It may finally, thankfully be a new year, but some things definitely are carrying over from the horrors of 2020. The Dallas Cowboys still have their own unfinished business for 2021. They face one more regular season game against the New York Giants that they must win, while hoping the Philadelphia Eagles pull off a win over the Washington Football Team. If all that falls into place, they will get the NFC East playoff bid. It is a tall order, however. Now it has been complicated by the worst thing to come out of last year. Positive COVID tests are cropping up all over the division.
The Cowboys have just added two players to their COVID list.
Breaking: Cowboys are placing DT Justin Hamilton and S Darian Thompson on reserve/COVID-19 list, source tells @usatodaysports— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 1, 2021
Giants offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo has also tested positive. And the Eagles have placed safety Jalen Mills on the COVID/IR list.
Dallas changed its Friday practice to a virtual one, and obviously is hoping no more players or staff test positive. We don’t know what the Giants or Eagles will do, but this has to affect their preparations as well. It is almost fitting that the most dysfunctional and confusing division in the NFL may have the representative for the playoffs influenced by the pandemic.
While this may hamper the Cowboys a bit, they did get two practices in before having to adjust, and they are hoping to practice on Saturday. However, losing two defensive players is tough, since that has been the most problematic part of the team all season. Still, it is more a depth problem. That does not make it great.
Likewise, the Giants may not be terribly affected by DeGuglielmo’s absence. Ironically, the biggest concern for both those teams, who both could advance to the postseason with a win and a Football Team loss, is the health of the Eagles, who were already in really bad shape. They have a serious lack of quality at offensive tackle to face the fearsome Washington pass rush, while also now having to decide if they will stick with Jalen Hurts.
The Cowboys provided an excellent blueprint for how to contain him last week. They may toy with giving Carson Wentz the start, or might be ready to make a switch in game. Now the defense, which will be without Fletcher Cox and a host of other players, has another hole to fill. If Washington can get Alex Smith back for this game, which they are trying to do, they would just have a better chance of crushing the hopes of whoever wins the Cowboys-Giants matchup. With the huge number of players ruled out for the Eagles, they may not be putting up much resistance in any case.
Will any of these COVID positive individuals have a major influence on the games? That is of course impossible to predict. It may be more peripheral than anything, given how all the teams involved are dealing with so many other concerns. It does, however, serve as one final reminder of just how strange this season has been. We also will likely see the playoff teams have to deal with more positive tests and exposure-driven precautions.
The NFL managed to somehow get the full season in, which was very much in doubt last summer. But it has hardly escaped unscathed. Now we have to weather one more week with the virus playing a part. We can only hope it is not a big one.