Dallas Cowboys: Should Dak Prescott start in Week 17?

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Dak Prescott /

The Dallas Cowboys are heading into Week 17 with a tough matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. But should their starters play four quarters if at all?

The Dallas Cowboys are entering the final week of the season and they will tangle with their bitter rivals the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17. There are several questions facing both teams in this matchup but there are a few more for Dallas.

The Cowboys are on the outside of the playoff picture, so realistically they are not playing for anything except pride. It is easy to say finish the season strong but what does that really mean?

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With Tyron Smith heading to IR for the remainder of the season, should starting quarterback Dak Prescott be the starter? Dak has taken some unnecessary shots this season thanks to injuries along the offensive line.

One thing that is paramount is the safety of the Dallas Cowboys new franchise quarterback. Playing any starters in this game is pretty weird considering how dangerous the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line is.

The one player who could be an exception is running back, Ezekiel Elliott who has been out of action for the last six games. Zeke is hungry and should beat up on the Eagles defense if given the opportunity.

But still, it does not mean you should play your biggest offensive weapon in an absolutely meaningless game. So should you play Dak Prescott without Tyron Smith protecting his blindside?

The answer to that has been a resounding no all season long. Prescott has been hit more than he has been ever in his career and that is dangerous for the Cowboys longterm progression.

If you want an example of why you should not let your quarterback get hit, look at the Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck. In Prescott’s “sophomore slump” season, he has pretty similar stats to those in his rookie season.

The most notable differences are in his completion percentage which dropped around 4 points (63.3%), his nine interceptions more than his 2016 total of four, and his QBR which currently sits at 66.5% (ouch). Ezekiel Elliott being out for six games definitely has something to do with this, however, it still not the greatest look.

There is no real reason to not start backup quarterback, Cooper Rush and backup running back Rod Smith in this game as getting an extended look at their talent could prove fruitful. There are few backups on this roster with higher upside than Rush and Smith, especially on offense.

Even if the Dallas Cowboys manage to win this contest, what will that accomplish? A moral victory? Currently, the Cowboys will have the 19th pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft however they if they lose this final game it is possible that they end up with the 15th pick or better.

For a team that is not making the playoffs but is a playoff caliber team that is pretty good. Drafting a wide receiver/offensive lineman/linebacker, earlier would give the team a higher percentage of landing an impact player.

Since the middle to the end of the first round is typically littered with wide receivers and offensive linemen the Dallas Cowboys could take that opportunity to draft the next Dez Bryant or Zack Martin.

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If the team can re-sign offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, then wide receiver should be on the top of their list. Without any meaningful, speedy, deep threats, the Cowboys offense will struggle to keep opposing safeties out of the box.

In the final game of the season for Dallas, it would make the most sense to play for the 2018 season rather than to find something redeeming about once again being 8-8.