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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!

Star Blog

Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?

Brian Martin

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Should Cowboys Sign This RFA to a Contract Sheet?

Fortune favors the bold. It's a rough translation of an old Latin proverb and the mantra I believe the Dallas Cowboys should indoctrinate this offseason.

I think it's time the Dallas Cowboys start to make a few bold moves. I truly believe they are close to competing for a championship title and one or two offseason moves could increase those odds. One such move would be to sign restricted free agent (RFA) Shaquil Barrett to an offer sheet.

It's expected that the Denver Broncos will place a second-round tender on Barrett and I think the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to explore the possibility of signing him to a contract sheet. If Denver declines to match the offer, the Cowboys would then send them their second round draft pick as compensation.

You on board?

Probably not at this point, but let me try to explain why I believe this is a good move on the Cowboys part, even if it is an uncharacteristic one.

You see, the Cowboys could definitely use someone to play opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and I think Shaquil Barrett could be the solution.

I know it sounds like a lot to give up a second round draft pick, but the Cowboys have been deplorable at drafting players in the second round the past decade. Sean Lee, DeMarcus Lawrence, and possibly Jaylon Smith have really been the only "hits" the Cowboys have found in the second round. That's simply unacceptable!

So, why not use that second rounder to acquire a player who is already a proven commodity in the NFL?

Shaquil Barrett

Denver Broncos OLB Shaq Barrett (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

I know the first thing a lot of you are going to do is to look up Shaquil Barrett's stats to see what he has accomplished in the NFL. But, stats don't always show the big picture.

You see, Barrett has been stuck behind some pretty talented pass rushers in Denver, so his statistics aren't going to jump off the paper. But, when given the opportunity he has proven he deserves a larger role. That's where the Dallas Cowboys come in.

The Broncos probably don't have the money to keep Shaquil Barrett if the Cowboys sign him to a contract sheet. It doesn't necessarily even have to be a big money contract offer. The Broncos simply don't have the salary cap to do much, especially considering they are still looking for a starting quarterback.

I honestly like the idea of the Cowboys going after Barrett. You may have forgotten, but he gave a healthy Tyron Smith fits last season.

With an injured Shane Ray, Shaquil Barrett got the start against the Cowboys in 2017 and finished the game with two quarterback hits, six QB pressures, and five stops. No other player found that kind of success against Tyron Smith all season, even when he was banged up.

Unfortunately, when Shane Ray returned, Barrett's usage on defense declined. That's why you can't always judge a players productivity by statistics. You have to judge him more on a per-snap basis, and if you do that you will discover he was very effective as both a pass rusher and run stopper.

I believe Barrett is ready for a full-time role. Yes, he has been used as a standup 3-4 OLB with the Broncos, but he has the required traits to put his hand on the ground and maintain his effectiveness.

The downside to all of this is the Dallas Cowboys would have to give up their second-round draft pick, but draft picks are sometimes overvalued anyways. Shaquil Barrett is probably better than anybody the Cowboys could draft in the second round, so I say pull the trigger.

Should the Cowboys sign Shaquil Barrett to a contract sheet?


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Could a Former Division Rival be Cowboys’ LG Solution?

Brian Martin

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Could Former Division Rival be Cowboys' OG Solution?

When it comes to prioritizing the Dallas Cowboys offseason needs, offensive guard is definitely near the top of the list. Opinions will certainly vary, but for me, solidifying the offensive line with a new starting left guard is the top priority for the Cowboys.

I know many of you will disagree and believe the Dallas Cowboys need to continue to upgrade their defense. But, this teams success or failure will be determined by how their offensive line performs. That's just the way the Cowboys are built, which is why they have invested so heavily putting this unit together.

Four out of five of the Dallas Cowboys starting offensive line is set in stone, but there is currently no one on the roster to step into the vacant left guard position unless you want to see the coaching staff give Chaz Green another try.

No, I didn't think so.

With the start of the 2018 free agency just a few weeks away, the Dallas Cowboys have certainly narrowed down some of the potential free agents they would be interested in bringing aboard if the price is right. Remember, they have turned into "bargain shoppers".

There are a few intriguing free agent options who I believe could step in to upgrade the LG position for the Cowboys next season, and not break the bank. One such option is a former division rival of the New York Giants, Justin Pugh.

Justin Pugh

New York Giants OL Justin Pugh

The former 19th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft has spent five years in New York while playing out his rookie contract, but that time has come to an end. The Giants aren't likely to re-sign him, which means he will get his first taste of free agency.

Justin Pugh could step in and be an immediate upgrade over what the Dallas Cowboys employed at the left guard position in 2017. He has exceptional mobility. He reaches the second level with ease and plays with good body control and footwork. He is a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme like the Cowboys employ.

