Hooray, the Dallas Cowboys are in the playoffs! It’s a good feeling for sure as we’ll see postseason action for the second-straight season, an achievement they haven’t had since Tony Romo’s first full season as a starting quarterback. While the highs have been there, there are some concerns as well. Today, we have a few questions that are on the minds of Cowboys Nation as we prepare ourselves for another playoff run.
What if it’s not really any different?
After the Cowboys survived the Cooper Rush period, we were all in a happy place. The defense was playing out of its mind, the offense was finding ways to get it done, and the team sat with a 5-2 record with their star quarterback ready to come back. The sky was the limit! With the Cowboys making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 15 years, it was really easy to start believing that maybe, just maybe, this time will be different.
But after another seven games where they also went 5-2, the air is now filled with doubt. How did they almost lose to a one-win Texans team and then blow a 17-point second-half lead to the Jaguars? Does this team still have that “choke” in them?
With a very slim chance of catching the Philadelphia Eagles for the top spot in the division, the stage is being set for a wild card road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That means the Cowboys will either beat Tom Brady for the first time ever or a Cowboys team that hasn’t advanced past the divisional round in 27 years, won’t even have made it to the divisional round in each of the first three seasons since Mike McCarthy has taken over the team. So, the answer to whether this team is truly different remains to be seen.
What if injuries are catching up to them?
Every year there are a handful of teams who are good enough to make a Super Bowl run. And many times, the team that wins it all isn’t always the team everyone expected to take home the trophy. Winning a Super Bowl is hard and you need a lot of things to go your way. Sometimes you need a favorable call by the referees and sometimes you need a blatantly dropped interception by a 49ers safety.
But what all teams need is to get hot at the right time and be capable of fielding a healthy team. The Cowboys are lucky to get Dak Prescott, Michael Gallup, and Tyron Smith back, but they’ve also endured some casualties recently. In fact, they have lost four very underappreciated starters on this Cowboys team:
- Anthony Brown
- Terence Steele
- Johnathan Hankins
- Leighton Vander Esch
This AFC South stretch is proving to be quite costly.
We’re learning quickly that Anthony Brown was a lot more reliable of a cornerback than we thought as his replacement Kelvin Joseph was benched late in the game against the Jaguars. This is something that could be alarming because if Trevor Lawrence can attack a weakness, you better believe Tom Brady can!
Additionally, the Cowboys just gave up their first 100-yard game to a running back since Aaron Jones ran over them in the Green Bay game, a game they also lost. The Cowboys are 10-1 when they haven’t allowed a running back to reach the 100-yard mark this season and they are 0-3 when they have. Not having Hankins and LVE around for an extended stretch is not favorable.
The team is without Steele for the season, but a hero arrived just in the nick of time as Tyron Smith looked okay in his seasonal debut and first time playing right tackle in a decade. The pocket was breaking down a little, so the integrity of the offensive line will be something to watch as we move forward, which brings us to...
What if Dak just doesn’t have it?
The quarterback is the most scrutinized player on any team. Even when they’re good, they’re not good enough unless they bring home the big prize. Despite being a great quarterback, Tony Romo was scrutinized quite a bit, and the same is true for Dak Prescott. But even though most fans believe that Prescott is the real deal, what if he’s just not playing up to snuff when it matters the most?
Last year, Dak had some incredible games statistically but did not play well against the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs. He’s also played outstanding at times this year, but also a little reckless at others. While Dak isn’t the reason the Cowboys haven’t advanced further in the postseason, he’s also not been the reason they have. He’s got to showcase the good side of him for this team to really have a shot come January.