The Dallas Cowboys (5-5) will face off with the Washington Redskins (6-4) for what will be a battle for first place in the NFC East. The winner of this game will take control in a division that remains wide open as we ready for the final stretch of the season.
The Washington Redskins have seen a ton of their offensive personnel fall prey to injury and will be starting Colt McCoy at quarterback after placing starter Alex Smith on IR this week. They're down wide receivers, offensive lineman and their starting quarterback heading into the game, but that doesn't mean they'll be a push over. They are still getting an excellent effort out of their defense.
The Dallas Cowboys have faced their fair share of adversity and are dealing with injuries themselves along the defensive line. They were without a big part of their defensive interior last week and may be down a few players again this week.
As we get ready for the Thanksgiving Day game against the NFC East Rivals, here are my final thoughts on this week's game.
Contain Colt McCoy
Former Texas Longhorns Quarterback Colt McCoy isn't a player that the Dallas Cowboys should fear, but they need to respect him. He can move well and he can make some things happen outside the pocket. If the Cowboys don't keep him contained between the hash marks, his legs could make things difficult for the Cowboys defense.
He's not all that different from Alex Smith, though Smith is a better passer. McCoy will attempt to play turnover football, be efficient when asked to throw, and will take off when given the opportunity. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch will have to keep an eye on him when they drop into their zone looks. When Kris Richard decides to go man, he'd be wise to keep a LB in the middle of the field to help take away any underneath options as well to keep an eye on McCoy.
Last week in relief against the Houston Texans, McCoy brought the Washington Redskins back from down 17-7 and went six of 12 for 50 yards and a score through the air, two designed runs for nine yards, and three scrambles for 26 yards for a total of 35 yards rushing.
Here's a taste of what Colt McCoy is still capable of.
So Colt McCoy's first rep was a read option that he misread and then proceeded to outrun some bum named *checks notes* JJ WATT to the edge, and then spin off a tackle for a 5 yard gain. Cowboys don't play mobile QB's well. Is McCoy actually Lamar Jackson? https://t.co/oZJWhvdrEz
Keep Your Head (Gall)UP
Michael Gallup will be playing with a heavy heart this week after learning of the passing of his brother over the weekend. It's never easy to lose a family member or someone you're close to, but to lose someone the way his brother went brings more to the table than just grief.
He was spotted at the practice facility on Wednesday and all reports indicate he's going to play. Sometimes when you don't have answers to the tragedies that come in life, the best thing to do is to go and do something you love. Here's hoping that Michael Gallup is able to find some peace for a few hours.
Formula for Victory
Since coming into the NFL the Dallas Cowboys are 27-15 with Dak Prescott as their starting quarterback. Over the course of his two and a half year career, the Cowboys have laid out the formula for how they want to win football games.
Key stat from Sunday's game: Dak Prescott didn't throw an interception or lose a fumble. The Cowboys are now 22-1 when Prescott commits no turnovers. https://t.co/UJ1zMeHGpf
The Cowboys want to play efficient, mistake free football on offense, while running the ball and controlling the clock. On defense, they want to prevent teams from scoring touchdowns and make as many splash plays as possible to disrupt drives.
On Sunday in Atlanta we saw exactly what the Cowboys want to be. After a slow first half that saw the Cowboys only score 3 points, they took control of the second half of the football game with 19 points. On their first touchdown drive of the game, they went on a 14 play 75 yard drive that spanned more than seven minutes of game time. It was a perfect Dallas Cowboys drive. Efficient passing, dirty yards, and timely third down conversions.
Later in the game on the game-winning drive, they did the same thing. They didn't hit on any big plays, but Dak Prescott was efficient in getting the team down the field to set up the Brett Maher's game-winning field goal. Just as important as what Dak Prescott did, is what he didn't do. He didn't turn the ball over. As Jon Machota mentioned above, Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys are 22-1 when they don't turn the ball over.
Go back to the Washington Redskins game and you know why the Cowboys lost that game. A Dak Prescott fumble that Washington recovered for a touchdown. Prior to that play it was 13-10 in favor of the Redskins. The Cowboys then had to score twice with under five minutes to play and were nearly able to pull it off accept for the penalty called on L.P. Ladouceur. The Cowboys would have likely tied on Maher's 47-yard attempt, but the ball was moved back five yards, making it a 52-yarder that Maher missed to the left.
Part of that winning formula is about Dak Prescott. When he's good, they're good. When he's bad, they're bad. But the other part of that winning formula comes down to Dak Prescott's backfield mate, Ezekiel Elliott.
Ezekiel Elliott is on a Roll
Ezekiel Elliott is one of the best players on the Cowboys roster, so it's been frustrating that he's been as up and down as he's been this season. Well, if the last two weeks are any indication, Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys offensive line have turned a corner in the run game.
Over the last two weeks against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons, Elliott's ran the ball 42 times for 273 yards (6.5 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns. Through the air, Elliott's caught 13 passes on 15 targets for 115 yards and a touchdown. He's averaging 7.67 yards per target over that span and has accounted for 17 first downs, most in the NFL over the last two weeks.
The Dallas Cowboys need to make it three straight this week to put themselves in a strong position to make the playoffs down the stretch. As we've been saying for weeks, this is just another, in a long line of must-win games for your favorite NFL team. After they dropped to 3-5, this team looked like they were about done as far as the 2018 season was concerned, but after two straight road wins over the previous two NFC representatives in the Super Bowl, things are suddenly looking up. Now, with an opportunity to take control of the NFC East today, the Cowboys have a lot to be thankful for.
I believe this game comes down to defense, much like the first game did in week seven, and the Dallas Cowboys are playing really good defensive football. Dak Prescott will take care of the football again this week and Elliott will have more than 100 total yards. I expect the Cowboys to be in control of this game, but because the Washington defense is really good, they won't be able to run away with it.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive pressure is going to be too much for Colt McCoy and they'll do a better job slowing down Adrian Peterson than they did in week seven. The Redskins don't have the players on offense -- aside from Jordan Reed and Peterson -- to put too much stress on the Cowboys defense and they'll eventually force a turnover and come up with several sacks.
Cowboys 20 - Redskins 13
Who you got?
Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018
For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.
After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote
As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.
Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.
Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!
Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Week 15 Impact Games
It's hard to believe that we're looking at the Dallas Cowboys potentially clinching the NFC East this week, but that's how dramatic the turnaround has been over the last five games. Week 15 could lock Dallas into the playoffs and give them a lot of freedom over their final two games.
If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:
- New Orleans Saints (11-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
- Chicago Bears (9-4)
- Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
- Carolina Panthers (6-7)
- Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
- Washington Redskins (6-7)
- The Cowboys lost to Seattle earlier this year, but still remain the 4th seed as a division winner over a wild card team.
- The Panthers are ahead of the Eagles thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker.
- The Eagles are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker. They play each other again in Week 17.
- The Redskins beat the Panthers earlier this year, but their loss to Philadelphia within their own division negates that tiebreaker.
In truth, there's not much intrigue left for the Cowboys in this regular season. One win gives them the NFC East, and it would take the Saints or Rams dropping all three of their remaining games for Dallas to have a shot at a top-two seed.
So, barring the nearly impossible, Dallas is locked into either the 3rd or 4th seed. They will host one of the Wild Card teams in the first round of the playoffs.
The biggest thing to watch now is how the seeding shakes among the bottom four playoff teams. The Seahawks seem a cut above the likes of Minnesota, Carolina, or one of our NFC East friends, so avoiding them in the first round would be lovely.
Here are this week's games involving the NFC playoff contenders:
Dallas Cowboys @ Indianapolis Colts
We've already discussed what the Cowboys need to do, so let's talk about the Colts. Not only do they have home field advantage this week, but they are fighting for their playoff lives.
Indianapolis is one of four teams with a 7-6 record battling for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs. The Broncos are also in the mix at 6-7, giving none of these teams any cushion for losing.
Dallas has its own incentive to win, though. If they want to avoid Seattle in the first round, they probably need to take the #3 seed from the Chicago Bears. They need to keep winning and hope for the Bears to drop a game or two.
Ultimately, getting into the playoffs and starting at home is a huge reward. But anything that can help make the road a little easier is worth pursuing. It's no time to rest on your laurels.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
As we just discussed, we'd like to see Chicago drop a few games to give Dallas a shot at the #3 seed. This week isn't the worst opportunity, with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay still not completely eliminated from playoff contention.
Expecting much from the Packers here is unwise. They've had a coaching change and appear to be in a state of organizational disarray. But they still have Rodgers, and crazy things always happens in rivalry games.
So while these are two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, you never know what could happen given the variable elements. By all means, root for the Cheeseheads.
Miami Dolphins @ Minnesota Vikings
Your rooting interest here comes down to a simple question; who do you prefer to play among that last bunch of Wild Card teams? Who does Dallas match up best against between the Vikings, Panthers, and Eagles?
I think we'd all agree that we don't want to see the Eagles a third time. Beating a team three times in one year is tough to do, and especially given how close last week's meeting was.
The Panthers beat Dallas in the season opener, but that was in Carolina and well before the Cowboys were playing at a high level. A second meeting could go very differently, especially with the recent slumping by the Panthers.
