After a 45-28 loss in Chicago, the Cowboys are now 7-6. With a victory against the Detroit Lions, the Eagles moved into first place of the NFC East. Both teams have three remaining games. The Cowboys still have to play the Packers, Redskins, and the Eagles. For the Eagles, they still have to play the Vikings, Bears, and the Cowboys. The Cowboys still have to play the Packers in Dallas. The worse thing is Aaron Rodgers may be returning for their week 14 matchup. If you think Josh McCown can destroy this offense, imagine what a healthy Aaron Rodgers could do. Granted, the Bears do have two excellent receivers in Brandon Marshall & Alshon Jeffery. In my previous article, I thought the Cowboys’ secondary was going to have a huge problem versus the tall combo. I thought Marshall would be shut down by Brandon Carr, this would lead to Jeffery having a big day. But, Brandon Carr had his worst games as a Cowboy. Carr was consistently beat by Marshall throughout the night.
Despite this heart-breaking loss to the Bears, the Cowboys can still make the playoffs. But, the path will be much better than before. The Eagles have been streaking of late with a 5 game win-streak. But the Eagles still have to play against the Vikings, who are playing much better lately, and still have to play the Bears & their offense. Remember, the Cowboys own the tiebreaker with the Eagles and in the division.
Dallas will need to use this short week to get Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, and Dwayne Harris healthy for Sunday. It is impossible to explain how important Sean Lee means to this defense. Think back to Saints game, when Lee went down, this defense looked lost. Lets look at three things the Cowboys can do to claim the NFC East title:
Keep running the football
If there was one positive to take away from the game on Monday night, it was the Cowboys’ running game.
Tony Romo threw for three touchdowns. But, the dirty work was done by Murray. In their last two games, Murray has rushed for over 200 yards with 35 carries. The Cowboys are starting to utilize Murray as more like a feature back. This offensive line has been playing much better this year behind the much-improved play of Tyron Smith & Doug Free. Travis Frederick has also had an excellent year, despite being a just a rookie. Clearly, the Cowboys are starting to see their running game flourish. When the Cowboys run the football, the game becomes shorter and the opposing offense stays on the sideline. If the Cowboys can declare the running game early, it will be difficult for opposing defenses to continuously double team Dez Bryant.
Start playing more man coverage
Brandon Carr & Morris Claiborne excelled last year under a predominantly man coverage scheme. In Kiffin’s scheme, the duo is playing much more zone. Some people say scheme does not matter, but it does. Look back to Nnamdi Asomugha. When Asomugha played in Oakland, he was an excellent cornerback on a team that ran a scheme with a lot of zone coverage. When he came to Philly, where the Eagles played more man coverage, Asomugha’s career plummeted down the drain. The main problem with this Cowboys defense is their pass rush. This secondary has actually played pretty well. Brandon Carr has been inconsistent, but more
times good than bad. Morris Claiborne has had a bad year, but Orlando Scandrick has been able to make up for Claiborne. Barry Church has developed into a sure-handed tackler for the Cowboys. Opposite of Church, Wilcox is starting to put all of his athletic ability together. But, when you have guys like Nick Hayden & Jarius Wynn rushing the quarterback, opposing quarterbacks are getting plenty of time to go through their reads. When Monte Kiffin arrived in Big D, he imagine a defensive line consisting of DeMarcus Ware-Jason Hatcher-Jay Ratliff-Anthony Spencer. Two of those players are gone, and one of them was on the team the Cowboys played yesterday.
Tomake matters worse for opposing receivers, Dallas must use their physical corners to bump receivers at the line of scrimmage. This will go a long way in helping this defensive line.
Win against the Eagles in week 17
This game has all of the meanings to be a third de facto game for the Cowboys in as many years. The Cowboys won their first matchup against the Eagles, by making Nick Foles erratic. In that game, the Cowboys were able to get pressure to the quarterback. In fact, they were able to get 3 sacks. Something they have not done in over a month. The Eagles are in the driver’s seat in the NFC East, and the Cowboys are a game back. Tony Romo has already said the Cowboys must win out to make the playoffs.
Instead of hoping for the Eagles to lose, Dallas must pay attention to their own games. They may have an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team coming to town on Sunday. After this game, they have to travel to Washington and play the Redskins. Despite how awful the Redskins are, it is still a rivalry game. I’m sure Daniel Snyder wouldn’t like anything more than knock the Cowboys out of playoff contention. The Cowboys are in a tough spot right now, but they still have a chance to make the playoffs. You can’t expect this team to lay down again. I fully expect the Cowboys to come out strong this week against the Packers. Their season may depend on it.