What were your thoughts from this weekend's NFC divisional round games? How close do you think Dallas is to those teams? What do San Francisco and Detroit (and maybe even Green Bay and Tampa Bay) have that the Cowboys don't? – Anthony Richards/Fort Worth, TX
Patrik Walker: It was an interesting round of matchups, for sure. More than anything, I was glued to the 49ers vs. Packers battle because I wanted to see if the Packers were truly good enough to contend, and I discovered they are. They pushed San Francisco to the brink and it took one fatal mistake late in the game to ultimately promise the 49ers would go to the NFC Championship. Shanahan's group looked vulnerable yet again at home (remember the Ravens) in that matchup and, arguably, should've lost; but true contenders will find ways to do just enough to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And that same thing is true for the Lions, who were on the ropes at halftime to the Bucs before finally pulling away late in the fourth quarter. So, to me, that's the overarching point here. It's not that the Cowboys lacked the talent to get it done. It's not that they lacked the advantages (home, for example) to get it done. It's that, on more than one occasion this past season, they've found ways to be the reason for their own demise. I can point to areas that need improvement — e.g., run game, linebacker archetype, etc. — and they'd be valid as well, but it's also true that those things will only truly matter when the self-inflicted wounds cease to be a thing … and/or … when this team can consistently do what the 49ers and Lions did: overcome them when it matters most.
Nick Eatman: Well, I don't exactly put Tampa Bay in that group right now. They won their bad division and beat an Eagles team that seemed to pack it in a few weeks ago. But I think the other three are legitimate contenders and they all seem to be able to not only run the ball, but they're not afraid to hit and be physical. When I look at the Cowboys' needs for the 2024 season, they're going to have to figure out how to be more of a running team. Sure, Dak and CeeDee set all kinds of records passing it around, but when that gets shut down, what happens then? I'm not saying the Cowboys need to be a running team, but they need to be able to run it when they have to. Just look at the Chiefs the other night? We all know the offense is led by Mahomes and they don't always have an established running game but when they took over after that missed field goal in the final two minutes, they simply ran the ball for a first down and the game was over. Everyone knew they were running but they still managed to get past the 10 yards to ice the game away. That's not something I've seen a lot from the Cowboys. In fact, we saw too many times this year when they actually threw the ball to get the first down and ended up giving the ball back to the opponent with a chance to win the game. This team has to be more physical up front and figure out how to run it, especially when the game is on the line.