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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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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Safety Estará Ahí en el #58?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp

Por fin estamos a menos de una semana del NFL Draft 2019. El evento que define el futuro de las franquicias de la liga año tras año está a días de distancia y los rumores comienzan a tomar velocidad. Para los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, la experiencia del Draft será un poco diferente ya que no cuentan con una selección de primera ronda. En vez de eso, tienen a Amari Cooper. ¿Lo vale? Sí. Pero, no se puede negar que el equipo estará en una posición complicada durante el Draft.

No sólo no hay un pick de primera ronda para los Cowboys, sino que no cuentan con uno dentro del Top 50. Estas son las selecciones con las que cuentan los Jones y compañía:

  • Pick #58 (segunda ronda)
  • Pick #91 (tercera ronda)
  • Pick #129 (cuarta ronda)
  • Pick #137 (cuarta ronda)
  • Pick #166 (quinta ronda)
  • Pick #243 (séptima ronda)

A menos que sean sorprendentemente agresivos, no habrá noticias sobre los Dallas Cowboys el próximo jueves. Más bien tendremos que esperar hasta el segundo día del Draft para ver que traman los Cowboys. ¿Qué podemos esperar sobre su primera selección?

Why Cowboys War Room Could Be Particularly Interesting This Draft

En este momento, parece que no hay ninguna necesidad más fuerte que la de un safety. Y parece ser que el talento disponible en la segunda ronda podría beneficiar a los Cowboys. Como cada año, es difícil pronosticar quien estará en la tabla y quien no, pero hablemos de varios safeties que podrían solucionar los problemas de Dallas.

S Taylor Rapp, Washington

Algunos ven a Rapp como el mejor safety en la clase de novatos, mientras que otros están convencidos de que no podrá tener éxito en la NFL. La mayor preocupación en torno al producto de Washington es su velocidad. En las pruebas que realizó sus resultados no fueron nada satisfactorios. Sin embargo, ha probado en el campo que es bueno contra la corrida y se puede encargar de su trabajo en cobertura. Es bueno al tacklear, y podría ser justo lo que los Cowboys necesitan.

S Jonathan Abraham, Mississippi State

Abraham se proyecta como un strong safety, que es lo que los Cowboys necesitan. De todos los prospectos, parece que Abraham es el favorito a irse primero. Sin embargo, no es perfecto y sus defectos podrían costarle una caída hasta la segunda ronda. Abraham falla tackleadas ocasionalmente, pero su juego físico y agresivo lo puede compensar. Si cae hasta el #58, Abraham no puede ser ignorado.

Cowboys Draft: Virginia Safety Juan Thornhill V

S Juan Thornhill, Virginia

Thornhill no es mejor que los mencionados anteriormente, pero quizá sea más probable encontrarlo si los Cowboys se quedan en el pick #58. En Virginia, Thornhill tuvo tres temporadas donde fue titular en más de 10 partidos. Es todo un play-maker, consiguiendo 13 intercepciones en su carrera colegial. Lidero a su equipo en tackleadas. Puede jugar en varios puntos de la defensiva e incluso llegó a alinearse como linebacker. Dudo que eso pase en la NFL, pero podría ser un buen safety dentro de la caja y en cobertura.

S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida

Gardner-Johnson fue uno de los líderes en Florida durante toda su carrera. Jugó como safety y como cornerback, muchas veces actuando como "nickel." Chauncey no sería de mis opciones favoritas en este punto del Draft, pero es una que no se puede ignorar si los demás jugadores ya no están disponibles. Sabe romper jugadas y tiene potencial de convertirse en un titular a largo plazo.

S Amani Hooker, Iowa

En el escenario de que todos los mejores safeties ya hayan sido seleccionados y el equipo no prefiera atender otra necesidad, Amani Hooker merece un vistazo. En Iowa ganó el premio al mejor defensive back de su conferencia (Big Ten). Tuvo buenos números en sus pruebas y podría ser un buen strong safety dentro de la caja, donde se pone en posición constantemente para hacer jugadas.

Claro que los Cowboys podrían tomar otra ruta y no seleccionar a un safety hasta más tarde. Sin embargo, considero que sería lo correcto. Incluso pienso que si Taylor Rapp o su prospecto favorito está disponible en un punto de la segunda ronda, Dallas estará dispuesto a hacer un trade para subir y alcanzarlo.

