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When the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants officially begin play this Sunday Night on Sunday Night Football, a few things need to be considered:
- With a victory the Cowboys will secure the 2016 NFC East Championship.
- If this victory is compounded with a loss by Detroit or Seattle, the Cowboys will secure a First-Round Bye as well.
- If this victory is compounded with a loss by Detroit and Seattle, the Cowboys will secure Home-Field Advantage through the NFC Playoffs.
There is one more thing that will be true on Sunday Night that you need to be aware of... January 14th, 2017 will be 34 days away.
Why Is January 14th, 2017 Important?
What's going on 14 days into the New Year, you ask? Well that likely-cloudy day is the Saturday that the 2016 Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs begins (two games are played Saturday, the other two the next-day Sunday).
Why is this important, RJ? I'm focused on RIGHT NOW. Giants on Sunday Night, it's Christmas season, life is good... what does the Divisional Round have to do with NOW?
If the Dallas Cowboys do in fact clinch everything that a team can in regards to the playoffs this Sunday Night, that means that they will be playing consequence-free football for 34 days. This stretch includes games against Tampa Bay, those very Lions, in Philadelphia, and a week of rest during the Wild Card Round. Do we really want to go that long? 34 days?!
Could The Cowboys Keep Up "Momentum" For 34 Days With Nothing On The Line?
This is why sports are awesome... because we get to talk about things like this.
It would no doubt be a tall order for the impending Coach of the Year in Jason Garrett to keep his Dallas Cowboys locked in for over a month. It would be a tall order for any coach. It certainly would help the cause that Dallas would be playing Tampa Bay and Detroit - both of whom are playoff teams through Week 13 - and that one of the two could come trotting through AT&T Stadium when it really matters in January, but would that be enough to keep everyone focused?
There is zero, and I mean absolutely zero, reason to doubt Jason Garrett at this point as far as our Cowboys are concerned. He has made it abundantly clear that he knows what he's doing and is capable of winning a ton of football games (like 11 in a row, ya know?).
How Do Teams In A Situation Like The "34 Days Conundrum" Typically Fare?
After combing through teams in similar sets of circumstances that the 2016 Dallas Cowboys currently find themselves in, I kept coming back to one team who has seemingly lived this life before - The 2009 Indianapolis Colts.
What's pretty neat is that those Colts scored 27 points in Week 2, 31 points in Week 3, and 35 points in Week 10... these Cowboys did just that this season. I know that's weird and random, but I liked it - and I'm driving this ship at the moment so, Huzzah.
Anyway, the truly interesting common denominator is that the Colts clinched Home-Field Advantage in the AFC after a Week 14 victory over the Denver Broncos. That game took place on December 13th, 2009 and the Colts' next consequence-carrying game wasn't until January 16th, 2010... 34 days later.
What Can We Do To Avoid The "34 Days Conundrum"?
At the end of the day, you want to win every game you play. That's common sense.
If the Lions and Seahawks both happen to lose and the Cowboys clinch... well, alright. Jason Garrett has shown that he can guide this team through multiple levels of adversity at various points across the season.
What we may want to consider though as Cowboys fans, is rooting for Detroit and/or Seattle this coming Sunday. Should one/both of them win then the Cowboys won't be playing "consequence-free" football for at least one week as any win between then and the end of the regular season would net Home-Field Advantage. What's ironic is that the Head Coach of the Detroit Lions who we're contemplating rooting for, Jim Caldwell, knows all about the "34 Days Conundrum" as he was also the Head Coach of the 2009 Indianapolis Colts that we referenced.
A "27 Day Conundrum" - which could be the case if this all gets postponed a week by Detroit and/or Seattle - isn't ideal either, but it at least numerically isn't as as daunting as 34. It would be silly though to "lose on purpose" simply to try and thread a ridiculous needle to go one way because we're scared of something. You play to win and you deal with what happens afterwards.
Though Promising, We Need To Relax About Safety Kavon Frazier
With the addition of former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard to the Cowboys' defensive coaching staff, fans are hoping that Dallas will create their own "Legion of Boom." Of course this is a lofty goal, but one worth pursuing nonetheless.
If the Cowboys are to recreate the Legion of Boom they will need their version of two vital pieces: Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
The Seahawks defense works, in many ways, because of these two players. Thomas' ability to play centerfield and literally defend sideline to sideline gives the Seahawks the freedom to use Chancellor where he's best, as a box safety. Chancellor is a big, physical safety who defends the run effectively in the box and can blanket tight ends in man coverage with his size and athleticism.
These safeties are arguably the most critical pieces to the Legion of Boom, though having a shutdown corner in Richard Sherman certainly doesn't hurt.
