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Cowboys news: Darren Woodson is a finalist for the Hall of Fame again

Your Thursday morning news for the Dallas Cowboys.

NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Peter Brouillet-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Peppers, Antonio Gates headline finalists for football HOF - AP

Will they finally do the right thing for Darren Woodson?

First-time candidates Julius Peppers and Antonio Gates joined nine returning finalists who advanced to the final stage of voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2024.

Peppers and Gates were announced Wednesday as finalists in their first year of eligibility. They will be joined on the 15-player ballot by five-time finalist wide receivers Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne.

Seven other players returned as finalists, with Patrick Willis, Andre Johnson, Dwight Freeney, Jared Allen, Willie Anderson, Darren Woodson and Devin Hester all back to this step.

Defensive backs Eric Allen and Rodney Harrison, running back Fred Taylor and offensive lineman Jahri Evans made it to this stage for the first time after previously being semifinalists.

The 15 finalists will be trimmed to 10 then to five during the selection meeting early next year. The final five candidates will need to receive 80% of the votes from the panel to get into the Hall.

Overreactions, reality checks for Week 16 Sunday games: Cowboys one and done in playoffs? Lions No. 2 seed? - Jeff Kerr, CBS Sports

There’s a growing feeling that this is just another Cowboys team.

Christmas weekend in the NFL doesn’t separate the contenders from the pretenders. Regardless, the holiday season is a pretty good indicator of which teams could make noise once they get to the postseason.

Cowboys are one and done in playoffs

Overreaction or reality: Reality

The loss to the Dolphins was massive in regard to the Cowboys playing a playoff game at home, where Dallas is simply dominant. On the road? The Cowboys have a -6 point differential on the road to a +165 at home, averaging 39.9 points at home to 21.3 on the road.

The Cowboys are 0-4 against teams with winning records on the road, 3-0 at home. Dallas is arguably the best team in the NFL at home, yet may not even get to play a home playoff game.

With the Philadelphia Eagles schedule (New York Giants twice, Arizona Cardinals), Dallas may be staring down the No. 5 seed and playing a road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (winners of four straight). Is anyone convinced Dallas can beat a team with a winning record on the road right now?

Even if Dallas beats Tampa Bay, the Cowboys will face the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, or Eagles on the road in the next round. Right now, beating a red-hot Buccaneers team isn’t a given.

The Cowboys will enter the playoffs 0-4 against teams currently with winning records on the road — not a good sign.

Gifts and Coal: Lamb, Luepke opposite sides of Cowboys’ studs, duds - Ben Grimaldi, USA Today

Taking one last look at the good and the bad of Week 16.

In defeat, the Cowboys have their first losing streak since 2021 and now they’ve fallen behind in the NFC East race with two weeks remaining. Here’s the Christmas edition of the studs (gifts) and duds (coal) in Dallas’ Week 16 loss.

Gift: CeeDee Lamb

When teams look under their trees on Christmas, they hope to find a wide receiver who can play as well as Lamb did against the Dolphins. Lamb was again the most dangerous weapon on the Cowboys’ offense, catching six passes for 118 yards and a score.

The 49-yard touchdown is exactly what the offense wished for after a disappointing opening series. Quarterback Dak Prescott hit Lamb in stride over the middle and the All-Pro WR did the rest, outracing the secondary on his way to the end zone. The score gave Lamb a touchdown in seven straight games, the longest active streak in the league.

Lamb also surpassed the 5,000 total yard mark in the first quarter, placing himself in some elite company.

Coal: Hunter Luepke

The Cowboys had a chance to make a statement on the opening drive, but that opportunity was fumbled away.

Dallas got the ball first, and the offense drove 74 yards in 14 plays, getting a 1st-and-goal situation on the Dolphins’ one-yard line. That’s when one play turned around the whole game.

After Tony Pollard was turned away just short of the goal on the play before, McCarthy took his starting running back off the field and kept in his rookie fullback. Luepke got the call to try and muscle his way into the end zone, the only problem was he fumbled the ball and the Dolphins recovered to take sure points off the board. It was a crushing blow to a promising start and those points proved costly.

The undrafted free agent also whiffed on a block that forced a short completion on a play where the offense could’ve gotten more yards.

Luepke certainly subscribed to the old adage that it’s better to give than receive on Christmas, unfortunately, it wasn’t the time to be that generous.

[UPDATE] Cowboys cut LB Rashaan Evans, activate OT Matt Waletzko - Brandon Loree, BloggingtheBoys.com

Roster moves were made ahead of Week 17 against Detroit.

Ahead of Week 17, the Dallas Cowboys have decided to make a move on their roster. With offensive tackle Matt Waletzko’s activation window closing, the team decided to elevate the second-year player. In a corresponding move, the Cowboys are releasing veteran linebacker Rashaan Evans.

Evans signed with Dallas’ practice squad after Leighton Vander Esch was placed on injured reserve. After Evans was out of eligible elevations, he was signed to the active roster. The former first-round pick sometimes showed flashes but struggled for playing time with Markquese Bell and Damone Clark getting the snaps.

As far as what this move means for Waletzko, he could see some starting snaps in the season’s final game if the Cowboys decide to sit either Tyron Smith or Terence Steele if their playoff position is locked.

Waletzko played three games as a rookie but ended his season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. With 2024 being his third year on the team, the former fifth-round pick must show positive development to find a home on the roster.

With two games left in the season, Waletzko may find that opportunity. Otherwise, the clock will be ticking next year.

Big Picture: 10 Storylines for Cowboys & Lions - DallasCowboys.com

Two teams atop the NFC battling in Week 17 makes for an intriguing matchup.

Cowboys

For the first time since 2021, the Cowboys have lost two straight games, dropping to 10-5, and a game behind the Eagles for the NFC East race. The Cowboys are going back to AT&T Stadium, where they have a shot to finish 8-0 at home as the only undefeated home team in the NFL this year. The Cowboys need a win over the Lions to keep pace with the Eagles. A win on Saturday would give them a chance to catch the Eagles in Week 18, although Philly would have to lose at the Giants, coupled with a Cowboys win over the Commanders. That scenario would put both the Cowboys and Eagles at 12-5, giving Dallas the tiebreaker edge based off of division record.

Not that this matters to the actual game, but perhaps to the atmosphere and the crowd, but Jimmy Johnson being inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime should create quite a buzz at AT&T Stadium. Johnson, who led the Cowboys to two Super Bowls in 1992-93, will be the second head coach in team history inducted into the Ring, along with Tom Landry. Johnson and Jerry Jones have had a very tumultuous relationship over the years since they mutually parted ways after the 1993 season, with many wondering if this day would ever happen. For many fans, they view Johnson not being in the Ring of Honor as a form of “curse” for the team not being in the Super Bowl since 1995.

The Cowboys had a noticeable absence on the left side of the line last week with Tyron Smith out with a back injury. Chuma Edoga struggled at times, especially in communication, failing to block Dolphins’ edge rusher Bradley Chubb on two occasions in the second half. Smith “has a chance” to play this week, according to head coach Mike McCarthy, who put defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (ankle) in the same category.

Micah Parsons has been rather vocal about the fact has hasn’t picked up a holding call since Week 6 of the regular season. Parsons had several plays against the Dolphins where it appeared he was getting held but with no call. Parsons has 13.0 sacks this year, needing one more to set a career-high and surpass last year’s total of 13.5. McCarthy said on Tuesday that he doesn’t sense Parsons’ frustration as affecting his preparation for the game.

Here is the Cowboys’ second injury report for Week 17.

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