If the Dallas Cowboys want any shot of winning the NFC East division instead of being a wild card team in the playoffs, they will likely need to win out. Philadelphia’s loss to Seattle on Monday night opened the door for Dallas to get back in the division race, and while they will need some help, if they win their final three games they could take home the division crown.
It won’t be easy for Dallas to win out. Miami and Detroit are two playoff teams and will be tough matchups for the Cowboys. If they want any chance of beating them both, they will need to play much better than they did last Sunday in Buffalo.
If the Cowboys are going to win out and finish with a 13-4 record, they’ll need some players to step up. Today we take a look at three players Dallas needs to come up big if they are going to finish the season on a three-game winning streak.
1) LB Damone Clark
A big part of Dallas’ defensive struggles on Sunday was the play of their linebackers. 23-year-old Damone Clark was at the forefront of those struggles and had one of his worst days as a pro. The former LSU Tiger posted a 49.8 defensive grade, via Pro Football Focus, his second-worst mark of the season.
Dion Dawkins just blocked a grown man 20 yards against his will pic.twitter.com/OKlFKOWxjd— WeAreBigGuys (@WeAreBigGuys) December 17, 2023
Dallas’ next two opponents, the Dolphins and Lions, are two of the top-five rushing offenses in the league. If they want to win those games, stopping the run will need to be their defense’s top priority. To do that, they’ll need much better play out of their linebackers and specifically will need more from Clark.
The former fifth-round pick showed some promise in the middle weeks of the season and Dallas will need him to get back to that form in these next three matchups.
2) OT Terence Steele
Terence Steele has been the true X-factor on Dallas’ offensive line this season. When Steele plays well, the Cowboys win, and they win big. In games where Steele has allowed two or fewer pressures this season, the Cowboys are 6-2 and have outscored their opponents 261-126. In games where Steele has a Pass Blocking Efficiency grade over 94, via PFF, Dallas is 8-2.
Steele’s play directly ties to Dallas’ overall success as a team. This week against a talented Dolphins’ pass rush, the Cowboys will need Steele to step up big time and be at his best.
If Steele plays well down the stretch there is a good chance Dallas’ offense will put up solid performances in their final three regular season games.
3) RB Tony Pollard
As a whole, a running back’s success is greatly dictated by the performance of a team’s offensive line, but what a boost it would be for Dallas’ offense if they could get the old Tony Pollard back for the last three games of the regular season.
From Week 8 through Week 11, it looked like Pollard had regained some of his explosiveness. During that four-game stretch, the 26-year-old averaged 4.7 Y/A and recorded six broken tackles. Since then, Pollard has regressed a bit, averaging just 3.8 Y/A over Dallas’ last three games.
Last season, Pollard’s ability to generate explosive plays on offense helped Dallas win some big games. With their recent struggles to stop the run on the defensive side of the ball, they likely will need to score close to 30 points in these next two games if they want to win. That would become much easier if Pollard was able to be a significant contributor on offense.