Realizing Chancellor's importance, Cowboys fans are hoping that current safety Kavon Frazier can fulfill this role in Dallas. Since being drafted by the Cowboys in 2016 Frazier has made his home on Special Teams. As an impressive tackler in both punt and kick coverage, Frazier earned himself time at safety down the stretch of the 2017 season.
All in all, Frazier played rather well. Against the Washington Redskins he stepped in and made a few splash plays at the line of scrimmage, causing Cowboys Nation to lose their minds. After that impressive Thursday night game, however, Kavon Frazier didn't really reach that same level of performance.
Frazier is still a liability when asked to cover, especially when asked to play as a two deep safety. He also struggles when taking angles at times, though playing downhill as a tackler is his best attribute. Frazier actually reminds me a bit of Barry Church, though over time Church became more refined in coverage than Frazier currently is.
Some have argued that Kavon Frazier's presence should stop the Cowboys from considering a first round safety. I would disagree, and actually believe that if Florida State's Derwin James is available, the Cowboys should consider making that pick.
If you could combine the athleticism and coverage abilities of Byron Jones with the physicality and "box safety" qualities of Kavon Frazier, you'd have a fantastic safety. Unfortunately, this isn't the Marvel Universe and we are left without any super heroes in the back-end.
Hopefully Kris Richard will figure out how to correctly place all of these pieces in the Dallas Cowboys secondary going forward.
Maverick Carter: LeBron James Considered Cowboys During NBA Lockout
Maverick Carter is a pretty important man in the world of sports. As a business man, entrepreneur, and manager of one of the best basketball players of all time in LeBron James, Maverick Carter is certainly used to making headlines.
This week, while on former NFL running back Arian Foster's podcast "Now What? with Arian Foster," Carter claimed that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once attempted to negotiate a contract with LeBron James.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, Carter claims that Jones contacted LeBron James and discussed bringing him in as a Cowboy while the NBA was without games.
"Jerry Jones, being the smart marketer he is...one day out of the clear blue sky LeBron got a contract I think it was for like one year, a couple million bucks to play for the Dallas Cowboys." - Maverick Carter.
Carter then states that LeBron may have the paperwork framed in his house to remember these discussions with Jerry Jones. LeBron's fandom for the Cowboys has been well documented, as has been his high school football prowess.
We may never know how "real" these discussions were, and of course it is long over now, but just imagining LeBron James getting a chance to play for the Dallas Cowboys would break the internet.
You can check out the full episode of the podcast here, and I highly suggest listening to the other episodes Arian Foster has to offer.
Cowboys Will Tag DeMarcus Lawrence; What’s the Plan?
February 20 is an important day for NFL clubs this year. Why? It's the first day in which teams can franchise tag any player. Since 2015, when the Dallas Cowboys tagged Dez Bryant before they were able to work out a long-term deal, Jerry Jones & Co. haven't used the franchise tag. In 2018, though, that will change.
DeMarcus Lawrence just played his best season yet in 2017, and he's looking to get paid big time. Through three years, he had been able to rack up nine sacks, 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. In just 2017, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times, had 35 tackles and managed to force four fumbles.
Not only did Lawrence look like an elite pass rusher, but he also improved as a run defender a lot. The Cowboys have been looking for a "War Daddy" for a long, long time and Lawrence seems to be the answer for this football team.
After such a big year, one would expect the Cowboys to sign him to a multi-year enormous contract. But there's a catch. Lawrence failed to remain healthy early in his career and really didn't make as much of an impact until last season.
There's no question that D-Law will be wearing a star come the 2018 NFL season, but will he be doing it under a long-term deal or under a franchise tag?
Cowboys will not place franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence tomorrow as that window opens but will do so by March 6 w/ understanding the goal is to reach a long-term deal. Both sides have until July 16 to make that happen.
For now, according to David Moore from Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys will franchise tag Lawrence with the objective of getting a deal done in July. The tag however, is not expected to be placed as soon as possible.
In 2015, the Cowboys didn't place the franchise tag on Dez Bryant until the final deadline day. This year's deadline is March 6th, so it may be two weeks before they make it official with DeMarcus Lawrence. #CowboysNation #DallasCowboys
What would franchise tagging DeMarcus Lawrence mean for this team?
First of all, they'd make sure he doesn't hit free agency in March. This gives the front office time to get to work and restructure players' contracts if they have to in order to open up as much cap space as they can before giving him a deal.
It's worth mentioning as well, cap savings from players who are designated as post-June 1 cuts will already be available. If you want to be more familiarized with the Cowboys' cap situation, I highly recommend you read John Williams' deep dive on the matter.
It'll continue to be a very interesting story for this offseason, as handing a franchise tag to a player tends to become a non-friendly situation for both parties. Let's hope that's not the case for the Cowboys and Lawrence this year and that everything works out fine.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue updating you and the rest of Cowboys Nation throughout the offseason.
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