Tag Archives: NFL Playoffs

AROUND THE NFC EAST: Possible for Dallas to fall out of first place during bye week

NFC East - small button

As Dallas rests and recuperates during its bye week, they run the risk of falling out of first place without even playing a game. If the Philadelphia Eagles come out of this weekend’s division game against Washington Redskins with a win, they’ll sit on top of the NFC East at 6-5.

That’s not exactly a doomsday scenario. Philly has yet to take its own bye week, and Dallas still has three full division games to play to re-position itself in the standings. But it puts the Cowboys in an uncomfortable situation, as not only will they lose possession of first for the first time this season, but they’ll do so ahead of a critical division road trip to New York.

Adversity hasn’t always been bad for the Dallas Cowboys this season, though. The last time the NFC East lead was up for grabs, the Cowboys went up to Philadelphia in Week 7 and clobbered the Eagles, 17-3. Perhaps the pressure of a rival team breathing down their necks, they’d respond with a similar performance against the Giants.

Still, the smart play is to root for a Washington win Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. A Redskins win would put both teams just behind the Cowboys, but it would also give both teams two losses within the division, which is a tremendous boost for Dallas at 3-0 in division games.

The smart money is that this’ll be an entertaining game. The last time these two met, way back on Sept. 9, they combined for 825 yards of offense and 60 points. The Eagles raced out to a 33-7 lead thanks largely to 184 rushing yards from LeSean McCoy, but the Redskins rallied to lose by just six.

Not much has changed. Philly is tallying 413 yards per game, and Washington is right behind them at 410 yards per game. Meanwhile, thanks to some bad pass defense, Washington’s defense ranks 27th in the league, while Philadelphia is just one spot above Dallas at No. 31 overall.

Ultimately, it comes down to mistakes. The margin between the two isn’t big when it comes to turnover differential, but Nick Foles has yet to throw an interception in 136 attempts this season. Robert Griffin III, however, has almost doubled his interception total from last season and has only avoided throwing a pick in two games.

A Washington win is the preferable scenario.

Just up the road in New Jersey, the Giants have the potential to climb even closer to second place – depending on the result of the Philadelphia game. They’ll have the benefit of going for their fourth-straight win against an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay team.

It looks like Scott Tolzien is going to get his second start for the Packers, despite the re-signing of Matt Flynn to the roster earlier this week. Tolzien was impressive, though far from perfect in his start against Philadelphia last week.

He’ll need to be better in MetLife Stadium, as the Giants boast the league’s 10th best pass defense. New York’s effort against the run isn’t bad either, at just 3.7 yards per attempt. Between Tolzien and rookie sensation Eddie Lacy, someone is going to have to star if Green Bay is to get a road win.

So there are two very real possible outcomes for Sunday’s games, both played while the Cowboys sit out of the action. The Eagles could be on top of the standings by Sunday night. Equally as likely is that at least two, if not all three division foes could have sixes losses – putting them just one game behind Dallas – by the end of Week 11.

Pick your poison.

GO BIG OR GO HOME: It’s NFC East champions or bust for the 2012-2013 Dallas Cowboys

A Dallas Cowboys fan makes her Christmas wish known flashing a sign in the stands vs Saints - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING — The first day of the Dallas Cowboys’ organized team activities, Jason Garrett stood before his team and had them envision something that hasn’t happened here in 17 years.

“I said, ‘Picture yourself holding the Super Bowl trophy over your head,’ ” Garrett said Monday. “That’s the first thing out of my mouth [every year]. ‘So put that in the forefront of your mind. Really feel that. Feel that experience, where we all want to go?’ Then, you say, ‘OK, take that and put it in the back of your mind. Now what you need to do is focus on today. Focus on this Wednesday practice.’

“That’s the mindset. They hear that from me a lot: This is where we want to go. This is where everybody wants to go. This is why we’re doing all this stuff. Now, we have to get back right here. Let’s get back to focusing on what we need to do today to advance ourselves to that goal. It’s a pretty simple philosophy.”

It’s a pretty simple scenario for the Cowboys if they are to have a chance to do what they envisioned in May: They have to beat the Washington Redskins on Sunday night to extend their season.

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WILD CARD WEEKEND: Cowboys would host either 49ers or Seahawks in playoff game

Dallas Cowboys Stadium 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

They have to get there first. But while Jason Garrett and his players aren’t looking past the Washington Redskins next Sunday in a winner-take-all NFC East showdown, the Cowboys’ advance scouts are looking ahead.

They can focus their attention on the 49ers (10-4-1) and the Seahawks (10-5). The Cowboys would be 9-7 with a win over the Redskins and the fourth seed. They would play the fifth seed. The 49ers or the Seahawks will be the fifth seed. The 49ers will win the NFC West with a victory over the Cardinals or a Seahawks loss to the Rams. The Seahawks would win the West with a victory and a 49ers loss. So either the 49ers or the Seahawks will be the NFC West champion and the other one will be the fifth seed.

