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!
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 Football, by 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:
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.
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.
Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10
Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.
Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.
Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."
After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.
According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.
While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.
Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.
The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere
After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?
Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.
After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.
Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.
The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.
Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.
Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.
The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.
Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.
As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.
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