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Understanding The Cowboys Week 14 Clinching Scenarios And What To Root For

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Headlines - Understanding The Cowboys Week 14 Clinching Scenarios And What To Root For 1

Happy #VictoryPoloMonday, Inside The Star Family!

This feels weird because the Dallas Cowboys didn't play a game on the Sunday of Week 13, but they were nevertheless victorious. In case you haven't heard - the Dallas Cowboys clinched a playoff berth on Sunday!

It's a ridiculously awesome life when the calendar reads December 5th, but your ticket to the dance has already been purchased. What about our suit, though? We need to go get measured. We also need to look into getting that limo to get us to this dance... we need to discuss all the other potential perks that come with being a playoff team!

Cowboys Headlines - Understanding The Cowboys Week 14 Clinching Scenarios And What To Root For

When November began I wrote here at Inside The Star that the Dallas Cowboys would be in an NFC East win-and-clinch situation entering the New York Giants game on December 11th. Here we are, a playoff berth in hand, and we want more.

Last week we detailed all the playoff-clinching scenarios for you, and that's why we're here today... It's time for an update! The most relevant non-Cowboys team as far as the NFC East goes is the New York Giants, and the most-watched teams across the conference for our sakes are the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions.

The Cowboys have opportunities to clinch both a First-Round Bye AND Home-Field Advantage this season, it's a wonderful world. Sit back, grab a cup of coffee (I like mine with two sugars and one cream, please), and start planning.

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How The Cowboys Can Clinch The NFC East

This is pretty simple at this point, but it's fun to talk about how dominating we are so we'll do it briefly. The Cowboys have a 3-win lead on the next closest division rival, the New York Giants. In order to win the NFC East the Cowboys need:

  • A Win In New York On Sunday: A win on Sunday would give the Cowboys 12 victories and hold the Giants at 8. There are only three left afterwards. Yay math.
  • IF The Giants Win On Sunday: The Cowboys have more room for error concerning Sunday's game in New York thanks to the Steelers beating the Giants this past Sunday. If the G-Men managed to sweep Dallas, the Cowboys could still clinch the NFC East fairly easily. They'd simply need to win one game, any game, and have the Giants lose one.

At this point the Giants need a miracle to win the NFC East. The only way they could is if the Cowboys only win one game from here on out, that game not being the one in New York, and the Giants would have to win out. Buh-bye.

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How The Cowboys Can Clinch A First-Round Bye

It's Christmas time so I hear those sleigh bells jingling and ring-ting-ting-a-ling, but I want to enjoy Christmas with the peace of mind that my Cowboys are going to get a week of rest at the culmination of the regular season. Here are the ways the Cowboys can secure a First-Round Bye:

  • Win In New York On Sunday + Detroit OR Seattle Loss (Any Loss): It goes without saying that the Cowboys have to win the division in order to get a bye, but in case you didn't know there you are. A NYG win would net the division and take care of that, and a loss by Detroit or Seattle would mean that whoever lost stayed at 8 wins while the Cowboys coasted to 12 with only three to go. If the Detroit or Seattle loss we need came a week later, that'd be fine. It would mean that whoever did lose that game (Detroit or Seattle) would not mathematically be able to hit 12 wins, and since the Cowboys would already have 12 all would be taken care of.
  • Win The Next Two Games AKA The Magic 13: The Cowboys are sitting on 11 wins as we speak, two more would give them The Magic 13. This number is magical because no other team in the NFC can achieve it. Should the Cowboys win their next two games they'll have secured the NFC East and a mark that is literally impossible for anyone else to reach.

Technically speaking the Cowboys could still miss out on a First-Round Bye if they lost out and both Seattle and Detroit won out. Obviously this is very unlikely for a squad that's won 11 games in a row, so it seems like those two teams will have to fight each other for the other bye.

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How The Cowboys Can Clinch Home-Field Advantage

Last week someone told me that we were getting ahead of ourselves talking about something like Home-Field Advantage so early.

When you have a playoff spot locked and loaded on December 5th, you can look wherever you want. The Cowboys have earned the right to look past some teams because we're amazing and they're not (those are the spark notes, sorry). Seriously though, it is not just possible but likely that the road to Super Bowl LI in Houston will also run in the state of Texas. Here's how the Cowboys can lock up Home-Field Advantage:

  • Win In New York On Sunday + Detroit AND Seattle Loss (Any Loss): This logic is easy to understand. A NYG win gives us the NFC East and 12 on the season, and losses by both the Lions and Seahawks keeps them at 8 with three to go. We'd be the top dog. Say the Lions (host Chicago) and Seahawks (visit Packers) both win on Sunday... no biggie. Both of those teams would have to win out in order to reach 12, if they both stumble even just once apiece then it's over.
  • Win In New York On Sunday + 1 More Win AKA The Magic 13: By now you've read me say a win in New York gives us the division, yay, but one more win might be necessary. Say the Lions and Seahawks actually did each win out (that would mean the Lions beat the Cowboys on Monday Night Football in Week 16, by the way). Then Dallas would have to beat either the Buccaneers (this game has been flexed to Sunday Night Footballby the way) or Eagles to give them 13 wins - no one else can reach 13.

It's pretty unlikely, but it is possible that when the Cowboys kick off in New York that they will be playing for: The NFC East, a First-Round Bye, and Home-Field Advantage. This is the scenario that sees Detroit and Seattle both losing in Week 14, but again it is unlikely. Either way the Cowboys are in a position where they have some serious control.

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What To Root For In Week 14 For The Cowboys Sake

By now you're a pro when it comes to what the Cowboys need to clinch this, that, and the other... but what about something else? There's always something else!

If you're looking really far down the road then you're already trying to organize who you want the Cowboys to be in the playoffs with. I've said many a time on OchoLive that I'm afraid of the Redskins (even though they lost to the Cardinals), but who are you afraid of? The current NFC Playoff Landscape has Dallas, Seattle, Detroit, and Atlanta as the division winners plus the Giants and Bucs as the wildcard teams. I like that mix of teams.

The Packers and Vikings technically still have life, but I've already mentally disregarded them. The only team that's on the outside-looking-in that is still relevant to me is in fact Washington. This can get spicy in the NFC South if Atlanta decides to drop a few and we could see Tampa Bay actually win it, Washington take the Wild Card back, and Atlanta drop out altogether. That trifecta is going to be fun to watch, but if you like the way things are right now here's what you need to root for in Week 14:

RJ Ochoa on Twitter

Cowboys Week 14 Guide: ▪️ Dallas beat NYG ⬜️ ▪️ Chicago beat DET ⬜️ ▪️ Green Bay beat SEA ⬜️ ▪️ Philly beat WASH ⬜️ ▪️ Tampa Bay beat NO ⬜️

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It was just over a month ago that we all got together here at Inside The Star and agreed that the Dallas Cowboys would be in division-clinching position on Sunday, December 11th.

Let's keep this party going. Huzzah.

How likely do you think any of these are? Let us know! Comment below, Email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!

Tell us what you think about "Understanding The Cowboys Week 14 Clinching Scenarios And What To Root For" 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!

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

The Dallas Cowboys are not only breathing in playoff contention, but they're now the favorites to crown themselves as the NFC East champions in 2018. It's pretty impressive how the tables can turn so quickly in the NFL. Dallas played very well against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday and we learned quite a bit from them as they bounced back to .500. Here's this week's Takeaway Tuesday! Enjoy it as much as you did Brett Maher's game winning field goal a couple of days ago.

Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

Despite taking steps in the right direction, it's impossible to compare this offense to units like the Chiefs, Saints and Rams. However, it's the Cowboys' defense that could be labeled as a championship unit. Facing an offense with such a strong WR core, allowing only one touchdown on the road is impressive.

The Cowboys sacked Matt Ryan three times and were constantly causing pressures. Byron Jones was great once again, allowing only two catches in passes thrown in his direction. And of course, the kid who's been impressing us all, Leighton Vander Esch continued to play out of his mind. He should be the Defensive Rookie of the Year front runner at this point.

The Cowboys' defense is one of the best in the NFL right now, and any offense will have a tough time facing them. It'll be intriguing to see if they can take the next step and stop a high-powered unit like the Saints in a few days.

Offensive Line Woes Are Gone

The offense has improved a lot the last couple of games. Although there is still a lot to work on, they're not struggling as they were in the first half of the season. The offensive line is a huge part of this. With Marc Colombo at OL coach, things have looked very different in Dallas.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Ezekiel Elliott: "I feel great. I feel fast. I feel physical. I feel very comfortable with the running schemes. We just got to keep rolling. That's what's important. We just got to keep rolling.

Ezekiel Elliott has been on a roll the past two weeks and his comments regarding how he feels about the running schemes shouldn't go unnoticed. The offensive line wasn't playing as well as they are right now earlier in the year. Dak Prescott is noticeably more comfortable in the pocket.

It's intriguing to know what will happen at left guard for the Cowboys. With Connor Williams injured, Xavier Su'a-Filo has done a good job filling in for him. Williams has the upside, but should Dallas mess up the mojo this OL has lately?

Dak Prescott Continues To Be Money In Clutch Si

Dak Prescott: Clutch QB

Dak Prescott continues to be criticized by fans while he keeps proving us why it's not that easy to move on from him. The guy is far from the perfect passer, yet he's been clutch time and time again. This time he did so on the road on an impressive two minute drill.

With 1:46 on the clock, Prescott marched his team down to the Falcons' 24 yard line. He managed to give his team another game winning drive in consecutive weeks. The Cowboys' young quarterback needed a confidence boost and this is perfect for him. He needs to keep it up if the team is going to finish the season as the NFC East champions.

