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Cowboys News: Why Cowboys "High-Octane Machine" Is Super Bowl-Bound

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Looking forward to the season finale - and beyond.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

With rookie rushing record likely out of reach, Ezekiel Elliott wants Cowboys to head to playoffs as a 'high-octane machine' - Kate Hairopoulos, SportsDay

It is all but certain that Ezekiel Elliott will not break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record, but he is much more focused on the big picture anyway.

"You guys say meaningful games," (Elliott) told reporters. "Everything is meaningful -- even though it may not matter if we win or lose it -- but it matters in the total grand scheme of things. We're trying to stay sharp, trying to have a sharp edge every week so we can go into this playoffs like a high-octane machine. We're not taking weeks off. We're not looking at it as games that aren't meaningful. Every game we play is meaningful."

What a rehearsal! How Cowboys toyed with Lions, put rest of the league on notice - Bob Sturm, SportsDay

On Monday, the Cowboys put on an offensive display of impressive scope. Sturm looks at how they weren't just winning a "meaningless" game - they were sending the rest of the playoff teams a message.

The Cowboys' offense has answered charges of growing stale, predictable, and even careful from two weeks ago, and now after seeing them shred the formidable Tampa Bay and Detroit defenses like they did -- 68 points, 824 yards of offense and just one turnover (a very rare Jason Witten fumble) -- it appears one could argue they are once again peaking at just the right time.

This offense has built a scheme that requires a defense to play everything "honest." That is, if you do not cover what the Cowboys show, they will simply run the play you think they are running. But if you seem to committed to the initial look, they will use your decision-making against you and go in the exact opposite direction of their look. This is what the good offenses can do. They can make you choose, and then your answer will never be right. You cannot cover everything against an offense that can stretch you and pull you in all sorts of directions at once.

This isn't about the Lions or Buccaneers. This is about 15 opponents over four months who have tried to slow the Dallas Cowboys down. We shall certainly give the New York Giants their due, but when you start to study the league stats, you see that the Cowboys -- with rookies at two of the most important spots -- have set the pace for the NFL on offense.

Why it would be surprising if Cowboys didn't reach Super Bowl - Rick Gosselin, SportsDay

Gosselin takes a look at the importance for Dallas of holding the number one seed in the conference.

If I was a betting man, which I'm not, I'd bet the Cowboys would be in Houston for Super Bowl week.

I'd also bet that the New England Patriots would be in Houston that week.

I like top seeds in the NFL playoffs.

So does history.

The Cowboys have already clinched the top seed in the NFC with their 13-2 record, rendering their season finale Sunday at Philadelphia meaningless -- if, in fact, setting a franchise single-season record with a 14th victory can be deemed meaningless.

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Will Tony Romo even be active Sunday for Dallas Cowboys? - Todd Archer, ESPN

Todd Archer raises a great point about the whole question of sitting players before the playoffs.

For all of those people saying the Cowboys need to rest their players against Philadelphia, I wonder how that's even possible. The Cowboys have only seven offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. If you don't want Tyron Smith to play, he might have to dress for an emergency purpose. The Cowboys have only two tight ends on the roster, so Jason Witten has to play. It is possible to limit Ezekiel Elliott's carries with Darren McFadden or even Alfred Morris. It is possible to monitor Dez Bryant's work with six receivers on the roster. If the Cowboys want to rest Sean Lee, they have to hope Justin Durant (elbow) can play. Anthony Brown's concussion could force all of the corners to play a normal role. It's easy to say rest players, but it's easier said than done.

Lots of gray in Cowboys coach Jason Garrett's sit-or-play decisions - Todd Archer, ESPN

The question of protecting some starters by sitting them in the last game of the year is a big one, but the players seem unanimous in what they want to do.

Every player asked after the win over the Lions said he wanted to play against the Eagles.

"That's the mentality I have," safety Barry Church said. "I don't know if the coaches have the same mentality, but I'd like to play. Give us at least a half, if not the whole game, just so we're not sitting for so long. If we sit at Philly, then there's the wild card and then we play. We've got practice, but that's nothing like a game. I hope we get to play at least a half, but we'll see what happens."

Should an NFL team rest its starters in Week 17? 5 things to consider - Geoff Schwartz, SBNation.com

The sit or play question is huge for the Cowboys in the season finale. Geoff Schwartz, a veteran NFL offensive lineman, offers some factors to consider, including one that may be bigger for Dallas given the two star rookies leading the way.

Age

The third factor is the age of your resting starters. If these players are veterans who know the ropes of what's coming up, it makes more sense to rest these guys because they won't be blindsided with having to ramp back up for the playoffs. They will know how to properly handle the time off and be ready to roll.

Dak Prescott will try to avoid unnecessary hits in season final - Clarence Hill, The Star-Telegram

One thing that was a bit worrisome in the Lions win was how many times Dak Prescott was hit. It looks like he has decided that was not such a good idea.

