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Cowboys news: Rest in peace Markus Paul; news on the Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game

We pass our respects to the Markus Paul family, and look ahead to the game.

New York Giants 2011 Headshots Photo by NFL via Getty Images

As we noted last night, Markus Paul died in the hospital. It’s a very sad time for the Cowboys family, especially the players and coaches who worked with him on a regulars basis. By all accounts, he was loved and respected by all who worked with him and played with him.

We at BTB send our thoughts out to the Paul family. May his family find strength and peace in these difficult times. Below you can read the statement from Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy.

While football can feel insignificant at times, the Cowboys will play a game today so we will continue our coverage of that.

Film room: 3 bold predictions for the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game vs. Washington - John Owning, Dallas Morning News

What is your bold prediction for today’s matchup?

Lamb finishes with 100-plus receiving yards, a TD..CeeDee Lamb should have a favorable matchup in his first NFL appearance on Thanksgiving. He will primarily be pitted against Washington slot cornerback Jimmy Moreland, who has allowed a reception on 71.4% of his targets — the worst among the Washington DBs, per PFF.

In the first meeting between these teams, Lamb had one of his worst performances as a professional, as he dropped three passes and failed to haul in a single catch in Week 7 against Moreland and the Football Team. However, Lamb’s struggles were due more to his own mistakes and the overall ineffectiveness of Dallas’ passing attack rather than outstanding coverage by Moreland and the rest of Washington’s DBs.

While it’s taken a couple of weeks, Dallas’ passing attack has finally clawed back to adequacy, with Dalton and Garrett Gilbert each throwing for more than 200 yards and a touchdown against defenses that rank in the top 11 in pass defense DVOA (Pittsburgh, second; Minnesota, 11th), per Football Outsiders. Therefore, with a more competent passing game, Lamb should have better opportunities to take advantage of Moreland on Thursday, and as long as he eliminates the drops, it wouldn’t be surprising if Lamb had a big day.

Expert predictions for Cowboys-Washington: Will Dallas get payback for blowout loss in last meeting? - Staff, Dallas Morning News

It appears most experts believe Dallas walks away with a Thanksgiving Day victory.

Kevin Sherrington Who’d have thought it: Two NFC East opponents coming off wins? Both teams are showing signs of life. Moving Zack Martin to right tackle should make Andy Dalton more comfortable, just in time for that Washington defensive line that made his life so miserable last time. Dalton gets his revenge. Cowboys 24-20.

Jean-Jacques Taylor...The last time these teams played, Washington dominated the game, knocked out Andy Dalton and the Cowboys’ linemen were labeled cowards because they didn’t come to his defense. They couldn’t possibly need any more incentive to play well on Thanksgiving Day in front of a national TV audience for a piece of first place — even if the NFC East is awful. They will be locked in, they’re feeling good about themselves and Washington’s offense is trash. The run begins. Cowboys 24-20.

Calvin Watkins...The Cowboys feel good about themselves. Here comes Washington, which smashed them to pieces in Landover a few weeks ago. This Cowboys team is playing with confidence after breaking a four-game losing streak. Can they extend their win streak? Nope. I’m taking that Washington defense on Thanksgiving Day. Washington 20-10.

ICYMI: Cowboys vs. Football Team practice & injury report: Anthony Brown, Greg Zuerlein questionable - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys

Final injury reports for today’s game.

After cancelling yesterday’s practice because of the tragedy around strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul, the team returned to the practice field today in shorts and helmets. Yesterday there were six players listed on the injury report. Ezekiel Elliott (hamstring), Greg Zuerlein (back), Blake Bell (back), Anthony Brown (ribs), Brandon Knight (knee), and Joe Thomas (wrist).

In today’s practice it was reported by that Elliott and Sean Lee were working with trainers on the side at the start of practice. Zuerlein was also doing stretching exercises on the side. Given what happened yesterday, the report noted that the energy and communication at practice seemed good. There has, of course, been thoughts about the mental state of the players and coaches after what happened with Markus Paul.

Behind The Line: Does Alex Smith Offer New Look? - Bucky Brooks,

There’s a new signal-caller in Washington. Is Alex Smith an improvement over Kyle Allen?

Washington dominated Dallas the last time out, whipping the Cowboys 25-3 at FedEx Field. But things seem to be different now, especially from the Cowboys' perspective. But what about the other side? Washington has a new quarterback and perhaps a new hope as they sit right in the thick of the NFC East standings.

Here's what you need to know about the Washington Football Team heading into Thursday's game with the Cowboys.

3 Fixes the Cowboys Can Make to Still Win the NFC East - Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report

If Dallas wants to win the division, there’s plenty they still need to fix.

Get CeeDee Lamb More Involved..Rookie wideout CeeDee Lamb is a big play waiting to happen. He's shown as much on long receptions and on tough catches, like his wild touchdown reception against Minnesota. "Unbelievable body control and discipline and focus," head coach Mike McCarthy said of the catch, per Rob Phillips of the team's official website.

Good things tend to happen when the Cowboys get the ball into Lamb's hands, as they did against the Vikings. The rookie had three punt returns for 48 yards and six offensive touches for 46 and a touchdown. Why, then, did the Cowboys go away from Lamb in the previous weeks? In Weeks 5 and 6, Lamb was targeted 11 times in each game. Since then, he's been targeted just 23 total times and no more than five times in a single game. He hasn't had more than four receptions in any of his last four games.

While Dallas does need to focus more on running the ball, getting Lamb more opportunities in the passing game should be a goal. Doing so should help create more explosive plays while also preventing opposing defenses from clamping down on the ground game.

Will NFC East Cause Another Change to NFL Playoff Seeding Rules? - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star

Will the historically poor NFC East cause a new playoff rule?

The issue for the NFL is that you can’t make division championships irrelevant, otherwise you make divisions and the rivalries within them meaningless. And two of the biggest drivers for interest weekly for the NFL are team rivalries and the high stakes of division games. An exception I’d consider to this, though, is if the team missing the playoffs had a head-to-head victory over the division winner with a worse record.

For example, the Bears defeated the Giants back in Week 2. If the Giants were to wind up winning the NFC East but had a worse overall record than Chicago, I could see them forfeiting their playoff spot in that scenario (but only if New York actually had a losing record overall). One far more simple change I think may come from this, and should, is that the division winner is ONLY guaranteed a playoff spot. That’s more than enough reward and preserves the integrity of the division system.

Hosting a game in the first round or any round of the playoffs should depend entirely on overall record and subsequent tiebreakers. If two teams have the same overall record then give the nod to a division winner over a wild card team, but otherwise the team that performed better in the regular season should get the home game.

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