Pugh is also versatile. He has played both right tackle and offensive guard for the Giants. He of course would be asked to play between Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith at LG with the Cowboys, but versatility to play another position is never a bad thing.

Unfortunately, Pugh doesn't come without baggage. He has missed a total of 13 games over the last two seasons with the Giants, including eight last season due to a back injury. This is definitely a huge red flag, especially for the Cowboys after dealing with the same issue with Tyron Smith.

But, this is why Justin Pugh will likely be in the Cowboys price range. Sportrac currently estimates his contract at 4 years at $23,983,847, which equates to $5,995,968 annually. I personally think that's a little low for someone of Pugh's caliber and versatility, but it certainly understandable when you take into account his recent injury history.

I personally think this is a longshot to happen because  the Cowboys would prefer to go younger and cheaper, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Do you think Justin Pugh makes sense for the Cowboys?


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Star Blog

Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition
Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Sadly, we can't wake up on Sundays to NFL football. The Dallas Cowboys are not on TV every week for us to watch them play. To make matters worse, we'll have to wait until September to get real football from our favorite team.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about until then! For the die-hard Cowboys fan, the offseason should be quite entertaining. Free agency will begin in March, and it should be an intense one for Dallas.

They need to handle a tight salary cap while trying to add a bit of help for this football team. Recently, Inside The Star Contributor John Williams wrote an in-depth piece about the Cowboys' cap situation and how they can manage to get things done, despite having little cap space right now.

Last season, I wrote a weekly Cowboys Wishlist about things I wanted to see for each game. Now there are no games, but I decided to write a special edition for this upcoming free agency.

Cowboys en Español: El Futuro de David Irving y DeMarcus Lawrence

Dallas Cowboys DL David Irving, DeMarcus Lawrence (Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports)

Wish #1: Keep The Rushmen

The front office will have one hell of a challenge trying to retain all of its free agents. The two most important ones may be their two defensive linemen. If they can keep them, DL won't be a top need heading to the Draft.

Lawrence is one of the biggest names in free agency this 2018, but the Cowboys should find a way to keep him from ever being available.

If they're able to franchise tag him, that'd be the way to go since he's only had one elite season in his four-year career and they may not want to sign him to a huge long-term deal and risk not seeing the same guy next season.

David Irving is a more polarizing player, with off-the-field issues. However, he's been a very disruptive guy and he has the chance to be a unique player. His talent is really out of this world. Keeping him and Irving would give this franchise a top defensive line for the first time in many years.

Anthony Hitchens 1

Dallas Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Wish #2: Pay Anthony Hitchens

When healthy, Sean Lee is one of the NFL's top linebackers. He is simply an outstanding player who's always around the ball and seems to know where the ball is going before the opposing coach even calls the play.

The problem is, he has a lot of trouble remaining available. Anthony Hitchens is a guy who's found the way to step up every time the General is out, and he's shown a great progression as a player year after year.

Lee will be 32 by the time the season starts, giving Dallas something to think about. Hitchens is a guy capable of starting and competing in the NFL. If the front office finds a way to keep him, they'll be getting closer to being less "Sean Lee-dependent."

Wish #3: Get Seattle Seahawks' Earl Thomas

When we talk about a potential big name addition to the Dallas Cowboys, we're usually a bit pessimistic. This team isn't one that makes splashes like this, but Earl Thomas to Dallas makes a ton of sense. Former Seahawks' defensive coordinator is now the Cowboys' defensive backs' coach.

With Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis (and maybe Byron Jones moving to CB), this team will have a promising secondary. Add Earl Thomas, and it will go from "promising" to "great" in a heartbeat.

The Cowboys could not only have a top DL, but a top secondary if they're able to get this veteran.

Let's hope the Cowboys listen to Thomas and they go get him.

A Case For Dez Bryant Remaining a Dallas Cowboy in 2018

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Wish #4: Get Dez Bryant to Take a Pay Cut

When I started writing this, I wanted to add a "get this wide receiver in FA"... but I won't. A few weeks ago, I wrote a case in favor and one against Dez Bryant remaining a Cowboy in 2018. Personally, I would be fine with him parting ways with the team.

However, I'm aware of how hard it can be finding a replacement for a guy like #88. The biggest issue with Dez is definitely his cap hit. He hasn't justified the money he's being paid on the field as he should be.

If they can get him to take a pay cut, it may end up being the ideal scenario for the Dallas Cowboys.

It'll be a very interesting offseason, and here at Inside The Star we'll continue to provide you with content about it all.

Tell me what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Wishlist: 2018 Free Agency Edition" 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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