After a dismal performance on national television, the Dallas Cowboys have fallen to 5-5 on the season. In a tightly packed NFC playoff chase, the Cowboys are currently on the outside looking in. Faced with injuries to multiple Pro Bowlers, and with their best offensive player on suspension, here’s what the Cowboys must do to stay in the hunt for a playoff berth:
Entering Sunday’s game against Philadelphia, the Cowboys already trailed the Eagles by three games in the NFC East. With the sounding defeat, the Cowboys must now face a harsh reality. Sitting four games back in the division with six games left, the team is competing for a wild card berth. While certainly the team would’ve wanted a better defense of their division crown from a season ago, the team can still make a return trip to the playoffs. However, their margin for error through the final six regular season games is small.
Wake Up the Offense:
Without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith, the Cowboys’ offense has gone in the tank over the last few weeks. Following a blowout loss to Denver, the team averaged a potent 31.7 PPG over a six-game stretch. Over the last two weeks, however, the offense has scored a combined 16 points. The team’s only offensive touchdown came after a Xavier Woods interception set the team up with a short field early against Atlanta. Dak Prescott has stumbled off his torrid pace to begin the year, and has been hit almost constantly in the last two contests.
The team has been unable to get any momentum going on offense. While not terrible, the team hasn’t been able to lean on their ground game. They’ve faced large second-half deficits, which has forced the ball into Prescott’s hands, who has been playing without his blindside protector, Tyron Smith. Smith may be the MVP of this team, as the protection around Prescott has fallen apart against the Falcons and Eagles in his absence. To make a playoff run, the team will need to improve in all facets of the offense.
(Rock) Bottom Line:
While fans, and the organization, feel disappointed with the results of these last two games, there is still time for the team to rebound. While a division title is unrealistic, the team can make a surge for a wild card berth by re-establishing their offensive dominance from earlier in the year. With Tyron Smith banged up, and Zeke Elliott sidelined until Christmas Eve, that task is easier said than done. However, taking the pressure, both literally and figuratively, off Dak Prescott will be a necessity. The goal needs to be staying afloat until Smith and Elliott return.
While fans may look at the team’s outlook as bleak, there are winnable games coming up for the Cowboys. If the team can handle the 4-6 Los Angeles Chargers and 4-6 Washington Redskins at home, they will enter a matchup with the 2-8 New York Giants at 7-5. If the team can win those three games, they would sit at 8-5, with a fresh Ezekiel Elliott just one game away from returning. With a hopefully healthy Tyron Smith and clutch Dan Bailey waiting in the wings, the team would be in position to challenge the Raiders, Seahawks, and Eagles in their final three matchups. If the Cowboys accomplish what’s in front of them, they could be entering the postseason as a team that nobody wants to face.
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