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bill Keathley

    November 13, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    You are wrong, one team has made the playoffs with a 2-6 record. The Bengals in 1970 started out 1-7 and made the playoffs. If that’s can be done, we the Cowboys can climb out of the 2-6 hole. Great article by the way! Loved it!

    • RJ Ochoa

      RJ Ochoa

      November 14, 2015 at 10:53 am

      Hey Bill! Thanks for the kind words!

      I should have specified that no 2-6 team has made the playoffs in the current 16 regular season game format. Great call on the 1970 Bengals though… that’s one of my favorite years in NFL History!

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Star Blog

Cowboys Chill While Pats & Rams Set to Thrill

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Cowboys Chill While Pats & Rams Set to Thrill

If you were to check out the line on the Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams, you might wander over to Sportsbook Review, where you could read a 5Dimes review and see what all the best online sportsbooks, first and foremost among them 5Dimes, are dealing on this intriguing matchup. Tom Brady and the Patriots, much to everyone’s chagrin outside the six New England states, are back in it – again – and are currently slight favorites over the emerging LA Rams.

In New England’s 37-31 victory over the Chiefs, the Patriots did what they always seem to do, which is rally late and win in dramatic fashion. It’s become almost a ho-hum experience in New England while the rest of the country bites on a bullet, cursing the embarrassment of riches and success that has been the standard of this Patriots’ franchise for two decades. But this was supposed to be the season that the dynasty would end after viewing Tom Brady’s often mediocre performances and his All-World tight end, Rob Gronkowski, hobbling up and down the field without the same reckless abandon as we’ve seen in year’s past. And then their only truly talented speed merchant capable of stretching the field, Josh Gordon, left the team under a cloud of suspicion.

Unfortunately for the rest of the nation, the Patriots' once porous defense coalesced into a rather stout unit and apparently, the two weeks between the end of the regular season and the start of the Patriots’ postseason was enough time for Brady to heal from his rumored sprained MCL that he had been dealing with in silence all season long.

Gronkowski must have also visited the same shaman as Brady because he looked as dominating as ever in ripping the Chiefs on every critical third-down throughout the final quarter. Finally, the conduit to much of Brady’s success, Julian Edelman, is now being mentioned as a Hall-of-Fame candidate when his run is done.

It’s all a bit much for everyone else, but not for Patriots Nation.

The LA Rams will be the Patriots’ latest foe on the league’s grandest stage as they have a burgeoning superstar in Jared Goff. Los Angeles tore through the regular season off of the golden arm of Goff and his Juggernauts, winning 13 of 16 and earning a first-round bye. Their first foray into the 2018 postseason was a 30-22 win over the determined but overwhelmed Dallas Cowboys. The Rams then traveled to the lair of Drew Brees and the Saints down on the bayou and came away with a 26-23 overtime victory.

However, had it not been for an inexcusable non-call, it is far more likely LA would be watching, rather than participating in this year’s Super Bowl. If you didn’t see it or hadn’t heard about it, then the question begs; why are you reading this article?

Of course, you know that LA’s cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman steamrolled New Orleans’ wideout Tommylee Lewis as Brees’ pass was descending toward Lewis inside the five-yard line. It was a penalty without a flag and that one blown call forced the Saints to settle for a field goal that pushed them ahead 23-20. Yet, there was still enough time on the clock to give Goff and his prolific Rams’ offense one last gasp at either tying the game or putting a dagger through the hearts of Saints’ fans everywhere with a touchdown in the waning moments.

It was the former and not the latter that occurred, but an errant pass by Brees in overtime sealed the deal as the Rams picked it off and ultimately ended the contest off the thunderous foot of Greg Zuerlein.

If you want to check out the line movements over the next two weeks for Super Bowl LIII then get on over to Sportsbook Review, read the 5Dimes review, and see exactly where the money is moving the spread as well as the total in the game. Buckle up Cowboys’ fans, it’s gonna get even more interesting as February 3rd draws near.



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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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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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