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Cowboys news: Dallas sends four players to the Pro Bowl

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys send four players to the 2018 Pro Bowl - Danny Phantom, BtB

With his injuries, Tyron Smith hasn’t had his best year, but the voters still recognize him. It is DeMarcus Lawrence who’s the newbie this year.

The Cowboys had four of their players chosen. To the surprise of few, their All-Pro offensive linemen - Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick all made the squad. This is Smith’s fifth selection and the fourth time that Martin and Frederick have made the team. Martin has made the Pro Bowl every year in his career so far. The entire offensive line of the NFC team is almost made entirely from players in the NFC East with Atlanta Falcons center, Alex Mack being the only exception.

While the offensive line picks are business as usual, the pleasant surprise this year was the selection of a Cowboys pass rusher. Hooray! The Cowboys finally have an edge rusher on the team. DeMarcus Lawrence has been selected to his first Pro Bowl after a breakout season. Lawrence is currently third in the league in sacks with 13.5, trailing only Chandler Jones (15) from Arizona and Calais Campbell (14.5) from Jacksonville.

Dallas Cowboys: Deception! How Cowboys are using different personnel groupings to solve defenses - Bob Sturm, DMN

Sturm’s weekly Decoding Linehan piece looks at deception this week.

The offense needed to put up some numbers to win this thriller and it did just enough. The Cowboys really needed a touchdown on that final drive and should have done better at the goal line. They also had a really rough night on third down, but I would remind folks that this is a very good third-down team this season, ranking fifth in the entire league. They don't go 20 percent very often. In a league where the average is 38.9 percent, the Cowboys -- through all the adversity -- still sit at 43.4 percent, which trails only the Falcons, Eagles, Vikings and Steelers. Everyone else looks up at the Cowboys on the money down.

Dallas Cowboys' Five Wonders: Ezekiel Elliott going for 1,000 yards - Todd Archer, ESPN

One of Archer’s Five Wonders.

I wonder if Elliott can pick up 217 yards on the ground in the final two games of the season. If he does, he will hit 1,000 for the season and do so in 10 games. That's not a bad season, especially considering he had 8 yards on nine carries in the Week 2 loss to the Denver Broncos. Todd Gurley tore up the Seattle Seahawks for 152 yards in the Los Angeles Rams' big win on Sunday, so you would think the Seahawks' prideful defense would be fired up to prevent that from happening in two straight games. Tony Dorsett opened his Hall of Fame career with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Emmitt Smith did not. In addition to winning to keep faint playoff hopes alive, that might be a goal for Elliott in his return.

Dallas Cowboys: DeMarcus Lawrence: Ezekiel Elliott's in good shape, looks 'ready to get the ball 80 times' - Jon Machota, DMN

Zeke is looking good.

DeMarcus Lawrence said the star running back looks to be in good shape and "ready to get the ball 80 times" on Sunday.

"We're excited to have him back," Dez Bryant said. "He looks skinny. He do look slimmer. It makes his head look even more bigger. He looks damn good, and I know he'll be ready to play."

Dallas Cowboys: If the Cowboys miss the playoffs, is it because Ezekiel Elliott delayed his suspension? - DMN Staff

What chance to the Cowboys have of making the playoffs? A better one now that Zeke is back.

Grant: The Cowboys according to FiveThirtyEight only have a 5 percent playoff chance. They've now got Zeke back, and if they win these two games and they some how sneak into the playoffs, they're going to be a pretty dangerous team. Because of the presence of Zeke with fresh legs and all that. You go out, you play well, you make the playoffs, you perform well in the playoffs and the great majority of people are going to forget about everything else that happened. Just let this go away.

Finally Back With His Team, Ezekiel Elliott Says He’s “Chomping at the Bit” - Nick Eatman, The Mothership

More Zeke.

“It was painful to watch. I watched every game and just rooted for my guys,” Elliott said. “But it definitely was tough. But it was something I had to do to play in this league. All I could do was sit there and root for my guys the best I can. They did a good job.”

In the meantime, Elliott says he wasn’t just sitting around. He made sure to not only stay in shape, but get in better playing shape than before.

“That was just the most important thing to come back and be in shape and ready to be the running back I have to be for this team,” Zeke said. “That was my main focus.”

