One game at a time. That is the way the Dallas Cowboys must approach the rest of the NFL regular season. Good things are going to happen if they can keep winning over the final three games, but as the rather bizarre outcomes of last week showed, no team can afford to look past any game. But with three games remaining before the playoffs, the Cowboys are in a great position.
There is a minuscule chance that the Cowboys could still fail to capture the NFC East crown.
which, yes. to be clear, it’s like a 0.08% chance that someone other than Dallas wins the NFC East.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 22, 2021
Philly would have to win out, have Dallas lose out & have several other results go in their favor.
still, it’s not clinched, is my only point
“Vanishingly small” is how you characterize that, and it seems very likely that Dallas will have the division locked up before the kickoff against the Washington Football Team on Sunday night. There are multiple ways that the tiebreaker against the Philadelphia Eagles, the last challenger still alive, will be decided in the Cowboys’ favor. Far less certain is where Dallas will wind up in the NFC seedings, but they got an early Christmas present in last week’s results that vaulted them from fourth to second, again based on a tiebreaker, this one of conference records.
What is certain is that the Cowboys have earned a great situation. They sit at 10-4. Back in August, had we been offered a chance to guarantee being in a five-way tie for the second best record in the league at this point, we would have jumped at it. Even better are the teams that they share the 10-4 record with: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, and Kansas City Chiefs. That is both of the teams from the Super Bowl last February plus two teams that were seen as strong contenders before the season. Only the Green Bay Packers are ahead of them at 11-3, and though the Packers face a very manageable schedule the rest of the way, we know now that nothing is a given this season.
We discussed the ideas from this post on the latest episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you get access to all of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
The final three games for Dallas feature the Football Team, the Cardinals, and the Eagles. Obviously, Dallas can take none of them for granted, either, especially the Cardinals. There is also a chance that the Eagles will be playing for a shot at a wild card bid. If the Cowboys also still face a chance to improve their seeding, that is not going to be a game where they can rest starters.
That could be a good thing. Keeping a sharp focus on winning can carry over to the playoffs. The downside is the ever present threat of injury. So far, Dallas has done an outstanding job of managing those, especially in not rushing players back. It has paid clear dividends in the recent play of DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Neville Gallimore, who all made major contributions in the latest win over the New York Giants. The defense is playing about as well as anyone could hope. Dan Quinn should get serious consideration for post season honors as the best defensive coordinator of the year after the job he has done transforming the defense.
There is still a great deal of room for improvement on the offense, which continues to draw criticism during the current three-game winning streak. Some worry that time is running out, but there has been improvement in the running game, thanks a great deal to the belated decision to reinstall Connor Williams as the starting left guard and the return of Tony Pollard after his one game sidelined. And a strong argument has been made that the offense is actually closer to having things back in shape. A key element of that is the visibly different approach the team takes in road versus home games.
Throughout this season, we’ve seen the Cowboys go into clock-killing mode as early as they can in road games while trying to run up the score when playing at AT&T Stadium. That’s just their strategy, and with a 6-2 record on the road it’s hard to argue it’s a bad strategy.
Sunday night will show us if that “run up the score” approach is viable. If it is, many of the concerns will be at least temporarily quelled.
If (and it’s a big one) the Cowboys can win out, they will likely finish as one of the top three seeds, with the one seed not impossible. “Controlling their own destiny” is a bit hackneyed, but it does apply here. All of the other contenders have games coming up that could at a minimum be challenging. Being able to play at home at least through the divisional round would be huge. There is still a strong likelihood that the path to the NFC title goes through the possibly frigid conditions in Green Bay. Even then, having a defense that is in the conversation for the best in the NFL could help.
The team may not be looking that far ahead, but as fans, we are not restricted from doing so. For several weeks, our Tony Catalina has been saying that it is all in front of Dallas to seize, and that continues to be absolutely true. First, they need to complete a sweep of bench-envious Washington. Once we find out how that goes, we will reevaluate things. Hopefully, it will be all good.