Dallas, as NFC East champions, would host the wild-card game at Cowboys Stadium on the weekend of Jan. 5-6. The educated guess is the Cowboys game would be Sunday, Jan. 6 in the 3 p.m. time slot, considering lots of things, including the fact that the Cotton Bowl is Jan. 4. There also is the fact that NBC got this week’s game between the Cowboys and Redskins, so Fox likely will get the NFC East champion’s playoff game. NBC televises the two playoff games on Jan. 5. Fox has an NFC game on Jan. 6, and CBS has an AFC game on Jan. 6. It’s just an educated guess on when the game would be played, but a pretty good assumption, assuming the Cowboys beat the Redskins.

Either way, the Cowboys’ advance scouts will be getting ready in hopes there is a game next weekend.

"The advance guys do a great job of that stuff, and they’ll have that whole thing covered for us," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "They have all the different scenarios and who’s traveling to what game. One of the things that I’ve found out being in these kinds of situations is be careful about making too many educated guesses. Make sure you have all your bases covered. Oh, this team will definitely beat them, so we’re definitely going to play them. A lot of times that doesn’t happen. Our guys do a great job of that, and they’ll have all that background work done for us, so hopefully we win this ball game and go get prepared to play the first round of the playoffs. They’ll have all that stuff covered for us to start our preparation."

NFC EAST CHAMPIONSHIP FLEXED TO SNF: Dallas Cowboys and Redskins to end NFL 2012-2013 regular season in dramatic fashion

The Rivalry - Washington Redskins vs Dallas Cowboys Rivalry - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — It had to come down to a final game. Had to. Just like it’s come down to the final drive over and over again. The white-knuckled way the Dallas Cowboys‘ season had gone, it would never end with coach Jason Garrett and his players watching the final day play out with their feet up, coasting into the playoffs. It wouldn’t fit. It had to be like this.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins on Sunday night. Prime time. A playoff spot and NFC East crown for the winner. Just like last year, when it was Giants-Cowboys. Like it should be.

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FORGET WILDCARD ROUTE: The only road to the playoffs goes through Washington DC

FORGET WILDCARD ROUTE - The only road to the playoffs goes through Washington DC - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys got some much needed help from the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon, giving them a second chance to make the playoffs. The Ravens’ 33-14 victory over the New York Giants means the Cowboys will win the NFC East with a victory next week.

It is the same scenario as last season when the Cowboys lost to the Giants’ 31-14 in the season finale for the NFC East title.

"I think you’ve got to move forward. This one is tough, and it’ll stay there for a while," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "…But you’ve got to be able to move forward, and regardless, we’ve got to go play the Redskins and play them tough and see where it falls."

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, and the Cowboys lost to the Redskins 38-31 on Thanksgiving Day at Cowboys Stadium. The second tiebreaker to decide a division title is division record. The Cowboys would tie the Redskins with a 4-2 division record, with a victory over Washington next week. The third tiebreaker is common opponents and the Cowboys are 5-3 and the Redskins are 4-4 against common opponents outside the division.

Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Redskins rivalry - The Boys Are Back blog

BEAST OF THE EAST: Three-way tie with two games remaining

NFC East Division Head Coaches - The Boys Are Back blog

With just two weeks left to play in the season, the drama only continues to build in the NFC East, as three teams are tied for the division lead.

Washington Redskins 8-6

Dallas Cowboys 8-6

New York Giants 8-6

Philadelphia Eagles 4-10

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NFC EAST RACE: Dallas Cowboys could still win the division

Don’t look now, but after the New York Giants’ 31-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday afternoon and the Dallas Cowboys’ 38-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, the NFC East might not be decided just yet.

Here are the current NFC East standings, through Week 10. The Giants hold a 1.5-game lead over the Cowboys:

NFC East - Week 11 - NFL 2012-2013 Standings - The Boys Are Back blog

Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for each team. Notice the Cowboys’ schedule is loaded with home games and non-playoff contenders. The Giants have two fewer home games left and play the majority of their remaining games against contenders.

Cowboys remaining schedule

Week 11: vs. Cleveland

Week 12: vs. Washington (Thanksgiving)

Week 13: vs. Philadelphia (Sunday Night Football)

Week 14: AT Cincinnati

Week 15: vs. Pittsburgh

Week 16: vs. New Orleans

Week 17: AT Washington

Eagles remaining schedule

Week 11: BYE

Week 12: vs. Green Bay (Sunday Night Football)

Week 13: AT Washington (Monday Night Football)

Week 14: vs. New Orleans

Week 15: AT Atlanta

Week 16: AT Baltimore

Week 17: vs. Philadelphia

Editors Note: I think this post is a little premature. Sunday’s win over Philly was huge! Yes, the Dallas Cowboys are still in the hunt … but, there is a LOT of football left to be played.