Dallas Cowboys: How much damage can the Cowboys do if they make the playoffs? - Kate Hairopoulos, DMN

Kate didn’t think the Cowboys could do much damage, but to come back from where they were on Thanksgiving, I think she’s underestimating the team if they get in.

What's the Cowboys' biggest weakness right now?

Hairopoulos: Consistency. Just look at last week's game - they were running the ball at will in the first quarter. I think Alfred Morris had seven carries for 51 yards. Then it completely dropped off. The offense is up-and-down and couldn't score from the Raiders 1 and had to settle for the field goal. The defense that played well in the first half started crumbling in the second. The sacks and takeaways have disappeared during this last stretch. Again, credit the Cowboys for finding a way to win, even ugly, but there are a lot of problems.

Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens may not practice all week but expects to play Sunday vs. Seattle - Brandon George, DMN

It will be huge if Hitchens can play.

Hitchens had his left knee wrapped Tuesday in the locker room but was walking without any limp. He said his posterior cruciate ligament is swollen in the back part of his left knee but it's not considered a sprain. Hitchens said he felt better Tuesday than he did Monday.

Hitchens said he wouldn't practice Wednesday and probably won't practice all week, but should be ready to start at middle linebacker against the Seahawks.

Sullivan: Garrett Keeping Cowboys Focused, Appreciating Dak, More - Greg Sullivan, The Mothership

Sullivan is always worth a read.

Yes, it’s been a bumpy ride, filled with more legal chitchat than scheme jargon. This has to be the first time since 1989, if ever, that more words written and spoken about the Cowboys have been spent on issues beyond the football field.

Yet, here they are, at 8-6, winners of three straight, back from the 12-foot-under grave that had been dug for them over the worst three-game stretch in franchise history.

This team, in a word, is resilient. I’ve never asked Jason Garrett this, but I’m guessing if he could pick two or three characteristics for his football team, resilient would be near the top of the list.

Who was right on the Cowboys crucial fourth-down decision, Jerry Jones or Jason Garrett? - Dave Halprin, BtB

What would you have done? (I’d have run Rod Smith instead of Alfred Morris on the first three downs, or at least on second and third downs.)

The game was tied at 17-17. The Cowboys had driven the ball deep into Raiders territory and faced a fourth and officially one, but the ball was even closer than that. The Raiders had one timeout left with 1:47 left on the clock. The safe, conservative route is to take the three points and count on your defense to hold. That’s what Dallas did, and it worked out, but narrowly. Many Cowboys were having flashbacks to the Cowboys loss to Green Bay earlier this season when it looked like Derek Carr was about to score the game-winning touchdown. The defense wouldn’t hold, again. Fate, in the form of Jeff Heath, intervened, and the Cowboys escaped with the win.

Should they have gone with a more aggressive approach when they faced the fourth and 1 at the goal line of the Raiders? Should they have counted on that powerful offensive line to help Dak Prescott sneak it over for a touchdown, or allow a running back to pound it into the end zone? The thinking goes that the defense was suddenly struggling with the Raiders offense, and there was plenty of time left on the clock for a touchdown drive, or a field goal at minimum. If the Cowboys missed, then they would still have the Raiders pinned inches from their goal line.

Dallas Cowboys: Why the Cincinnati Bengals are the perfect trade partner - Carl Daily, Fansided

Remember what happened the last time the Cowboys traded for a big wide receiver? That didn’t go so well. On the other hand, with Brice Butler almost certainly gone, there’s an opening. But would you give up any draft capital to get AJ Green? Or should Atkins be the target instead?

Wide receiver AJ Green and defensive lineman Geno Atkins could be the biggest trade targets on the Bengals roster. Both players could potentially get out of their contracts by 2019 and both are veterans in the NFL. Green will be 30 next season however he has been an elite wide receiver for most of his career.

He has been on some of the worst Bengals football teams in recent memory but consistently produced as a number one target. That is until this season, now Green has struggled in an offense that has pretty much been going nowhere.

At this point in his career, he will be looking to play for a contender as he will likely not want to spend the rest of his prime with Cincinnati. The Bengals do not even know who will be under center for them in 2018 as a new regime may want to draft a new quarterback, so keeping a 29-year-old AJ Green (with a 9.5 million dollar cap hit) may not be something they look to do.

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