Cowboys clinch NFC East; Giants up next in meaningless finale
The Dallas Cowboys (9-6) defeated the Tampa Buccaneers (5-10) by the score of 27-20 and clinched the NFC East Division title which clinches the fourth seed in the playoffs. This will be their second time to the playoffs in the last three years and is also the second time winning the division in that same time frame.
Even though Dallas got the win, there is still much to be improved if the Cowboys want to put together a long playoff run. Once again they continued with bad play calling in key spots and failed to get the ball to their play makers. The good thing was the defense played great and was a big reason why they were able to pull off the win.
Quarterback Dak Prescott was 20 of 25 for 161 yards, one touchdown, and NO turnovers. He was also able to utilize his legs and ran in for a 7-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter. He only targeted receiver Amari Cooper five times and he caught four balls for 20 yards. He needs to attempt to get him the ball down the field more often instead of the short routes he has been running the last few games.
NFL leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott had 18 carries for 85 yards and five catches for 24 yards. It was the third game in a row that he failed to get into the end zone which surely hurt a lot of fantasy teams out there. That will have to change for them to win in the playoffs.
The Cowboys defense played excellent and was the reason they won. They sacked Jameis Winston three times and caused two turnovers, both of which were fumbles. One was recovered and returned by linebacker Jaylon Smith for a 69 yard touchdown and the other was recovered on the Tampa 4 yard line that led to another touchdown. Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith accounted for 25 tackles (Esch 11 solo and Smith 5 solo). The Buccaneers running game was held to 63 yards but they did have some success through the air. They outgained the Cowboys by over 150 yards but the turnovers were the difference.
Dallas is locked into the 4 seed of the NFC playoffs which makes the regular season finale against the Giants meaningless. I would expect them to rest most of their starters to prepare for the playoffs.
Players to Watch
- Ezekiel Elliott (Running Back): Will probably not play much this upcoming week but is currently the NFL's leading rusher and is 183 yards ahead of Todd Gurley so it could be interesting to watch the race.
- Leighton Vander Esch (Linebacker): Is in the running for defensive rookie of the year and is currently the NFL's 3rd leading tackler with 131. He has more than surpassed his predecessor Sean Lee and is clearly the Cowboy's best defensive player.
- Michael Gallup (Wide Receiver): This rookie led the team last week with 53 yards receiving and a touchdown. He looks to have caught up to the speed of the NFL and has been coming on as of late. With Dallas likely to rest their stars, Gallup could be in for a large role on Sunday.
The Dallas Cowboys (9-6) will be taking on the New York Giants (5-10) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Kickoff is set for noon Central Time. With neither team having much to play for, I am not sure how good of a game it will be.
If you have any fantasy players, the only must start players are:
Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Amari Cooper (WR)
Giants: Saquon Barkely (RB)
For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are +6 and the over/under is 41.5. I don't see any way you can play the Cowboys this week without knowing how long their star players will play if at all and the Giants have been playing hard the last few weeks. I would stay away from this one.