After a few weeks with the same six teams, we finally have a chance. Tampa Bay's road win over the Chargers moved them into the last Wild Card spot. That sixth seed was surrendered by Washington after a loss to the Cardinals.
If the NFL playoffs started today, these would be the NFC standings. I've included the teams with less than eight losses as they still have a slim possibility of qualifying.
- Dallas Cowboys (11-1)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1)
- Detroit Lions (8-4)
- Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
- New York Giants (8-4)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
- Washington (6-5-1)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-6)
- Green Bay Packers (6-6)
- Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1)
- New Orleans Saints (5-7)
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
- The Falcons (3-1) are ahead of the Bucs (2-1) in the NFC South due to a better division record. They've already played each other twice and split the series.
- The Vikings are ahead of the Packers due to a head-to-head victory in Week 2. They play each other again Week 16 in Green Bay.
- The Saints (4-4) are ahead of the Eagles (3-6) due to a better record against NFC opponents.
Dallas is involved in the most important NFC game of the Week 14. However, there are a few other key matchups to look at. As always, we'll look at each game with a bias towards what's best for the Cowboys.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
The most important game left on their regular 2016 schedule, Dallas clinches the NFC East with a win. The Giants would remain a Wild Card team but would move closer to the edge of elimination.
If the Giants win then they would move to 9-4 with Dallas dropping to 11-2. That is still a nice cushion with only three games left, but at that point the Giants would have the head-to-head tiebreaker. Dallas could not afford a December slide.
Washington @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are barely hanging on, but they'll have home field in this rivalry game. They will do more as a spoiler than anything if they win, pulling Washington even further away from the playoffs.
The last thing I want for the Cowboys to have to deal with with in the postseason is one of their division rivals. Those games rarely follow logic. Strengths and weaknesses tend to blur and strategy feels less important. The playing field becomes more even then, and that's not good for the Cowboys.
Arizona Cardinals @ Miami Dolphins
The Cardinals have only one road win all year and it was against the hapless 49ers. Miami is a much better team and fighting for their playoff lives, so things don't look good for Arizona here. A loss here should take them out of the playoff conversation.
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
Detroit can take a huge step towards a division title this week. They have a soft opponent in Chicago while the Vikings are on the road and the Packers have to host the Seahawks.
The Cowboys will be interested in this one. If they beat the Giants, Dallas could clinch a first-round bye with a loss by either Detroit or Seattle. If both the Lions and Seahawks lose, Dallas would clinch the top seed and home field advantage. A loss by Detroit doesn't seem likely here, though.
Minnesota Vikings @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The resistible force meets movable object; Minnesota's lost six of their last seven and the Jags have lost seven in a row. After how close they made their game with Dallas last Thursday night, though, I would be fine with not seeing their defense again in January.
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The surging Bucs are on a four-game win streak and have pulled even with the Falcons. They have the tougher game this week, facing Drew Brees while Atlanta gets Jared Goff.
There's a strong possibility that whoever doesn't win the NFC South between the Bucs and Falcons will earn one of the Wild Card spots. Still, as I've said before, I'd much rather that Dallas face the Buccaneers than the Falcons in the postseason. Both Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston could put up huge numbers against our pass defense, but Winston's youth could also work against him in his first playoff appearance.
Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams
As stated above, I'd be happier for the Buccaneers to win the NFC South and for the Falcons' high-powered offense to fall right out of the mix. I doubt they will slip out of the Wild Card spot, but every loss helps.
Unfortunately, the Rams don't look like they'll be winning again any time soon.
Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers
The Seahawks will clinch the NFC West with a win and a loss by Arizona. Their winning the division is a foregone conclusion, really, so the bigger concern is keeping their first-round bye intact. If Seattle loses and Detroit wins, the Lions would become the number-two seed.
Green Bay still has a little life after two-straight wins. If they can hold home field against the Seahawks, their last three games are all in the division. They beat Detroit in Week 3 and can get the tiebreaker in Week 17.
Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?
While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?
Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.
Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.
With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.
But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.
Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.
Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.
But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.
Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.
How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.
There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.
But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.
For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall
That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.
Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.
Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.
In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.
Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.
The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.
Cowboys Offense Finds Rhythm to End Minicamp, Hurns and Gallup Stand Out
The Dallas Cowboys are back in offseason mode, concluding their OTAs and minicamp from The Star. With a hiatus until training camp, it was important for several high-profile players to make a strong first impression on the 2018 season. From the start of mini camp, these impressions were left mostly by Rod Marinelli's defense and -- more specifically -- Kris Richard's young group of cornerbacks.
Still working through significant change on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys did rally on day three under Quarterback Dak Prescott to put out a better performance. The Cowboys coaching staff should love their lasting memories of both FA acquisition Wide Receiver Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup.
There is a strong chance that these two receivers will be the Cowboys starters in Oxnard for training camp. We have heard a lot about the impact new WR Coach Sanjay Lal has had on his group, slowing the game down to focus on route running. This will give the team's rotation of unproven receivers a chance with Prescott, as he can focus on throwing to a 'spot' more often.
One spot that Prescott has struggled to hit in two seasons as the starter in Dallas is the back of the end zone for fade routes. A red zone go-to under Scott Linehan, free agent WR Dez Bryant was often the intended target on these missed passes.
Less of a route running technician and closer to the mold of a physical player like Bryant, Allen Hurns emerging as the Cowboys #1 option would solve a lot of uncertainty at the WR position. In yesterday's practice, Hurns was able to haul in a perfect ball from Prescott on the fade as he beat Byron Jones.
It's going to take some time for Jones to readjust to playing cornerback, but the vision for Kris Richard of him and Chidobe Awuzie starting on the outside is a great one. In a battle of proven players, Hurns got the best of Jones to spark the Cowboys offense at the right time.
Overall, there should be no reason to panic about (well, really anything from mini camp) the Cowboys offense right now, and plenty of reasons to be excited about what this defense will develop into.
Once the pads come on at training camp, the players the Cowboys are paying to play at an elite level will start to shine, including their newly re-signed Guard Zack Martin -- the highest paid guard in the league now. There are no doubts that the bread and butter for this offense will be handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott behind this wall of an offensive line.
From this increase in competition in the trenches, we'll also get more meaningful battles along the defensive line. In shorts and helmets for now, the Cowboys secondary was given their chance at mini camp, and came out solid early.
Another player they've struggled to truly corral though is Michael Gallup. Perhaps pressing a bit thanks to his limited opportunities thus far, Jourdan Lewis was taken across the field by Gallup on a misfire from Cooper Rush.
This is nothing new for Gallup however, who's been ahead of the curve on creating the desired separation as a "violent" receiver on the outside.
A steal with the 81st overall pick in this year's draft, Gallup has a long way to go in beating out the likes of Terrance Williams, Cedrick Wilson (limited through this portion of the offseason with injuries), and even Cole Beasley, who's received some reps on the outside.
With both Hurns and Gallup making plays on the Cowboys final practice until late July, it's easy to let the mind wander with possibilities of the Cowboys offense playing at full strength against a defense that might be up for the challenge better than ever compared to year's past.
As always, the practice fields of Oxnard will serve as a battle ground for a young but deep Cowboys team to earn their spots on the 53-man roster, one that surely won't have room for all of the wide receiver hopefuls seen this week in mini camp.
Want to help make Inside The Star better?
We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.
Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
Should Cowboys DT Jihad Ward Be Getting More Attention?
Star Blog1 week ago
Could Connor Williams Actually Define the Cowboys’ Season?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Can WR Cedrick Wilson be the Cowboys Next Deep Threat?
Player News6 days ago
Report: Cowboys Sign OL Zack Martin To 6 Year Deal
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Could Cowboys CB Anthony Brown be a Trade Asset?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Dallas Cowboys 2018 Job Security Rankings: Defense
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
4 Reasons Terrance Williams Won’t Be a Cowboy
Player News2 days ago
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year