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Week 16 Playoff Projection: Little Certainty with Two Weeks Remaining

Jess Haynie

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Dez Bryant
Photo by Al Bello / Getty Images

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.

Jason Gerrett

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.

  1. Dallas Cowboys (12-2)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)
  3. Atlanta Falcons (9-5)
  4. Detroit Lions (9-5)
  5. New York Giants (10-4)
  6. Green Bay Packers (8-6)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6)
  8. Washington (7-6-1)
  9. 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

Sean Lee, GiantsWe 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.



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!

Star Blog

Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next

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Cowboys Defense So Far So Good as Seahawks Up Next

Dallas may only be 1-1 on the season, but the Cowboys are officially tied for first-place in the NFC East, and fresh off a workmanlike victory over divisional rivals, the New York Giants. It was a game they should have won, and did win, but the takeaways so early in the season are that, although the offense has not clicked on all cylinders, the defense is getting high praise.

The Cowboys sacked New York’s Eli Manning six times and limited the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley, to a mere 28 yards rushing. It was also a night in which Dak Prescott not only out-gained Barkley by 17 yards on the ground, but torched the Giants’ secondary on a 64-yard touchdown strike to Tavon Austin which proved New York’s Safety Landon Collins wrong when leading up to this game he remarked that the key to a Giants’ victory would be getting Prescott to throw. When Prescott was made aware of the comment in a midweek interview he replied, "…challenge accepted," and the third-year veteran made good on his word leading to the 20-13 victory.

However, Prescott ended the night with just 160 yards passing yet the ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 showed no signs of rearing its head as Prescott moved seamlessly in the pocket and ran the ball well.

As we move ahead to the Cowboys meeting in Seattle, we take a quick check over to one of the most reputable online sportsbooks in the industry - Intertops according to the reviews - where we can monitor the line on this pivotal NFC clash as the week progresses.

Seattle boasts a talented quarterback of their own in Russell Wilson but one who will find the sledding tough if the Dallas defense continues to shut down All-World wide outs like Odell Beckham Jr. and contain future rushing stars like Saquon Barkley. Outside of Wilson, Seattle is not loaded offensively, with their biggest target, Doug Baldwin, ailing with a knee injury and a backfield which consists of two young rushers in second-year man Chris Carson and a first-round rookie in Rashaad Penny who dealt with nagging injuries throughout the preseason and looked unsettled in Seattle’s 27-24 loss to the Broncos.

The Cowboys defense has already proven its worth in Carolina with Cam Newton under center and again last week against New York. The unit is surrendering an average of 14 ½ points per game and is incorporating more blitz packages than we’ve come to expect.

The difference this year is that the players they have on defense are capable of getting to the quarterback quick enough so that the coverage linebackers and secondary aren’t alone on an island for too long. The one concern is the status of Linebacker Sean Lee, who checked out of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday night and brought to mind his hamstring issues of a year ago, but apparently it was in fact cramping, and not straining, of the hammy which allowed Lee to return.

The bottom line in terms of the Cowboys' upcoming matchup on Sunday afternoon is that they will get the Seahawks coming off a short week, as Seattle played on Monday night and should be relatively healthy for the contest.

Dak Prescott may not have the formidable offensive line that he has had in the past, nor a top-tier arsenal of receivers, but he does have the elusive Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield and is capable of extricating himself from pressure situations when no target is available.

If the Dallas defense continues to play at the current level, it will not only be limiting the opposition on the scoreboard but putting its offense in good field position throughout. So check out Intertops, one of the most trusted and reputable online sportsbooks, to see where this line goes because a Dallas win and an ATS cover are just days away.



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Star Blog

Taco Tuesday: Cowboys DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?

Brian Martin

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Taco Tuesday: DE Taco Charlton Starting to Dominate?
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

There has been quite a bit of talk about what a bad decision it was for the Dallas Cowboys to draft Taco Charlton with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Nearly everybody wanted someone different, not a player that needed time to develop.

Well, fast forward a year later and it looks as if the Cowboys made the right decision.

Don't look now, but Defensive End Taco Charlton is starting to live up to that first-round pedigree. In the first two weeks of the 2018 season, Charlton has already looked like a much improved player from what we saw a season ago. Imagine that, a little bit of time to develop and he's turning into a solid player.

I know I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself, especially suggesting that he is starting to dominate, but I can't help myself. I'm that excited about how much he has improved in one offseason. I may be alone here, but I have high hopes he could turn into something special.

