FRISCO, Texas – When New York Daily Tribune editor Horace Greeley coined the phrase in the mid-to-late 1800s Go west, young man, he certainly did not mean for that to apply all these years later to the 2020 Dallas Cowboys.
Instead, he would have written, Go east, young Cowboys, because we all know how fortunate these Cowboys are to be in the NFC East.
At 2-7, if the Cowboys were in any other NFL division they would be five games out of first place in three of them, four games out of first place in two other divisions, six games out of first place in one division and seven games out of first place in another.
But as it stands, the Cowboys, even though they are dead last in their East division, are only 1.5 games out of first place. For this season, the East is definitely the place to be.
In fact, most definitely, since the Cowboys have the easiest remaining seven games of all their division members. Check it out.
The first-place Eagles (3-5-1) in the next five games play Cleveland, Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, Arizona all in a row, then finish up with the Cowboys and Washington. Those seven teams have a combined 36-27 record. And if we just considered the Eagles' next five opponents, that comes to 32-13. Good luck with all that.
Now the Giants (3-7), who just knocked off the Eagles. They have to play Cincinnati, Seattle, Arizona, Cleveland, Baltimore and Dallas. Those records come to 28-25-1. And that's four of the six teams with winning records.
The Washingtons (2-7). They've got the easiest road of the three, with Cincinnati, the Cowboys, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, Carolina and Philadelphia the second time. That's a 29-34-2 mark, just two teams with winning records, but one of those the 9-0 Steelers.
And we know the Cowboys less bumpy road, with Minnesota (4-5), Washington (2-7), Baltimore (6-3), Cincinnati (2-6-1), San Francisco (4-5), Philly (3-5-1) and the Giants (3-7). That's one team with a winning record, all seven combining for (24-39-2).
See there, being in the East gives the Cowboys a shot despite residing in last place.
- East Benefactors: Talk about the luck of the draw. Count the NFC West and the AFC North rolling 7s this year, since those are the divisions rotating in against the NFC East teams. Check out the NFC West, generally considered the NFL's best division since three of the four teams have 6-3 records, with San Francisco the only member with a losing record (4-6). So far, the NFC West has gone 8-1 against NFC East teams, that lone loss belonging to the 49ers, beaten by Philly. But get this, while the West is 8-1 against the NFC East, those four teams are only 14-14 against the rest of the NFL. And as for the AFC North, so far those four teams are 7-0-1 against the East, Cincinnati and Philadelphia tying.
- Dirty Dozen: Not the company the Cowboys want to be in, but they are among the 12 teams so far this 2020 season with no more than three wins, and of course a third of those reside in the NFC East. That group was reduced this past week by three with wins by Minnesota, Detroit and New England.
- Dak-Out: That's the Cowboys offense going dark since starting quarterback Dak Prescott was injured with 6:16 left in the third quarter of Game 5 against the Giants. From that point on in the next four games and just less than 1.5 quarters, the Cowboys, the team that was leading the NFL in total offense and scoring, have scored just three touchdowns, and one of those finishing the drive three plays later after Dak left the field at the Giants' 27-yard line. That's it, a direct residue of then having to start three quarterbacks in the next four games. That comes to three touchdowns from three quarterbacks, two led by Andy Dalton and Garrett Gilbert accounting for the other. That means just three touchdowns in the last 48 possessions, or three in the last 261 minutes,16 seconds.
- Zimmed Up: Good answer by Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, the former Cowboys secondary coach and defensive coordinator from 1994-2006. See, "Zimm" was the Cincinnati defensive coordinator from 2008-13, meaning he was with the Bengals for Dalton's first three seasons, and the two have met only once with Zimm the Minnesota head coach, a 34-7 Vikings win in 2017. "I know Dalton from my Cincinnati days," Zimmer said, but he figures, "It probably will help him more (knowing Zimmer's defenses) than it helps me." Attaboy, Zimm.
- Good Knight: Who would have thought we'd be saying this back on Sept. 13 when Brandon Knight was considered the team's fourth offensive tackle, playing just four special teams snaps in the opener, and even at that probably after backup swing tackle Cam Erving was injured on his second special teams snap of the season. But good to have Knight back on the practice field after having his knee scoped to repair torn meniscus and placed on injured reserve Oct. 24. While the second-year tackle still is on injured reserve, he's now practicing and becomes eligible to be brought back to the 53-man roster within 21 days. Seemed to be moving well in the open portion of practice to the media, and maybe he returns soon to take over right tackle for Terence Steele, where he started one game this year, or possibly moves back to left tackle where he started four games in place of the injured Tyron Smith before suffering his knee injury during practice. Then the Cowboys could move Cam Erving over to right tackle. Helps out either way.
- Long-Haul Bubble: With positive cases of COVID-19 increasing around the NFL, staff infections (35) doubling player positive cases (17) between Nov. 8-14, and from the start of league-wide testing (Aug. 1-Nov. 14) with 95 players testing positive to 175 staff members, the Cowboys are hoping they've taken a preemptive strike by creating a staff-wide bubble next door out here at the Omni Hotel. Head coach Mike McCarthy says the bubble will be in place for all coaching staff members and any other support staff around the players on a daily basis to remained housed there for the rest of the season. And since that bubble will encompass quarantining staff members during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the Cowboys will pony up to test any staff family members for COVID-19 wanting to join the bubble for visits during the holidays.
And yet again, the last word goes to Cowboys owners Jerry Jones when discussing on his Tuesday radio segment with the guys on 105.3 The Fan reasons why his team is sitting there at 2-7 after this past week's bye: "So when I look back at why we've won two football games, and close on certainly one of them, I think we've got it down. I think we're short on how we approached what we got on the field defensively (meaning in free agency) and offensively, not because of what we were trying to do so much offensively, those early mistakes, those turnovers, those fumbles, those things like that, even when we had Dak and we were really absent at all times without [offensive] tackles for the most part – but we were still moving the ball, looked pretty good moving the ball – but we turned that ball over. So I think you got it."
Yep, got it good.
All this By I.