First, the Cowboys need to take care of business vs. Cleveland Browns and the remaining opponents. Nothing should be taken for granted. Garrett’s conservative style keeps these games close.

Secondly, player health has been an issue all season. The 46-man roaster has changed every week. For Dallas to have a shot, they’ll have to remain reasonably healthy or backup/role players will need to step up. The Cowboys will need Murray and the offensive line to stay healthy while they get in sync as a unit.

Third, no team plays the Dallas Cowboys like they are non-playoff contenders. Teams play-up to the talent when they face the Cowboys. Cowboys Stadium creates a “Super Bowl” atmosphere for visiting teams … and they respond. The new car smell is gone for most of the players, but for visiting teams that come into town once a year (or on the four year scheduling cycle) … it’s a spectacle! Teams are already hyped. The stadium adds to the adrenaline factor. The Cowboys must learn to feed off of that energy.

It’s good to know that they’re still alive in the playoff race. I think we should be cautiously optimistic. There are six divisional games left. All four teams are fighting for that top spot. It’s not going to be given to Dallas, the Cowboys will have to take it. Comments welcome.

2006 FLASHBACK: Jerry Jones recalls Wild Card loss in Seattle; says Romo has grown

Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo bobbles the snap - The Boys Are Back blogIRVING, Texas – Owner Jerry Jones recently sat in a suite in Seattle almost directly on top of where quarterback Tony Romo fumbled the field goal snap that sent the Dallas Cowboys packing in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.

Jones said he still remembers that bird’s eye view well, but the resurgent Romo who took over as the Cowboys starter that season is a much different player than the one returning to Seattle this weekend for the first time since the Wild Card defeat.

“You have seen, in his case, a person and a player that is continually striving for ways to get better,” Jones said. “It’s one of his best qualities. He never sits still or thinks in the now. He’s always trying to think ahead, getting better in different circumstances, how he can be a better player for the Dallas Cowboys.

“Just the time that has passed and the nature of Romo says probably all you need to say. As far as learning lessons from experiences, again, he’s excellent at that and incorporating the negatives in his game as well.”

Jones said he felt like Romo was coming into his own as a quarterback when the playoffs began that year. Romo made his first Pro Bowl despite starting just 10 regular season games, after taking over for Drew Bledsoe at halftime in Week 7 against the Giants.

Romo became the first starting quarterback in Dallas to throw for more than 220 yards in his first eight career starts that year. He finished second in the NFL with a 65.28 completion percentage.

“That was an early preview of what you have in Romo, relative not necessarily to the dropped ball, but just what Romo can bring to the table,” Jones said.

But the season will forever be marred by the fumbled field goal snap, which resulted in a shoestring tackle stopping him two yards short of the end zone and one yard short of a first down late in the fourth quarter.

Head coach Bill Parcells, who came to Dallas in 2003, retired after the 2006 season. Jones said the loss to the Seahawks wasn’t the cause.

“I had always had a good understanding and good feel for where Bill was relative to his motivation and relative to his clock,” Jones said. “His decision to not coach anymore wasn’t just a shock to me. I wanted him to continue if he wanted to continue, but I knew kind of a timeframe he was looking to when he took the job.”

The Seahawks lost in overtime a week later to the Bears, 27-24. Jones said he thought if the Cowboys could have found a way to beat Seattle, they’d have a good chance to make a playoff run.

“It was very disappointing,” Jones said. “But not nearly as disappointing as last year.”

2011 PLAYOFFS: Ten former Dallas Cowboys still playing, five former coaches


One of Jason Garrett’s final messages to the Cowboys’ players on Monday was to watch the playoffs and let the feeling burn a little and serve as motivation in the offseason.

If the players take Garrett up on that message, then they will see some familiar faces playing or coaching on wild-card weekend. There are 10 former players among the six teams playing this weekend and five former coaches.

Cincinnati – Mike Zimmer, Pacman Jones, Dennis Roland

Pittsburgh – Shaun Suisham

Houston – Wade Phillips, Reggie Herring, Bobby King

New York Giants – Chris Canty. (Isaiah Stanback is on the practice squad.)

Detroit – Bobby Carpenter, Leonard Davis, Stephen Peterman

New Orleans – Pat McQuistan, Scott Shanle, Sean Payton

Only Denver and Atlanta do not have former Cowboys players and coaches


WILDCARD WEEKEND: NFC East champ gets Lions or Falcons

NFL wildcard weekend - The Boys Are Back blog

At the risk of looking infinitely past this week’s showdown for the NFC East championship, Monday night’s Saints-Falcons game did shed more light on a potential first-round matchup for the Cowboys or Giants.

Sunday’s winner at the Meadowlands will earn the No. 4 overall seed and a Wild Card home game against either the Lions (10-5) or Falcons (9-6).

The Lions get the No. 5 seed with a win Sunday over the Packers.