In 2017, Taco Charlton failed to start a single game for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie. That's not really what you want from your first-round draft pick. To makes matters worse, in 16 games he only registered 25 total tackles, four QB sacks, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble. As you can imagine, it didn't sit well with most Cowboys fans.

Luckily, it looks as if Charlton's offseason in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program has paid off. Already in 2018 he has accumulated six total tackles, one QB sack, one pass defensed, and recovered a fumble. If he keeps this pace up, we could be looking at #97 reaching double-digit sacks this year.

Taco Charlton

Dallas Cowboys DE Taco Charlton

Now, I wouldn't call what Taco Charlton has accomplished so far this season dominating, but he is proving to be a starting quality DE along the Cowboys defensive line. It's a unit that has looked really good in the first two weeks of the season and is expected to be even better once Randy Gregory and David Irving are able to return to the field.

In the meantime, the Dallas Cowboys are happy to get plays like this from Taco Charlton.

Taco Charlton Eli Manning sack

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This is a play Charlton is expected to make. He was left unblocked, but we've seen players left unblocked before not make the play. So, it may not be as impressive as some QB sacks. But, I'll take the routine tackle any day over someone trying to make a splash play and failing.

If you're looking for an impressive play from Taco Charlton, take a look at what he was able to do against Odell Beckham Jr. in the passing game.

Taco Charlton covering Odell Beckham Jr

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

In case you're wondering, that's Taco Charlton in OBJ's hip pocket 15 yards down the field in pass coverage. It looks as if that's where Eli Manning was wanting to go with the ball, but tight coverage by the Cowboys, and Charlton, across the board ended up resulting in a QB sack.

If you don't find that impressive, I don't know what will. A 275 pound DE covering arguably the best and highest paid wide receiver down the field is almost unheard of. I would count that as impressive.

What do you think of Taco Charlton's play so far in 2018?



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Star Blog

A Look Around The NFC East: Week 2

Kevin Brady

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Film Room: How Dak Prescott Beat The Giants' Blitz

The usually competitive NFC East got off to a shaky start last week, with half the division winning their season opener and the other half falling short.

Now entering week 2, the Eagles and Redskins have a chance to begin to distance themselves from the loser of the Cowboys/Giants game, and both of those 0-1 teams are looking to "save" their season. Yes, that sounds dramatic, but a home loss within the division to fall to 0-2 could be debilitating for the Dallas Cowboys moving forward.

Regardless, let's go around the division and see what each team has on tap for this Sunday.

Philadelphia Eagles

The defending champs opened up their 2018 campaign just as we expected: with a home victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta sort of gave that game away last Thursday night, but if the Eagles can stack Nick Foles-led wins on top of each other they'll put themselves in a great spot to win the East when Carson Wentz returns.

The Eagles will be on the road this week for the first time, traveling to Tampa Bay to play the 1-0 Buccaneers. The Bucs pulled the upset of the weekend last week, defeating New Orleans 48-40. It's hard to imagine that "Fitzmagic" continuing against the vaunted Eagles defense, though.

Philly is a three point road favorite against Tampa Bay this Sunday.

Washington Redskins

My "sleeper" team in the NFC East, and pick to finish second in the division, looked rather impressive in their week one drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals. Of course, Arizona isn't a very good team, and will probably be picking top 5 in the draft next April. Still, it was a good showing for the Redskins to open the season.

Washington got Adrian Peterson going on the ground for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown, and Chris Thompson helped keep them on schedule offensively as well. Washington hasn't been talked about much this offseason, but is sitting at 1-0 with a game against the 0-1 Colts on the horizon.

Washington is a 6 point favorite against Indianapolis this Sunday, and has a good chance of starting 2-0 on the year.

New York Giants

Though we are just one week into the 2018 regular season, an important matchup is brewing within the NFC East. After falling to 0-1 with a home loss in their season opener, the Giants will travel to Texas to face the Cowboys on Sunday night football this week.

With both teams sitting at 0-1, neither can afford to put themselves into a nearly-insurmountable hole with a second straight loss. Since the merger 90% of teams who fall to 0-2 fail to make the playoffs, and it would be back-to-back seasons of missing out for both the Cowboys and Giants.

New York is a three point road underdog on Sunday, and it seems like most of the football world is leaning towards them and their weapons coming away with the victory.

Either way, this game will have massive implications on the 2018 season.



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