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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
  • http://Facebook Bill Keathley

    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

      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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Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Defense Better Or Worse Then Last Season?

Playing in the National Football Conference, the Dallas Cowboys have a difficult task ahead of them if they are to be serious Super Bowl contenders. Even still, they've become a very underrated football team due to their 9-7 record last season. The Cowboys struggled in many areas and with the Philadelphia Eagles crowned as Super Bowl Champions, everyone has forgotten about America's Team.

2017 was an awful year for the Cowboys. It seemed like a roller coaster of success, putting up an impressive performance one week only to disappoint the next one. Let's be honest with ourselves here and talk about what really ended the Cowboys' last season.

Injuries.

As much as we talk about how there shouldn't be any excuses in football - the Eagles made a huge statement by winning it all with a backup QB and other key starters missing - we can't deny the impact of these injuries.

Anthony Hitchens, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott all missed some time last year, affecting the team's performance week in and week out. Had the starters been healthy, the truth is this team would've been in the playoffs.

Heading into 2018, the Cowboys will face a very similar situation. This year, starters make Dallas a serious contender. Even if they're playing in a conference that will feature a lot of quality teams, the Cowboys are a team that could beat any team in the league if healthy.

Even the dreaded wide receiver position - which has been famous this offseason for the lack of a #1 receiver - won't be as bad as we make it out to be starter-wise. A starting trio of Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley doesn't really sound bad.

Heck, not even Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods starting at safety is concerning. They have what it takes to be decent starters. Sure, Heath isn't a guy who will make the Pro Bowl, but his skills will show on the field once the season starts in September.

The Cowboys' starters will do just fine this season. If the team's fate is up to them, they are in a very good spot. The same can not be said about depth, though.

Except for the defensive line, every other position lacks depth. If Sean Lee goes down, the linebackers stop looking like a three-headed monster. Same goes for the cornerbacks. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis seem like a good group but as soon as one of them suffers an injury, the Cowboys will be in trouble.

We're in for an exciting season with a lot of young talent waiting to breakout. The Cowboys are underrated this year. They may not be among the NFC's favorites, but they truly have what it takes to replicate the success they had in 2016. However, it seems like circumstances have to be ideal for them to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.

With a little bit of luck, they'll bounce back this season.

Tell me what you think about "Starters Make Cowboys Serious Contenders, But Depth is a Concern" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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The Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle is Heating Up

Brian Martin

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Dallas Cowboys WR Position Battle Heating Up 1

Earning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys final 53-man roster is going to be a lot tougher in 2018 then it has been in years past. There is no shortage of position battles taking place right now to earn one of those coveted openings, but it's the battle taking place at receiver that's gaining steam and starting to heat up.

The ultimate unknown right now is how many wide receivers the Dallas Cowboys choose to carry on their 53-man roster this season. Last year they decided to carry six, but they have been known to carry just five. Unfortunately, this means they will have to release some talented players and risk losing them to another team.

As things stand right now there may just be one, possibly two, roster spots up for grabs. I think the only thing we know for sure right now is Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin are the only WRs who can feel secure their jobs are safe for 2018. Everybody else is playing a game of Survivor, just hoping their name isn't the one written down and their torch isn't snuffed out.

Terrance Williams' flame may be safe due to his current contract. The Dallas Cowboys can't save anything by releasing him, but it doesn't cost them that much either. It's unlikely he has a future with the team, so if someone were to prove themselves more worthy, his flame could be extinguished.

Terrance Williams

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrance Williams

Last season I thought Noah Brown was ready to unseat Williams, but that never really materialized. Unfortunately, Brown hasn't really shown up as much as I thought he would this offseason, and missing the game against the San Francisco 49ers last week didn't do him any favors either. This doesn't bode well for him moving forward.

Deonte Thompson was signed as a free agent to provide some veteran experience and speed to the passing game, but that in no way means his job is secure. He needs to do something to show up a little more because his age and salary means a younger up-and-coming WR could make him expendable.

Second-year WR Lance Lenoir Jr. might just be the receiver who has stirred things up the most. He has not only created a buzz for himself in offseason practices, but he was able to carry it over into the preseason last week against the 49ers. His arrow trajectory is definitely pointing upwards.

I'd definitely hate to be the one to decide who stays and who goes when final cuts are made. It's not going to be an easy decision to make, because the outcome will definitely have an impact on the team's success this year.

All of these players were brought into help Quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game reach new heights, so making the wrong move could be detrimental. The number of wide receivers and who the Dallas Cowboys decide to keep might be the most important decision they make before the season starts.

How would you predict the Dallas Cowboys WR position battle turning out?



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Any Concern About Dan Bailey Not Playing Against 49ers?

Brian Martin

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Decision not to Play Dan Bailey against the 49ers a Concern? 1

With all the excitement of the Dallas Cowboys finally playing in a game last week against the San Francisco 49ers, it may have escaped your attention that Dan Bailey remained on the sideline the entire time. He didn't attempt one field goal or kick off once last Thursday, which in my opinion is a little concerning.

Dan Bailey joined Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee on the sideline as a healthy scratch last week. The decision to sit both Zeke and Sean Lee makes sense due to the physical demands of their positions, but sitting Bailey was a bit of a head scratcher. After all, it's not like he plays a physically demanding position like the other two.

I know. I know. Dan Bailey is an integral part for the Cowboys success moving forward. I'm not arguing that he's not, but after sitting out the majority of the 2017 season with a groin injury and lingering concerns about his health this year, not playing him at all against the 49ers is a bit confusing.

I don't believe there is any kind of kicking competition between Dan Bailey and Brett Maher, who handled all of the kicking duties against the 49ers last Thursday. Bailey will be the Cowboys kicker when the 2018 season gets underway in just a few short weeks. But, the question remains… Why didn't he receive any playing time?

Dan Bailey

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey was never quite the same last season once he returned from his injury. Something was off and I don't know if it was more mental or physical, maybe a little of both. He just wasn't splitting the uprights like his normal self.

Unfortunately, we have seen this kind of thing happen in the past with one of the Cowboys kickers. Nick Folk went through a similar situation with an injury and never really bounced back. I'm just hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys know more about what's going on with Dan Bailey than I do. But, you would think they'd have allowed him to attempt a field goal or at least an extra point in a game situation to build up his confidence once again. It's what I would have done.

Hopefully I'm just being a little paranoid and I'm reading more into this than there actually is. But, the fact I haven't heard any reasoning as to why Dan Bailey was held out last week is sitting a little uneasy with me. I'm just hoping it was precautionary in order to keep him as healthy as possible for the upcoming season.

Should we be concerned Dan Bailey was a healthy scratch last week?



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