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Cowboys point/counterpoint: Biggest playoff concerns

Mike McCarthy isn’t ready to talk playoffs, but we are.

Arizona Cardinals v Dallas Cowboys
Home field advantage is still a possibility.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

We certainly don’t want to jinx things, but it would take an absolute meltdown over the final four games of the season for the Dallas Cowboys to miss the playoffs or not win the NFC East. Head coach Mike McCarthy says they are not talking about the postseason before they win ten games. That is what a win this week over the New York Giants would accomplish.

Well, our Terence Watson and Tom Ryle are willing to go out on that sturdy-looking limb. They feel sure the playoffs are ahead for Dallas. Getting there, of course, is one thing. What they can accomplish is another. Here are the things they think are the biggest ones to be concerned about as the Cowboys try to make a deep run.

Terence: I do feel comfortable in saying that the Cowboys will make the playoffs this year, and with that being said, I want to give you my biggest concern heading into said playoffs. Right now the seeding has the Cowboys fourth, and they would have the unfortunate luck of going up against a Los Angeles Rams team that is starting to find their groove on both offense and defense. While the Cowboys continue to struggle on offense, the last thing they need right now is to face off against a hot team's offense going into the playoffs.

The Rams are a team built to beat this Cowboys team on both sides of the football. They have speed/skill at receiver with Cooper Cupp, Odell Beckham Jr., and Van Jefferson to go along with two solid running backs in Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel. We’ve seen what two good Rams running backs can do to a Cowboys defense after the whooping they put on the Cowboys in 2019 rushing for over 270 yards. All that with quarterback Jared Goff. Now they have Matthew Stafford and his play has elevated this offense.

On defense, they have the best defensive lineman in the game in Aaron Donald, the best cornerback in Jalen Ramsey, and now one of the best pass rushers in Von Miller on the team. This defense is fast and physical, the Cowboys offense would have a tough time handling this defensive front and secondary right now. The best thing for the Cowboys to focus on is getting out of that fourth seed and into the second of third seed to avoid the Rams.

Tom: Oh, there is no doubt that the Rams are the most worrisome potential matchup in the wildcard round. But things can change rapidly in the standings. No team in the NFL has even locked up a playoff spot, much less a seed. And Los Angeles may be jeopardy of slipping back, at least this week.

And there you have my biggest concern for Dallas, one that lurks for every team. An outbreak of COVID positive tests can take half the roster of the field. The Washington Football Team is facing a similar situation. They had seventeen players on the list to start the day Friday, and added a rather significant name.

The league is coming up with modifications to the protocol that would allow some to return from the list quicker, but that will still depend on vaccination status plus negative tests.

The Cowboys have had outbreaks, but not nearly as serious as the ones that have gutted the Rams and the Football Team for this week. Part of that may be attributable to the spacious facilities at the Star, which allow the team to maintain social distancing while still having meetings in person. Dallas, and all teams, must be more vigilant and careful to avoid having a playoff run ended just because half the team is not available.

Terence: COVID is a valid reason to be worried. But let’s just say the Cowboys get through the spike in positive tests surging through the NFL right now. My focus then turns back to who they would have to face going forward and right now that’s the Rams. The injury to Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins possibly opens the door for the Cowboys to move up in the standings because that looks like the only team they could be able to catch at this point with the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers returning to their winning ways. I also think the Rams will win over a struggling Seattle Seahawks team.

This could also push the Cardinals down into a wildcard spot and bump the Rams into that third or fourth seed, which works for me. I’d rather see the Cowboys play a weakened Cardinals team than this Rams team who should get the majority of their players back in time for the playoffs. It somehow feels like just short-term injury for those teams.

Tom: Well, we don’t see a team having fifteen or more injuries in a week, so it is not exactly the same. Fortunately, the Cowboys seem to be going well for the Cowboys.

But there is one more concern I have, and that is Dallas facing a possible trip to Green Bay if they can advance. I just think the Cowboys are a warm weather, indoors team. Dak Prescott comes from the south and has had to play few games in very cold conditions. Avoiding the frozen tundra in January would be a great thing. Tampa Bay will be a formidable opponent, but temperature should not be a factor if the Cowboys go there. Unfortunately, evading a trip to Wisconsin would depend on the Packers having a stumble somewhere along the way. That is not a highly likely thing. So this is one concern I feel we cannot avoid.

Meanwhile, let’s hope the team takes care of business the rest of the way. As I said, no one in the NFL has even locked up a playoff spot at this point. Dallas needs to take care of that before any of this matters.