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Cowboys News: Dallas Clinches Playoff Berth, Could Grab Division Title Against Giants

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The Cowboys didn’t even play on Sunday but still came out winners.

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Dallas Cowboys v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

The Cowboys are on a mini-bye, having played on Thursday afternoon, and not playing again until next Sunday night. Let’s see what’s coming up.

Cowboys Clinch From The Couch - Tom Ryle, Blogging The Boys

The big news from Sunday is that the Cowboys didn’t even play and still kept winning. This time they won a spot in the 2016 NFL playoffs. To make it even better, it came courtesy of a Washington loss.

The Dallas Cowboys took care of business on Thursday, and they got some help on Sunday as all three of their NFC East opponents went down to defeat, with the most important game being the 31-23 loss by Washington to the Arizona Cardinals. With that result, Dallas is now the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth.

After a one-year absence, Dallas is back in the dance. Now, just no controversial Dez Bryant catches this time.

Cowboys clinch playoff spot; will seek division title in Week 14 - Landon Haaf, KHOU.com

Of course, the Cowboys would like to do more than just get a playoff spot. Winning the division and then securing a first-round plus home-field advantage is definitely on their mind. And next week could be very profitable.

Because the division-rival Giants lost in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys could lock up the NFC East title with a win over New York in primetime next Sunday.

If that happens, Dallas will be a Lions loss and a Seahawks loss -- both those teams won Sunday -- away from clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

The Cowboys will have an opportunity to inflict a loss on the Lions a few games from now, but the primary goal is to beat the Giants and wrap up the division on Sunday night.

N.F.L. Playoff Simulator: Every Team’s Playoff Path - New York Times

Want to simulate the 37 quintillion (37,000,000,000,000,000,000) different ways the season could end? The New York Times has got you covered, but this here is really all we're interested in right now:

Jason Garrett coaches his 100th game, second-most in team history - Charean Williams, Star-Telegram

Sometimes things slip up on you, like how long Jason Garrett has been the Cowboys coach.

The Cowboys’ victory over the Vikings was Jason Garrett’s 100th game as the team’s head coach. He is the longest tenured of any of the seven coaches Jerry Jones has employed.

“I did not know that,” Garrett said of coaching in his 100th game. “I certainly recognize the privilege I have to have the position that I have, and that’s in the forefront of my mind every day. But I don’t really think about those kinds of things, statistics or milestones or anything like that.”

Only Tom Landry (250-162-6) has coached more games or won more games than Garrett, who is 56-44.

Second all-time in tenure for America’s Team. Not bad for a guy who the press had fired about seven times.

Three obstacles to a Dallas Cowboys title run - Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com

Looking ahead, people are already discussing what could slow down the juggernaut Cowboys. NFL.com has three things in mind. One is getting too comfortable. Probably won’t be happening with the Cowboys schedule coming up. Further down we’ll look at the slate of tough games coming up. The next is staying healthy. As soon as home-field advantage in the NFC is clinched, the Cowboys can start resting people. The last one? Well, that’s still a work in progress. The pass rush.

The Cowboys have coached around their defensive deficiencies with effort, tackling and timely plays by an underrated secondary. That doesn't mean this is a quality defense. Dallas entered Week 13 with the No. 27 defense in football according to Football Outsiders' excellent DVOA efficiency metric. If you prefer play-by-play grading, Pro Football Focus ranks the Cowboys as the No. 31 pass rush.

The return of DeMarcus Lawrence gave Dallas a little juice, and versatile lineman Tyrone Crawford can make occasional plays lining up on the inside or out. Still, this is one of the worst pass rushing groups in the league and they continue to search for the right formula with Benson Mayowa, Ryan Davis and David Irving all struggling to make much of an impact. With some shaky offensive lines next on the schedule (Giants, Bucs, Lions), the Cowboys should use the next month to get better up front.

The pass rush probably is what it is. The team will just have to keep covering for it.

Cowboys Upcoming Schedule

Next week, Dallas faces the Giants. The team will be out for revenge on the squad that gave them their only loss of the season. They will also be trying to wrap up the NFC East. The Giants lost to Pittsburgh on Sunday, and Jason Pierre-Paul was injured in the process. Could the Giants be without JPP next week?

It’s time to take Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers seriously - Mark Maske, Washington Post

After the Giants, the Cowboys face Tampa Bay. And that team is no longer a joke. They are ballin’.

The Buccaneers upped their record to 7-5, moving into a virtual tie with the Falcons for first place in the NFC South. The Falcons currently hold the tie-breaker advantage based on a superior division record. But the Buccaneers moved ahead of the Washington Redskins for the second wild-card spot in the NFC. Tampa has won four straight and six of eight games, and the Buccaneers have a 5-1 road record on the season.

NFL moves Buccaneers-Cowboys to prime time Dec. 18 - USA Today

In fact, the Bucs are so improved that the league decided to flex the Cowboys game against them to Sunday night. Or maybe the league just wanted to cash in on some of those “Cowboys ratings” during another prime-time game.

The NFL has moved the Tampa Bay-Dallas game on Dec. 18 to prime time.

As part of its flex scheduling for Sundays, the league switched the Buccaneers' visit to the Cowboys, who already have clinched a playoff berth. Tampa Bay is 7-5 and tied for the NFC North lead. Dallas is 11-1 and in front in the NFC East, which the Cowboys can clinch next week with a win over the Giants.

Pittsburgh's visit to Cincinnati, originally scheduled for night time in Week 15, has been moved to 1 p.m. ET.

Lions' defense stifles prolific Saints offense in 28-13 win on road - Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press

The week after that, the Cowboys get another smokin’ hot team - the Detroit Lions.

[Matthew] Stafford threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns and the Lions got a suffocating effort from their defense, holding the NFL’s top-ranked offense to one touchdown en route to their seventh win in eight games, 28-13, over the New Orleans Saints.

Murphy: Wentz's game reminds us he's a rookie - David Murphy, Philly.com

The Cowboys then close out their season against the Eagles. Remember early on this season when there was that whole Prescott vs. Wentz comparison and who was the better rookie, etc.? Remember that? Not so much anymore.

The thought is one that all rookie quarterbacks force upon their fan bases. Usually, it occurs well before Week 13. You want the upside and excitement of a high-reward investment? This comes with it. More often than not, it comes well before now. The first hint of a downside, the crystallization of risk. On a gloomy day in a gloomy city, the Eagles confronted their own mortality. His name was Carson Wentz, and he was really, really bad.

Oftentimes, the numbers do an injustice to the performance. This was not one of those times. In a 32-14 loss to the Bengals that one can justifiably assume were the four worst quarters of his life, the rookie quarterback completed 36 of 60 passes for 301 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions that should have been six.