At the bottom of this post you will find the full schedule for the NFL playoffs. The Cowboys will be the number one seed in the NFC and will host a Divisional round game in two weeks. That game will be at 4:40 PM ET on Sunday January 15th. They will face either the winner of the Green Bay and New York (Giants) game, or the Detroit Lions if they happen to upset the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. While that certainly could happen, it’s more likely Dallas will face the Packers, a team they were able to beat earlier in the year, but which is playing much better football now. Or their 2016 regular-season nemesis, the New York Giants. A team they couldn’t conquer in two tries. Who would you rather see in two weeks?
The Cowboys finally decided to ease up on the “pedal to the metal” thing, deciding to play it safe in Philly. Sure, it cost them a win, but they have much bigger fish to fry.
"That would have been nice to have, but the cost was really too high," owner Jerry Jones said of a 14-2 record. "At the end of the day, it just wasn't worth it."
Jason Garrett was fond of saying in the days leading up to the game that it would be all hands on deck against the Eagles. But the Cowboys head coach tied the hands of some of his key players and didn't let others take the field.
Rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are both in the running for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award. One didn't play at all, and the other was on the field for only 14 snaps.
Dak and Zeke were denied a chance to go after some records on the day. But they still accomplished some great things on the season.
Dallas rookie quarterback Dak Prescott finished the regular season with a 104.9 passer rating and surpassed Robert Griffin (102.4 in 2012) for the highest single-season passer rating by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Prescott completed 311 of 459 passes (67.8 percent) for 3,667 yards with 23 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. His 0.9 interception percentage is the lowest by a rookie quarterback in NFL history(minimum 200 passing attempts).
Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott leads the league with 1,631 rushing yards. Elliott, who has the third-highest rushing total by a rookie in NFL history, would be the fifth rookie since 1970 to lead the league in rushing yards and the first since Edgerrin James (1,553 yards) in 1999.
Of course, the big moment of the game was when Tony Romo finally got a chance to play again. He didn’t disappoint. Prescott noted:
"It was fun just to go out there and watch him," Dak Prescott said. "I mean, it was easy for him, as it's been for a lot of time in his career. But being able to go out there and watch a guy that I watched growing up be the quarterback of this team just make it look so easy was a good moment.
"That's a vet. You all have seen what he's done in this league for a long time, it's no different in practice, it was no different during his time in there today."
The other important thing about the game? No significant injuries, at least none that we have heard of.
And it appears that was accomplished without too much trouble as they put scratches on as many valuable pieces as possible. This game had high risk and no reward, so to see Sean Lee, Ezekiel Elliott, or Ron Leary play a snap would have been a problem. Instead, we saw a number of understudies perform to around predicted levels and the team got through the glorified preseason game with limited damage. The Cowboys now have an additional two weeks to get healthy and should enter the playoffs as healthy as any team in the league. That plus homefield advantage throughout the playoffs should put the Cowboys as NFC Favorites.
With success, always comes the potential of your team or staff getting raided. The Cowboys are no different.
With an offense succeeding with a rookie quarterback and running back, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan could be one of the more sought-after head-coaching candidates in 2017.
Three teams have vacancies at the moment – the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars – and more could come open. With the Cowboys having earned the first-round bye, Linehan will be eligible to interview with teams next week.
On the other end of the spectrum of success, there is Mark Sanchez. He might be a good guy, but bad things just seem to follow the guy.
Sanchez didn’t exactly make a case for himself being the back up next year as he went on to complete 9-of-17 passes for 85, no touchdowns and two interceptions, both of which were recorded by Cowboy killer Jordan Hicks. Dallas mustered only a field goal over the final two quarters, Bailey good from 23 yards on the team’s first possession of the second half.
Lost among all the other storylines today was that Randy Gregory got a sack and made a few disruptive plays in the passing and running game. It was satisfying to see him starting to play well, and adding him to David Irving, Benson Mayowa and the other orphans would be nice. But it may not be as the suspension hangs over his head.
Gregory, who recorded the first sack of his career Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles in a 27-13 loss, is appealing a potential year-long suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
"My understanding is in the next week to 10 days [he'll have his appeal hearing], and then a final decision will be made," Jones said. "If he doesn't win it, then he's suspended."
Watching the game, one defender definitely caught my eye. He caught some others as well.
Damien Wilson has a chance to be a really good player for this defense. His ability to run and cover ground is impressive. He is a physical finisher when in position, but he needs to play under better control and not overrun plays. He led the defense with eight tackles on the day, but had a chance to add two to three more. He was just too aggressive. I really like what he could develop into as a blitzer with his speed.
Here is the full NFL schedule? Who will Dallas face in the Divisional Round?
NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND
Saturday, January 7
AFC: 4:35 PM (ET) Oakland at Houston (ESPN, with simulcast on ABC)
NFC: 8:15 PM (ET) Detroit at Seattle (NBC)
Sunday, January 8
AFC: 1:05 PM (ET) Miami at Pittsburgh (CBS)
NFC: 4:40 PM (ET) New York Giants at Green Bay (FOX)
NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
Saturday, January 14
NFC: 4:35 PM (ET) Seattle/Green Bay/New York Giants at Atlanta (FOX)
AFC: 8:15 PM (ET) Houston/Oakland/Miami at New England (CBS)
Sunday, January 15
AFC: 1:05 PM (ET) Pittsburgh/Houston/Oakland at Kansas City (NBC)
NFC: 4:40 PM (ET) Green Bay/New York Giants/Detroit at Dallas (FOX)
The NFC (FOX, 3:05 PM ET) and AFC (CBS, 6:40 PM ET) Championship Games will be played on Sunday, January 22.
Super Bowl LI will take place on Sunday, February 5 (FOX, 6:30 PM ET).