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Week 13 Playoff Projection: Cowboys Could Get Distance from Giants

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Giants at Cowboys: Key Matchups For Dak's Debut

The six playoff teams did not change after Week 12. However, Washington's loss to the Cowboys brought them perilously close to the edge. We also now have teams like the Packers and Saints close enough to merit consideration.

If the NFL playoffs started today, these would be the NFC standings. I've included the teams with 5-6 records as they are still in the hunt.

Cowboys Headlines - A Reminder To The World: Jason Witten Is An All-Time Great

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  1. Dallas Cowboys (10-1)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1)
  3. Detroit Lions (7-4)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
  5. New York Giants (8-3)
  6. Washington (6-4-1)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5)
  8. Minnesota Vikings (6-5)
  9. New Orleans Saints (5-6)
  10. Green Bay Packers (5-6)
  11. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)


TIEBREAKERS

  • The Lions (5-2) are ahead of the Falcons (5-3) due to a better record against NFC opponents.
  • The Buccaneers (5-3) are ahead of the Vikings (4-5) due to a better record against NFC opponents.
  • The Saints (4-3) are ahead of the Packers (4-4) and Eagles (3-6) due to a better record against NFC opponents.
  • The Packers are ahead of the Eagles based on a head-to-head victory in Week 12.

The Week 13 schedule is full of intriguing matchups with major playoff implications. As always, we'll look at each game with a bias towards what's best for the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings

Both teams played on Thanksgiving so nobody's coming into this game with extra rest. The Vikings are coming off a critical loss to the Lions, giving them a major advantage in the NFC North as Detroit now has the head-to-head tiebreaker.

A win here sets the Cowboys up to potentially clinch the NFC East next week against the Giants. Securing playoff positioning as early as possible could be vital for Dallas as they have several defensive players nursing injuries. It would also allow them to be judicious in how they use Ezekiel Elliott in potentially meaningless games, saving him for the postseason.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons can't let up as Tampa Bay is just a game behind them in the NFC South. They will have a tough one this week against the 8-3 Chiefs.

Cowboys Spin: The Falcons are too far behind to realistically threaten Dallas for the #1 seed. That said, I'd be happy to see them collapse and fall out of the playoffs. I don't want to see our secondary trying to stop Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints

Now that they've clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker over the slumping Vikings, Detroit's biggest concern could be the Packers. They lost to Green Bay early in the year and play them again at home in Week 17.

The Saints likely won't be able to catch up in their division but could still threaten for a wild card spot. Their last give games are all against NFC opponents: Detroit, Arizona, Atlanta, and two with Tampa Bay.

Cowboys Spin: Both Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees are playing great this year, so I can't say there's one of them I'd rather see in the playoffs more than the other.  I'm pretty indifferent on this one, but I'll lean towards the Lions as I don't want to see the Packers sneak into the playoffs.

Houston Texans @ Green Bay Packers

Despite losing four in a row, last week's win in Philadelphia has kept the Packers in the conversation. They're still just two games behind Detroit in the NFC North and get to play them again in Week 17. They have a very realistic shot at saving their season.

Cowboys Spin: While we've seen Dallas beat this team in their own house, the playoffs are a different story. Aaron Rodgers and his receivers might perform better in AT&T Stadium than they would've at home in January. I'd rather they just miss the postseason all together.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Cincinnati Bengals

Last week's home loss to the Packers was a major shot the Eagles' playoff hopes, dropping them below .500 and raising concern about Carson Wentz's rookie wall. While the Bengals are having a bad year, they still have a tough defense which could frustrate him further.

Cowboys Spin: We are free to root against the Eagles in this one.

New York Giants @ Pittsburgh Steelers

The Giants are just two games behind Dallas and have that pesky head-to-head win from Week One. They are still front-runners for a wild card spot even if they can't catch up in the NFC East.

Thankfully, the Steelers are in their own division dogfight and will be playing hard for the win. They are currently tied with Baltimore in the AFC North and are behind other teams for the wild card spots. They will give the Giants all they can handle, and hopefully more.

Cowboys Spin: Obviously, we want to see the Giants take as many losses as possible the rest of the way. Other than our own game with them in Week 14, this is probably the best chance for that to happen throughout their remaining schedule.

Washington @ Arizona Cardinals

Washington is hanging on to their wild card spot by a thread. Their tie with the Bengals is the saving grace right now; they'd be behind the Bucs otherwise due to a worse conference record.

Cowboys Spin: The Cardinals have become a non-factor this year. After two tough games this season, I'd rather not see Washington a third time. Them falling out of the playoffs is just fine and dandy.

Tampa Bay Bucs @ San Diego Chargers

After an upset victory over the Seahawks, Tampa has put themselves in striking distance. They are only a game behind the Falcons in the AFC South and have already split the season series with them. Albeit on the road, they have a winnable game here against the middling Chargers.

Cowboys Spin: As said already, I'd like to see the Falcons miss the postseason so we don't have to deal with their passing offense. Tampa has its own offensive weapons but isn't as consistent or explosive. I'd much rather face them in January.

Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks

The Panthers are likely out of it at 4-7, meaning this is all about the Seahawks. They took a tough loss last week in Tampa and will likely right the ship at home.

Cowboys Spin: Every Seattle loss increases our cushion for the number-one seed, so obviously we know who to root for here.

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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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Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury

Sean Martin

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Should Cowboys Start Negotiating a Contract Extension With Rod Smith?

Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith did not just defy all odds and return to normalcy in 2017, starting as the Cowboys' middle linebacker for a full 16 games. He became one of the team's and NFL's brightest success stories, earning the right to celebrate everyday activities returning to his life - as football did this season.

Jaylon Smith on Twitter

It's been two years since I've been able to bowl! Man it feels good to have my hobby back. #ClearEyeView #Swipe #StillGotIt! 210 average🤷🏾‍♂️🙏🏾 https://t.co/euVsXDKS2a

This is exactly what Jaylon Smith did on Twitter Friday afternoon, posting a Snapchat video of himself bowling. The caption on Twitter adds that Smith was enjoying his time at the lanes for the first time in two years.

It was January 1st, 2016 when Jaylon Smith's injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame changed his outlook forever. In that moment, Smith went from a projected top ten pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to a LB that would need a team to take a chance on him - and be patient.

The Dallas Cowboys proved to be that team, using the 34th overall pick on the Notre Dame star and supporting his efforts to return to the field from day one. The entire Cowboys' organization was rewarded by Smith remarkably playing every game this season, inspired by his constant determination to do just that.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

So, a normal offseason for Jaylon Smith is anything but right now. Still battling the drop foot condition (one that is reportedly healing well and "fading") which limits his movement ability in the lower body, Smith is a normal Dallas Cowboys football player from this point forward.

He can say he's already defined all odds, can expect to take an even bigger stride forward in 2018, and Jaylon Smith can go bowling again. You can't help but be happy for #54.

Tell us what you think about "Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Get Bigger Role in 2018?

Jess Haynie

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Noah Brown

While only a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, receiver Noah Brown was on the Cowboys' roster for all of his rookie season. He returns in 2018 hoping for a bigger role in Dallas' offense, and with some good possibility to get one.

Brown was not a big part of the 2017 offense. He was at the bottom of the WR depth chart, inactive for three games and not seen much even when in uniform.

Noah was only targeted nine times last year. He caught four passes for 33 yards.

Assumably, this had less to do with Brown and more with the other mouths to feed in the Cowboys passing game. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, even fellow rookie Ryan Switzer; you get the idea.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown

2018 should remove at least one of those obstacles to Noah Brown's opportunities. Brice Butler is a free agent and there is no indication he is coming back.

Everyone else is still under contract, but that could change if the Cowboys start making any cuts to improve the salary cap. Bryant, Beasley, and even Witten, with varying degrees of probability, are all considerations as cap casualties in the next few months.

In the 2017 preseason, the 6'2", 220-pound Noah Brown reminded us of a young Dez Bryant. He has the same thick body and even showed some of the same punishing running style after the catch.

Of course, Noah hasn't shown nearly enough in college or as a rookie to say he could replace Dez. Nobody's suggesting that. But he has flashed the potential to be given more looks in the passing game.

Another way Brown could get on the field more next year is for run blocking. He has the size and power, and the Cowboys will certainly be leaning on the run with Ezekiel Elliott back and Dak Prescott needing to find his groove again.

Even if he moves up a notch from Brice Butler's exit, Noah Brown's primary way of staying active in 2018 will be through special teams. That was the key for him last year; Brown was active for 13 games because of his special teams work.

Hopefully, Noah can work his way into more targets next season. The Cowboys' receivers need to get younger and a seventh-round pick emerging would be tremendous value.

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Dallas Cowboys Continue Search for Coaching on Defense

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Search for Defensive Coaches Continues

With the hiring of Doug Nussmeier as their tight ends coach, the Dallas Cowboys' new look coaching staff is technically filled out for the 2018 season. Head Coach Jason Garrett, with coordinators Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli underneath him once again, will lead this team into battle with new coaches at LB, OL, QB, WR, TE, ST, and in the secondary.

Despite most of their changes coming on the offensive side of the ball - where the Cowboys certainly under performed in 2017 - the Cowboys did lose one of their most highest regarded defensive coaches in Matt Eberflus this offseason.

Given their personnel on Rod Marinelli's side of the ball, the Cowboys may have actually upgraded in replacing Eberflus with Kris Richard. The Cowboys' young secondary is sure to remain a hot topic all the way until training camp, now being led by the architect of the Seahawks' vaunted "Legion of Boom".

Clarence Hill Jr on Twitter

Cowboys are not done with coaching hires. Still trying to add defensive quality coach, per source

With Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli potentially entering his final season in the NFL though, the Cowboys' search for talented coaches on the defensive side of the ball is reportedly not yet over.

Already promoting a former quality control coach in Ben Bloom to fill Eberflus' role as linebackers coach, the Cowboys' commitment to finally building a top defense is exciting for Cowboys Nation. Another solid draft haul on this side of the ball could turn any spot on the defensive coaching staff here into a highly coveted one.

Not only having the talent in place to return to the playoffs in 2018, the Cowboys are looking to take full advantage of their current staff to secure a bright future for this young team in years to come.

Exactly who the Cowboys are targeting to hire remains unknown, but they did interview former DB Ray Horton prior to hiring Kris Richard. Horton carries six years of experience as a defensive coordinator, most recently holding the position in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys coaching staff changes:

It is also important to note that Marinelli, known as a defensive line specialist, still holds this positional coaching job - a unit the Cowboys should also look to add an experienced coach to. The next Cowboys DC may still be added to the staff this offseason, if not done so already with Richard the heir apparent at the moment for Marinelli.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Continue Search for Coaching on Defense" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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