The Falcons get the No. 5 seed with a win Sunday over the struggling Bucs and a Lions loss to the Packers. Both teams would finish 10-6, and the Falcons own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.

The Cowboys didn’t play the Falcons this year. They blew a double-digit fourth quarter lead to the Lions in October and lost at Cowboys Stadium, 34-30.

Same thing happened against the Giants three weeks ago. Needless to say, the Wild Card round isn’t (and can’t be) on their minds yet.

NFL Playoff picture is coming into focus

The playoff picture is starting to come into focus on this happy note: Win and you are in as a division champion.

That’s the easy scenario for the Broncos and either the Cowboys or Giants. And while Baltimore already owns at least a wild-card spot, a victory for the Ravens will earn them the AFC North and a first-round bye.

Denver is tied atop the AFC North with Oakland at 8-7, with the Broncos hosting the Chiefs on Sunday, and the Raiders at home for San Diego. Denver has the tiebreaker, but if it loses and the Raiders win, the Broncos can’t get a wild card. The Raiders can get a wild card if both they and Denver win, as long as Cincinnati and Tennessee lose, or Cincinnati loses and the New York Jets win. Got it?

In first place in the woeful NFC East are the Cowboys and the Giants, who meet at the Meadowlands. A win or a tie will give New York (8-7) the East title; neither team can be a wild card.

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PHILLY HEADLINE: Eagles still think they’re a good team

Eagles´ quarterback Michael Vick avoids the sack in the game against the Cowboys on Saturday. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)For a group that had just been knocked out of the playoffs, sealing their fate as one of the more disappointing NFL teams in recent memory, the Eagles were surprisingly at ease Saturday night.

There were laughs in the locker room and talk about how maybe the team’s three recent wins would build toward next season. With some reporters asking about how dangerous the Eagles might have been if they reached the postseason, players happily grabbed the bait, talking about what a threat they could have been.

Perhaps it was because the Eagles had just won, or that their postseason hopes have been fading for so long, but there was precious little perspective on the bottom line: that the Eagles entered the year with Super Bowl hopes and didn’t even make the playoffs. That a team that won 10 of their first 15 games a year ago got just seven victories in the same time span this year. That after winning the NFC East last season the Eagles slid further from the Super Bowl instead of pulling closer.

To their credit, the organization did not rest on last year’s playoff appearance and embraced bigger aims for 2011. They went on a summer spending spree and backed the notion that the goal for this year was a championship. With 10 wins last year and more talent on board, they took a big swing. But they missed, badly.

On Saturday there was a new spin explaining why: that it took time to jell with so many new pieces.

"You look at all the teams that win Super Bowls the past couple years – those teams have been together a long time," said quarterback Mike Vick. "That’s how leaders are born and guys learn to step up and accept the challenge."

That’s true, but building that chemistry from within usually requires grooming quality draft picks who rise up together within a system. The Eagles have failed to draft enough defensive players who can form the building blocks of a title contender, so they tried to buy some through free agency. They fully endorsed free-agent signings as a viable route to a title. It’s too late to try to change the narrative now.

The Eagles knew they would have a short offseason to incorporate new pieces and knew they were taking a chance when they hired the least experienced defensive coordinator in the NFL. They knew they were putting significant responsibilities on uninspiring linebackers. They knew they had chosen to depend on an oft-injured quarterback who got hurt, missed three games and failed to finish two others. The Eagles went 1-4 in those games. Their strengths in other areas were supposed to make up for these weaknesses, but the flaws were deeper than first thought and assets less robust.

Other problems – a rash of turnovers and underperformances by some big names – were harder to foresee but were never fixed once they became evident.

One talking point in the locker room was that the Eagles are the most dangerous team in the NFC East, despite the fact that it will be the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants actually playing for the division crown.

"I’m not sure we’re a team that people necessarily wanted to see get into the playoffs," Reid said, implying that the likes of the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers were losing sleep over the 7-8 Eagles.

Their late win streak is a better alternative than simply quitting. But beating the 5-10 Miami Dolphins, imploding New York Jets and a Cowboys team that treated Saturday as an exhibition doesn’t replace an actual playoff run that might have salvaged the year.

"You can sit up there and try to make all the excuses in the world, but they don’t mean anything," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, one of the few Eagles who has won a Super Bowl and seemed to recognize what a missed opportunity this season was.

Despite Vick’s ailments, the Eagles were relatively healthy – no starter missed more than three full games to injury – and had a weak division. There is no guarantee those factors will break in their favor next year.

Seven or eight wins might be good reason for hope if your team finished with just four or five the previous year. But the Eagles were worse in 2011 than they were in 2010. They moved backward.

That has to be most important fact to consider as the Eagles front office decides how to approach another offseason searching for championship answers.


Jean-Jacques Taylor: It’s hard to have faith in Cowboys

Brent Celek

Tim Heitman/US Presswire

The Cowboys defense didn’t play much better the second time around, allowing Brent Celek and the Eagles 386 yards.

ARLINGTON, Texas — A few positives emerged from yet another butt-kicking by the Philadelphia Eagles.

First, your Dallas Cowboys avoided being shut out at home for the first time in 165 games — 7,405 days, to be exact. Tony Romo’s right hand is bruised but not broken, and Felix Jones’ hamstring is OK.

Oh, and your Cowboys can still win the NFC East. All they have to do is beat the New York Giants on New Year’s Day.

Good luck.

They’re going to need it. The last time the Cowboys played in a winner-take-all game to end the regular season, Philadelphia won by 38 points in 2008 in the most gutless performance in franchise history.

The Cowboys didn’t do anything in Philadelphia’s 20-7 win Saturday to make us think they can beat the Giants and secure the fourth seed in the NFC.

Once the Giants beat the Jets, 29-14, the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs and the Cowboys knew they’d have to beat New York on the road to win the division.

So the game was meaningless, if you believe in that sort of thing, for both teams. Then again, we should never be surprised when the Eagles blow out the Cowboys.

Andy Reid’s team has beaten the Cowboys 12 times by 13 points or more since 2000. FYI: The Giants and Washington Redskins, Dallas’ other NFC East rivals, have done it a combined six times.

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NFC Playoff scenarios

ARLINGTON, Texas — The only way the Cowboys reach the postseason is to beat the New York Giants on New Year’s Day at Met Life Stadium. If the Cowboys tie the Giants, they don’t make the postseason.

Whoever wins Cowboys-Giants is the No. 4 seed in the NFC and will host the fifth seed in the wild card round.

Now the No. 4 seed could face either Atlanta or Detroit.

If Atlanta defeats New Orleans Monday night here’s where things get interesting.

In the regular season finale, if Atlanta beats Tampa Bay and Green Bay defeats Detroit, the Falcons become the No. 5 seed.

In another scenario, if Detroit beats Green Bay and Tampa Bay beats Atlanta, the Lions are the No. 5 seed.

Should Detroit and Atlanta win their final regular season games and each finish 11-5, the Falcons win the tie-breaker because Atlanta beat Detroit earlier in the season.

Check out the PLAYOFFS page, right here, on The Boys Are Back blog

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY: New York Giants move into Dallas’ No. 4 spot

2011 NFL Playoff Picture

It’s simple. If Dallas wins on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, they’re in! No chance for a wild-card spot with an 8-8 record.

Seed Team Division Record
1 clip_image002(yz) Green Bay North 13-1-0
2 clip_image004(y) San Francisco West 12-3-0
3 clip_image006(x) New Orleans South 11-3-0
4 clip_image008N.Y. Giants East 8-7-0
5 clip_image012(x) Detroit North 10-5-0
6 clip_image014Atlanta South 9-5-0
Still Alive
7 clip_image016Dallas East 8-7-0
8 clip_image018Chicago North 7-7-0

For a more complete picture of the NFL playoffs, check out the PLAYOFFS page right here inside The Boys Are Back blog … or click HERE.

THE RACE IS ON: Dallas Cowboys wild card possibilities

Keep up with the playoff picture right here … on The Boys Are Back blog!

Keep up with the playoff picture right here … on The Boys Are Back blog! Click HERE

There is this rush on Twitter, where everything is always rushed, to assert that Saturday’s late afternoon game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles would become "meaningless" if the New York Giants beat the Jets in their early afternoon game. Some have gone as far as to suggest that the Cowboys would use this as a chance to rest players in advance of a Week 17 game against the Giants for the division title.

But while the game would, if the Giants beat the Jets, become "meaningless" to the Eagles (who would be eliminated) and to the NFC East race (which would be decided the following week at MetLife Stadium), it would in no way become "meaningless" to the Cowboys, who could still get into the playoffs as a wild card team if they beat the Eagles this week and lose to the Giants next week.

Is it a slim chance? Sure. It requires a lot of things. The Cardinals and the Seahawks each would have to lose at least one more game, for example. And the Falcons would have to finish 0-2. But while those things might — on their own or in combination with each other — seem unlikely, they are all possible, and as long as the possibility exists, why should the Cowboys or their fans discount it?

The Giants cannot be a wild-card team, by the way. If they get to 9-7, they’re division champs. And with Atlanta and Detroit each having already won nine games, there will be no 8-8 wild-card team in the NFC. There are a couple scenarios for the Cowboys to be a 9-7 wild-card team. The point is a simple one: There’s no reason for Dallas not to try and win Saturday, no matter what the Giants do in their game, and I don’t understand why everyone’s in such a rush to declare the game "meaningless" when it’s not.

DREAM TEAM and AMERICA’S TEAM hoping for a NYG loss this Christmas

Ask the 2010 Cowboys: a 1-4 start is never helpful to playoff hopes. Neither is losing four of five in November to fall to 4-8.

