Alright, alright, alright! It's week 17. It's the last week of the NFL regular season and, therefore, the last week of so-called "meaningless" games for the Cowboys. Tomorrow, they walk into Lincoln Financial Field the #1 seed in the NFC and Champions of the NFC East. And guess what? There is nothing the Philadelphia Eagles can do about it!
You can breathe knowing that much, at least.
The Cowboys have been on a tear this season, winning 11 in a row and 13 in all; it's almost been too exciting to be a fan this year. But let's just breathe now. Let's absorb 13-2 for a minute. Don't push a fairly meaningless stat and would-be team record of 14 regular season wins on these 'Boys, just breathe and soak it in.
The Dallas Cowboys have done exactly what they needed to do up until this point, and now it's all about the playoffs.
The biggest story this week has been about the team's decision at quarterback.
Jason Garrett talked this week about history and how teams letting off the gas in a week like this tend to not go into the playoffs the same. Reports have surfaced about Tony Romo possibly playing tomorrow, and Mark Sanchez (forever known here as Butt Fumble... sorry, Mark) will be active, hinting that he, too, shall see some playing time.
And still, all of that is about someone else. It's about Dak Prescott. To let the rookie risk injury during a meaningless game against a fierce division rival could spell disaster for the Cowboys. To allow momentum and synchronicity to evaporate ahead of a bye could also spell disaster for the Cowboys.
What to do, what to do.
I like to think they'll approach this game no differently than any other, how they approached a Lions game in which they outscored Detroit 2:1. Playing to win is about more than the final score and records. But let's see what some of our guys at Inside The Star think.
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Kevin Brady | @Kevinbrady88
This game is nearly impossible to predict as the Dallas Cowboys will rest many banged up starters and the Philadelphia Eagles will surely go all out to win. Still, I think the Cowboys pull away with this one.
Most of their defense from the past few weeks will be active, and their offense will be able to do just enough to win.
Cowboys 27 – Eagles 21
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Mauricio Rodriguez | @PepoR99
It pains me to pick against the Cowboys, but I don't expect to see a lot of Dak Prescott or Tony Romo.
Philly is at home and they'll want the win, while the Cowboys just want to rest most of the starters.
Mark Sanchez time.
Cowboys 17 – Eagles 21
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Brian Martin | @Bmart0204
As much as I want to see the Dallas Cowboys set a franchise record with the most wins in a season (14), I just don't see it happening this week. Not on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys simply have too many injuries on both sides of the ball, and there's really no reason to risk some of their key players to injury in what looks to be a meaningless game.
The organization has to be thinking about the playoffs now, and keeping their team as healthy as possible.
Cowboys 13 – Eagles 21
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Sean Martin | @ShoreSportsNJ
Well, it's week 17, and the Cowboys' regular season finale is a meaningless game in enemy territory against Philadelphia.
The Cowboys will only lose by one score in the last time we see them before the Divisional Playoffs, but the Eagles defense will put them over the top against a Cowboys offense that'll look nothing like what we're used to for much of the day.
Cowboys lose, and win.
Cowboys 21 – Eagles 28
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Bryson Treece | @BrysonTreece
Jason Garrett sounded quite convincing in talking about how he doesn't want to make the mistake history has proven to be a mistake time and time again, but I've been lied to before. And after Carr and Mariota went down last week, this is probably feeling a bit like a game of Russian Roulette to continue putting Dak Prescott under center.
But the defense has seemed to find something these last two weeks, and against better teams than the Eagles, no less. So while the offense may see numbers 20, 3 and/or 9 more, the defense is still figuring things out, and they'll likely press hard all afternoon.
Gotta go with momentum and records here, and coach Garrett.
Cowboys 24 – Eagles 20
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This game is about as unpredictable as they come since we don't even know if the Cowboys' game plan is to win, but regardless, it'll be fun to watch. At the end of the day, the Cowboys are still on top. And the Eagles, even if they win tomorrow, are most definitely not.
So, to close out what should be the last article from us in 2016...
Happy New Year, and LET’S GO COWBOYS!!!
Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report
Though it's still early in the 2018 season, the lead in the NFC East is up for grabs when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet this Sunday. Both teams would like their full roster available for the game, but the Week 7 injury reports indicate that won't be the case.
Here are the players either confirmed to be out of action tomorrow or are otherwise listed by Dallas and Washington:
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
- LB Joe Thomas (foot) - OUT
- CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) - Questionable
The Cowboys are getting healthier, with Sean Lee finally off the injury report and set to return to action. Not only will Dallas get their elite linebacker back, but it means a deeper rotation while the team remains without Joe Thomas.
Tavon Austin elected to skip season-ending surgery on his injured groin, but his should be out a few weeks. That will put Cole Beasley on punt returns and perhaps create more offensive opportunities for Deonte Thompson and Brice Butler.
Awuzie remains limited in practice but has played the last few weeks despite the ankle injury. There is no reason to think he won't suit up in Washington.
- WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) - OUT
- WR Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) - Doubtful
- S Troy Apke (hamstring) - Doubtful
- RB Adrian Peterson (ankle, shoulder) - Questionable
- RB Chris Thompson (rib, knee) - Questionable
- G Shawn Lauvao (calf) - Questionable
- CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) - Questionable
- CB Danny Johnson (forearm) - Questionable
It's a rough time for Washington's offensive weapons. They will definitely be without slot receiver Jamison Crowder and likely starter Paul Richardson, who current lead all WRs in receptions. Josh Doctson will put into a major role, as will veteran Brian Quick off the bench.
Peterson and Thompson both practiced this week and should play, but have nagging injuries that could slow them down. Washington is already missing Rob Kelley and rookie Derrius Guice, who are both on injured reserve.
Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao is also nursing a lower leg injury, but practiced in a limited capacity all week. His backup is undrafted rookie Casey Dunn out of Auburn.
In the defensive backfield, starting CB Quinton Dunbar was a Friday addition to the injury report with a shin injury. He did practice with it, though, so will likely play. Backup safety Troy Apke is doubtful with a hamstring issue.
Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.
Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.
Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.
Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.
Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.
The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.
Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.
Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.
Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.
Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.
He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.
If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.
Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.
Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.
That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.
#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance
It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.
But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.
According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.
Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.
What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.
For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.
As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.
Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.
Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).
Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.
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