Both Carolina and Minnesota are struggling, with one on a five-game losing streak and the latter having lost their last two. The Vikings just fired their offensive coordinator, so neither of these teams appear to be going into the postseason with any real momentum.
At this point, I'd say it's a toss-up between the Panthers and Vikings. Both are much preferable to seeing the Eagles again, so I would just keep rooting for both to win. In either case, they knock out Philadelphia.
We'll reassess the threat level of Carolina and Minnesota as playoff opponents in a few weeks.
Washington Redskins @ Jacksonville Jaguars
I didn't mention the Redskins among those last three teams because they may not win another game this year. Their QB situation is so bad that even the Jaguars look good by comparison.
Granted, Jacksonville is lousy right now. Washington might be able to go down there and get a win, but neither team has anything to play for now. This one may come down to whether or not the Jaguars have gone into tank mode.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Seattle just walloped the Niners 43-16 a couple of weeks ago, and changing venues is unlikely to make that much difference. The Seahawks are a legit NFC contender and San Francisco is already thinking about the offseason. A Seattle loss would be great, but it ain't happening this week.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams
While catching the Rams and getting a top-two seed would be great, it's barely plausible. The far more concrete benefit here is seeing the Eagles lose and getting them further away from a possible Wild Card spot.
In fact, an Eagles' loss this week would give Dallas the NFC East even if the Cowboys fall in Indianapolis. That's not the way we want to win the division, but you take what you can get.
With the breaking news that Carson Wentz is unlikely to play this week with a back injury, you'd generally think this suits the Cowboys' interests. But Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is still the backup in Philadelphia, so is anything really for certain?
New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
We have every reason to root for Carolina here. For one, it helps the Panthers stay ahead of the Eagles in the Wild Card race. Also, it brings the Saints one loss closer to possibly being caught by Dallas. A Saints win doesn't really benefit us all.
Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess
The Dallas Cowboys came away with a huge win against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles, putting them in a commanding position in the NFC East. They're up two games in the division and one of the more underrated story lines from the victory is Ezekiel Elliott's game. He had a huge day that no one is talking about.
Elliott had 28 carries for 113 yards and then caught 12 passes on 13 targets en route to his big performance in the 29-23 win over the Eagles. That's probably the quietest 40 touch, 192 total yard game you'll ever hear about. And yet, that's where we are. Please read that stat line again, because in all of our talk about Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and the defense, Ezekiel Elliott's stat line is absolutely ridiculous.
The receiving element that Elliott is providing the biggest difference to the offense this season. He's been a huge asset to Dak Prescott in the passing game as both a primary target and a check down option in the short part of the field. If Elliott isn't showing that he's the best running back in the league, with what he's doing with a broke down offensive line, then people will never give him the credit he's due.
For the last three years, the Dallas Cowboys and their fan base has known what an elite player the Cowboys have in Elliott. He's easily one of the best runners in the NFL, but if you talk to the general NFL fanbase or analysts around the league, Elliott doesn't get the same kind of love as players like Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell receive from the national media. The knock against Elliott has been that he doesn't bring the same value as a receiver. With what he has done over the last six weeks, and really all season long, it's safe to say, that won't be a knock against the Cowboys All-Pro running back.
Among running backs this season, Ezekiel Elliott ranks sixth in targets (77), fifth in receptions (65). seventh in yards (502), and is tied for 12th in receiving touchdowns with three. Elliott is the seventh highest rated running back when targeted among running backs with at least 50 targets this season.
Over the last six weeks, since the Amari Cooper trade, only Christian McCaffrey has more targets, receptions, and yards than Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott's previous career high was in 2016 when he caught 32 passes on 39 targets. With three games left in the season, Elliott has more than doubled his previous career high from that season. Over the last six weeks, he's caught 40 passes with an average of 6.7 receptions per game.
Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best total yardage season in the NFL. If he continues at his current per game averages, Elliott would finish the season with 330 carries for 1,553 rushing yards, 80 catches on 100 targets for 618 yards and 10 total touchdowns. He's been great this year, but he's been even better over the last six games. At his per game averages for the last six games, over a 16 game season, Elliott's numbers would look like this; 363 carries for 1,715 yards rushing, 107 receptions on 120 targets for 872 yards, and 13 total touchdowns.
It's rare that Ezekiel Elliott has a game like he did on Sunday and it goes largely unnoticed by Cowboys Nation, but that's just how tremendous Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were. In a game where the Cowboys got big games and big plays through the passing game, it was Elliott's steadiness that held things together and helped sustain drives like the fourth and one conversion in overtime. Even with Amari Cooper elevating his game since coming to the Cowboys, there's no question that Ezekiel Elliott is the Cowboys best skill position player. Expect more big games for Elliott as the Cowboys continue to "Feed Zeke."
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