Dallas Cowboys: The best and worst game scenarios for the rest of the playoffs

Photo by Rick Bowmer

–Davis Bull–

What are your predictions for the Cowboys playoff dreams? It seems everyone has a different idea of what will happen, and everyone’s hopes are even more varied. So what is going to happen? Well, I’ll tell you.

I have no frickin’ clue.

The Cowboys have a tendency to bash expectations into the ground harder than a Marshawn Lynch stiff-arm. This is a team that stuffed the red-hot Saints team to just 10 points in an unbelievable win. Then, allowed 23 points to the (given, also red hot) Indianapolis Colts in a soul-crushing shutout loss a mere 17 days later. This year’s Dallas Cowboys blow us all away one week, then leave us in tears the next. And they wrap it up with a heart-stopping victory, only to repeat the cycle like a never-ending roller coaster that we all love and hate at the same time. This being said, let’s break it down as best as we can, week by week, to find out what would be the best (and worst) possible scenarios for the Cowboys to have a shot at bringing the coveted Lombardi trophy back to Dallas for the first time in over two decades.

Week 1 (Wild Card Weekend): Seahawks @Cowboys

This is one heck of a matchup.

Enter the Dallas Cowboys. Led by superstar Ezekiel Elliott, the two-time NFL leading rusher is, hot, hungry, refreshed, and ready to tear into inside lineman and safeties alike.

Zeke’s incredible 2016-17 season ended in heartbreak with a first-round loss to the Green Bay Packers, leaving the Cowboys with just 2 playoff victories since 1997. In front of him will be a healthier offensive line that he has played in weeks. Tackle, Tyron Smith, and guard, Zack Martin, will be itching to open holes and humiliate the Seahawks’ defense, led by All-Pro LB Bobby Wagner. On the other side, quarterback Russell Wilson comes charging in, leading the number one rushing offense in the league.

Between the Seahawks’ assorted running backs, underrated yet top-notch offensive line, and Wilson’s legs, they are a force to be reckoned with.

So how do the Cowboys win? The answer is quite simple.

Stop the rush, and murder the Seahawks’ inside rushers. The Cowboys have an obvious weakness on underneath routes for short gains, a place where Russell Wilson excels at hitting. But recently have been better at guarding the long ball. And with the speed and power of linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys should be able to reduce those middle plays.

This leaves the Seahawks with just one real option; run the ball. Now you might be saying, “But why is this good for the Cowboys?! The Seahawks are the best running team in the league!” But take a second, breath, and realize that the Seahawks are the heaviest running team in the league, but not necessarily the best. Their leading rusher is Chris Carson, who has 1,151 rushing yards this season, a number that pales in comparison to stars like Elliott and rookie Saquon Barkley. Sure, the Seahawks like to run, okay, they really really like to run. However, without a very explosive threat, their philosophy is to stay on the field and wear a defense down to nothing. This is a risky gameplan considering the Cowboys’ offense that values the time of possession (even if they have a hard time finishing, remember Boys, TDs not 3s), and a defense that sports linebackers with seemingly endless stamina.

The Cowboys have a top tier defense, and with that, they win.

Cowboys victory, 17-10.

Week 2/Divisonal Round (Best Case Scenario): Cowboys @ LA Rams

Okay, so I’m probably going to catch some flak for the next couple parts, but I’m going to say what I honestly believe would be the best and worst cases for the Cowboys, but end with them winning no matter what (just in case they don’t, so at least I’ll have the victory in my heart). In the divisional round of the playoffs, the victorious Cowboys travel to Los Angeles to play the dominant Rams in the Colosseum after the Philadelphia Eagles upset the Bears in another episode of Nick Foles: The January Magician’. This promotes the Cowboys to the number three seed over the Eagles.

The Rams, led by former first-round pick Jared Goff, are fresh coming off of a first-round bye. Save two or three games, the Rams looked like an unstoppable force, falling in behind running back Todd Gurley II and defensive tackle Aaron Donald who’s having a remarkable season. Donald has 59 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, and an astounding 20.5 sacks, which may fall just shy of the single-season sack record, but is still remarkable, per Pro Football Focus.

