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Cowboys News: Playoff hopes stay alive after Thursday’s win and Sunday’s games

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NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons' loss Sunday might open the playoff door for ... yes, the Dallas Cowboys - Frank Schwab, Yahoo Sports

The Cowboys need a lot to go their way just for a slim chance at wildcard spot. Sunday definitely helped Dallas’ chances.

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t play on Sunday, and they had a wonderful day.

The Atlanta Falcons’ 14-9 home loss to the Minnesota Vikings gives the Cowboys a lot more hope for a playoff spot than they had just a few days ago. The Cowboys, who looked totally finished after three straight blowout losses, beat the Washington Redskins on Thursday night. Then the Cowboys got even better news as they watched games Sunday.

The Cowboys aren’t in the driver’s seat for a wild-card spot at 6-6, but their chances look a lot better. They were looking at being two games and the tiebreaker (due to a head-to-head loss) down to the Falcons with four weeks to go, had Atlanta won at home against Minnesota. That would have been a practically impossible task. Instead, the 7-5 Falcons are just a game ahead of Dallas after Sunday. The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers also entered Sunday’s games each at 8-3, three games in the loss column ahead of Dallas. The loser of the Saints-Panthers game Sunday would still be the NFL’s top wild-card team after Week 13.

Cowboys playoff hopes get a boost from losses by Falcons and Lions - Dave Halprin, BTB

Dave adds onto the subject.

If you remember from our Dallas Cowboys playoff rooting guide posted earlier today, three games were the focus in the early slate of contests. The Cowboys, and their fans, got favorable news from two out of the three games, and they got one they really needed.

More than anything, Dallas needed the Atlanta Falcons to lose, and they did, falling 14-9 to the Minnesota Vikings. The Falcons hold the tie-breaker over the Cowboys and they could have remained two games ahead of Dallas, but instead are only one game in front. If they lose two out of their last four, then the Cowboys can jump over them in the standings. The Falcons still have a brutal schedule left, with two games against the Saints, a game against the Panthers and one with the Bucs.

NFL Playoff Picture: Cowboys, Packers have new life in fascinating NFC wild card race - Will Brinson, CBS Sports

Things will really get interesting if the Cowboys can find a way to win these next two games before Ezekiel Elliott returns.

Dallas gets games against the Giants and Raiders on the road, two highly winnable matchups, before hosting Seattle in a game that will feature the return of suspended Ezekiel Elliott. They close with the Eagles, who might have nothing to play for at that point (although the downside of the Vikings winning means Philly might be gunning for home-field advantage in Week 17).

What was set to be a major-league jockey session amongst really good teams is suddenly a wide-open battle between a bunch of teams scrambling for a wild-card position.

Joe Theismann: My thoughts on Dak Prescott 'haven't changed one bit' - SportsDay

Joe Theismann is still high on Dak Prescott, despite his recent struggles.

On Dak Prescott:

"My thoughts on Dak haven't changed one bit. I think he's a smart, intelligent, terrific young football player. I felt that way when he came out of Mississippi State. I loved him at Mississippi State. I thought he brought an element of athleticism to the game that he didn't try to over use. He used his arm. He worked out of the pocket, he learned how to throw the ball from the pocket. This is for any young quarterback that's listening anywhere and any coach that's coaching young people: If you have a young man or young guy that thinks he has a chance to go to the next level then give him a chance to work out of the pocket in your system and not make it something new when he gets to the upper levels of college and professional football. I thought Dak over the last couple of weeks really tried to pick up the load. I didn't think the offensive line was quite as cohesive and obviously without Smith there you saw what happened. I think Dak now understands you put a little running game behind him he does what needs to with the play action. He made some terrific throws [Thursday night]. He got his hand hurt and we could see it swell. It's probably going to be a little sore. I thought the difference in that football game was really the offensive lines.

Nate Newton on Dak Prescott: 'You’re going to struggle – this is the NFL' - SportsDay

Nate Newton weighs in on Dak.

Does Dak Prescott have the physical abilities to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl appearance?

Nate Newton: I don't know about a Super Bowl appearance because that's a hard thing to get to, only a few guys can get there, but I do know one thing: this guy can throw, this guy can play, this guy believes that the people around him can be successful. He's got all the intangibles. Just like (Joe) Theismann said, work on your footwork, be cognizant of that all the time, and you'll be OK.

I heard Steve Young talking about this young kid on TV the other day. Steve Young is like, "this kid is right where he needs to be. A lot of pressure's being put on this kid without (Ezekiel Elliott), but he's holding up." He just started to name a bunch of other young kids and himself, saying "look where I was in year two. Look where these guys were after year two." It's just a lot of quarterbacks in the league that are average or above average. You're going to struggle - this is the NFL.

How does Dak Prescott rank among the NFL's other up-and-comers? - SportsDay

People aren’t jumping off the Dak bandwagon just yet.

USA Today recently ranked how each starting signal caller under the age of 30 stacks up, starting with a short list of "bona fide franchise quarterback" and moving all the way down to a list of players who "need replacing."

Prescott found himself in the second-highest category on the list, "Rising Stars", alongside the Eagles' Carson Wentz, Jared Goff of the Rams, and the Texans' DeShaun Watson.

Cowboys lesson learned: We don’t know what this team really is - Tom Ryle, BTB

Will the real Dallas Cowboys team please stand up?

After the previous three games where the Cowboys looked like they should be in contention for the first overall draft pick, not the playoffs, they came out on Thursday Night Football and just dominated Washington. It was a huge and remarkable swing, especially on the scoreboard. But does this mean that Dallas has really snapped out of its funk, or did the team just take advantage of an injury-depleted opponent and some good luck for a change?

We will find out more over the final four weeks of the season, but with the data at hand, it would not be that surprising to see them go 4-0 or 0-4, or anything in between. The next game certainly is shaping up to be much like the Washington game, coming against a New York Giants team that seems to be approaching full meltdown with a head coach making desperation moves to try and keep his job. But even that matchup is not a sure win, given the ways the Cowboys found to lose those dismal three games.

Rookie Class Making Plays As Cowboys Point Toward December Playoff Push - Rob Phillips, The Mothership

The 2017 rookie class is beginning to come on strong and is a huge reason why the Cowboys suddenly have an outside shot at the playoffs.

At 6-6, the Cowboys are still in the NFC playoff race. Continued development from their young players will help them make a push in the final month.

“We’re still growing. We’re still young,” Charlton said. “We’re not who we’re going to be next year or in the future. We’re still growing as players and we’re only going to get better from here. But it just shows y’all a glimpse of what we can be and how good this rookie class can be.”

Alfred Morris is getting his 1991 Mazda back from the shop and he's 'super pumped' - SportsDay

Alf says Thursday’s win was “huge” in keeping postseason hopes alive.

On the attitude of the team:

"It was definitely frustrating. We know we're a better team than that. To go 5-3 and now lose three games in a row, and then we win yesterday and now we're back to even, which is good. So it was very frustrating, but at the same time nobody played the blame game. No one started pointing fingers and saying all is lost. The character of our team was able to show up even more so those three losses in a row and turnaround do what we did last night. What was really huge for us, for our morale, it was huge for us was just moving forward and keeping our hopes of getting in the postseason alive."

What Bill Belichick thinks of Tony Romo as a broadcaster - SportsDay

Bill Belichick is a fan of Tony Romo.

In an article by Patriots Wire's Henry McKenna, Belichick complimented the former Cowboy quarterback's curiosity and general knowledge of football in year's past.

"Very inquisitive guy with a good history of the game," Belichick said. "He asks a lot of questions about when I was with Giants or the 70s or the 80s or Tom Landry and so forth. He's pretty knowledgeable for a player that wasn't in that era. He knows a lot about it. He's obviously read and studied it.

"He sees a lot of things, a lot of fine points of defensive scheme or a play that I'd say a lot of guys that I talk to don't. And (he) asks about those: 'What was that guy reading on this? And why'd he do that? What was this guy's job on this play?' Something that was kind of subtle. He picks up on those things. He asks a lot of detailed, coaching, technical questions that you don't get from a lot of those meetings. He's good. I've enjoyed working with him."

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