The Dallas Cowboys began this season with Super Bowl aspirations. Now, they are simply fighting for their playoff lives.
After tonight’s win, the Cowboys moved to 6-6 on the season and are very much still in the mix for a playoff spot. While they are currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, the teams in front of them will be playing each other down the stretch—especially in the NFC South—which will give the Cowboys a chance to get in despite their up and mostly down season.
There are four games left and still a lot more work to do, but for fans of America’s Team there is at least a chance.
So you’re saying there’s a chance?
I am. Here is why:
1. The Schedule Sets Up Favorably For A Run
The remaining games on the Cowboys schedule are: at the New York Giants, at the Oakland Raiders, home against the Seattle Seahawks, and at the Philadelphia Eagles. At first glance, it may seem a bit daunting and maybe even unrealistic to believe let alone expect the Cowboys to run the table, but a second look provides a brighter outlook.
The Giants just announced that Geno Smith will start in place of Eli Manning and Janoris Jenkins was shut down for the remainder of the year. Needless to say, the Cowboys should go into the Meadowlands—after 10 days of rest—feeling pretty confident about their chances.
The following week the Cowboys head to Oakland to take on the Oakland Raiders, who may be playing without top wide receiver Amari Cooper due to injury. The Raiders are currently 5-6 and rank in the bottom third of most defensive statistical categories. They have underwhelmed and underperformed most of the season. No game in the NFL is a given, but this one is certainly one they are capable of taking.
Seattle is likely to be their toughest remaining game—and it’s at home of all places. While the Seahawks have injuries on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, they will come into Dallas also playing for their playoff lives. The Seattle Seahawks sit at 7-4 and are a good team, but they are beatable. With Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor out for the season and Russell Wilson serving as a one-man-show on offense, the ‘hawks will enter Jerry World wounded while the Cowboys return home to a major boost with the much anticipated return of Ezekiel Elliott in his first game back after serving his six game suspension. Tough game? Sure. Winnable game? Absolutely.
The season will conclude with a matchup in Philadelphia. Yes, those Philadelphia Eagles, who just came into Dallas and beat them handily. But, the Cowboys should hope that the Eagles enter that final game of the regular season with nothing to play for—much like the Cowboys entered Philly with nothing to play for last season. If that is the case, the Eagles will likely rest star quarterback, Carson Wentz, and most of his star counterparts on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. If Dallas can run the table entering this final game of the season, and the Eagles have locked up the NFC East and a bye week in the postseason, there is no reason to think that the Cowboys—on a four game winning streak at this point—can’t stretch that to five games and a postseason berth.
2. Lineup Shuffle
The Cowboys showed a new defensive lineup on Thursday night against the Redskins and found success. While Kirk Cousins threw for 251 yards and two scores, he was intercepted two times and sacked another four times. The Cowboys defense forced four turnovers altogether and looked like a more confident and a more physical defense.3. Sean Lee Returns
Much has been made about the presence and lack thereof of Sean Lee. It is simple. When Lee plays the Cowboys defense is a top 10 defense that limits big plays and slows down the opponent’s running game. When Lee does not play, the Cowboys give up 160 rushing yards, 30 points and lose. It’s amazing that one man can have that much impact on a defense, but the numbers don’t lie. The Cowboys were able to slow down the Redskins without Lee, but adding him down the stretch will be adding a Pro Bowl level talent at the end of the year when other teams are wearing down… the perfect boost to a playoff run.
Will the Cowboys avoid what could be a disastrous season? Only time will tell… but it will tell real soon. Original article posted initially by Forbes here.
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