We've looked at every position across the board for the Cowboys' loaded offense in this Playoff Primer series so far, and now it is time to talk about the most important position - the quarterbacks.
The story of the Cowboys' quarterbacks in 2016 has been unprecedented, as Dallas will remarkably enter the postseason with the league's best quarterback situation.
New year, new quarterback situation. It is time for Playoff Primer - the quarterback edition!
In a week 6 meeting against the Green Bay Packers on the road, Prescott completed 18 passes on 27 attempts for 247 yards. He did throw his first career interception against the team he will now face in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, but Prescott got the win behind two scoring passes to Cole Beasley and another to Brice Butler.
So here we are as Cowboys Nation with this earth-shattering rookie as our quarterback in the playoffs.
Dak Prescott is the first rookie QB to lead his team into the playoffs as the starter since a trio of first-year signal callers in 2012. While Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck were first round picks with high expectations, Russell Wilson's rookie season had a similar feel to Prescott's - as he stayed within himself to bring an immensely talented team to the big dance.
The biggest difference between the 2012 Seahawks and the 2016 Cowboys is this though. The best overall unit on Seattle was their defense, which kept Wilson from having to "save the day" too often. Dallas' biggest strength is Dak Prescott's offense, and he has executed it for Scott Linehan almost perfectly.
The playoffs should be no different, as I fully expect Prescott to remain the cool, calm, collected, and poised quarterback that has distributed the ball to his targets on high-percentage throws all season long.
The story of whatever team comes out of the NFC is going to be written through their quarterback, and the big throws that will decide close games. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, or Dak Prescott is going to represent this conference in the Super Bowl. When you stack up Prescott with these other experienced QBs, his task may seem daunting, but we said the same when he was charged with the task of simply keeping the Cowboys relevant until Tony Romo was healthy.
Dak Prescott benched Tony Romo by going on to win 13 games, and his rookie campaign isn't over yet. No truly intimidating passing defenses remain in his way, and his cast of play makers' desire to step up for him will be at an all time high.
Ah yes, Tony Romo. The best thing Romo could have done for the Cowboys this season was give the speech he did to "concede" the starting QB job in full to Prescott before a week 11 home game against the Ravens.
Sure, it hurt to watch, and I even had a professor make me watch it in the middle of a classroom while wearing Romo's jersey, but nothing can keep Cowboys fans down when America's Team is 13-3, which they are thanks in large part to Prescott.
It certainly was amazing to see Romo execute a flawless touchdown drive in the season finale against the Eagles, which reassured a fact that many already believed - Tony Romo is without a doubt the best backup quarterback in the NFL.
If he is needed this postseason, emotions are going to be running wild. Either Dak Prescott was injured or wildly ineffective, or maybe Romo is taking a snap in victory formation in front of a rowdy silver and blue crowd.
Whatever the situation may be, we know that Jason Garrett potentially has a lottery ticket in the QB that largely deserves a ton of credit for making him the coach he is today. Tony Romo can take this Dallas Cowboys team to the Super Bowl.
Your backup quarterback probably can't? We cannot relate.
Mark Sanchez cannot take the Dallas Cowboys to the Super Bowl. Simply put, we do not want to see Mark Sanchez take any real snaps this postseason. Sanchez's most recent action against the Eagles - albeit behind a backup offensive line - was a painful reminder of what happened to the Cowboys' offense in 2015 with backups that were simply not up to speed with the scheme.
Dak Prescott is the perfect blend between a scheme fit for Dallas, and a quarterback that has also changed this team's scheme to his strengths for the better. Tony Romo is Dallas' offensive scheme. Mark Sanchez is just a guy hoping to get a Super Bowl ring, far removed from the signal caller that led the New York Jets to consecutive AFC Championship games in his first two seasons.
If #3 is playing in the next few weeks, the Dallas Cowboys won't be winning three 2016 playoff games.
It is game week here at Inside The Star! The Cowboys host the Packers with a trip to the NFC Championship Game on the line this Sunday.
To get Cowboys Nation ready, I'll be shifting this Playoff Primer series over to the defense throughout the week.
Jaguars Waive Barry Church; Could Cowboys Bring Him Back?
Veteran safety Barry Church was released today by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Could he return home to the Dallas Cowboys, where he spent his first seven seasons?
Despite his leadership and consistency on defense, Dallas allowed Church to leave in free agency when Jacksonville gave him a lucrative deal. But if he clears waivers, could the Cowboys consider bring him back for depth and support during their likely playoff run?