Until future hall-of-fame quarterback, Drew Brees, and the New Orleans Saints finally got a lick in on them, the Rams appeared to have finally returned to their glory days of the late ’70s. So why in the world do I think playing them is the best case scenario? For starters, either they play the Rams in Los Angeles, or they play the Saints in the Superdome, one of the loudest and most difficult stadiums for a defense to play in. 

But regardless of location, I would rather the Cowboys play the Rams. During the regular season, the Rams, while appearing unbeatable, won most of their games by a fairly slim margin. In fact, six of their 13 wins were decided by seven points or less. This lends credence to them not being as good as everyone thinks.

Don’t get me wrong, these Rams are without a doubt one of the best teams in the league, but they aren’t unbeatable.

Then, after losing to the Saints, the Rams went on to lose two more games after the bye, including an embarrassing showing against the Chicago Bears.

In short, the Rams crumbled. And with Gurley being a little banged up, I feel the Cowboys will come in, invigorated by their win over the Seahawks, and show the Rams who’s boss.

Cowboys victory, 24-13.

Ronald Martinez /getty images

Week 2/Divisional Round (Worst Case Scenario): Cowboys @ Saints

In this scenario, as most people expected, the Bears put the hopeful Eagles in their place with a three-touchdown win over Philly. And as much as it truly pains me to say this, I wish the Eagles had won.

I know, I hate myself for saying it as much as you do, but I have a good reason. That reason’s name is Drew Brees, whom the Cowboys now have to face–In New Orleans–After he a bye week–*Sigh.*

Well, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. New Orleans has one of the best and most consistent offenses in the NFL, with Drew Brees and Sean Payton picking teams apart like Gordon Ramsey does those poor, poor chefs who dare to face him.

Behind Brees are not one, but two top-tier running backs, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Brees has weapons across the board, and his ability to work through progressions, move receivers where he needs them, and find the open man borders on supernatural.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to beat the Saints in week 13, but can they do it again? And if so, how? Honestly, I’m not entirely convinced they can, but if they want to, there are a few things they have to do.

1.) Mimic the game plan of week 13. Prescott is not Brees. Not even close. They need to keep the game slow, low scoring, and close. If they try to make it a slugfest and rest their fate on Prescott, well, let’s just say Drew will be one step closer to that retirement plan he has.

2.) Get out ahead early. If you win the toss, receive. keep the ball out of Drew Brees’s hands as much as possible. March steady drives down the field using that big number 21 you have back there, don’t abandon the run inside the 20, and for the love of God, play slow.

3.) Hit Brees and hit him hard. It is manageable to give up a 30-yard pass here and there because you blitzed your linebackers. He’s going to hit those eventually regardless, may as well make him pay. The more time he stays on the ground, the less time he has to eat your lunch. And Rod Marinelli defense will have to be creative about it, or Brees will see it and slaughter it. If they do these things, They can pull off a game similar to week 13’s win.

Cowboys victory, 17-12.

Matthew Emmons-USA today sports

Week 3/Conference Championship (Best Case): Eagles @ Cowboys

“Holy Oleo, Batman! The Eagles beat the Saints!” In an unforeseen, depressingly welcome turn of events, the last ranked Eagles managed to pull out underdog victories on not only the Bears, but the Saints as well!

Honestly, I have incredibly mixed emotions about this. All I know is that I’m glad the Cowboys aren’t in Philly…Anyways, that’s beside the point. The Dallas Cowboys, after sending off the Seahawks and relinquishing the Rams of their Super Bowl dreams, are coming back home to play the Eagles.

Oh boy. Prepare for riots. If only these two teams could meet in a Super Bowl. That’d be somethin’, huh? Well, here we have Foles, fully recovered from the rib injury that’s been bothering him throughout the postseason, searching for a second ring in as many years, and boy, is he on fire. Not only has he held his all-time leading postseason passer rating of 113.2, but has actually increased it nearly 2 whole points. Sitting at a cool 121.1 for this postseason, along with a 71.3% completion percentage, 5 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, and over 800 yards through just 2 game.

Foles is looking to be just the third player in the Super Bowl Era to win Superbowl MVP in back-to-back years. What are our beloved Cowboys going to do against a man playing at such an elite level? Two words. Demarcus Lawrence. Foles is good, but when that 6’3″ 265lbs defensive End is barreling down on him with all of the power that his nickname of “Tank” implies, he’s going to make a mistake. All the Cowboys have to do is focus on the run so defensive lineman, Fletcher Cox, can’t destroy all of Prescott’s hopes and dreams, and win the turnover battle. The Eagles are good, but the Cowboys play harder, and end up on their way to Atlanta after an unusually high scoring game.