But here are the Eagles with two games left, winners of two straight and still with a slim chance at the NFC East title if they finish 8-8 along with the Cowboys and Giants. They must win their final two games, starting Christmas Eve against the Cowboys, and hope the Giants lose to the Jets but beat the Giants in the Jan. 1 finale.

The preseason "Dream Team" hype and ensuing disappointment is a distant memory. They’ve still got a chance at the postseason on Saturday — as long as the Giants don’t win their noon game against the Jets.

"Well, you guys are right with me on this. You’ve been around this thing a long time, so you know anything’s possible," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Nothing surprises me in the National Football League. It’s important you just try to keep getting better every week and let everything happen the way it happens in this league. It’s crazy that way."


As has been well-established, the stakes for Saturday’s game will be vastly different depending on the results of the Giants-Jets game earlier in the day. The Giants’ fortunes will decide whether or not the Eagles have anything to play for.

But even if the Giants win and Philly is mathematically eliminated, they’ll still give a full effort, according to running back LeSean McCoy.

"It’s definitely a challenge," McCoy said. "We want to win the game no matter if we’ve got a shot or we don’t. If I played for another team maybe it would be different, but the hard work we put in each week, the attitudes we have in the locker room, we want to make plays. We want to win games.

"When you line up and the guy across from you is playing hard, you want to match his intensity. So, I don’t think it matters when you’re on the field."

Self defense would be just one motivating factor, along with the individual players’ desire to impress.

Philadelphia has every reason to prepare this week as if the game will count for them.

"Obviously we need some teams to lose," McCoy said. "But what we can control is just winning games. This is one of the games that we need to win, so I think that probably drives us a little more."

Without trying to provide any bulletin-board material, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was simply pointing out an observation in regards to the first meeting against the Cowboys.

You remember the game – the one McCoy rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles steamrolled the Cowboys 34-7.

But when asked this week how the Cowboys are playing the last few weeks, McCoy sees a big improvement.

“They’re a different team. On tape, they look a lot better,” McCoy said of the Cowboys’ defense. “It seems like they’re in position more. They’re not making as many mental mistakes. From the game plan from the last time, guys were out of place and not in the right alignments. But I’ve watched a couple of games to prepare for them and they’re a lot different. They’re in the right positions making plays.”

One player who only participated in a quarter of the first game was linebacker Sean Lee, who suffered a dislocated wrist. But McCoy said Lee is one of the players that stands out the most on film.

“That No. 50 – Sean Lee is actually playing very, very well,” McCoy said. “DeMarcus is DeMarcus. He’s one of the best guys in the league. They look good. And Ratliff is always an animal. If you turn the tape on and watch them guys, they look fast to the ball. They look good. I’m sure they’ll be getting after it. We’ll have to be ready to respond.”

Then again, while the Cowboys look better to McCoy, the running back admitted his team is playing even better as well.

“I think so. I think we are, in the last four games we have a shot to make the playoffs. Obviously we need teams to lose. But we can control just winning the games. This is one of the games we need to win. So I think that will drive us a little bit more.” 


For the first time in NFL history, Super Bowl to be streamed online

superbowl XLVI

NEW YORK — The biggest draw in television is going mobile.

The Super Bowl will be streamed online and to phones for the first time, the NFL said Tuesday. NBC’s broadcasts of wild card Saturday, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl will be available on the league’s and network’s websites and through Verizon’s NFL Mobile app.

The service will include additional camera angles, in-game highlights and live stats — and replays of those always popular Super Bowl ads.

NBC has been streaming its "Sunday Night Football" telecasts for four seasons, and what the network has found is it’s not just being used by fans who can’t get in front of a set. Many of the page views come from people using the service as a complement to watching the game on TV.

That certainly would seem likely for the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 from Indianapolis. The game is annually by far the biggest attraction on television, with last season’s Packers-Steelers matchup drawing a record U.S. audience for any show with 111 million viewers.

"Whether it’s just for a quarter if somebody has to run out to the store to get something they forgot, now they can stay connected to the game," Hans Schroeder, the NFL’s senior vice president of media strategy and development, told The Associated Press. "With such a big television audience, it will be interesting to see the expanded reach."

NBC’s streams on Sunday nights typically average 200,000 to 300,000 viewers, compared with 21 million for the telecasts. The network has seen no evidence it hurts the traditional broadcasts’ healthy TV ratings. If anything, the extra options online may help keep fans glued to the games on their sets.

"We don’t want to limit ourselves to people not in front of the TV," said Rick Cordella, vice president and general manager for NBC Sports Digital Media.

"The playoffs are appointment viewing," he added. "People schedule their day around it."

The NFL and NBC will do extensive research to find out exactly how many people are watching the streams and how they’re using them.

WHAT DO YOU THINK: If NYG wins on Sunday, should the Dallas Cowboys rest starters?

