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Sullivan: Cowboys Playoff Chances, Gutsy Dak, Rookie Excitement, More Thoughts
Tuesday, December 05, 2017 2:47 PM CST
Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head: Read
- There is nothing better than the instinctive human nature of sports fans. A week ago, it was time to clean house, tank the season for a higher draft choice, talk about Dak Prescott not being the answer at quarterback. Then Sunday, everyone on social media was focused on who to root for and against to the help the Cowboys’ playoff chances. Pretty sure not a single sports radio show didn’t have a segment Monday on the path to the postseason. That’s perhaps Jason Garrett’s greatest attribute as a head coach, he doesn’t allow for the ups or the downs, and I think that helps the players stay focused on his game-to-game mentality.
- As for whether the Cowboys have a chance at playing in the tournament, let’s be honest: There are seven NFL teams currently at 6-6, and I would say all of them outside of the AFC West need to win out to have a chance. And even that’s not a lock in the NFC. In terms of tiebreakers, the Cowboys would be left out against Green Bay and Atlanta, too. Know what, though? If they do win out, I can’t imagine many fans being disappointed in this season. That would be 23-9 the last two years and a lot of momentum entering the offseason.
- Again, like I’ve been saying all along, the loss of Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t the issue during the three-game losing streak. It just wasn’t. Of the 37 players with at least 400 rushing yards this season, only Saints rookie Alvin Kamara has a higher yards-per-carry average among non-quarterbacks than the 5.4 of Alfred Morris.
- The Cowboys have a chance to have multiple 700-yard rushers for the first time since Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker in 1986. The Giants have allowed the most rushing yards in the league this season, so Morris should flirt with the century mark again. And he should still see some carries when Zeke returns in Week 16 vs. Seattle.
- For the record, to be clear, Zeke is a much better all-around back than Morris or Rod Smith. It’s not even close. The way he turns what appear to be negative plays into 2 and 3-yard gains, his pass-receiving ability, his ridiculous physicality in picking up the blitz. I’m just saying Morris is a more than serviceable replacement, capable of starting for many teams, and behind a reasonably healthy Cowboys offensive line, he would have run for 1,200 yards this and last year over a full season.
- Entering the final four games of the regular season, among those who have started all 12 games thus far, Dak ranks fourth in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, which by all accounts is a much more accurate assessment than the old-school passer rating. Dak only trails Carson Wentz, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. The first two would currently finish 1-2, likely in the reverse order listed, in the MVP voting. Yes, it’s been a grind, but I like that he’s faced adversity this season and he’s still playing at a high level. That was a gutsy, gritty performance against Washington, especially factoring in the bruised right hand.
- What has been an issue for Dak is this: Since 1992, when the NFL started tracking targets, just two players with at least 147 (which Dez Bryant is on pace for) finished with fewer than 875 yards (Dez is on pace for 852). Chris Chambers with Miami in 2006 and Larry Fitzgerald with Arizona in 2012. It’s worth noting that the majority of the disconnect has been on Dak, not Dez, with a high percentage of the incompletions being uncatchable. Was a better situation against Washington, Dez catching five of seven targets for 61 yards and a score. That was 60 percent of Dak’s passing yards, too, so if the QB has a typical game of, say, 240 yards, that would be a monster game for Dez, like 140-150 yards. So maybe it’s coming together.
- In the latest example of how quickly it can all change in the NFL: Since their dismantling of the Cowboys in Week 2, the Broncos are 1-9. Over that stretch, they have lost to the Giants, were shutout by the Chargers, allowed 50-plus points to the Eagles and have lost to the Dolphins by 26 points. Entering Week 3, a lot of smart football folks thought Denver and Kansas City were the two best teams in the league.
- The head coaches Garrett has now outlasted in the NFC East: Tom Coughlan, Ben McAdoo, Andy Reid, Chip Kelly and Mike Shanahan. Kind of mind-boggling that he’s also the seventh-longest tenured in the league. And no, he’s not going anywhere.
- Heard one of the talking heads, that I’m so better off not even turning the volume on for, compare this team’s rookies to the Cowboys’ class of 2009, which was anchored by, well, no one. Victor Butler or John Phillips ended up being the best player. This is beyond absurd. First off, this group is still rookies. Taco Charlton had another sack against Washington and should finish with 20-plus tackles, four or five sacks and a couple of forced fumbles. For a defensive end, that’s a solid first year.
- And how could one not be optimistic, excitedly so, about this secondary, Chidobe Awuzie was superb against Washington, the highest-graded player on the defense. And he played almost every snap. Jourdan Lewis has been solid, at times more so. He’s going to end up with 55 or so tackles, double-digit passes defensed and a couple of picks. What’s wrong with that for a third-round selection? Ryan Switzer returned a punt for a score and safety Xavier Woods is pressing for a starting gig, as a sixth-round rookie.
- Also, pass rushers and cornerbacks usually take longer than other positions to develop. Imagine what this group could be contributing next season. Could have four starters on defense and a return specialist. That’s a good NFL Draft.
- Orlando Scandrick played 48 snaps against Washington with two fractured bones in his back. His contract is guaranteed, this season and next, and he stayed on the field and gave his all for his team. That’s a captain, that’s a teammate. Keep that in mind next time you’re ripping someone on social media during the game with really no idea what is actually happening.
- Was actually hoping for McAdoo to keep his job for another week. Can always be dangerous playing a team under these circumstances, and they should rally around the return of Eli Manning. The spread is just four points. This is not a gimme. However, Dallas is 18-4 with Dak Prescott and Sean Lee the last two years, so no reason to bet against them. Give me Cowboys, 24-18, with DeMarcus Lawrence adding two more sacks and Jeff Heath intercepting his third pass of the season.
Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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