Cowboys victory, 34-21.

Week 3/Conference Championship (Worst Case): Cowboys @ Saints

The Saints honestly give me nightmares. Go re-read section the section above. I don’t want to scar myself any further by having to talk about Brees again.

(6) Super Bowl LIII (Best Case): Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs

“Now hold on just one penny-pickin’ minute! You seriously expect me to believe that you actually want the Cowboys to play the top-ranked Kansas City Chiefs in the most important game of the year? The same Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes, the regular season MVP who has already thrown for a thousand yards and eight touchdowns in the first two postseason games of his career? The same Chiefs who have a receiver with the hands of De’Andre Hopkins and who runs cross-country to games because it’s faster than flying? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Sorry kiddo, I’m not. You want to know why? Quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, is a monster, sure. Receiver, Tyreek Hill, is insanely fast, true, and Andy Reid is a great play caller.

But I trust the Cowboys’ defense. Man does it feel good to say that.

The Cowboys’ defense is built such that it can react quickly to anything, hit hard, and make plays. That is how you stop the Chiefs. Suppress them, keep them at bay for 60 minutes, and all the while run down the clock with your number one running back, against the team that is ranked 32nd in the NFL (that’s last place, in case you were wondering) against the rush.

Elliott has had a couple blowout seasons, but this is his blowout game. The defense allows a few TDs because Mahomes is just that good. But the Cowboys win the time of possession battle by nearly 15 minutes, and outscore them by two scores. Elliott wins Super Bowl MVP after a 31 touch, 232 rushing yard, 44 receiving yard, and three touchdown game. The Dallas Cowboys finally bring it home.

Cowboys victory, 41-31.

AP Photo | Mark Zaleski

(7) Super Bowl LIII (Worst Case): Dallas Cowboys vs. Indianapolis Colts

Yep. The Colts. The “started the season 1-5 and barely etched our way into the playoffs” Colts. I deem them as our worst threat. Why you ask? Well,my friends, let me tell you a little story.

There was once a man who loved sports. He dreamed all his life of playing with the best players in the world. In school, he always did his best and played hard, until one day some years ago, he was chosen before anyone else to join the greatest players in the world, and study for a time under one of the absolute best. The man was beside himself with joy. Then he was thrust into the position suddenly, but took it in stride, bringing his team ever so close to glory year after year. Then one day, before the yearly competitions began, the man severely injured his shoulder.

For his role, this was his most important body part. Stricken with grief, the man sailed across the seas in order to heal his broken body. 2 years later, he believed himself whole again, but when competition season came, he could not perform, failing to obtain victory in all but one of his first six matches.

But he had had enough. Nothing would stop him from playing the game he loved. So he began anew with resolve to win, and from then on, because of his good fortune that came about, he was known as the “Hand of Luck.”

The longer he played, the better he became, until he had beaten even the greatest of foes, and found himself in a fight for the championship of the world. His enemies which he vanquished knew it was not a lucky draw that granted him victory, but instead his determination and focus. The name stuck, however, it was changed over time, and this great athlete became known as Andrew Luck. This is why I fear the Colts. If they make it as far as the Super Bowl, it will show that Luck has reached peak performance, and I’m not sure if anyone can stop him at that point. But anyways, I said I’d show the Cowboys win no matter what, so let us dream a little more. Elliott wears down the defense and carries his team to a narrow victory, with kicker, Brett Maher, kicking a last second game-winning field goal to bring home the trophy.

Cowboys victory, 28-27.

So there you have it, my best guess as to best and worst case scenarios for the Cowboys on their trip to Atlanta. Obviously worst case would be Seattle stomping the crap out of us and sending us home like a whipped dog, but that won’t happen… right?

This Dallas Cowboys team is not going down without a fight. Let’s just hope they pleasantly surprise us.

It sure would be a shame for Dallas to not win at all, but still do well enough for Jerry Jones to keep Jason Garrett, huh?

 

For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, subscribe to PFF’s EDGE or ELITE subscriptions at ProFootballFocus.com.

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