The Cowboys have things to clean up in all three phases before the playoffs begin.
The unit led by John “Bones” Fassel has given up more high-profile plays than produced, and is coming off arguably their worst effort of the season in the Week 18 loss to Washington.
In the first half alone, Dallas saw their punter botch the snap and turn the ball over inside the red zone, their Pro-Bowl returner fumble a punt in his own red zone and they saw their always-reliable kicker inexplicably miss an extra point.
The specifics of the failure may appear to be outliers, but the overall issues on special teams are a trend. On the season, the Cowboys have a -2.71 EPA on special teams. That tells us cumulatively, Dallas special teams have done more harm than good and the Cowboys reside on the wrong side of average.
John Fassel’s unit has produced a negative EPA in 11 of the Cowboys 17 games this season, indicating they are more liability than asset heading into the postseason.
Luckily, the Cowboys special teams unit has the talent to be elite.
Bryan Anger’s fumble was a true outlier and something fans should not expect to see again anytime soon. Brett Maher has been as reliable as they come. He’s No. 8 in field goal percentage and kicks one of the most accurate deep balls in the NFL. Turpin has game breaking speed that can break free at any time on a punt or on a kick. Even coverage specialist, C.J. Goodwin, is at the top of his profession.
Dallas’ passing offense goes as CeeDee Lamb does, and they’ll need an elite performance from him against Tampa Bay.
5. CeeDee Lamb came into WR1 form
One of the biggest questions coming into the season is if CeeDee Lamb will breakout as the WR1 most expected him to be. After the Cooper trade, it was evident this team was banking on just that, and it paid off.
Whether it was the right move to move on from Cooper is up for debate, but I don’t know if we would’ve seen this jump from Lamb with him in this offense. Lamb found a ton of success this year, totaling over 100 catches, 1300 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns in the regular season.
Lamb certainly looked like the receiver media members expected him to be coming out of college, and that was much needed this year with the rest of the receiving group underachieving in 2022. He consistently was the best receiver in every single game for the Cowboys this year.
Last season, Lamb did take a small step, but this year was something we haven’t seen since Dez Bryant’s prime. He gave Prescott a guy who he could target 10+ times a game and get consistent production out of, which is something the offense desperately needed this year.
Winning the NFC South with a losing record, the Bucs aren’t taking the Cowboys lightly at all.
But no, it’s actually Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles who was asked about playing the Cowboys, and who offered a blanket answer.
It is true that on paper, the Cowboys - who are favored by three points in this rematch from Week 1, when Dak Prescott was hurt in a game Tampa won 19-3 - have the sort of weaponry that can keep an opposing coach up late at night.
And it’s also true that while Cowboys observers wonder about Dallas’ relative inconsistencies, Bowles’ team has been much the same while forging a modest 8-9 record.
That’s right; Tampa Bay won the NFC South with a losing record.
So maybe the Bucs are justified in their “concern’’ about the Cowboys ... or maybe Cowboys Nation is justified in its “concern’’ for different reasons.
One and done: A look at the Cowboys’ playoff results since they last won it all - RJ Coyle, Dallas Morning News
The Cowboys haven’t made the Divisional Round as a Wild Card team since 2018.
Wild Card round: Cowboys 24, Seattle 22
Divisional round: LA Rams 30, Cowboys 22
In what can be viewed retroactively as Jason Garrett’s last gasp, the Cowboys’ penultimate season under the head coach found them winning the NFC East and earning a home playoff game against Seattle. Dallas would notch its first playoff win of the Dak Prescott-Zeke Elliot era vs. the Seahawks.
But the 2-seed Rams proved to be too much the following week, and the Cowboys once again failed to advance past the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. It was also their eighth consecutive road playoff loss, a streak that’s still standing today.
After an 8-8 finish the following season, the Cowboys mercifully ended Garrett’s 10-year tenure as head coach.
The nine-year veteran isn’t in any position to take playoff appearances for granted, knowing the offensive line was overmatched against the Commanders.
Martin and Micah Parsons made it known how frustrated they were after the game, and honestly when they have done so all season after one of their THREE other losses. They responded with a victory.
We can sit here and hate everyone in that locker room and the coaches putting on the headsets, but I will keep everything level-headed here. This team hasn’t LOST back-to-back games all season, so we have seen them all year after taking an L respond with a win.
I want to beat Tom Brady as much as the next person in the playoffs. The Cowboys have let me down in my 26 years on this earth, and I can tell you right now I am going into this playoff matchup against the Bucs with the glass-half-full approach instead of half-empty like I would in previous years.
The reason is that even with the miscues, listening to the let’s fire Mike McCarthy crowd, somehow we only had to write about FOUR losses this season.
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