Week 18 is officially upon us, and its hard to believe that the regular season is drawing to a close. The Cowboys head into the final week of the year fresh off a disappointing home defeat that pretty much solidified their playoff fate. The Cowboys following the week 17 let down now have a 94% chance of remaining at the four seed with slim chances to actually move up from there.
Those statistical probabilities, mixed with philosophical ideas of how to head into Wild Card Weekend, has create a debate throughout Cowboys Nation on just how the team should handle this final week’s game against a hated rival. The age old question is what do you value more, a team rested and healthy as possible ready to make a Super Bowl run, or do you need to see some things out of your team beforehand to feel good and the time off would not be as valuable as the rhythm or momentum you may gain by playing. There’s arguments to be made on both sides, but if you speak with head coach Mike McCarthy and team brass, it sure looks like the Cowboys are leaning towards the latter.
Here are five things to watch this week:
1. The starters look poised to play, but how much?
This seems surely destined to be a feel thing, right? There is no way McCarthy and staff are going to throw out the best players to play 60 minutes of football in a game that is a tick more valuable than a preseason game at this point. Just how much action will they see is the million dollar question. Is it a series or two and get them out, or perhaps it’s a half, or maybe its just a feel thing where they believe they need to work some things out among units, and once that has been accomplished or satisfied, the starters will see their way out. Either way, how the playing time is distributed will be analyzed and surely is something to watch.
2. How vanilla will these coordinators call this game?
The question about how valuable this game is, is clearly up for debate, but how much does Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn want to put on film heading into the playoffs? Surely they have used most of their resources through out the season already, but one would think there are wrinkles and packages they would like to remain sealed going into the first round. If the plan is to keep it basic and not show their cards, the question then could be asked, ‘how much are you really gaining by putting your starters out there to do minimal things any way?’. How this game is going to be handled as a whole is truly fascinating.
3. More reps for Kelvin Joseph.
There have been reports that Joseph’s reps could see an increase at cornerback this week and it is an outstanding idea. Players such as himself and Nahshon Wright getting some more reps can only benefit this team going forward. Getting live reps and more confidence under both of their belts is something the Cowboys should do with a unique game situation as this one. This could be the perfect time to get players much like Joseph and Wright some further opportunity to build off of going forward.
4. Is there anything to be gained by having Dak Prescott on the field at all?
This, I am sure will be controversial, but not seeing Dak at all on Saturday night would not be an upsetting thing. What we are all hoping to see from this offense to be confident going into the playoffs is not going to come from carving up the second and third-string defense of the Eagles. This offense has had question marks for the second half of this season, and sadly those question marks are going to continue as they head into the playoffs. There is very minimal to gain by having #4 out there, and a whole lot to lose if he were to get injured in the process.
5. Lets enjoy this weekends game, because after this it gets real.
We have talked about team goals, and what the expectations were for this team all year long since the season ended last year. Well, the time is now, we are on the doorstep of the NFL playoffs and this Cowboys team has the ability to beat anybody on any given Sunday. This team has shown ups and downs all season, but what you cannot take away from them is the fact they are a good team. 11 wins, a division title, and a home playoff game, is about as much as you could ask for after what we all saw last year. Enjoy Saturday night and its easy viewing, because as long as the Cowboys are on the field, it will be the last stress free watching we will have until August.