Since entering the NFL, Dak has 12 game winning drives. As frustrating as his play is at times, he will not be easy to replace if the Cowboys decide to move on from this guy down the road. Hopefully, they don't have to. I, for one, believe Dak can be way better with a proper coaching staff. But that's a discussion for another day.

Now, it's time to celebrate the Cowboys' victory and get ready for a short week as the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins on Thursday.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense" 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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Player News

Geoff Swaim Needs Surgery, Should the Cowboys even use a Tight End?

John Williams

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Cowboys TE Geoff Swaim Quietly Exceeding Expectations? 1

Well, the injury woes continue to mount for the Dallas Cowboys with news coming down this evening that Tight End Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist in the 22-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The injury will need surgery which will mean Swaim will be out a while, if not for the rest of the season.

David Helman on Twitter

Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist yesterday and is going to need surgery. Sounds like it might not be season-ending, but he won't be available Thursday #cowboyswire

In previous seasons this wouldn't be much of a blow to the offense, but Geoff Swaim has been the only tight end that the Cowboys have ben able to rely on this season. Dalton Schultz is a rookie, Blake Jarwin's been inconsistent, and Rico Gathers still isn't fully trusted. With the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's insistence on using a tight end, it seems there's a huge hole at the position heading into Sunday's first place showdown with the Washington Redskins.

But in reality, is there?

For weeks, I've been screaming for this team to use more 10 personnel (one running back and zero tight ends) as its primary passing formation because it gets their best pass catching weapons on the field at the same time. Swaim has been solid and consistent in his first year as a starter, but the rest of the tight end group has disappointed. So why even run a tight end out on the field.

The Dallas Cowboys have options that could replace the tight end in the passing game without actually using a tight end.

First, they could use Noah Brown as the de facto tight end. He's been one of the best blockers on the team in his first two seasons with the team and this is the type of role he's made for. Split him out wide and motion him in tight when you want to run. He can be a threat down the seem and in the red zone with his athleticism. He'd be a mismatch for the linebackers that try to cover him and could open space underneath for Cole Beasley. Brown is also a really good run blocker, so having him on the field doesn't negate what you want to do in the run game.

The other player the Cowboys coaching staff could work into more of the tight end route responsibilities is Allen Hurns. Hurns is a really good route runner, especially in the middle of the field, where the Dallas Cowboys haven't received a lot of production. You can put Hurns in as the fourth wide receiver and split him a couple of yards off the tackle to give him a cleaner release than a TE might get and have him run "Y-option," shallow post routes, or drags. He can be a threat in the passing game if put in situations where he can excel. See below for something Allen Hurns does really well.

Film Review: What's Up with Allen Hurns?

In fact, by going four wide receivers with Brown or Hurns on the field, it's possible the opposing defense is forced to run more of dime packages against the Dallas Cowboys 10 personnel.

Why would you want to get teams into dime packages?

Most NFL teams have two pretty good linebackers that they can deploy in nickel situations, but teams rarely have four corners that they can put on the field and feel really good about. So, if you can force teams to remove one of their 11 best players for a backup corner back or safety, you are already winning that matchup.

That matchup would also get you into much more favorable defensive fronts to run against. Even if the opposition put seven or eight in the box, it would be against smaller personnel like corners and safeties instead of a second linebacker.

Running 10 personnel as their base offense moving forward would be unconventional, but with an opportunity to take control of first place in the NFC East on Thanksgiving, now is not the time for conventionality.



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Player News

Cowboys WR Michael Gallup on Personal Leave; Team Offers Support

Jess Haynie

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Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Michael Gallup suffered a personal tragedy on Sunday, being informed that his brother committed suicide. He is now on personal leave away from the team, and both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have given their full support to Gallup during this difficult time.

According to reports, Gallup was unaware of his brother's death until immediately after the Cowboys' win over the Atlanta Falcons. Michael did not return with the team to Dallas and remained in Atlanta to be with his family.

A formal statement was made by owner Jerry Jones yesterday regarding Gallup:

“Our team and our entire organization are deeply saddened by the news of Michael’s loss. His family is our family. We share in the grief and pain that comes with something so personal and tragic. We offer our support, care and comfort for Michael, and we ask that all of those who have sons and daughters and brothers and sisters join us in keeping Michael and his wonderful family in their thoughts and prayers.”

Throughout his time owning the Cowboys, Jerry has built a reputation for personal loyalty and compassion with his players. His head coach is no different.

As he addressed the media Monday, Jason Garrett did not get into football matters when addressing Gallup's situation:

“This is a very challenging time for him. We’ll take it moment by moment, day by day, and give him all of our love and all of our support.”

While Michael is certainly dealing with something far more important than football, his availability for Thursday's Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins does come into question.

The Cowboys have a short week to prepare for Washington, and Gallup has started their last five games. If the rookie has to sit, which seems probable given the timeframe, we can expect more playing time for Allen Hurns and Noah Brown.

Whatever happens happens on that front. Our focus is on Michael Gallup during this sad time, with him and his family in our collective thoughts as Cowboys fans and fellow humans.



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