Although nothing is absolutely certain in the NFL at the moment, it looks like the Dallas Cowboys will now be traveling to play the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday, December 8th. It was supposed to be a Thursday Night Football matchup, but COVID has disrupted the Ravens. They are still trying to get final clearance to field a team against the Pittsburgh Steelers in what will now be a Wednesday night game after multiple postponements driven by the NFL protocol.
Still, the league seems committed to getting that game in rather than going to a week 18 for makeup, and even more determined to get the Cowboys game in as well without having to resort to adding a week to the season. This has completely changed the practice schedule for not only this week, but the next, as an unexpected long layoff will be followed by a short week.
Frankly, Dallas can use the extra days now to further process the emotional shock of losing coach Markus Paul so suddenly. His death, following his medical emergency in the facility in front of members of the organization, was devastating to most. There were some indications that the team still was struggling to get its collective head straight against the Washington Football Team. The Thanksgiving game itself was another form of trauma. Once again the offensive line has been blown up and the team has to prepare to play with another lineup. There are obviously a lot of other issues from that debacle to work on, and the extra time should be valuable to the staff.
Now, sitting all alone in dead last in the NFC East, which is dead last among all NFL divisions, the Cowboys have five more games to play. Amazingly, while the chances have shrunk considerably, they still are not out of the “race” for a playoff position. Here are the coming opponents, and some things they are dealing with that will affect those contests.
Week 13 - at Baltimore Ravens
It’s all about the virus. As of Saturday, the team had eighteen players that were on the COVID/IR list, including starting QB Lamar Jackson. And it just gets worse, as new names crop up every day.
Ravens now have placed Mark Andrews, Matthew Judon, Willie Snead IV and Terrell Bonds on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 30, 2020
We really don’t know who they will have on the field for the Dallas game. They certainly look to be incredibly short-handed against the Steelers, although not in as dire straits as the Denver Broncos were in playing without a quarterback on Sunday. Still, it seems hard to imagine that the Ravens will be at full strength when Dallas comes to visit. And the repeated postponements can’t exactly be helpful to them in finding a rhythm for practice and preparation, although that also affects the Cowboys.
This looked like the most difficult challenge remaining on the schedule, but now it has been reduced to a true unknown. We’ll get a better idea as the game gets closer. If the Cowboys can get their act together, this might be more winnable than we could have imagined.
That’s a pretty big if, of course.
Week 14 - at Cincinnati Bengals
They lost number one overall pick Joe Burrow to injury, and backup QB Brandon Allen was unable to lead them to a win over the New York Giants, even though Daniel Jones had to leave the game with his own injury.
This has some major implications for the draft order, as the Bengals are one of the three teams currently higher in the order than the Cowboys, with a 2-8-1 record. A win against them would make as many people unhappy as a loss. Yet this is definitely a game Dallas could manage to pull off.
Week 15 - vs San Francisco 49ers
The Niners are just 5-6, but that is much better than the Cowboys. They just pulled off a win over the Los Angeles Rams, and are very much alive in the hunt for a wild card spot with the expanded field. This is one the most difficult games left. While it is not inconceivable that Dallas could win, that would require getting a whole lot of things right by then. Frankly, the signs are not encouraging.
But San Francisco has its own COVID issues, as they are having to leave home and operate in Arizona due to restrictions imposed because of the pandemic worsening in their home area. It’s hard to say how that will affect them.
Week 16 - vs Philadelphia Eagles
While so many teams are having to figure out how to replace injured starting quarterbacks, the Eagles have a different issue. They are trying to figure out if they still want to keep a healthy Carson Wentz behind center as his season is going dismally. Suddenly, a long-running joke many of us have helped keep alive is threatening to become reality.
Jalen Hurts has been getting first team reps at quarterback in front of Monday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, according to sources.— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) November 29, 2020
By the time you read this, you will probably know how things went. Nonetheless, not knowing who they will decide to start is indicative of the total disarray of the Eagles. Given that it is a divisional game along with the sad state of the division may mean that both teams could still be in contention for the NFC East automatic playoff bid. That is hard to think of as any kind of crown, but as a result it may still be a hard-fought affair. And things are not going terribly well for Philadelphia in other ways, either.
Despite having a broken, dislocated toe that will require surgery after this season, Eagles’ veteran OL Jason Peters will play tonight vs. Seahawks, though he will be moving to guard to help make up for the lack of mobility, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 30, 2020
Prediction for the game: Who knows?
Week 17 - at New York Giants
Their starting QB is now nursing a sore hamstring, and they play the Seattle Seahawks next week. We will find out if Jones is able to go, or if journeyman Colt McCoy will have to take the start.
While the Football Team may have things sewn up by this point, there is still a real chance this game could wind up being for the NFC East playoff spot. Which is one of the saddest things about this horrible season for the division.
Whether you want to see the Cowboys finish strong, or are firmly riding with Team Tank, there are reasons for both optimism and pessimism in this remaining slate. It will largely rest on just how the team and staff respond during this unexpected mini-bye and afterwards. Literally anything could happen.
Here are the ESPN Power Rankings for the Cowboys remaining opponents: