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Week 12 Playoff Projection: Big NFC Showdowns on Thanksgiving

Jess Haynie

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Jason Witten, Redskins

Week 11 in the NFL had minimal impact on the playoff standings. The Detroit Lions moved a notch ahead of the Atlanta Falcons, who were on their bye, but the six playoff teams remained the same.

If the NFL playoffs started today, these would be the NFC standings based on the teams with records at .500 or better:

  1. Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys 3 X Factors Against Philadelphia EaglesDallas Cowboys (9-1)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1)
  3. Detroit Lions (6-4)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
  5. New York Giants (7-3)
  6. Washington (6-3-1)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)


TIEBREAKERS

  • The Lions  are ahead of the Vikings in the NFC North due to a head-to-head victory in Week 9. They play again tomorrow.
  • The Lions (4-2) are ahead of the Falcons (4-3) due to a better record against NFC opponents.
  • The Buccaneers (4-3) are ahead of the Eagles (3-5) due to a better record against NFC opponents.

We could see new teams in the playoff picture after some big NFC games this week. The most critical game are both tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day.  Here's a rundown of all playoff-relevant action in Week 12, and what Cowboys fans should be rooting for.

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

A huge division showdown will kick off Week 12. Detroit can take a two-game lead in the NFC North with a victory as it will give them the sweep over Minnesota this year. The Vikings want to avoid that, obviously, but also need to stay ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles. They lost to the Eagles in Week 7.

At this point it's hard to say what's best for the Cowboys. They will play both Detroit and Minnesota over the final six weeks of the season, so those outcomes will determine what tiebreakers may be in play.

Washington @ Dallas Cowboys

This is one of the biggest showdowns between Dallas and Washington in many years. The Cowboys nine-game win streak began in Washington in Week 2, with both teams playing better now than they were earlier in the year.

The Cowboys will retain their spot as the NFC's top seed even with a loss, though it will put them dangerously closer to their division foes. A loss for Washington would likely knock them out of their Wild Card spot.

Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons

Once one of the NFL's hottest teams, the Falcons have come back to earth with three losses in their last five games. They are now only a game ahead of Tampa Bay. Fortunately for Atlanta, they will be hosting a limping Cardinals squad. Arizona will be desperate to win to get back to .500, but Atlanta is coming off their bye week and should be favored.

With Arizona all but out of it, a Falcons loss is what benefits Dallas most. We have a comfortable three-game lead over them in the NFC standings, but every little bit helps.

New York Giants @ Cleveland Browns

Every team in the NFC East gets the gift of playing Cleveland this year. The Giants shouldn't have any trouble with the Browns, but face a much stiffer opponent next week with a another road game in Pittsburgh.

Seattle Seahawks @ Tampa Bay Bucs

A surprisingly meaningful game, the Seahawks fly east to face a Buccaneer team that has the playoffs in their crosshairs. Seattle should clinch the NFC West soon and is now just playing for their seeding. The Bucs are both a game back of Atlanta in the NFC South and just a few wins from a Wild Card spot.

Clearly, Dallas fans will be rooting for a Seattle loss to increase our hold on the NFC's number-one seed. Home field advantage is nice anytime, but especially if it means keeping it away from the Seahawks.

Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Still only two games back of their division rivals, the Packers aren't dead yet. They still have Aaron Rodgers and the Eagles have lost five of their last seven games. Both teams will be desperate, and the veteran Rodgers can handle that pressure better than rookie Carson Wentz.

Obviously, Philadelphia's pain is Dallas' pleasure. With no strategic value in a Packers loss, we can freely root against the Eagles as nature intended.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott vs Byron Jones Part II: The Case For Paying Zeke

John Williams

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New York Giants are 2-1 Against Cowboys With Ezekiel Elliott

It's a debate that has raged on social media for some time now and it likely won't slow down as the offseason progresses and the Dallas Cowboys begin to hand out massive contracts to their top players. Pay Ezekiel Elliott? Pay Byron Jones? If you could only pay one, which would you pay?

This week fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer, Kevin Brady took to Twitter to poll the populous and his results were a bit surprising to me.

Kevin Brady on Twitter

if you can only pay one it should be

The results inspired me to see what would happen if I put the same poll on my timeline.

John Williams ✭ on Twitter

Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?

On Monday, Kevin wrote a piece looking at one of the difficult decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys this offseason or next. If the Cowboys could only extend Byron Jones OR Ezekiel Elliott, who should they choose? Kevin, as am I, is a firm believer in Byron Jones ability and says the Cowboys should extend them, and I agree. But let's look at the other side of the argument.

To begin, the Cowboys should and probably will get both guys contract extensions either this offseason or next. It's not impossible with the cap continuing to increase at a rate of about $8-12 million per year that the Cowboys will have the space to get the deals done that they need to get done. Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones included.

Byron Jones settled in nicely at cornerback during his first full season at cornerback and knowing what we know about Jones, he won't be satisfied with a second team All-Pro appearance. Expect him to get better. However, if there's a single player that represents the current identity of the Dallas Cowboys, it's Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.

The Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick in 2016 and haven't looked back in their plan to establish the running game. For his career Elliott has averaged 26.9 touches per game over the course of his 40 games.

Here's a look at what Elliott's per game and per 16 game paces look like through the first three seasons of his career.

As you can see from the table above, Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 131.2 total yards per game for his career. In his rookie season he had 1,994 total yards and he sat out the week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Cowboys had the NFC and home field advantage locked up. In 2017, Elliott sat out six games and still had nearly 1,000 yards rushing. In 2018, Elliott broke through the 2,000 total yard barrier after seeing a huge increase in his targets and receptions.

Ezekiel Elliott has been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for and more. With the leadership role he's taken with the team, he's a player that leads both vocally and by example. There are few players on the Dallas Cowboys that give as much effort as he does each snap. How many times has it looked like Elliott was about to get dropped for a two or three yard loss only to grind through tackles to pick up a four yard gain? How many times has he bounced off tacklers to get to the first down marker? Ezekiel Elliott is the human personification of dirty yards, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Elliott can't take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Elliott's is a game breaker who threatens the defense every time he steps on the field.

In 2018, Elliott led the NFL in yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. His 949 yards after contact in 2018 would have ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, which was better than David Johnson's 940 yards rushing last season.

Not many running backs effect a football game like Ezekiel Elliott does.

Few players outside of the quarterback position are as much of a focal point for their offense while being an attention grabber for opposing defenses like Ezekiel Elliott is. In 2018, he saw eight or more men in the box on nearly 25% of his carries in 2018. Some of that is related to the Dallas Cowboys insistence on using two tight ends on 50% of their running plays (per Sharp Football), but the other aspect is related to how much they respect the Dallas Cowboys running game. Since the 2014, the Cowboys have been synonymous with running the football. DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and now Ezekiel Elliott have been the faces of that running game behind the Cowboys elite offensive line.

Even in a down year for offensive line play from the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons. Elliott made the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years as well. Were it not for the railroad job done by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017, there's a really good chance that Elliott leads the league in rushing three years in a row and that the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs all three seasons.

Sure, the running back position is undervalued in the NFL and rushing yardage can be replaced, but there are intangibles to Elliott's game that are very difficult to replace. His ability to grind out the dirty yards, break big plays, create yards after contact, pass protect, be a threat as a receiver, and his leadership make him a player that is difficult to replace.

Yes, Byron Jones was really good in 2018 and deserves to get paid by the Dallas Cowboys as well, but you'd be hard pressed to find a player on the Cowboys roster who has been as consistent and dominating week in and week out as Ezekiel Elliott has been over the last three years.



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BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb

Brian Martin

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BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb

According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T

The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.

During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.

After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.

This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.

Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!



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REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur

Jess Haynie

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L.P. Ladouceur

L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.

Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.

Todd Archer on Twitter

The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e

Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.

Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.

Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.



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