We are down to the final two regular-season games in the NFL, and beyond just seeing how fast time flies, this time of year gets very interesting for the league and the matchups presented. This week, although it is still slim, the Dallas Cowboys still have much to play for as a win keeps their hope for winning the division and even the number one seed in the conference alive, at least for another three days.
On the other hand, the 7-8 Tennessee Titans have a Week 18 date with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the AFC South division crown that essentially render this week’s Cowboys matchup meaningless to them. Many around the league feel the Titans will use this game as a preseason type game and will use the opportunity to rest their guys and have a full effort for the division title next week. While it is not an ideal situation for NFL schedule makers, it bodes well for the Dallas Cowboys and their prospects for this weeks matchup.
Week 17 underrated star
We hear it all the time “injuries create opportunity”. With the injury to Leighton Vander Esch and the reality of him missing a couple games before the playoffs start, this has given the rookie fifth-round pick from LSU an opportunity to ramp up his playing time at a pivotal juncture in the season. Damone Clark was viewed by many as a pick for the future with very little hope for immediate production. The feeling around the league was that Clark was someone the Cowboys took a flyer on in hopes of him getting healthy enough from his spinal fusion surgery to be able to help in 2023. However, the Dallas Cowboys had other plans, and as we sit here in the last week of 2022, Clark has played in eight games so far this season totaling 39 tackles, two forced fumbles and has been on the field for over 55% of the defensive snaps in that time.
Damone Clark showing his speed and effort in his first game back. pic.twitter.com/XUYAvhUa3j— Mike Crum (@cdpiglet) October 30, 2022
What Clark has done to get to this point is beyond impressive. Some people have the procedure he did and never play again. Clark did not have a training camp, did not play in any preseason games, and his first live action came in the middle of the season playing an important role in the middle of the Dallas defense. The Cowboys front office and medical team knew they were going to be able to get some production from the young man sooner rather than later, and having that belief and courage to take a chance on the linebacker has already paid dividends.
We have seen Clark leap frog older more veteran linebackers in front of him to take snaps on defense and has really carved out an unlikely role on the unit. The Cowboys will be better as a whole for having Vander Esch back in the middle soon, but in the long run this time given to Damone Clark to play and grow and it’s importance cannot be overstated.
In this Titans’ game, most expect Tennessee to try and run the ball as much as possible to cover up the shortcomings at quarterback. Even if Derrick Henry doesn’t play, they will probably still do what they do best as an offense and that is run the ball. Plus, they know the Dallas defense can struggle in that area. Clark will have an important role this week with Vander Esch out, and he should step up as a star in the defense.