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Cowboys news: COVID-19 issues arise in a crucial NFC East battle, Cowboys/Giants predictions

Here is your elimination game day edition of Cowboys news...

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Kellen Moore to stay as Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator in 2021 - RJ Ochoa, Blogging The Boys
Huge, late-breaking news for the Cowboys.


Cowboys, Giants both hit with COVID-19 issues ahead of must-win NFC East clash in Week 17 - Patrik Walker, CBS Sports

Both ballclubs are dealing with some recent COVID issues that could impact the outcome of this crucial divisional matchup.

Dave DeGuglielmo, the Giants offensive line coach who replaced Marc Colombo in mid-November, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the team announced on Friday. There were two additional potential close contacts to DeGuglielmo, but while the Giants’ facility will remain open, they’ll be without their O-line coach when the Cowboys stroll into MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

Not long after that news arrived did the Cowboys themselves announce they’d be operating virtually on Friday, per head coach Mike McCarthy, and it’s been discovered the reason for the change isn’t New Year’s Day, but instead due to a player having tested positive for COVID-19 — a source confirmed to CBS Sports.

“We’re using the contact tracing and all the protocols that we’ve been using,” McCarthy told media.

The team moved safety Darian Thompson and defensive tackle Justin Hamilton to the reserve/COVID list on on Friday, the former having already been likely to miss the contest due to a concussion suffered in the Week 16 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, while the absence of the latter will impact the team’s already questionable ability to stop the run.

Dallas Cowboys notes: Randy Gregory’s upside, roster updates - Jon Machota, The Athletic

Some weekly notes heading into today’s game.

1. Is help on the way?

To win the NFC East, the Cowboys need to win Sunday afternoon and then they need the Eagles to beat Washington Sunday night. Philadelphia doesn’t have anything to play for after the Cowboys ended the Eagles’ playoff hopes last week. To make things worse, Philadelphia has already ruled out nine players because of injury, including standout defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, defensive end Derek Barnett, running back Miles Sanders, tight end Dallas Goedert and wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

“We have a division opponent that’s going to try to celebrate on our field,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “We got to have a no-hat rule this week. We can’t let opponents put division (championship) hats on at The Linc (Lincoln Financial Field).”

We have to applaud that attitude. May the Schwartz be with you!

Washington is expected to have starting quarterback Alex Smith back after he missed last week’s game with a calf injury. Smith is listed as questionable, but he was able to at least be a limited participant in practice. Terry McLaurin, Washington’s No. 1 wide receiver, did not practice this week after missing last Sunday’s game because of an ankle injury. He is also listed as questionable.

Dallas Cowboys playoff hopes rely on Eagles backups - Tyrone Starr, The Landry Hat

In any other week, this would be a very winnable game for the Eagles, but it’s going to be quite the task this week as so many key Eagles players are out for this game.

A win by the Eagles at home, coupled with a Cowboys victory, punches the Dallas ticket to at least one more game. The likelihood of that occurring, however, seems less and less likely as the time grows closer.

Currently, nine players for Philadelphia have already been ruled out for the game. Most of those nine are starters and a few are certainly household names.

Defensively, Philadelphia will be missing edge rusher Derek Barnett, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, and two linebackers, Shaun Bradley and Duke Riley. On offense, running back Miles Sanders, receiver DeSean Jackson, and tight ends Dallas Goedert and Richard Rodgers are out as well.

Also of note, the Eagles will be starting Brett Toth and Matt Pryor at their offensive tackle spots. If you have never heard of either player, don’t be too hard on yourself. Toth is an undrafted rookie who has played exactly 28 snaps so far in 2020. Pryor, meanwhile, is a second year, sixth-round selection who has started nine games this year.

This seems like pertinent information given their opponent. You see, the Washington Football Team has spent an absurd amount of draft capital along their defensive line. In 2020, that has paid off handsomely.

Keys to Victory: Cowboys Need D-Law & Gregory - Bucky Brooks, Dallas Cowboys

Can you imagine what it would take for the Cowboys to blow this one? Well, Bucky Brooks has, and this is what he’s came up with...

The Giants will win if…

The Giants will win a hard-fought game against the Cowboys if they are able to create multiple turnovers from an offense that’s been mistake-prone at times. The Giants’ hard-working defense will fly to the ball with reckless abandon with their collective speed, quickness, and athleticism producing turnovers on big hits and strips. In addition, the Giants will snag interception on tipped or overthrown passes created from constant harassment in the pocket. To pull it off, the Giants must control the line of scrimmage on early downs to force Andy Dalton to throw in obvious passing situations. If the Giants are able to dictate the terms on first and second down, they can throw a blanket over the Cowboys’ explosive aerial attack with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb capable of exploding at any time.

Offensively, the Giants must find a way to generate explosive plays on the ground and through the air against an improved Cowboys’ defense. The emergence of Wayne Gallman as a workhorse gives the unit some juice but Daniel Jones is also capable of breaking off a big gainer on a designed QB run or zone-read play on the perimeter. In the passing game, the Giants could target Darius Slayton or Golden Tate on a deep ball to take advantage of an undisciplined secondary that fails to maintain discipline on a critical down. If the Giants take care of the ball while generating a few big plays that lead to points, they could knock off the Cowboys in a game that could decide the division crown.

