It was never going to be easy without their elite rusher, but the playoff fate of the Dallas Cowboys remains very alive and within reach.
Discard the knee-jerk reactions. Back away from the ledge. The Dallas Cowboys are getting healthy and in prime position for a six-game playoff push.
After two losses the same playoff path remains, only now the resistance lightens. Sure fans hoped to topple the first two teams without Zeke. Yet, expecting to beat Atlanta or Philadelphia minus four Pro Bowl starters was wildly unrealistic.
Both teams are very talented and rank in the top ten in total yards on offense and defense. The losses were expected considering the Cowboys gutted lineup. The stars seem faint after two ugly defeats but Cowboys fortunes will soon reverse.
THREE AND ONE WILL GET IT DONE
So Dallas started 0-2 chasing the 3-3 split. 3-1 is the new goal until Zeke returns. Fortunately reinforcements arrive today in the form of Dan Bailey and Tyron Smith. Once again if the offense reaches the 40 yard line, Bailey’s leg can add points.
With Smith back at left tackle, Dak Prescott will no longer be running for his life all game. Receivers can extend routes and offensive balance will return. As of yesterday only Zeke and Sean Lee are still missing. While big losses, they can be overcome until Lee returns next week.
Now let’s focus on where the three wins (without Zeke) need to come from.
WEEK 12: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (4-6)
WEEK 13: WASHINGTON REDSKINS (4-6)
WEEK 14: NEW YORK GIANTS (2-8)
WEEK 15: OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-6)
All four teams will miss the playoffs and most will know it before kickoff. When Lee returns next week, Dallas will have all starters on hand (except Elliott).
As for getting the first win today, the Chargers are dead last in rushing defense. Alfred Morris should have another big day (91 yards last week) filling in for Zeke.
Not to mention, Los Angeles is 25th in rushing offense. Lee’s absence will have a diluted impact when facing a poor running team.
The point is none of those teams are near the level of Atlanta or Philadelphia. And Dallas’ starting lineup will be much stronger for these games.
Winning three of four is not just wishful thinking, it’s more likely than not. Especially with the newfound urgency we will see from the Cowboys today.
ALL WE WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS 2-1 ZEKE
The 3-3 split will insure Zeke returns to an 8-6 team with two games remaining.
WEEK 16 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-4)
WEEK 17 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-1)
The Week 17 finale is against NFC #1 seed Philadelphia. This must-win will have far less resistance as the Eagles rest starters for the playoffs.
Which means after the 3-3 split the only real test is a winner take-all in Week 16.
The monumental clash involves the Cowboys hosting the Seahawks on Christmas Eve in their home finale (wildcard mostly plays on road).
The winner steals the wildcard and the loser gets the boot. It just so happens Zeke returns right on time. Beat Seattle and 10-6 mission accomplished.
So relax today, eat until your pants shrink a size, and enjoy Dallas’ first win of the final six-game playoff push.
A peaking, healthy 10-6 Dallas Cowboys wildcard team will soon be the NFC’s worst nightmare. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Cowboys fans!