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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!

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Cowboys OT Mitch Hyatt is an Undrafted Rookie to Watch

Jess Haynie

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Mitch Hyatt

Going undrafted is hardly a death blow to a player's hopes of making it into the NFL. We've seen many examples of players who have lengthy careers despite humble beginnings, and plenty of them happened right here in Dallas. Could offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt be the next undrafted success story for the Cowboys?

Hyatt just finished his college career at Clemson as a four-year starter, two-time national champion, and two-time All-American. While not an elite draft prospect, many had Mitch rated as at least a 5th-7th round pick. His going undrafted was a surprise.

While he measures with good size at 6'5" and a little over 300 lbs., Hyatt lacks upper body strength. But he's overcome that deficiency through the years with work ethic, motor, and smarts.

For the Cowboys, it's a lot easier to help a guy gain strength than it is to try and improve motivation or intelligence.

Dallas was not the only team interested in Mitch Hyatt once he hit free agency. But from the rookie's own lips, he didn't have a hard decision to make.

“'I received a fair amount of calls. It was a pretty chaotic five to 10 minutes for me,'” Hyatt said. “'I had a whole bunch of people in my ear. But I knew what kind of team the Cowboys were, I knew what they were about.'”

Whether it was the reputation of the Cowboys organization, its vaunted offensive line, or the chance to work with Coach Marc Colombo, Hyatt was clearly drawn to Dallas. Another reason for that may have been the perceived opportunity to make the roster.

The Cowboys seem to already be preparing for life without La'el Collins in 2020, when Collins is set to hit free agency. They gave Cam Fleming a two-year deal which keeps him through next year, plus drafted Connor McGovern in the third round of the 2019 draft. It suggests Dallas isn't planning to pay La'l the significant money he should demand.

If Fleming gets promoted to the starting job at right tackle, that would leave a vacancy for swing tackle in 2020. Mitch Hyatt could be one of Dallas' options for that role.

Even if the Cowboys don't keep Hyatt on the 53-man roster in 2019, they will likely try to put him on the practice squad. Ideally, a year of physical development there will make him a much stronger candidate for the 2020 season.

Of course, the reason we know those undrafted success stories so well is because they aren't typical. The odds are against Mitch Hyatt having any NFL career, but his collegiate success and intangibles speak to a guy who's worth taking a chance on.

If it works out, credit the Cowboys for continuing the tradition of Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jeff Heath, and other undrafted players who became significant contributors.



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Could CB Michael Jackson Prove To Be Cowboys Best Value Pick?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Could CB Michael Jackson Prove To Be Cowboys Best Value Pick?
Melina Vastola / USA TODAY Sports

Looking back to the third day of the 2019 NFL Draft for the Dallas Cowboys, running backs Tony Pollard and Mike Weber are the most discussed players among fans and analysts. The front office made some pretty promising selections in the late rounds that could have important roles on the team in the near future. While many thought the Cowboys would be quick to add a rookie safety, it wasn't until the fifth round that the team drafted a defensive back, and it wasn't even a safety. Kris Richard got his guy Michael Jackson, from the Miami Hurricanes.

A few weeks apart from training camp, the 6-1 cornerback has been overlooked by many fans. Although the team got plenty of quality players in the late rounds, Jackson might end up being the best value pick when we look back to this rookie class a year from now.

In college, Jackson started 23 games between 2017 and 2018 as he racked up four interceptions and 10 pass deflections. He seems just like the kind of guy we know DB Coach Kris Richard loves. A tall, long, press cornerback with pretty solid range. Jackson is far from a player ready to start in the NFL, but Richard will have a lot of raw potential to work with.

Michael Jackson

CB Michael Jackson

When the former Seahawks defensive coordinator joined the Cowboys, he let it be known that he saw a lot of potential on Byron Jones. The 2015 first round pick's career was turned around after last season, when the team finally stopped moving Jones around the defensive backfield. As a full-time corner, Jones went on to become a second-team All-Pro last year.

While it would be unfair to compare Jones and Jackson, both of them arrived to the NFL with very different expectations, I can't help but wonder how far can Richard take the Miami product. Although it wasn't discussed as much, cornerback was an important need for the team because of a lack of depth and the uncertainty surrounding Jones' future on the team.

After an impressive 2018 season, extending Jones will be a huge challenge for the Cowboys front office. After all, there's a lot of homegrown talent due for big paydays. Who knows if when the day comes, the team will have what it takes to keep Jones in Dallas. Not to mention, Anthony Brown is entering his contract year. A solid nickel corner for the Cowboys could be gone, leaving Kris Richard's unit with very little depth.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, Michael Jackson has the size and potential to play in any spot in the secondary, giving Richard the chance to develop him at the position he wishes. After all, Richard will be in no hurry to get Jackson on the field. It's tough to imagine Jackson getting an important role for the upcoming season, but he could certainly get a few snaps throughout the year. Having said that, it's in the long run that the All-ACC second-team CB can truly prove his worth.