10 things to watch in Giants vs. Cowboys - Dan Salomone, Giants

Ten things to watch out for in this game.

DAK-LESS ATTACK

The Cowboys have been forced to start four different quarterbacks this season, stemming from the season-ending injury Dak Prescott suffered in the first meeting with the Giants. Andy Dalton has started eight games this season, including the past three in which he has a 117.0 passer rating with seven touchdowns to just one interception. The Cowboys have averaged 36 points in that span as Ezekiel Elliott closes in on his third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season.

The ABCs of Giants-Cowboys: From Amari to Zeke - Ed Valentine, Big Blue View

An alphabetical preview of today’s game.

U is for ... Unbelievable: That’s the story of the NFC East this season. The possibility that a six-win team could be division champs, and that a losing team will definitely get the division title. The stories of Alex, Smith, Ron Rivera and Dwayne Haskins in Washington. The fall of Carson Wentz in Philadelphia. The injury to Dak Prescott in Dallas. The Giants going from 0-5 to having a chance to win the division on the season’s final day. Craziness!

W is for ... Washington: If the Washington Football Team wins Sunday night, the result of Giants-Cowboys becomes insignificant. Except for the fact that it’s always nice to beat Dallas, and it means the Giants would own victories this season against all of the teams in the NFC East.

Z is for ... Zeke: Ezekiel Elliott is, by his standards, having a pedestrian season. Elliott, though, is coming off his best game of the year, a 19-carry, 1-5-yard effort last Sunday against Philadelphia. He’s still Ezekiel Elliott, and the Giants’ front seven needs to be prepared to deal with a Dallas team that wants to run the football.

Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants: Keys to a Cowboys Victory - John Williams, Inside the Star

Three keys to victory for the Cowboys.

1. Get Andy Dalton in a Rhythm Early

Much like Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore did last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys need to look to get the ball out of Andy Dalton’s hands quickly and get him into a rhythm early in the game.

Last week against the Eagles’ strong pass rush, Andy Dalton averaged 2.12 seconds in Time to Throw per Pro Football Focus. That was the second-fastest release time among quarterbacks who had at least 28 dropbacks in week 16. That was down from his season average of 2.36 seconds in Time to Attempt.

It was an effective way to limit the Eagles pass rush by throwing some quick passes like the slant to Amari Cooper that went for a big gain or the wide receiver screen to Michael Gallup. The best way to minimize a strong pass rush is to get the ball out quickly and allow your playmakers to make a play after the catch.

With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, the Cowboys have three players who can do something with the football after the catch.

Gut Feeling: Predictions For NFC East Matchups - Staff, Dallas Cowboys

Offering up some bonus gut feelings in a double dip that gives us final score predictions for the two games that matter.

Nick Eatman: Why not? This has been an unbelievable season for every NFL team, but especially the Cowboys. When I think about all of the things that has occurred – from all the injuries, including Dak Prescott, to just dealing with all of the continuous Covid protocols, playing four quarterbacks, having to suffer a tragic loss to the coaching staff, and now here they are with a chance to win and perhaps sneak into the playoffs. That’s a great story in itself. But is it possible? Sure, the Cowboys are a better team than the Giants and playing better right now, which is even more important. I think the Cowboys will be in control all game but in only the way they know how, will have to survive late rallies to win. Then, it’s a waiting game and I just think the Eagles are going to find a way to win. Don’t know how or why, I just feel like this crazy ride isn’t done yet. Cowboys 21, Giants 17 ... Eagles 20, Redskins 18 ... My gut feeling says we’ll be talking about Tom Brady next week.

Expert predictions for Cowboys-Giants: Will Dallas do its part to keep unexpected playoff hopes alive? - Staff, Dallas Morning News

Game day predictions.

Damon Marx

After recovering from a concussion and COVID-19, quarterback Andy Dalton has discovered his rhythm and the Cowboys’ offense is humming for the first time since Dak Prescott’s injury. The defense is making just enough plays to make a difference. That formula continues against a slightly improved Giants team. It will all be for naught, however, as Washington takes care of business in Philadelphia. You can’t count on the Eagles for anything, am I right? Cowboys 31, Giants 20.

Week 17 Staff Picks: Cowboys-Giants for all the marbles… maybe - Staff, Cowboys Wire

More weekly game predictions...

Dave Sturchio (8-7)

We’re not supposed to be here. We’re just not. The Cowboys have found themselves as the hottest team in maybe not just the NFC East but in the NFC. Winners of three straight (which is an actual winning streak) the team finds themselves one win and some help away from the NFC East Championship. How? 2020, that’s how.

Andy Dalton’s quick release is what’s really catching my eye lately. It’s letting his receivers get open quick and letting it fly. It was refreshing to see the “Feed Me” signal from Ezekiel Elliott again and the defense is causing havoc both in opposing backfields and creating takeaways. Who. Is. This. Team? The NFC East Champions, that’s who.

Give me the Cowboys to win 27-16, and give me our good friend Jalen Hurts and the Eagles to get a win in the bright lights season finale 20-14 and the Cowboys will be hosting a playoff game in January. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to pre-order me a 7-9 Division Championship hat!


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