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.
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
What to Expect from Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Group in 2019
In a span of a week, the Dallas Cowboys have solidified their wide receiver group with the resigning of Tavon Austin to a one year deal and the signing of former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb. Despite the loss of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys have a created a really good group of receivers for Quarterback Dak Prescott to throw to.
Cobb joins a really nice group of players that includes incumbent starters on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup as well as solid depth players in Austin, Allen Hurns, and Noah Brown. Throw in Cedric Wilson, the Dallas Cowboys sixth round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft and the Cowboys may have one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL.
The question is, how will the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff delineate the roles?
Let's take a look.
As I mentioned before, the Dallas Cowboys are returning their top two options on the outside in Amari Cooper, who is the X wide receiver and Michael Gallup, the Z receiver. Both players will go into week one as the starters at their respective positions in two-wide receiver formations.
Despite some of the overthrows from Dak Prescott to Michael Gallup, Gallup had a really nice rookie season and got better as the year went along, even leading the Cowboys in receiving in the playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams. In that game, Gallup recorded the first 100 yard game of his career. Sure, it was in an attempt to comeback by the Dallas Cowboys, but it is impressive nonetheless. His touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks the week before was clutch. The Cowboys needed that to take the lead at the end of the first half. 2018 was only the beginning for Michael Gallup. He showed an ability to win with a full offseason to work with Dak Prescott, their chemistry and connection should only improve.
As for Cooper, his presence was felt right away as the offense just looked different once he stepped on the field. It's no coincidence that Dak Prescott's two best career games in terms of passing yardage came with Cooper in 2018. He's such a threat that he opens up space for the rest of the wide receiver group. His route running, speed, ability to run after the catch make him a threat to score any time he's targeted.
Behind Cooper and Gallup, you have options in the event that one of them gets hurt. Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Noah Brown are all players who took snaps on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and did so with effectiveness. Hurns best game of the year came just before the Cooper deal was made as he went for five receptions for 75 yards.
Tavon provided down field speed on several occasions and provides some gadget quality that the Dallas Cowboys love to have. Noah Brown is a player that the Dallas Cowboys love to deploy as a blocker in the running game. While it looked like he might get more run in the passing game in 2019, the depth additions will limit him again to a specialty role. If needed, though, he could be an option to take snaps on the outside as his big frame allows him to box out defensive backs down the field.
There will be snaps on the outside for someone when the Cowboys go to 11 personnel, because of Amari Cooper's ability to slide into the slot.
Obviously, the writing is on the wall with who the Dallas Cowboys are planning on deploying in the slot as things stand right now, and that's Randall Cobb.
While Cobb should be penciled in as the starter in the slot, I doubt that he's going to get 100% of the snaps there in 11 or 10 personnel groupings. Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson could all push for playing time from the slot.
Last month, I wrote a piece about Allen Hurns and his effectiveness in the slot and why the Cowboys should feature him there. With Cobb coming off an injury laden season, the Cowboys would be wise to give some snaps to Hurns along with Tavon Austin.
In Jacksonville, Hurns was incredibly effective from the slot running posts, slants, and ins and outs. His size and route running made him an effective mismatch against linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks alike. Remember, it wasn't long ago that Hurns had a 1,000 yard season with Blake Bortles at the helm.
Tavon Austin's quickness is an asset that could be very effective in the slot as well. Though he lacks size, he's a player that opposing defenses have to account for because of his ability to make big plays once the ball's in his hands.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys haven't been shy about carrying seven wide receivers on their 53-man rosters and it's possible, though unlikely that they could do it again in 2018. As things stand now, I see Noah Brown and Cedric Wilson as the potential odd men out. Of course, this could all get reshuffled if the Dallas Cowboys use a top 100 pick on a wide receiver in the draft.
With Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, and Randall Cobb only under contract through the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys would be wise to invest at the position despite the strength of the position in 2019.
Report: Dallas Cowboys Set to Meet with Safety George Iloka
As the Dallas Cowboys continue the process of building a roster capable of taking them back to the playoffs, and hopefully to a Super Bowl, this next season, they’re bringing in another safety to try and strengthen their top 10 defense. This time it’s free agent safety George Iloka, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Dallas Cowboys are set to meet with
The #Cowboys are hosting former #Vikings and #Bengals safety George Iloka for a visit tomorrow, source said. They're still looking to add in the secondary.
It will be the third meeting this week that they’ve had with a veteran safety after hosting recently resigned Indianapolis’s colts Safety Clayton Geathers and former Kansas City Chiefs Safety Eric Berry.
The Cowboys feel really good about Xavier Woods at safety, but definitely could use some depth at the position as they head toward the 2019 NFL Draft.
Iloka is coming off a season where he was relegated to a reserve role for the Vikings. In five of the last six seasons, Iloka’s played all 16 games, and the one season he didn’t, he played 12. He has nine career interceptions, and has three seasons with more than 70 total tackles.
Back in August of last year, Brian Martin argued that the Dallas Cowboys should pursue Iloka after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals. He would play the strong or box safety role in the Cowboys defense if they were to come to an agreement.
Stay tuned for more Free Agency coverage from us here at InsideTheStar.com.
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