Tampa Bay fans supporting their Dallas Cowboys.

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Tampa Bay fans supporting their Dallas Cowboys.

Clearly, the Cowboys have a focus on winning the NFC East title this weekend. That is a definite possibility, but it’s one that might not be on the table when they kick off at 3:15 p.m. (CST) against the Eagles this Saturday.

If the Giants knock off the Jets earlier in the day, then it makes the outcome of the Cowboys-Eagles game meaningless for both teams. By the Giants winning to get to 8-7, it would officially eliminate the Eagles from the playoffs and it would mean the Cowboys MUST beat the Giants on Jan. 1 in the Meadowlands to win the NFC East.

Soooooo, that being said, why wouldn’t you rest your starters against the Eagles . . . in that scenario of course?

Sure, you always want to have momentum, but at what cost? Think about it from the other perspective. If, the Giants were to lose to the Jets, then obviously the Cowboys would try to beat the Eagles and clinch the division right then on Christmas Eve. And if that happens, what do you think the Cowboys do the next week in New York?

I would bet Jason Garrett plays it smart and rests a lot of players, especially the ones who are banged up. The guys we see resting in the middle of the week – DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff sometimes and Kyle Kosier, those guys probably wouldn’t play. Who knows if Tony Romo would get the full game either.

So if that is the thinking for the Jan. 1 game, assuming the Cowboys had it wrapped up, then why would it be any different for the Eagles game, if they know nothing good can come from it.

So the Cowboys beat the Eagles 23-17 with a last-second touchdown pass. Or let’s say the Cowboys win 31-3 and Tony Romo throws three more touchdowns. None of it matters for the next game.

Why would you want some rookie defender for the Eagles to get a free shot at your quarterback or star receivers when the game doesn’t matter? Even if you win that game, you might have to rely on Stephen McGee to go win the division the next week.

It’s just something to think about. And it’s something that won’t even happen until right before kickoff.

I know it’s a little backwards in the approach – resting guys in Week 16 to play full throttle in Week 17. But that’s what might be in front of them – if the Giants beat the Jets.

Courtesy: Nick Eatman | Dallas Cowboys website

2011 NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE: If playoffs started today … Dallas Cowboys would host the Atlanta Falcons

2011 NFL Playoff Picture

For a comprehensive look at the 2011 NFL Playoffs, check out the new PLAYOFFS page on The Boys Are Back blog … or click HERE.


2011 NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE: If playoffs started today … Dallas Cowboys would be eliminated!

2011 NFL Playoff Picture

2011 NFL PLAYOFF TRACKER: Follow the drama right here, on The Boys Are Back blog

2011 NFL Playoff Picture

Keep up with the ever-changing NFL Playoff race right here, on The Boys Are Back blog.


x-clinched playoff berth
y-denotes division winner
z-denotes first-round bye
*-clinched home-field advantage
During the regular season, the seeds reflect how the playoffs would stand if the season ended up to that point. The NFL playoffs are not based on a pure bracket system. In the divisional playoffs, the No. 1 seed is assured of playing the lowest-seeded Wild Card survivor. There are no restrictions on intra-division games and the higher seed of any matchup will have home-field advantage.

AFC tiebreakers:
• Baltimore is the AFC North leader ahead of Pittsburgh based on head to head (2-0).
• Houston is the No. 1 seed ahead of Baltimore and New England based on conference record (8-2 to the Ravens’ 7-2 and the Patriots’ 7-2).
• Baltimore is the No. 2 seed ahead of New England based on common games (4-0 to the Patriots’ 3-1).
• Denver is the AFC West leader ahead of Oakland based on division record (3-2 to the Raiders’ 2-2).
• Cincinnati finishes ahead of Tennessee based on head to head (1-0).
• San Diego finishes ahead of Buffalo based on conference record (4-5 to the Bills’ 3-5).
• Cleveland finishes ahead of Miami and Jacksonville based on head to head sweep (2-0).
• Miami finishes ahead of Jacksonville based on conference record (3-6 to the Jaguars’ 3-7).

NFC tiebreakers:
• Atlanta is the No. 5 seed ahead of Detroit based on head to head (1-0).
• Seattle finishes ahead of Arizona based on head to head (1-0).
• Carolina finishes ahead of Tampa Bay based on head to head (1-0).
• Carolina finishes ahead of Washington based on head to head (1-0).
• Washington finishes ahead of Tampa Bay based on conference record (4-5 to the Buccaneers’ 3-6).

AFC eliminations:
• Indianapolis (Week 12), Jacksonville (Week 13), Cleveland (Week 14), Miami (Week 14).
NFC eliminations:
• Minnesota (Week 12), St. Louis (Week 12), Carolina (Week 14), Tampa Bay (Week 14), Washington (Week 14).

