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NFC East And Plan IV: The Dream Lives On, Moving On To Phase II

RJ Ochoa

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NFC East Blog - NFC East And Plan IV: The Dream Lives On, Moving On To Phase II

A few summers ago I vacationed in the Denver, Colorado area.

My first day in the Mile High City was quite an eventful one.

I had to drive to the airport in my home city, fly to Denver, take a shuttle from the airport to the hotel, and what was the first item of suggestion upon my arrival (while beginning to deal with the high altitude)?

"Let's go white water rafting!"

I'm an easy-going guy so I went along with it. Plus it sounded cool to say that I conquered land, air, and sea all in one day. If you've never been white water rafting then let me tell you... it's quite the chore.

You have to put on an enormous amount of equipment and listen to a lecture of instructions before you even hit the water. When it's your first day in the climate it can all be a little overwhelming, either that or the altitude was starting to affect me.

After signing forms, putting on the uniform, and grabbing a powerbar we hopped in the boat with our instructor. He had very specific instructions as to how we were going to proceed with every process of this whole excursion.

"When I say, 'Forward one' I want you guys to all paddle one stroke. 'Forward two' means two strokes, so on and so forth."

One stroke here. Two strokes there. Another stroke. And another. This dude had us doing more strokes than Michael Phelps!

This process went on for the whole ride, but hey... we survived! I can still hear him shouting how many paddles to go when it rains sometimes...

With Week 13 officially in the books, let's all grab our paddles and give Plan IV a nice...

Forward one.

Congratulations! We survived Phase I of Plan IV!

Here are the current standings in the NFC East through Week 13:

Overall Record Division Record
Washington Redskins 5-7 2-2
Philadelphia Eagles 5-7 2-2
New York Giants 5-7 2-3
Dallas Cowboys 4-8 3-2

If you have no clue what in the world I'm talking about then I highly recommend reading Plan IV in its entirety so that you can be caught up with the rest of the class. Got it? Good.

Over the last month and a half or so I've put together different "plans" that basically serve as a what-to-root-for-to-win-the-NFC-East guide for Cowboys fans. After three versions were tossed aside, Plan IV has given us something to smile about.

Phase I

During Week 13 the Cowboys caught a huge break when the New York Jets took down their stadium-sharing buddies, the New York Giants.

I know, I know... the Eagles beat the Patriots. As shocking as that is, it really did not affect Phase I of Plan IV. Here's why:

Phase I was predicated on one simple thing... the Cowboys beating the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football and climbing to four wins. Obviously if we did that we'd keep the Redskins at bay with five wins, but the Giants were already sitting on five. We needed to keep them there and we did. That was the whole purpose of Phase I.

The Eagles entered their game against the Patriots with four wins to their name so while it would have been preferable to have them sit at four with us, the leader in this race is at five... there's just three of them there now as opposed to two. It's all going to be ok, though. I'll explain in a bit.

Phase II

Here's what we've got going on this week:

  • The Philadelphia Eagles host the Buffalo Bills.
  • The Washington Redskins travel to Chicago to take on the Bears.
  • The Dallas Cowboys travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers.
  • The New York Giants travel to Miami to play the Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that we want all three division rivals to lose and for the Cowboys to win, but we need to be realistic here.

In Plan IV I predicted that both the Redskins and Giants would win their Week 14 games while Philly would lose theirs. Let's assume that happens.

I also predicted a win for the Cowboys at the holy cathedral of professional football - Lambeau Field. I felt confident in this a week ago and feel even stronger about it now.

The Packers struggled on Thursday Night Football against the Detroit Lions and if not for a fluky facemask call and amazing hail mary... they'd have just lost four out of their last five. They're susceptible. And we're hot.

So say we pull off the win. Say Washington and New York do as well. Say DeMarco Murray continues to whine about his carries and Philly doesn't. We'd still be a game behind the Redskins and Giants. Relax.

Looking Forward: Phases III, IV, And V

We're not going to get too far ahead of ourselves here because we're only in Phase II, but here's what's in store for the NFC East in Phase III:

  • The Philadelphia Eagles host the Arizona Cardinals.
  • The Washington Redskins host the Buffalo Bills.
  • The Dallas Cowboys host the New York Jets.
  • The New York Giants host the Carolina Panthers.

That's a pretty tall order for everyone in the division. You can reference Plan IV for how I think those games will fall, but the place where things are going to get really interesting is Phases IV and V of Plan IV.

Between the last two weeks of the 2015 season the Redskins will play the Eagles and us while the Giants and Eagles will also square off. Assuming a win for the Cowboys over Washington in the season finale, there are two other NFC East games going on here... that's two losses that we have to hand out.

Phases II and III are going to determine where exactly we want those losses to fall in the final weeks of this season, but we need to be patient.

Phase I went over pretty well all things considered and if we can climb out of Week 14/Phase II with another win beneath our wings then we will enter the final Phase of non-division games with a lot of momentum and more potential options down the road.


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How optimistic are you about Phase II? Comment below, Email me your thoughts at Roel.Ochoa.Jr@Gmail.com, or Tweet to me @rjochoa!

Tell us what you think about "NFC East And Plan IV: The Dream Lives On, Moving On To Phase II" 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!

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.

Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.

Cambios de Coach

A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.

A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.

Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?

El Draft

A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.

A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.

En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.

Decisiones difíciles

La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.

Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.

Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.

No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración" 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

Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.

Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.

Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.

Here's why those people are wrong.

Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.

Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).

Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.

There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.

Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.

Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.

Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.

Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.

And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.



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Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.

It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.

Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.

Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.

Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.

Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating

As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.

Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Now, he just has to go out and prove it!

Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?



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