"If they give me lanes to run, I'm going to do that," Prescott said. "I'm not going to take some meaningless hits as I took the last game. I will throw the ball away and slide. I guess I can do that better.

"I took some unnecessary hits. There were situations I could have run out of bounds or thrown the ball away...things that I have done all year that I didn't do last game."

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Big Picture: Cowboys, Eagles To Meet Again After October OT Thriller - Nick Eatman, Dallas Cowboys

On paper, the Cowboys should win against the Eagles - if they don't rest too many starters. But division games don't always go according to form, and Philadelphia is a hard team to beat at home.

The Eagles nearly beat the Cowboys back in Week 6 but couldn't hold off a late rally by Prescott, who engineered a game-tying drive to force overtime, followed by a game-winner in the extra session. Prescott's touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten gave the Cowboys a 29-23 win at AT&T Stadium.

Since then, Philadelphia had lost six of its next seven games before rebounding against the Giants last Thursday. They've found more success at home, winning five of their six games this year at Lincoln Financial Field.

Philadelphia Eagles leaning too much on rookie QB Carson Wentz - Todd Archer, ESPN

The Cowboys and the Eagles have both gone the entire season starting a rookie quarterback - but the results have been vastly different.

Carson Wentz: The rookie needs to throw just eight passes on Sunday to break Donovan McNabb's franchise record for most pass attempts in a season. That's not exactly how the Eagles drew it up. This was supposed to be a redshirt year for Wentz, but the Sam Bradford trade to Minnesota before the start of the season changed all that. Coach Doug Pederson has leaned (too) heavily on the quarterback to carry an offense that lacks the necessary firepower. Wentz has experienced a sharp statistical decline following a red-hot start over the first quarter of the season. However, he continues to flash the tools that made him the No. 2 overall pick this past April. The coaching staff remains very high on him.

Dak Prescott continues to develop into an NFL star - Matt Harmon, NFL.com

The title kinda says it all.

Early in the season some pundits stuck a pejorative dink-and-dunk label on the rookie passer. He's developed so much since those narratives were constructed. All three of Prescott's touchdowns came on passes that traveled 10 or more yards in the air tonight. In total he threw eight such passes against the Lions, completing six of them for 127 yards and the three scores with a 156.3 passer rating. That was the best passer rating on throws of 10-plus air yards of any Week 16 quarterback.

Dak's development as a downfield passer shows what kind of bright future he has as an NFL starter that not only helps his team, but is the catalyst that wins them games. Prescott averaged 9.6 air yards per attempt Monday, which was his second-highest mark for the season. He averaged 10.3 against the Eagles in Week 8. To underscore his level of progression, Prescott completed 48.7 percent of his passes in that contest against Philadelphia, and 75 percent versus the Lions.

Elliott’s Value To Cowboys Goes Well Beyond Rookie Record Chase - Rob Phillips, Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott will be remembered as the biggest story of the 2016 NFL season, but the it is hard to decide whether he or Ezekiel Elliott has the biggest impact on the team.

This year Elliott has played nearly 75 percent of the Cowboys' offensive snaps. Here are his contributions to the league's fourth-ranked offense:

  • His league-best 1,631 rushing yards are more than any NFL player gained all of last season.
  • He has 15 of the Cowboys' second-ranked 24 rushing touchdowns, tripling last year's total of eight.
  • The Cowboys lead the league in time of possession (32:10 to 27:50) while also ranking third in the league in scoring efficiency, getting points on 45.3 percent of their drives.
  • The Cowboys rank first in drives of five or more minutes (35) and have scored on 30 of them, also best in the league.
  • The Cowboys lead the league with 70 runs of 10 or more yards. Elliott has 49 of them.

Dallas Cowboys' Morris Claiborne eyeing return for playoffs - Todd Archer, ESPN

Morris Claiborne will not play against the Eagles, but he plans to make it back for the playoffs.

"That's my goal," Claiborne said. "That's what I'm getting myself ready for right now."

NFL panic index, Week 17: 4 playoff teams have QBs with no postseason experience - SBNation.com Staff

The Cowboys are not the only team headed for the playoffs with a quarterback who has never been at the helm there before, but they are in better shape than any of the others.

The Mississippi State's NFL career thus far has been a case study in "prove-it." He's killed it thus far, emerging as one of the league's top quarterbacks. But those questions won't die down in the postseason, no matter how good he's been. If Prescott puts together a subpar performance and the Cowboys lose before the Super Bowl, he'll get slapped back under a microscope for 2017 despite his monster rookie campaign.

Panic index: The sins of the Bulldogs aren't on Dak. Playing in a bowl game is certainly different than playing in the NFL playoffs, but if any rookie can make the leap, it's the one who has gone 13-2 against pro competition so far.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB