The Dallas Cowboys had their bye week, but there were some significant developments for them, particularly concerning the rest of the floundering NFC East. It was a good news-bad news situation.
- The good news is that the Cowboys are still in the thick of the race for the NFC East crown.
- The bad news is that the Cowboys are still in the thick of the race for the NFC East crown.
This reflects the contradictory situation that Dallas is in. The team would obviously like to win some games to give them something to build on for next season, but they come out of the week still with a firm grip on the third overall pick in the NFL draft, and obviously winning would probably serve to move them down.
Everything stems from the standings in the division. If you are squeamish, you may want to look away.
NFC East standings
|New York Giants||3||7||0|
|Washington Football Team||2||7||0|
Yeah, that’s ugly. The Football Team holds the tiebreaker over the Cowboys at the moment. The Houston Texans, also 2-7, are behind Dallas in the draft order as well. For a while, there was a chance that the Cowboys could move up to number two for now, but the Jacksonville Jaguars fell just short in their upset bid against the Green Bay Packers.
Here are the two games involving the rest of the NFCE, and what the outcomes meant.
It was a game where the Giants, who could have dropped into a tie in the win column with Dallas and Washington, pretty much were in control the entire way. Daniel Jones outplayed Carson Wentz. When the Eagles drew within three points on the opening drive of the third quarter, the Giants responded with a six-play, 75 yard TD drive to push the margin back to ten. The Eagles would score another TD to cut it to four, missing a two-point conversion, but New York got a couple of fourth quarter field goals to hold them at bay.
Given what happened with the Football Team, Wentz now is probably no better than the third-best starting QB, depending on how you view Andy Dalton. Or Garrett Gilbert, if Dalton is not able to go against the Minnesota Vikings. Heck, Wentz may just be number five out of four teams. (I will refrain from the Jalen Hurts jokes, because the Eagles seem committed to only using him as a wildcat type player, which so far has been a dismal flop.)
As for Jones, he is probably number two, because of what happened in the other game involving a division rival.
Detroit Lions 30, Washington Football Team 27
The Fighting Teams almost pulled out a win against the Lions, who should probably be honorary members of the East. They tied the game with just 16 seconds to go before somehow allowing the Lions to get in position for a 59-yard game winner from Matt Prater.
But the story of the game was likely comeback player of the year Alex Smith, in his first start since his gruesome and life-threatening injury. He put up a stat line of 38 completions on a staggering 55 attempts, for 390 yards. An inability to get more points than they did doomed the Team, but it was a remarkable effort from Smith. He still is living off of short passes, but that is a solid day’s work for anyone.
So now the Cowboys are in a very strange position. Win only a handful of their remaining seven games, and they could be atop the division. Or just eke out one or two, and likely be in possession of a top five draft slot. And incredibly, the same can be said about all of the members of the worst division in football.
Depending on how you really want the season to go, the rest of the schedule is not exactly intimidating for Dallas. They face all three of their division rivals once more, plus three more sub-.500 teams in the Vikings, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the San Francisco 49ers (pending the outcome of the late games.) The only remaining playoff caliber team on the schedule are the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens.
A lot depends on how the quarterback situation works out, but with the defense showing a lot more the past two games and the offensive line at least starting to find some rhythm, the Cowboys are somehow still a threat to win the East and go to the playoffs. That would not likely go very well, but it would inject a ton of confidence in the players. It would also build a lot of faith in the coaching staff, something that was in very short supply not too long ago.
But it would surely be nice to have that good draft position. If you are feeling mixed emotions about what you want to see happen, it is completely understandable.