Star Blog Week 16 Playoff Projection: Little Certainty with Two Weeks Remaining Published 1 year ago on December 22, 2016 By Jess Haynie Photo by Al Bello / Getty Images Share Tweet Week 15 gave us some interesting movement throughout the seedings. Detroit’s loss to the Giants knocked them out of the #2 seed and hurt their cushion over the surging Packers in the NFC North. Washington had a chance to get back into the Wild Card spot with Tampa’s loss to Dallas, but blew their opportunity with a loss to Carolina. Michael Ainsworth / The Dallas Morning News If the NFL playoffs started today, these would be the NFC standings. I’ve included the teams with records of .500 or better. Dallas Cowboys (12-2) Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1) Atlanta Falcons (9-5) Detroit Lions (9-5) New York Giants (10-4) Green Bay Packers (8-6) ———————————- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) Washington (7-6-1) Minnesota Vikings (7-7) TIEBREAKERS The Falcons are the #3 seed ahead of the Lions because of the “strength of victory” tiebreaker. They are currently tied in conference record and common opponents. The Packers are ahead of the Bucs for the last Wild Card spot due to “strength of schedule.” They are tied on conference games, common opponents, and strength of victory. This week’s lineup features plenty of intriguing matchups with major playoff implications. As always, we’ll be looking at these from the standpoint of what’s best for the Cowboys. For additional info on what’s best for Dallas, check out my ranking of our potential NFC playoff opponents. It will give you more info on why I am wanting certain teams to make the playoffs or get home field opportunities more than others. Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles We have to talk about these two games together. The Giants-Eagles matchup tonight could greatly impact things for Dallas and Detroit on Monday. The Eagles will have a lot of extra support as they look to upset the Giants. A New York loss clinches the NFC East and the #1 seed for Dallas. It also gives the Cowboys the opportunity to start resting some players and playing conservatively, which could be big for a Detroit team trying to hang on to their division and playoff spot. If the Giants win tonight, they clinch the 5th seed in the playoffs. They need to win out and for Dallas to lose out to get the division and the top seed in the NFC. If New York does win tonight, Dallas will go all out to get the victory over Detroit. The Cowboys don’t want to have anything on the line when they meet the Eagles in Week 17. Regardless of all other outcomes the next two weeks, Dallas can clinch the NFC East, a first-round bye, and home field advantage with a win in one of their next two games. Detroit can clinch the NFC North with a win over Dallas and a loss by Green Bay. If both the Lions and Packers win this week, or if Detroit loses and Green Bay wins, then next week’s game between them will be for the division. Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers After looking dysfunctional about a month ago, Green Bay has won four straight and “controls their own destiny” in the NFC North. If they win this week and then beat Detroit in Week 17, they would take the division with a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions. Even if they don’t take the division, Green Bay still has a good chance at a Wild Card spot. Neither Tampa Bay (@ Saints, vs Panthers) or Washington (@ Bears, vs Giants) has it easy the next two weeks. With Aaron Rodgers being the best QB in the conference, I’d rather the Packers not make the playoffs. As much confidence as I have in Dak Prescott, a postseason shootout with Rodgers may be too much to ask from any rookie. Washington @ Chicago Bears Last week’s loss to Carolina was crushing for Washington’s playoff hopes. They are not dead, however. They have a beatable opponent in Chicago and then a home game against the Giants next week. As I said in my NFC playoff team rankings, Washington is one of the last teams I want to see in January. Division rivals are tough and make for wild games. I’m happy for them to keep on losing. Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers The Falcons clinch the NFC South with a win and a Tampa loss. Atlanta can’t take the Panthers lightly, who have looked better with back-to-back wins in recent weeks. Like the Lions, the Falcons don’t have much cushion between them and the pack of Wild Card teams. Even one loss could be a disaster. For this week, at least, they can’t take their foot off the pedal. Tampa Bay Bucs @ New Orleans Saints Tampa is hanging around in both the division and the Wild Card race but need to win out and get some help. The Saints are having a down year but will not be a pushover. Two weeks ago, Tampa barely got a home win over the Saints. They now will have to stop Drew Brees in the Superdome, a much tougher assignment, with the pressure of their entire season hanging over them. The Bucs are a young team and that may be more than they can handle. Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks Seattle clinches a first-round bye with a win and losses by Detroit and Atlanta. With the Lions hosting Dallas and the Falcons on the road against Carolina, it’s not out of the question. With Arizona having nothing to play for, this one will come down to how much the Cardinals care about pride and rivalries. Still, even if Arizona plays their best, the Seahawks should be heavy favorites. ADVERTISEMENT Related Topics:Playoff Projection Up Next Tweet Break: Cowboys Win NFC East, Lock Up Top Seed With Giants’ Week 16 Loss Don't Miss Martin’s 5: Is It Really A Surprise Sean Lee Was A Pro Bowl Snub? Jess Haynie 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! Advertisement You may like Early Games Give Huge Boost to Cowboys Playoff Hopes Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Week 16 Impact Games Complete Breakdown of Cowboys Playoff Scenarios Cowboys Playoff Scenario: Week 15 Impact Games Week 14 Playoff Projection: Cowboys Still In Striking Distance Cowboys en Español: Optimismo, Pesimismo y Realismo para los Dallas Cowboys Click to comment Star Blog Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 Rookies Need to Avoid Sophomore Slumps Published 1 day ago on January 20, 2018 By Mauricio Rodriguez Dustin Bradford / Getty Images Right now, it’s pretty tough to predict how the 2018 Dallas Cowboys’ season will turn out. Even with Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli all returning for next season, there’s a lot of change going on in Dallas. The Cowboys will have to deal with a lot of new position coaches as they try to get back to the top after a 9-7 season in 2017. Obviously, there are a lot of things that’ll impact the outcome of this season. Will we see a better version of Dak Prescott after a year which seemed to be his learning curve? Will Dez Bryant even be here next season? Will the front office be able to keep DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving and Anthony Hitchens? One of those questions hasn’t been discussed much. That question is: how will the 2017 rookie class fare in their sophomore seasons? In 2016 and 2017, rookies were very important for this franchise. Two years ago, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott took the NFL by storm, ending the season with a 13-3 record and the #1 seed in the NFC. Anthony Brown looked to be the Cowboys’ future shutdown cornerback, and Maliek Collins looked very promising. Last season, the Cowboys didn’t have rookie seasons as spectacular as Dak and Zeke had in 2016 (I don’t think we’ll see anything similar in the NFL for a long time), but the rookie class ended up being a very important one for sure. After letting a lot of veteran players walk in free agency, the team went ahead and fixed the secondary by drafting Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in consecutive rounds, and trading up to get Xavier Woods in the sixth. Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins) Jourdan Lewis made his presence felt early in the season, while we had to wait a bit to see Chidobe Awuzie in action. Both of them had surprising rookie seasons and they truly look like the future in Dallas’ secondary. Both have shown what they’re capable of; we’ve seen them make plays and turn their heads to the ball… really, something we hadn’t seen in a long time. Ryan Switzer didn’t get a chance to play as a wide receiver that much, but he was very impressive as a returner. He still has a long way to go, but I’m betting on Switzer to remain among the NFL’s best returners for a long time. After seeing him replace Cole Beasley in the season finale, I’ll be shocked if Dallas doesn’t give him more playing time on offense next year. He deserves a more important role. Taco Charlton still has a lot to improve on, but surprisingly, he did a nice job during the final games of the season. It’s always premature to call a player a “bust” after a single season, and Taco’s been called a bust since the moment he was drafted. Let’s give him a chance. For 2017, we set the bar high for the Cowboys’ sophomores. We thought Dak Prescott would be among the best QBs in the league, that Ezekiel Elliott would pass the 2,000-yard mark, that Anthony Brown would be an ideal CB1, and that Maliek Collins could even lead the team in sacks as a defensive tackle. There are a lot of reasons this team struggled in 2017, and some of those reasons still preoccupy us when thinking about next season. The Cowboys will definitely need their 2017 rookies to continue playing quality football. It will be key if they want to leave a painful 9-7 season behind and get back to winning this year. Here’s to hoping the Cowboys’ 2018 sophomores avoid the “inevitable slumps.” In a season filled with uncertainty, they’ll sure be needed. Tell me what you think about “Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 Rookies Need to Avoid Sophomore Slumps” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys! ADVERTISEMENT Continue Reading Star Blog Cowboys en Español: ¿Estará Dez Bryant de Vuelta en el 2018? Published 2 days ago on January 19, 2018 By Mauricio Rodriguez Dez Bryant es ese jugador que incontables veces me hizo gritar y saltar de alegría con sus excepcionales recepciones y su manera de pelear el balón en el aire. Tantos momentos tan memorables con Tony Romo e incluso algunos con Dak Prescott lo han vuelto uno de mis jugadores favoritos… Pero ahora, después de una difícil temporada de los Dallas Cowboys, los sentimientos están encontrados. En muchos momentos, no parece que estamos viendo al Dez Bryant de antes. Claro, podemos decidir recordar esa recepción de touchdown que rompió el récord de la franquicia contra los Redskins, o esa escapada de 50 yardas en New York en la semana 14. Pero Dez no ha sido el mismo las últimas tres temporadas. Y este 2017, todos los momentos de frustración culminaron en el partido que eliminó a los Cowboys de la temporada. Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a los Seattle Seahawks, un fumble acompañado por un pase soltado de Dez que resultó en una intercepción, todos nos pusimos a pensar. La cosa no es que Dez Bryant sea un mal receptor. El talento está ahí, y es fácil verlo en ciertas jugadas. A veces es visible cuando atropella a algún defensivo, a veces cuando busca el balón y consigue atraparlo de una manera impresionante. Quizá el próximo año se sacuda la mala racha que ha tenido los últimos años y encuentre una manera de ser el jugador que alguna vez fue… el problema es la cantidad de dinero que se le paga. Después de la temporada del 2014, cuando Bryant terminó el año con 16 touchdowns y más de 1,300 yardas, el receptor estrella firmó un contrato por $70M. Los Dallas Cowboys tienen frente a ellos una pregunta muy importante que resolver este offseason. ¿Deberían Deshacerse de Dez Bryant? A pesar de tener una mala racha, la razón por la cual Dallas le diría adiós a Dez es su contrato. Dez está listo para cobrar $16.5M en el 2018 y otros 16 millones y medio en el 2019. De ser cortado, los Cowboys se ahorrarían ocho millones y medio la próxima temporada. Suficiente dinero para firmar a un jugador que realmente haga impacto esta agencia libre. Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (Brad Penner / USA TODAY Sports) Normalmente, cuando hablamos de jugadores como él, hay muchos conflictos para los aficionados. Vaya, yo mismo acabo de plantear que es uno de mis jugadores favoritos, pero quizá a veces el cambio es necesario. Sí, la producción de Dez Bryant no ha sido la misma desde la última temporada que tuvo con Tony Romo. Pero ¿es eso excusa suficiente? Basta pensar en jugadores como Larry Fitzgerald y DeAndre Hopkins para darse cuenta de que no. Aún con quarterbacks mediocres, ambos se mantienen como receptores de elite en la NFL. Es cierto que Dak Prescott no es el mismo QB que Romo era, y no es un jugador que vaya a lanzar pases profundos tan frecuentemente como Tony lo hacía, pero eso tampoco significa que sea algo malo necesariamente. Este equipo le construyó un equipo a su ex-mariscal para sacarle todo el provecho al #9. Es hora de hacer lo mismo por Dak Prescott. Insisto en que los Cowboys tienen que buscar a un WR tan pronto como en la primera ronda del NFL Draft o incluso hasta en agencia libre. Los Dallas Cowboys tienen tantas cosas que hacer antes de la próxima temporada y decidir que hacer con uno de sus jugadores más emblemáticos de la actualidad, Dez Bryant, es una de ellas. ¿Les gustaría ver a Dez Bryant de vuelta en el 2018? Tell me what you think about “Cowboys en Español: ¿Estará Dez Bryant de Vuelta en el 2018?” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys! ADVERTISEMENT Continue Reading Star Blog Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018? Published 3 days ago on January 18, 2018 By Brian Martin The Dallas Cowboys clearly had a specific role in mind for Ryan Switzer when they drafted him 133rd overall in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Come to find out, that role didn’t include being involved much on the offensive side of the ball, at least not as a rookie. After watching the way the Cowboys utilized Ryan Switzer in 2017, it’s pretty obvious the sole purpose he was drafted was to improve the special-teams play in the return game. They clearly didn’t envision him being a part of the game plan on offense, despite the continuous outcry from fans. Like most rookies, Ryan Switzer didn’t really get off to a fast start, and took a while to get used to the speed of the NFL. But, once he calmed his nerves and regained his confidence, he proved to be an upgrade in the return game. Switzer ended up ranking third in kickoff returns, averaging 25 yards per return in 2017 and 12th in punt returns with almost 9 yards per return. He also became the first Dallas Cowboys player to return a punt for a touchdown since 2013. He accomplished this against the Washington Redskins, in Week 13 when he took an 83-yarder to the house. Surprisingly enough, using Ryan Switzer solely as a return specialist wasn’t enough for a lot of Cowboys Nation. A lot of fans wanted to see his talents utilized more on the offensive side of the ball as well, but were only left disappointed. Dallas Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer Getting Switzer involved in the offensive game plan just wasn’t in the cards in 2017. He only managed to catch six passes for 41 yards and rushed four times for 5 yards. This isn’t exactly what Cowboys fans envisioned after hearing Switzer was opening a lot eyes in training camp and organized team activities (OTAs). That was the main problem. He was hyped up so much heading into the season that fans expected to see him involved much more on offense. The Cowboys, on the other hand, had something else in mind, but I doubt that’s the case for the upcoming 2018 season. I really think we’re going to see an increased role for Ryan Switzer next season. The Cowboys coaching staff should have a much better understanding of his strengths and weaknesses now that he has a year in the system under his belt. And, they’ve seen firsthand how explosive he can be with the ball in his hands. What the Cowboys coaching staff will have to determine this offseason is just how big of a role Switzer will have next year. Should Switzer take Cole Beasley‘s job? Cole Beasley, like the rest of the Cowboys receivers, had a down year in 2017. We shouldn’t assume that his job is safe, especially with someone like Ryan Switzer waiting in the wings. But, is Switzer ready to take over full-time? Tough decisions will have to be made eventually, but such is life in the NFL. Will Ryan Switzer see an increased offensive role in 2018? ADVERTISEMENT Continue Reading Sportsbook odds for all Dallas Cowboys games Reader Survey Want to help make Inside The Star better? We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. 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