Jane Slater of the NFL Network reported on this potential reunion:
Cowboys haven't reached out to S Barry Church but I'm told they are discussing the possibility of bringing him back to Dallas according to a source informed. Church, 30, was released by the Jags today and is familiar with the system having played there from 2010-2016.
The Cowboys have had solid play from their current starting safeties, Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. Neither is a star, but the duo has not been a liability during the team's current five-game winning streak.
Church was a similar player, reliable if never exceptional, during his time in Dallas. He could be a nice insurance policy for the playoffs if something happened to one of the starters.
Barry knows the system. He never played for Kris Richard, but he was with Rod Marinelli for three seasons before leaving in free agency.
According to reports out of Jacksonville, Church is being released because the team wants to go with younger, cheaper players now that their season is over. There is no known injury keeping Barry from playing.
Of course, Dallas would have to make room on the roster to pick Church up. They could third-year prospect Darian Thompson, who is the current fourth man at safety.
Barry Church must now go through the 24-hour waiver process. A team may claim him, including the Cowboys. We'll see what the future holds.
How the Dallas Cowboys Can Win the NFC East This Week
It's only Week 15, but the Dallas Cowboys could become the 2018 NFC East Champions this week through a couple of scenarios. I thought we'd take a moment today to break down how the Boys can win their division and assure their spot in the playoffs.
With three weeks left in the regular season, most of the divisional games have already been played. The only two left to play are the Week 17 finales; Cowboys at Giants and Eagles at Redskins.
Here are the current standings:
- Dallas Cowboys 8-5 (4-1 in division)
- Philadelphia Eagles 6-7 (3-2 in division)
- Washington Redskins 6-7 (2-3 in division)
- New York Giants 5-8 (1-4 in division)
The Giants have been scrappy lately, winning four of their last five, but it's too late for them to try to win the division. Even if the Cowboys were to fall to 8-8, the best New York could do is tie them in overall record. They would have also split their head-to-head series, negating that tiebreaker.
At that point, it would come down to the record within the division. New York would improve to 2-4 with a win over Dallas in Week 17, but the Cowboys would still be 4-2 against the NFC East. Dallas would still be the division champion.
So, that knocks out New York. Technically, the Eagles and Redskins are still alive. But their margin is about as slim as it gets.
Both Philadelphia and Washington need the Cowboys to lose their last three games, and then to also win out themselves, to steal the NFC East crown.
For the Redskins, it's about their record against division opponents. The best they can finish is 3-3, assuming they'd win their last game against the Eagles. With the head-to-head series against Dallas split this year, they would have to finish 9-7 overall and have the Cowboys drop to 8-8 to become NFC East Champions.
The Eagles also need to finish one game ahead of Dallas, but for a different reason. Philadelphia lost both their games with the Cowboys this year, so Dallas has the head-to-head tiebreaker.
So that really makes thing simple for Dallas; win just one of your last three games and you're the division champion.
Not only that, but even if Dallas were to fall this week against the Indianapolis Colts, they could still clinch the division with losses by the Eagles (@ Rams) and Redskins (@ Jaguars).
It would certainly behoove the Cowboys to get the division locked up now. They could then use the last two weeks of the season to get ready for the playoffs.
Dallas would have the freedom rest banged up players like Ezekiel Elliott and Zack Martin. It would also allow them to work in returning players such as Sean Lee and Tavon Austin and figure out their new rotations without pressure to win.
Beating the Colts on Sunday isn't a given; they're at home and desperate to stay alive in the AFC playoff picture. They are the toughest opponent Dallas has left until January.
But despite that, with the Eagles facing a juggernaut team and Washington trying to play football without a quarterback, there's a great chance that the Cowboys will be the NFC East Champions by Sunday night.
#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone
In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.
This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.
In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.
For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.
I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.
Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.
Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Should Cowboys Address TE Injuries and Inexperience With This FA?
Star Blog1 week ago
Why is Jerry Jones “keeping a very close eye” on the Kareem Hunt Case?
Player News2 weeks ago
Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch a Dominant Defensive Duo
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Will Kris Richard’s Success End Jason Garrett’s Era in Dallas?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
David Irving’s Return Could Make Cowboys’ Defense Even Scarier
Player News2 weeks ago
Cowboys Reinforcements on the Way, How Should Dallas Deploy Them?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Randy Gregory Is Looking Like We Always Thought He Could
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Wide Receiver Michael Gallup Making a Huge Impact for Dallas Cowboys