Cowboys' NFC Championship Game Aspirations Clash with Present Results
The Dallas Cowboys are hoping to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 1995 despite being two losses behind the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles. Quarterback Dak Prescott's passing game is improving, but the running game needs help. The Cowboys' kicking game has been strong with rookie Brandon Aubrey setting an NFL record. The offensive line's cohesion is a concern, and the team is awaiting the return of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. The Cowboys have three upcoming games against teams with losing records and five against teams with winning records.
The Dallas Cowboys, led by quarterback Dak Prescott, find themselves in a challenging position after losing to both teams from last season's NFC championship game. With nine games remaining in the regular season, the Cowboys are hoping to make a deep playoff run for the first time since 1995.
Currently, the Cowboys are two losses behind the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, who defeated them 28-23 in their recent matchup. This is the same position the Cowboys finished in last season, which resulted in a playoff appearance but ultimately ended in disappointment in the divisional round.
Despite the setback, coach Mike McCarthy remains optimistic, emphasizing that there is still a lot of football left to be played. The Cowboys did show progress in their game against the Eagles, coming inches away from a potential game-winning touchdown. Prescott acknowledges the team's improvement and promises that they will continue to get better.
Looking ahead, the Cowboys have another chance to face the Eagles at home in a prime-time matchup on December 10th. This game marks the end of a five-game stretch, with four of those games being played at home. The Cowboys' only road game during this stretch is against the struggling Carolina Panthers. To have any hope of overtaking the Eagles and securing a home playoff game, it is crucial for the Cowboys to win all four of their upcoming games.
However, one of the reasons for the two-loss gap between the Cowboys and the Eagles is their surprising loss to the Arizona Cardinals, who currently have only one victory this season. Prescott emphasizes the importance of focusing on their own race and not getting distracted by other teams' performances.
On a positive note, Prescott's passing game has been improving, with two consecutive 300-yard games and three straight games with a passer rating above 100. His connection with wide receiver CeeDee Lamb has been particularly impressive, as Lamb has recorded three consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
One area that needs improvement is the running game. Tony Pollard, who took over as the lead back after Ezekiel Elliott's release, has struggled to match his previous production. The Cowboys' rushing offense, which was in the top 10 in the past two seasons, is currently ranked in the middle of the pack.
The Cowboys have found success in their kicking game, thanks to rookie Brandon Aubrey. Aubrey has set an NFL record with 19 consecutive made field goals to start his career, including a 51-yarder against the Eagles.
However, the offensive line has been a concern for the Cowboys. Despite finally having their projected starting five healthy, Prescott has been sacked at least three times in each of the last five games. Left tackle Tyron Smith's neck injury caused a brief disruption in the offensive line, and right tackle Terence Steele struggled in the game against the Eagles, allowing five sacks.
In terms of injuries, the Cowboys are awaiting the return of linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who has been dealing with a neck injury. It remains to be seen when he will be able to return to the field.
A key number to note is that CeeDee Lamb has recorded eight 100-yard games in the past 14 games, showcasing his emergence as the Cowboys' top receiver. He has set career-high receiving yards in each of the last two games.
Looking ahead, the Cowboys have three consecutive games against teams with losing records (Giants, Panthers, Washington). It is crucial for the Cowboys to secure wins in these games, as their following five matchups are against teams with winning records (Seahawks, Eagles, Bills, Dolphins, Lions).
Overall, the Cowboys face an uphill battle in their quest for a deep playoff run. However, with improvements in their passing game and the return of key players from injury, they still have hope of achieving their goals. It will require a strong finish to the season and a focus on their own performance rather than the competition.