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Big Picture: Before Lions Game Monday, Cowboys Could Get No. 1 Seed Clinched


The Cowboys have a chance to win the NFC East, obtain a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. And that could all take place 72 hours before they kick off again.

Everything the Cowboys want could be locked up on Thursday when the Giants face the Eagles. If Philly can knock off NYG at home, it would assure the Cowboys of the No. 1 seed in the NFC and make the last two games somewhat meaningless to the playoff picture.

However, the Giants are rolling as well, winners of eight of their last nine games. They're also the only team in the NFL to beat the Cowboys, so it's far from a given that Philly would beat the Giants, considering the Eagles are still winless in the division.

Still, the Cowboys just need to win Monday night against the Lions to clinch the NFC East and the No. 1 seed – regardless what the Giants do on Thursday.

The defense got a huge boost from David Irving, who dominated the Bucs in the fourth quarter with two sacks, a handful of quarterback hits and even more pressures. Irving is expected to play even more at defensive end, a position that is getting more depth with the return of Randy Gregory, who has served his 14-game suspension and is now eligible to play this week. However, if he plays this week the Cowboys will need to make a roster move to get him on the 53-man roster. Both Gregory and Irving could help spell the aching DeMarcus Lawrence, who has been bothered by a nagging back injury.

One player who could be as focused as ever come Monday night is linebacker Sean Lee. The team's leading tackler has enjoyed one of his best seasons so far but was surprisingly left off the Pro Bowl roster, which was announced Tuesday.

The Cowboys did have five offensive players make it, including Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, becoming the first rookie duo from one team to make the Pro Bowl since the NFL-AFL merger. Offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick all made it back to the Pro Bowl again.


While the Cowboys might be upset about not having that fifth Pro Bowler, imagine the Lions' frustration. Detroit is currently leading its division with a 9-5 record but didn't get a single player voted to the Pro Bowl. The team announced four alternates, including Matthew Stafford, along with a kicker and punter.

Stafford doesn't have career numbers, ranking 11th in NFL passing rating at 95.8. His 22 touchdowns to eight interceptions is one of the NFL's best ratios, but where the Dallas, Texas product has been impressive is his ability to rally his team in the fourth quarter.

Of the nine wins, Detroit has trailed in the fourth quarter in eight of them. His eight fourth-quarter comebacks now give him 25 for his career.

The Lions haven't surrounded Stafford with much of a running game, ranking 29th in the league with an 81.7 yard average per game. Injuries to several backs have contributed to the problems, but Stafford and the Lions have been able to overcome the inconsistencies.

Golden Tate has 79 catches (tied for 11th in NFL) for 942 yards as the No. 1 receiver. Don't forget the Lions lost Calvin Johnson to retirement, but the offense has been able to move the ball, especially in the fourth quarter.

The defense has kept them in many games, managing to keep teams from piling up points. The Lions rank 10th in scoring defense, averaging just 20.3 points allowed per game.

This will be Detroit's first trip to AT&T Stadium since the 2014 season when Dallas rallied for two late touchdowns to beat the Lions in the NFC Wild Card round.

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