Dallas Cowboys: 8 thoughts and observations through nine games

Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

A few thoughts and observations through nine weeks of the 2018 season about the Dallas Cowboys and what they might need to do to be successful.

With the 4-5 Atlanta Falcons up next on their schedule, here are a few thoughts and observations about the Dallas Cowboys through nine weeks …

The Right Pick

In Peter King’s Football Morning in America column, he referenced Pro Football Focus top twenty rookies so far this season. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch ranked fifth with wide receivers D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley ranked fourteenth and sixteenth.

Nine games does not make a career but it sure seems like the Cowboys found a defensive centerpiece for years to come. Reference my post from a few weeks ago to find out why I think Dallas made the right first round pick.

Where have the Hot Boyz gone?

In losses to the Texans, Seahawks, and Redskins, Cowboys defensive linemen accounted for one and a half sacks.  The week before playing Dallas, the three opponents surrendered sixteen sacks.

Sacks are not the only measure of defensive effectiveness but it is a simple way to decide if the front four have disrupted the opposition quarterback. In those three Cowboys losses, the winning team found a way to correct their issues from the week before and neutralize the Hot Boyz.

Good things happen with no Cowboys turnovers

In the four Cowboys victories, Dallas is +4 in turnovers with zero interceptions or lost fumbles.  In the five losses, they are -5 with at least one turnover in every game.

For a team that is struggling to move the ball consistently, they can’t afford to give away possessions. Ball security must be a focus to give themselves the best chance to be successful.

Beware the odd week

We first thought home was a safe harbor and the road was choppy waters but recent games against the Titans and Eagles have proven this hypothesis false.  Rather, the 2018 version of the Cowboys win when the week is an even number and lose when the week is odd.

Problem for the ‘Boys is that their bye week was during Week 8 and the NFL is on Week 11.  No better place to break this streak than this week in Atlanta.

America’s Team are hard to score on

The Cowboys rank third overall with 171 points allowed averaging 19 points against per game. Dallas has played six teams currently ranked in the top ten for points allowed: Tennessee (1), Washington (5), Philadelphia (6), Houston (7), Seattle (9) and Jacksonville (10).

Of their seven remaining games, points may be easier to come by for the offense as the Giants (20), Saints (23), Colts (26), Falcons (29), and Buccaneers (32) are on the schedule.

Fake News

On August 26, Jason La Confora tweeted that he heard there could be more trouble ahead for defensive end Randy Gregory.   Adam Schefter added fuel to the fire with his tweet on September 9 alluding to a relapse with likely NFL discipline within the week.

It’s now November and the NFL has been quiet on any further discipline for Gregory. Does it take the NFL machine this long to decide discipline or did these respected NFL Insiders share fake news?

Wildcard Hopes

Three teams, Carolina, Minnesota and Green Bay, have better records than Dallas and a fourth, Seattle, has the same record but has the tiebreaker advantage. In order to claim a wildcard spot, the Cowboys will need to leap frog at least three of these teams.

Key matchups (strength of remaining schedule)

  • Carolina: 0.555 – Seattle, at New Orleans, New Orleans
  • Minnesota: 0.546 – at Chicago, Green Bay, At New England, At Seattle, Chicago
  • Green Bay: 0.430 – at Seattle, at Minnesota, at Chicago
  • Seattle: 0.470 – Green Bay, at Carolina, Minnesota, Kansas City

Division Hopes

The Cowboys playoff chances are realistically stronger in the division versus the wildcard as they only need to catch Washington and stay ahead of Philadelphia.

Key matchups (strength of remaining schedule)

  • Washington: 0.444 – Houston, at Dallas, at Philadelphia, Philadelphia
  • Dallas: 0.492 – at Atlanta, Washington, New Orleans, Philadelphia
  • Philadelphia: 0.641 – at New Orleans, Washington, at Dallas, at Los Angeles Rams, Houston, at Washington

Realistically, Dallas will need to win at least five if not six of their remaining seven games to make the playoffs. Games against Atlanta, Washington, and Philadelphia are must wins with a loss likely too much to overcome.

Tampa Bay and the New York Giants are need to win games as a playoff team will take care of their business against teams lower in the standings. The only games the Cowboys could lose without irreparable harm are against New Orleans and Indianapolis.

Next. Dallas Cowboys: 30 greatest players in franchise history. dark

NFL.com’s Week 11 Game Theory video predicts Philadelphia has a 53 percent chance of making the playoffs with Washington at 49 percent and Dallas at 22 percent. I didn’t crunch the numbers as hard but I can’t see how the Eagles have a 31 percent higher chance to make the playoffs over the Cowboys.