In an ideal world, the Cowboys would keep their current CB but the cold, hard truth is NFL teams can't keep all of their players all the time. Jackson might have to eventually step up to an important spot on the defense. If Kris Richard develops him properly, Dallas won't be that concerned about a couple of their CBs potentially leaving. We'll see if Michael Jackson is ready when his name is called.

Tell me what you think about "Could CB Michael Jackson Prove To Be Cowboys Best Value Pick?" 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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Dorance Armstrong, Kerry Hyder Stand Out in Cowboys Practices

John Williams

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Why Cowboys Rookie DE Dorance Armstrong is the Pass Rusher to Watch in Carolina

With Left Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, Defensive End Taco Charlton rehabbing a shoulder and foot injury, and Right Defensive End Randy Gregory currently suspended indefinitely, there have been plenty of snaps at defensive end for other players to make a name for themselves in the offseason training activities (OTAs) and this past week's minicamp. The two players that stood out above all others on the defense were defensive ends Dorance Armstrong and Kerry Hyder.

You might be asking yourself, "what does it matter? DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn are the starters. Why should we care about a couple of backups."

First, the backup defensive ends for the Dallas Cowboys will play. After DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford, the leaders in defensive end snaps in 2018, Randy Gregory got 44% of the snaps on defense and Taco Charlton saw 39%. Dorance Armstrong, who played sparingly as a rookie, saw 26% of the snaps. The defensive ends that make the 53-man roster are going to get playing time.

Secondly, there's no guarantee that DeMarcus Lawrence will be ready for week one. Tyrone Crawford, who was the starter at right defensive end in 2018, could miss week one if the NFL deems his offseason altercation is worthy of a suspension. That leaves a whole lot of potential snaps at the left defensive end spot if either of those two guys misses week one.

Dorance Armstrong, the Dallas Cowboys fourth-round pick from 2018, caught the eye of several observers from the media and finished his offseason with a strong minicamp.

"These coaches have to be happy with what they’ve seen from Dorance Armstrong during these practices. Armstrong has been mainly filling in for DeMarcus Lawrence on the left side, but on Wednesday he switched over to the right. There were several snaps where he was a handful for Cam Fleming to handle. Armstrong started off well last season before hitting the rookie wall. He physically looks bigger and is also now equipped with the knowledge of how he has to prepare to play at a high level the entire season. Keep an eye on Armstrong to make that jump from the first to second year."

Bryan Broaddus - DallasCowboys.com

Armstrong had a really nice training camp as a rookie and as Broaddus notes, tailed off during the regular season. Reports are that he's added size this offseason -- as most players do between their first and second year -- and if all the reports are correct, could be a breakout player in the making.

Kerry Hyder is another intriguing player and one of the more underrated offseason acquisitions by the Dallas Cowboys front office.

Coming from the Detroit Lions, where they used Hyder as a nose tackle in Matt Patricia's 3-4 alignment, he was played severely out of position. In 2016, playing primarily as a defensive end, Hyder recorded eight sacks for the Lions. In 2017, he suffered a torn achilles which kept him out all of that year.

Now with the Dallas Cowboys, he gets to return to his more natural defensive end position. And he's making some noise in these offseason practices.

David Helman on Twitter

D-Linemen never get any shine during OTAs, so today is for them. With Tyron Smith & La'el Collins sitting out today, Dorance Armstrong & Kerry Hyder absolutely wrecked practice. Murdered it. I legitimately don't think Dak would've gotten a single throw out if sacks were allowed.

Of course not playing against the starting tackles in Tyron Smith and La'el Collins will allow players to shine a bit more, but let's not forget that Cam Fleming started in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots before signing with the Dallas Cowboys. Connor Williams, who has been getting snaps at tackle as well, is no slouch as a former All-American for the Texas Longhorns.

Here's what Bryan Broaddus had to say about Kerry Hyder in one of the previous OTAs his "Scout's Notebook" from May 22nd.

"I have to be careful with my love for veteran defensive linemen, but Kerry Hyder looks like a different man playing at end instead of head-up tackle. The coaching change in Detroit did him no favors last season. Having to play in a spot where he had to fight blocks all day to now working on the edge in space is a good thing for him. It appears that Hyder has his quickness back, but he also has some pass rush moves in his tool belt. I thought maybe they were going to use him as an under-tackle, but putting him back at end might be his best shot at making the roster."

Bryan Broaddus - Dallas Cowboys.com

The Cowboys found a really good player in Kerry Hyder. He's capable of playing some 3-technique defensive tackle if needed as well as on the edge. He has a good motor and is able to make plays in the running game.

With the emergence of Kerry Hyder and Dorance Armstrong this offseason, it puts Taco Charlton behind the eight ball as the team heads to Oxnard. If they continue to play well, it's a real possibility that Charlton could be a gameday inactive during the regular season, especially if Randy Gregory is reinstated.

However they end up being deployed, this group of defensive ends will cause fits for opposing offensive lines. They've been aiming for waves of pass rushers for Rod Marinelli's defense and for the first time since becoming defensive coordinator, he looks to have just that.



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