FRISCO, Texas – Amazing, isn't it?
Fourteen games down, two to go, the Cowboys just 5-9, yet they still have a mathematical path available to win the NFC East title – win two and Washington losses two. But then there is a path for the Washingtons. For the Giants, too. And no matter currently in last place by a half game, don't forget the Eagles.
All four teams separated by no more than 1.5 games. Go figure. The four teams have gone a combined 4-4 over the past two games, with two wins over the Niners, one over Cincinnati and one over New Orleans. And still there are three division games remaining, Cowboys-Eagles, Cowboys-Giants and Washington-Eagles.
Talk about a tangled web.
And who'd ever thought an NFC East game would get flexed from a noon game _into_ a 3 p.m. slot because of division race ramifications.
Yep, in their own right, they all have a shot.
- To Dak Or Not: Here is a story that just won't go away. First, it was, why didn't the Cowboys pay Dak Prescott? Next it was, see, Dak should have taken the guaranteed money after he sustained his season ending injury. Then, with the Cowboys going from 2-3 to 2-7 after losing Dak, it was, well, the Cowboys can't win without him so now the price for a long-term deal is going up. And now that the Cowboys have gone 2-2 over the past four games, it's, see, the Cowboys can win without him so the price is going back down. The bottom line is, the Cowboys want to pay Dak, but want that long-term deal to make sense, both from a $$ standpoint and a length standpoint for cap reasons, that supposed market value notwithstanding. Today, instead of Jerry Jones getting the last word, he gets the first word. On Tuesday morning, during his weekly 105.3 The Fan segment, co-host RJ Choppy asked Jones, "With Philadelphia coming up and looking at their situation with Wentz … does that give hesitation with contract talks with Dak in terms of signing him to a long-term deal? Or are you not paying attention to that at all and it's business as usual?" Well, Mr. Jones? And Jerry seemed amused, beginning with a little laugh: "Ha, ha, ha, huh, well, all you've got to do is wake up in the morning, or any morning, and not have any room under the cap. Wake up in the morning, and I'm not woe is me in these times with the troubles and times that America is in. But all you've got to do is wake up, you spent all your credit card, which means you've extended your player contracts out beyond their playing years, which is a common practice to get room under the cap; wake up when you spent all your credit, wake up when you don't have any money and wake up when you need football players. Now that will say, how in the world does that happen? And then you go back and trace what happened and you were not responsible by extending the amount of dollars out past the years they were to be used. And that's called salary cap. And that's what – you do not pay somebody because you don't want to pay them or they are not a good to great player. You do it because you've got to manage that whole picture. And when you see players with big contracts that aren't really heading in the right direction then and in the future, then that's the price you pay. That's why you sit there and work and negotiate and try to get your cap down as much as you can."
- Now The Parable: Jerry finishes up by giving one of his favorite examples about not being reckless with cap space, saying, "I call it the light theory. When you walk out of the room you ought to turn the light off, if there is nobody in it, because all you're doing is keeping the light on for the rats and the mice. There's nobody in there to see the light. And so you turn that light off. What you do is on every negotiation you turn that light off because you may not think you need that light in that room. When you can't afford it, you will need it. There's no question, you'll need it at a certain time in the future. So you negotiate every time you can for the benefit of having more available for the players around the very player you're talking to. And that's not directed at any player, that's just the negotiation. And that's real, that's not B.S. That's a very real thing."
- The Point Being: And this has been the point all along since holding firm to their last offer, five years, right at $175 million, with $110 million guaranteed and $55 million of that in signing bonus up front. This is the best way to give Dak his money, give him a nice up-front bonus and generous guarantees, yet protecting a salary cap so you can also afford to retain the likes of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper, yet have the ability if they want to re-sign Aldon Smith, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Andy Dalton and in the coming years the likes of Michael Gallup, Randy Gregory, Connor Williams and have some space left over to fill in some blanks with free agents.
- Shut Out: Not sure why it seemed such a surprise there were no Cowboys players voted to the Pro Bowl. First, hey, they are 5-9. Next, their Pro Bowlers are on injured reserve: Tyron Smith, Martin, Dak, potentially La'el Collins. And those guys' absences have affected the performances of guys such as Cooper and Zeke. Leighton Vander Esch out with a fractured collarbone. Lawrence battling early injuries. Top corners battling injuries and missing games. Now, being Pro Bowl shut out hasn't taken place since the 1-15 season of 1989. But get this: The other time was 1986, and in 1987-88 only Herschel Walker represented the Cowboys and in 1990 only rookie Emmitt Smith. And what was the common thread? Losing seasons in all five of those years. Only Larry Allen, La'Roi Glover and Dexter Coakley saved the Cowboys from the same indignity during those 5-11 seasons of 2000-2002.
- Stocking Stuffers: Maybe this was just meant to be. But with veteran linebacker Sean Lee on an expiring one-year contract and turning 35 before the start of next season, this could very well be his final Cowboys home game on Sunday. And he could very well be starting with Leighton Vander Esch more than likely missing the game with a high ankle sprain. And if Lee does, certainly head coach Mike McCarthy fittingly would name him a captain and send him out for the coin toss … Here is another lesson for those draftniks getting so caught up on positioning for a higher pick: The top two rookie receivers in receptions this year after 15 games are Minnesota's Justin Jefferson (73 catches, 1,182 yards, 7 TDS) and CeeDee Lamb (66, 827, 4). Lamb was the 17th pick. Jefferson was 22. Two receivers were taken ahead of Lamb and three ahead of Jefferson, voted to the NFC Pro Bowl team … Rookie punter Hunter Niswander must be turning heads over on the other side of The Star. He is averaging 47.4 yards a punt, with seven of his 24 kicks downed inside the 20, and a net of 43.6. Now, he's only attempted 24 punts, so not enough to qualify among the NFL leaders. But his 47.4 would have him tied for eighth and his 43.6 net average would rank him 11th … Quiet as its kept, Amari Cooler is 48 yards shy of 1,000 yards receiving for the fifth time in his six NFL season with two games to go and just one reception shy of tying his single-season high of 83 (Raiders in 2016).
How about giving the last word this week to Ezekiel Elliott, lending some insight into offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, very mild-mannered but with a way according to Zeke of motivating the guys: "He's not really like a scream and yell guy to hype you up and kind of like get his point across. He somehow finds a way to get you hyped, to get his point across you know in his tone of voice, which is very like – I don't know how to describe it – very mellow but somehow still gets the job done. It's different but somehow works well." And since Moore's name now is coming up in regards to the vacant Boise State head coaching job, where Moore played his college ball and is thought highly of at Boise, Zeke says, "I think he'd do a great job at being a head coach."
The Cowboys will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in their last home game of the regular season on Sunday, Dec. 27 at 3:25 p.m. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. Get yours now before they sell out!
Details on all of the health and safety procedures you can expect at AT&T Stadium can be viewed at www.DallasCowboys.com/safestadium.