The Dallas Cowboys finished the regular season with the best record in the NFC, which means they get home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and also get a bye week this weekend. One of the benefits of having the bye week during the playoffs is the fact that it allows teams to get healthier, which is something the Cowboys are taking advantage of at the moment, that for sure changes the odds in most US top sportsbooks. Morris Claiborne and La'el Collins, who have missed some time dealing with injuries, are expected to be back at practice and should be able to play next week.
The bye week also gives players like Jonathan Cooper, who recently signed with the team, extra time to learn the team’s playbook since Randy Gregory has been suspended for a year by the NFL.
The extra week also gives the Cowboys more time to prepare for their opponents, which will be either the Detroit Lions, New York Giants, or the Green Bay Packers. So which one of these three opponents do the Cowboys stack up best against?
New York Giants
This might be the one team the Cowboys do not want to meet in the playoffs after losing two regular season match-ups between the NFC East rivals. The Giants' defense was able to stifle the Cowboys’ offense and with Jason Pierre-Paul expected back in the lineup, things will be even more difficult for Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense.
Despite losing two games to the Giants, the Cowboys are confident they can defeat their rivals because both games they played were close and could have gone either way. Despite the team’s confidence, it is safe to say they would rather not play New York if they had a choice.
Cowboys fans will likely love to play the Lions the most after the beat down Dallas put on them during the regular season. Quarterback Matthew Stafford hasn’t been the same since he injured his finger and his team limped into the playoffs, losing their final three games. However, it is unlikely the Cowboys will get to play the Lions, who travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks this weekend.
Green Bay Packers
The Cowboys defeated the Packers convincingly on the road, which normally would make any team confident about their chances in a rematch. However, the Packers lost that game while they were in the middle of a four game losing streak and weren’t playing very well at the time.
At the end of the season, the Packers were one of the hottest teams in the NFL, reeling off six consecutive wins to clinch their division and a playoff berth, which makes them one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs.
Since the Cowboys won the NFC, they won’t have to travel to Lambeau Field this time around, which makes a big difference. But, since they will be going up against Aaron Rodgers, who threw 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions during the six-game winning streak, there are no guarantees they will defeat the Packers if they meet again.
Cowboys DE Dorance Armstrong Could Be Needed Quickly
The Dallas Cowboys are stronger at defensive end than they've been in some time, but they still lack a specific type of pass rusher. Rookie Dorance Armstrong may be able to fill that role, giving him an early opportunity to contribute that many mid-round rookies can't find.
While DeMarcus Lawrence has become a beast and Taco Charlton is expected to do more as a second-year player, they are both better suited to play on the left side. It is that right side DE, the athletic type who can take on NFL left tackle, that the Cowboys haven't had since DeMarcus Ware left.
It was supposed to be Randy Gregory, but we all know the issues he's dealt with the last three years. His reinstatement request to the league is expected to go through, but even then we can't be sure the type of player he will be.
If Gregory isn't still the talent that Dallas hoped for in 2015, the next man up just might be Armstrong. He is a raw talent, still undersized for consistent NFL defensive end work, but he has the natural agility and style of play that best suits the weak-side rusher.
Veteran Kony Ealy is more like Lawrence and Charlton, bigger and more suited from the strong side. Another option, Charles Tapper, has yet to prove he can get through a single game without injury.
Rookies have not had a hard time finding early work in Dallas lately.
Obviously, it didn't take Quarterback Dak Prescott long to make an immediate impact. We've also seen the same from Cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown, Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins, and Safety Xavier Woods.
With the difficulties that guys like Gregory and Tapper may have getting back into football shape, Armstrong could have a leg up in training camp. The Cowboys won't hesitate to give him the work if he's the best man for the job, regardless of draft status or tenure.
These new look, new era Dallas Cowboys are all about meritocracy, so Dorance Armstrong could rise quickly if he performs. It would make for a nice immediate return on a fourth-round pick.
CB Jourdan Lewis Addresses “All Or Nothing” Scene With Dez Bryant
When the newest season of Amazon's All or Nothing featuring the Dallas Cowboys came out, people immediately were drawn to one scene in particular.