Sólo queda esperar este gran e impredecible evento. ¿Qué esperas del NFL Draft? Hazme saber en los comentarios o por medio de Twitter en @MauNFL.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: ¿Qué Safety Estará Ahí en el #58?" 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

Cowboys Look To Be In For Brutal December Slate In 2019

Kevin Brady

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Top Free Agent Defensive End Options for the Dallas Cowboys 1
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

All sixteen regular season games count the same. A win in September means exactly the same as a win in December. Just as a touchdown in the first quarter counts for the same number of points as a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

While factually accurate, we know these statements aren't totally true. Championship teams often "hit their stride" in November and December, as they close out divisions, clinch playoff births, and prove they can stay cool and claim victory when the pressure mounts to its highest peak.

Under Jason Garrett, and Wade Phillips before him, the Cowboys have developed the reputation of not "winning the big one." In particular, they've been labeled as a team that "chokes" in December. Tony Romo dealt with his fair share of December/January demons during his career, but overcame them towards his final seasons. Dak Prescott has yet to advance past the Divisional Round of the postseason himself, but the narrative around the Cowboys has seemed to change.

Now, due to their late season run and victory over the Seattle Seahawks last season, people see Prescott and the Cowboys as a team that can find ways to win. A team, and a quarterback, who may not be as prolific as some of the other top squads in the conference, but one that you can never count out. I'd argue this has been the case with Dallas for quite some time under Garrett, but it is only now the narrative has changed.

Their late season fortitude will be tested again in 2019, however.

The NFL released the official schedule for the 2019 NFL season earlier this week, with the Cowboys getting some favorable (and some not-so-favorable) draws. What jumped off the page immediately to me, however, is how tough their final four games will be. And, of course, how critical victories in those games will be to gaining an NFC playoff spot.

Among those four December games are trips to Chicago and Philadelphia, two playoff teams a year ago who present problems in different ways. The Bears, known for their talented defense and innovative play-caller, and the Eagles, the always tough divisional foe.

Dallas also gets two home games during this stretch, hosting the Los Angeles Rams week 15, and finishing out the year against the Washington Redskins. The Rams, of course, eliminated the Cowboys from the postseason a year ago, and are expected to be one of the conference's best again.

The Cowboys will face a first-place schedule in 2019, and will have to prove that they are playoff-worthy down the stretch in December.



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Star Blog

Dallas Cowboys: 3 Schedule Predictions Ahead Of Wednesday’s Release

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC

Wednesday night the official 2019 NFL schedule will be released, and we will know the exact times and dates of each of the Cowboys' upcoming games.

We already know the opponents, however, and we know how the NFL typically likes to schedule games week to week. Based on both prior history and future opponents, here are 3 predictions for tonight's schedule release.

1. Cowboys Open Up With The Giants

I didn't say the predictions would be bold, did I?

The NFL loves to have the Cowboys open up against the New York Giants, and I see that being the case here again. Dallas/New York will always bring about solid ratings, but scheduling this game before the Giants (likely) fall out of contention is a smart move as well.

This game will be in Dallas at 4:25 eastern time, occupying that "America's Game of the Week" slot during the opening weekend. Because as much as everyone says they hate watching these NFC East games, the numbers bear out a different story.

2. Cowboys Play @ Saints Thursday After Thanksgiving

We know the Cowboys will play in an extra Thursday or Saturday night game this season. They always do.

Lately the league has liked to schedule them as the Thursday night game following Thanksgiving, and I don't see them breaking  that trend this season. Dallas has played the Vikings, Redskins, and Saints in this game the last three years, with the Cowboys/Saints game being one of the best of last year's Thursday slate.

Why not run it back at the Superdome this November?

3. Cowboys Close The Season With A Brutal December

This is broad prediction, so let's narrow it down a bit. I think the Cowboys will play three critical NFC games in December, at the very least. These games will include NFC East battles with the Washington Redskins (week 17) and Philadelphia Eagles, as well as a game at Chicago to face the Bears.

It's likely the Cowboys, Bears, and Eagles will be fighting for playoff positioning (or playoff births) down the stretch in December. Plus, anytime a combination of these three teams play, ratings will be drawn. I think they'll have Prescott battle Mitchell Trubisky and Carson Wentz this December, as he and the Cowboys look to clinch a consecutive playoff birth.



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