THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys look to clean up turnovers as preseason comes to an end

Jason Garrett and the Cowboys have one more dress rehearsal. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Sunday night’s game in Dallas was supposed to be a regular season run-through between the Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals.  I am sure most fans were excited to sit back and get a good look at how the Cowboys offense is going to look this upcoming season.  The issue with that was Head Coach Jason Garrett decided to take caution and sit his stars.

With all of the offensive line injuries, only two of the projected five starters (La’el Collins and rookie Connor Williams) took the field.  Pro Bowlers Zach Martin (Injured knee), Travis Frederick (Gullian-Barre Syndrome), and Tyron Smith (Rest) did not play. This is the reason offensive stars quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott stayed on the bench.  This left the door open for backup QB Cooper Rush to show his talent, and it did not go well. He threw 11 of 17 passes for 93 yards and two interceptions. The most noteworthy was a high floater towards the sideline on an out pattern to Tavon Austin that got picked off by Patrick Peterson who took it all the way back for a 30-yard touchdown.  

When it was all over the Cowboys had committed eight turnovers (three INTS, three fumbles lost, and two lost muffed punts).  It is extremely hard to win games in the NFL when only turning the ball over twice, and it gets exponentially harder with every one after that.   

The lone bright spot for the Cowboys was the defense.  Second year defensive end Randy Gregory was explosive and looked unblockable against the Cardinals starting offensive line.  On the third play he used a swim move and sacked starting QB Sam Bradford for a 5-yard loss. As a whole, the defense only gave up 105 yards in the first half despite all the turnovers and two defense/special teams touchdowns.

One thing is for sure, Garrett and his team better hope that Prescott doesn’t get hurt because they might be demoted down to a four-win team or less if they have to play Rush or Mike White as their starting QBs.

3 Players to Watch

  1. Mike White, Cowboys thirdrd string quarterback: This 6’5” rookie out of Western Kentucky is likely to play the majority of the next game and I think his game visually looks better.  If he can catch up with the speed of the game, he could become QB 2 season’s end.

  2. Justin March-Lillard (5’11” 228 lbs.): Is a linebacker in his 4th season out of Akron who is fighting for a spot on the team.  Even without being the prototypical size for the position, he is always in the right position and has the ability to bring some pop.

  3. Jourdan Lewis (5’10” 2017 third-round draft pick): Another defensive secondary player fighting for a spot.  He had 4 tackles Sunday night and showed great recognition along with his good athletic ability in coverage.

Coming up

Thursday night is the preseason finale.  The Cowboys (0-3) will be on the road taking on the Houston Texans (2-1) at NRG Stadium, which they will do again in the regular season Oct. 7.  Not much will be expected out of this game.  Both teams will be playing a lot of players who won’t be on the final 53-man rosters as they give their starters an extra week of rest before the real games begin.  

For you gamblers out there, if you have to take a side, I would take the Texans -4 after having seen what the Cowboys look like without Dak and Zeke.  I will be staying away from this one.




 

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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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