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Cowboys mailbag: Concerns heading to the playoffs

People have questions about the Cowboys as the playoffs approach, and we strive to provide answers.

Dallas Cowboys v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Every week, we will be taking questions on Twitter about the upcoming Dallas Cowboys game and other questions surrounding the team. So let’s get right into it.

@RobertAllan: What’s the view on the playoffs format? Should the Buccaneers be hosting the Cowboys, when the Cowboys have a better record?

Brandon: It stinks when a wild card team has a better record than a division leader, but sometimes it can be better that way. I think there is going to be chaos from the No. 6 and No. 7 seed in the playoffs (New York Giants and Green Bay Packers/Seattle Seahawks/Detroit Lions). Either of those teams has a chance to beat the San Francisco 49ers or the Minnesota Vikings. While facing Tom Brady in the playoffs is no easy task, they certainly will be playing a weakened Tampa Bay team. In this scenario, the Cowboys win and host a divisional matchup, and either wild card team wins, they will have to travel to Dallas and play them, and the Philadelphia Eagles get a red-hot underdog team for their first playoff game. If the Cowboys can avoid playing Philadelphia at all costs and possibly host a championship game, this playoff seeding still gives them that chance.

Mike: The structure is what it is. Sometimes it works in a team’s favor, which it has in the past. Not just directly, but also for teams that make it to the playoffs as a wild card team. Those outcomes can be favorable for the teams the Cowboys end up facing, but can also swing the other way. The simple answer to all of this is make sure you win your division and be the best team. That way the outcome of everyone else doesn’t matter. Take care of your business, be the best team, everyone else can scrap for what’s left. But it’s understandable to be frustrated with this particular outcome.

@JossyFarries: What’s the view on the secondary? It looks as though we are struggling, and Diggs is taking too many chances.

Brandon: As Mike mentioned above in his first answer, it is what it is. At this point in the season, Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown are not returning for a Super Bowl run. It’s a shame because they were playing really well as a secondary before their injuries. However, if DaRon Bland gets another interception or two on Sunday in Washington, the Cowboys might have a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Bland has been another example of the draft being the strongest asset for the Cowboys to find talented players. I think Diggs is a rhythm cornerback right now. If he can get to a receiver early and knock him off his routes, it gives him the confidence needed to lock them down all day. If he loses a couple of battles and gives up a big play, now Diggs is out of rhythm and seems to take bigger risks to make up for his losses. At the end of the day, I trust Quinn to put his secondary in the best position possible for success, given their circumstances.

Mike: Nashon Wright actually played pretty well even though he got picked on a lot, but he’s still a definite upgrade to Kelvin Joseph. I would play more Wright in the final game, help get some confidence and knowledge under his belt going to the postseason, maybe he gets his hands on the ball some more. But what’s critical now is for the coaches to get a glimpse at Wright, see his boundaries and his vertical movement skills so that they know how to assist and utilize him going forward. DaRon Bland is exceptional and if he wasn’t playing as great as he is then the alarm would truly be on. As for the safety group my sentiments haven’t changed, they still all play satisfactorily and Jayron Kearse is back to being a blaze again. As for Diggs I get the objection. He’s allowed three touchdowns in the last five games. But look at this with Diggs, he’s always confronting the top talent, always travelling in the backfield with the top receiver and this season he’s only allowed more than 60 yards receiving in a game four times. He’s a useful tackler, seldom misses and has ten pass breakups which is fourth-most this year. Last week versus the Titans he dropped an interception and only allowed a 50% completion rate for 12 yards, that’s substantial defending.

@ChrisBourne: As a long-time Cowboys fan just wanted to post about the Boys’ chances in the playoffs. With the injuries on the O-Line and on defense, do we really look like a Super Bowl team?

Brandon: I think you have to look at the entire body of work this season to evaluate your question. The Cowboys lost their starting left tackle and quarterback before the third week of September. That alone will sink any hopes of a Super Bowl season. However, Mike McCarthy and this team showed their resiliency to overcome those obstacles and lean on what they had. Any time a team can win four out of five games against both teams who represented last year’s Super Bowl, and two division opponents show me they can do anything. The Cowboys' season is very similar to the 49ers. Faced adversity at the quarterback position, lost key guys on the offensive line, great running game, and the defense is great, even banged up at times. Fans and analysts look at them as Super Bowl contenders but not the Cowboys. I say Dallas has the same shot San Francisco does because this team has been resilient all year and proved to overcome a lot.

Mike: The offensive line had its hiccups last week. Altogether in pass protection it did excellently. Allowed only 11 pressures and one sack last week, but yes, that’s against the Titans pass rush that had missing elements. But they looked cohesive and operated well together during the competition. What was missing was more assertive energy on run blocking, and with the teams they confront in the playoffs they will really need to maintain the run game. The good news for the playoffs on the defense is the team looks to get Leighton Vander Esch and Johnathan Hankins back. When going up against teams that are run-first teams in the playoffs, this is huge news. Both players were instrumental in halting the run and played incredibly efficiently together. The secondary has opportunity to get more experience this week which will benefit in the postseason. What this all really hinges on is how well the inside defensive line can be and how much pressure this entire defensive line can place on the opposing quarterback going forward. It was good for the defensive ends to all play well last week creating sacks and pressures, but it's the inside guys that concern me most.

Be sure to check @kenfigkowboy and @brandoniswrite on Twitter for the weekly post, asking you for your questions for the weekly mailbag

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