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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Is America's Team Back?

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Love 'em or hate 'em, the Dallas Cowboys are a great story for the NFL; To blitz or not to blitz; Is Sunday the day for Dwayne Harris?

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America’s Team is Back | The MMQB
Love 'em or hate 'em, the Dallas Cowboys are winning again - and a great story for the NFL, Don Banks writes.

The Cowboys remain a crown jewel franchise in the NFL, and while other big, tradition-rich NFC markets like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington all missed the playoffs, the Cowboys have turned the Big D back into the center of the football universe at the moment.

For the Cowboys, their season has been a story about resurgence and redemption, and it’s a well-timed stroke of luck for the NFL, which happened to be in the market for a little redemption itself after the most tumultuous season ever. Love ’em or hate ’em, the Cowboys are winning again, and that makes them impossible to ignore.

Week 19 NFL Elo Ratings And Playoff Odds | FiveThirtyEight
Nate Silver looks at the Elo ratings for the Packers and Cowboys and comes up with a conclusion that some may find surprising:

Elo most differs from the conventional wisdom in its assessment of the Dallas Cowboys-Green Bay Packers matchup. While Vegas odds had the Packers as six-point favorites as of Friday afternoon, Elo has the Pack as 2.5-point favorites instead, essentially giving the team credit for its home-field advantage and nothing else. There are all sorts of additional factors you’d want to evaluate before betting on this game — in particular, Aaron Rodgers’s health and the weather at Lambeau Field — but it looks like the best matchup of the week.

Is Sunday the day for Dwayne Harris? | Rick Gosselin, DMN
Gosselin wonders whether playing outdoors in the cold, where kickoffs and punts don't travel as far as they would indoors, will allow Harris to "deliver that something extra." Add the fact that the Packers have average cover teams and that Packers punter Tim Masthay has struggled, and Gosselin may be on to something.

"The last few games, no one has been kicking the ball to me," Harris said. "Not on punts, anyway. And there have been a lot of touchbacks on kickoffs. Every time we as a unit get a chance to return, we try to make something happen."

"But I need the opportunity first."

Don't look for Dallas Cowboys to blitz Packers QB Aaron Rodgers - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
The Cowboys brought pressure just 23.7 percent of the time during the season, which ranked them just 25th in the league, Archer writes, and adds that blitzing Rodgers isn't a good idea anyway because Rodgers plays extremely well against the blitz.

Ailing Aaron Rodgers has Packers ready for blitzes - NFL.com
Apparently, the Packers don't read ESPN Dallas, because they are getting ready for a blitzing Cowboys defense:

With Rodgers' calf injury being the biggest threat to a Green Bay home playoff win, Packers players are preparing to see more pressures from the Dallas Cowboys.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see more (blitzes) this week knowing that with his calf," Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see them generate some extra pressure to try to move him around a little bit. I don't know, we'll have to see."

The Cowboys under Rod Marinelli aren't a blitzing squad, but rather a team that plays conservative, rally-and-tackle football. A gimpy Rodgers could entice a change in philosophy, but don't expect that to trouble the Packers.

Will NFL teams try to copy the Dallas Cowboys’ blueprint? | Dallas Morning News
Jerry Jones was asked Friday morning about the possibility of teams copying the Cowboys' blueprint for building a contender. Jones acknowledges it's a possibility, but points out that it'll need just a teensy weensy bit of forward thinking:

"I would say this, your best values are from the draft," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. "When you’re trying to build an offensive line from the draft and you’re trying to go at the very top, that takes a little time."

"To get where we are today with our offensive line, that took three drafts using a No. 1 to get there. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be No. 1s, but you certainly have to have the quality."

Marc Colombo one of Cowboys’ scout team players of the week | Dallas Morning News
How can a retired player be a scout team player of the week? Jason Garrett explains:

"He’s working in our personnel department, does a great job with evaluating the opponents that we’re facing, but he also comes out to practice," Garrett said. "Over the course of the year he’s gotten himself involved with the defensive line, does a lot of pass sets with those guys and simulates the different looks that they’re going to see."

"It’s typical Colombo. I see him getting lubed up over there, he’s getting ready and he’s got his game face on and he gives them all they can handle. He does a hell of a job for us."

Dez Bryant fined for taunting; Lion fined for hit on Cole Beasley | DMN
The league fined Bryant for getting in the face of Darius Slay after a DeMarco Murray touchdown. The Lions guy who decked Cole Beasley also got fined.

Weathering The First Half Storm Is The Cowboys' Biggest Key | Bryan Broaddus, DC.com
Broaddus offers two keys to a Cowboys win in Green Bay: Don't fall behind and don't allow the Packers to stop the running game.

The Cowboys have to stop Jordy Nelson to stop the Packers - SBNation.com
Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson have burned opposing defenses all season with big plays. If the Cowboys are going to take down the Packers in the Divisional round on Sunday, they'll have to keep Nelson in check, says retired NFL defensive end Stephen White.

What appears to be true is this: give up a big play to Nelson and the chances of beating the Packers go almost all the way down to nil. However, if an opponent can keep him in check, that team should have a legitimate shot to win the game late in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys defense ranked 26th against the pass during the regular season, giving up an average of almost 252 yards through the air. Look a little deeper into the numbers, though. The Cowboys were seventh in the league in limiting passing plays of 20 or more yards, giving up just 45 such passes all year. That's pretty damn good considering the lack of a vicious pass rush in Big D.

If Jordy Nelson makes a play of 21 yards or more this weekend, then the Cowboys are going to have a long, joyless plane ride home from Green Bay. But if the Cowboys can find a way to force Rodgers and Nelson to respect their authoritah and keep him from making a big play, their improbable playoff run will continue on into the NFC Championship.

It's really that simple.

Dallas Cowboys honor Farmington teacher’s memory - The Commercial Appeal
Sometimes it's the small news items that make your day. After an elementary school teacher and Cowboys fan unexpectedly passed away over the winter break, the Dallas Cowboys sent the teacher's students packages of Cowboys gear to greet them on their first day back to school.

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