That scene featured then veteran Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis, as they battled it out all day in practice. Lewis and Bryant were in each others ears, as Lewis wanted to make it known to Bryant that he isn't the same type of corner he's used to seeing in practice.
Jourdan Lewis was asked to give his side of the story recently, and DallasCowboys.com recorded his response. The following video is courtesy of "Ed It Channel" on YouTube.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Lewis addressed rumors that the rivalry was "fake" or staged due to the fact that Bryant knew that Lewis was mic'ed up. He says that the competition was organic, and that when put on the field with each other their competition improved both of their play.
Dez Bryant is gone now, but hopefully the Cowboys will be able to replace that competitiveness on the practice field and allow for tempers to flare from time to time.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott Embraces Lack of No. 1 Wide Receiver
As I wrote exactly a week ago, in discussion of maligned Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Terrance Williams:
"...this won't be the first look we have at the status of the Cowboys receivers. I'm already on record having high expectations for Michael Gallup, and believe Cedrick Wilson was one of the steals of the draft for the Cowboys in the sixth round. The unproven nature of this pass catching unit (through to TE with rookie Dalton Schultz) is going to make for fascinating training camp battles, competing for spots in an offense that could still be one of the league's best".
Here we are again, with an emerging leadership voice of the Cowboys speaking about his wide receivers. Dak Prescott told Pro Football Talk that he, "doesn't know if any team in the league necessarily needs a No. 1 receiver".
This is a bold statement from a third-year quarterback that's already told Cowboys Nation this offseason that he wants to be the best to ever play for the franchise. Beginning the journey towards becoming a Cowboys legend must start with Prescott securing his status as the Cowboys franchise QB in 2018 - by throwing to Williams, Michael Gallup, Cole Beasley, Cedrick Wilson, and Allen Hurns.
This will be no easy task for Prescott, but the Cowboys have never wavered in their commitment to building this team around him. Left with no choice on personnel decisions like Jason Witten's retirement, the Cowboys are well-prepared to also deal with the loss of Dez Bryant.
If they weren't, Bryant would still be in Dallas, and as it stands now he remains a free agent. New to the Cowboys offense is not only Gallup, Wilson, and Hurns but also Tavon Austin as a pass-catching running back.
Strength in numbers must be the message for the Cowboys offense this season. Relying heavily on Ezekiel Elliott and a punishing offensive line will be what keeps opposing defensive coordinators up at night, but so too must be the diverse nature of how the Cowboys can line up on the outside.
Allowing Prescott to serve as a "point guard" like QB could lead to the Cowboys turning plenty of heads with their all-around play in 2018. Anybody writing them off simply because of unproven wide receivers lacks a complete understanding of the roster and how Scott Linehan plans to change his offense.
Sure, it's possible that Linehan fails to prove himself as a play caller worthy of the talent the Cowboys possess on offense - but the talent is there. In Prescott's rookie year, Cole Beasley emerged as his go-to receiver, only to regress in 2017.
With the Cowboys shipping Ryan Switzer to Oakland during the draft, Beasley has a clear path back towards developing this chemistry with Prescott out of the slot. The same should go for Allen Hurns, despite arriving in Dallas as a free agent this year.
Hurns has talked about holding himself to a high standard, despite joining the Cowboys to play with Dez Bryant initially.
"I felt it was a big opportunity to come to Dallas to play with Dez. But with him not being here, it’s a bigger opportunity. It's a matter of me making the most of the opportunity"
Plenty of Cowboys receivers will have a chance to make the most of the opportunity to play in this offense. Hurns' spot as an outside starter feels safe, as he could be the big "No. 1" target Prescott needs to either find in the red zone or distribute the ball elsewhere.
The amount of change the Dallas Cowboys have gone through since drafting Dak Prescott is a cruel reminder of how difficult reaching the pinnacle of sports can be. The Cowboys biggest challenge to reach the playoffs again in 2018?
Silence the doubt that a declining Dez Bryant no longer being with the team will derail the efforts of this deep and eager-to-compete WRs room.
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