NFL Playoff Tracker courtesy: CBS Sports

THE JERRY JONES SHOW: Matchup with Giants has ‘Super’ potential

Sunday night’s game against the New York Giants feels like a showdown to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

He said on his weekly radio show Friday on the FAN 105.3 FM that it’s a matchup of teams with Super Bowl potential.

“They’re very big in the hunt as far as, if you will, a Super Bowl,” Jones said, “because we saw a team last year, the Packers, come back and really play well at the end and get it. So they’re there. But we’re there, too.”

Jones said it’s important for the Cowboys to take advantage of the home field. They’re 0-2 against the Giants at Cowboys Stadium. Against everybody else, they’re 14-7.

“We’ve got a game here that home field means a lot to us,” Jones said. “We’ve played well there this year. It’s important that our fans – and I’m selling, lobbying now – we’ll have largest crowd that we’ve had there in probably the last year. We need it loud, and we need it rambunctious to help us beat these Giants.”

The Cowboys are 5-1 at home this year. In the one game they lost, against Detroit, they blew a 24-point second-half lead.



The Jerry Jones Show: Dec. 9
Jerry Jones speaks to The Fan as his team prepares to take on the Giants.

Click on picture to listen to the show

TEXAS TWO-STEP TURNS TEXAS TANGO: Playoff scenarios in the wild NFC East

Lets take at look at the remaining games to see what various outcomes would mean for the NFL’s playoff picture. As of today, the Dallas Cowboys would be the NFC East champion and No. 4 seed in the conference by virtue of their one-game division lead over the New York Giants.
 Who will be the BEAST of the EAST? 

But we know it’s not that simple, of course, since the Cowboys and the Giants have two games left against each other, and the outcomes of those games will go a long way toward determining the division champ. Due to the Cowboys’ loss Sunday in Arizona, we can’t even mathematically rule out the Philadelphia Eagles or the Washington Redskins, either of whom still could, technically, win the division with an 8-8 record. But let’s save those two nutty possibilities for last and focus on what appear to be the more likely outcomes. I looked through a few of the possibilities for the final four weeks and tried to let you know what would happen in each case.
Cowboys beat Giants twice
No matter what else happens in this scenario, the Cowboys would be the NFC East champions. They would be no worse than 9-7 and no other team would be able to win more than eight. If the Cowboys beat the Giants on Sunday and again on New Year’s Day, it doesn’t matter what happens in Weeks 15 and 16.
Giants beat Cowboys twice and beat EITHER the Redskins or Jets
If this happens, the Giants will be 9-7 and the Cowboys would be 9-7 at best. Even if the Cowboys win their other two games against Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, the Giants would be division champs by virtue of the head-to-head record.
Giants beat Cowboys twice, lose to Redskins and Jets; Cowboys win their other two games
The Cowboys would win the division outright with a 9-7 record, as the Giants would finish 8-8. However…
Giants beat Cowboys twice, lose to Redskins and Jets; Cowboys go 1-1 in other two games
The Giants and Cowboys would both finish 8-8, which means the Giants would win the division by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker as long as neither the Eagles nor the Redskins finish 4-0.
Giants and Cowboys split head-to-head games; Cowboys beat Buccaneers and Eagles
The Cowboys would be 10-6 and an outright division champ.
Giants and Cowboys split head-to-head games; Cowboys beat Eagles.
In this scenario, it doesn’t matter what the Giants do in their other two games or what the Cowboys do against the Bucs. The Cowboys would be 9-7 and would hold the tiebreaker over the Giants due to a better conference record.
Eagles finish 4-0, Dallas finishes 1-3 or worse and Giants finish 2-2 or worse.
The Eagles, Cowboys and Giants would finish in a three-way tie and the Eagles would be division champs by virtue of tiebreakers. They’d be 3-1 in games against Dallas and New York. The Cowboys would be no better than 1-3 in games against New York and Philadelphia. And the Giants would be no better than 3-1 in games against Philadelphia and Dallas. The second tiebreaker is division record, which would go easily to the Eagles at 5-1. If the Eagles finish 4-0, Dallas finishes 1-3 and the Giants finish 1-3, it’s a two-way tie between the Eagles and Cowboys, and the Eagles will have been 2-0 against Dallas, so they’d win on the first tiebreaker. Note: This happens even if both of the Giants’ victories are against the Cowboys.
Redskins finish 4-0, Cowboys finish 0-4, Giants lose to Jets on Christmas Eve
The Redskins and Giants would finish in a tie for the division title at 8-8, with the Cowboys 7-9 and the Eagles also under .500. The Redskins would claim the division title by virtue of having won both games against the Giants. Also, they’ll have finished 4-0 without two of their best offensive players, Trent Williams and Fred Davis, who are suspended for the rest of the season for drug policy violations. I’ll have to look up whether those guys would be allowed to play playoff games.

Is there a scenario I didn’t think of that you’d like analyzed? Either use the ESPN Playoff Machine or feel free to point it out. I’ll try and take care of it in the comments.


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