The 6-6 Bears, third place in the NFC North, play host to the 6-6 Cowboys on Thursday night. The Cowboys are not in 3rd place in their division as they are currently slated as the number four seed in the NFC playoffs, a game ahead of the Eagles for the NFC East division championship. The Cowboys enter the contest with wins over Washington, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia, and two against the Giants. In other words, this is a winnable game for the Bears despite being home underdogs.
To learn more about the Cowboys, I reached out to David Halprin of Blogging the Boys to figure out what is happening down in Dallas.
Windy City Gridiron: The Bears and Cowboys are both 6-6, but the Cowboys are in first place in the NFC East while the Bears would have to be perfect and get some help in December to slide into the 6 seed. What do the Cowboys need to do over the final month of the season to be competitive in the playoffs, assuming they’re able to capture the division?
Blogging the Boys: They need to stop shooting themselves in the foot game after game. The Cowboys find creative ways to lose games on a regular basis. There have been a couple of issue that have followed them throughout the season. Their special teams are horrible, among the very worst in the league. They do not do a good job of covering kicks, their kicker is unreliable and they had a punt blocked a couple of weeks ago that was crucial in a loss. They also have a habit of starting games slowly. They get behind a lot and sometimes they come back, other times they are too far behind. Throw in inopportune penalties, untimely turnovers and poor coaching decisions and you have a team that regularly beats itself. If they could stop making all these mistakes, they could do something with a very potent offense and a decent defense.
WCG: Dak Prescott has played at a high level, responding well to new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore’s system. With Jason Garrett on the hot seat, will Dallas move on from Garrett and elevate Moore to Head Coach?
BtB: Dallas will likely move on from Jason Garrett unless a miracle happens and the Cowboys go on a run to the Super Bowl. Even then, who knows. It really feels like Garrett’s time in Dallas is over. As for elevating Kellen Moore to head coach, there hasn’t been a lot of chatter about that. Moore is only a couple of years removed from his playing days and is pretty inexperienced. I’m not sure he’s ready to be a head coach just yet but I guess it could happen. The talk around Dallas is about more experienced head coaches from the college ranks like Urban Meyer or Lincoln Riley, or a more experienced NFL coach like Josh McDaniels. Jerry Jones might try to hire a new head coach and get them to keep Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator. We’ll just have to see how attached he is to Moore and if he can convince a coach to take on that kind of deal.
WCG: Dak will be a Free Agent at the end of the year. No one in their right mind believes he’ll hit the open market, but what will the Cowboys do to secure the services of their young signal-caller? Will they use the Franchise Tag or sign him to a long term contract. If they sign a contract, what current deal on the books will it look most like (ex. Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, etc.)?
BtB: It’s hard to say exactly how things will play out in getting a contract done, but as you say the Cowboys will definitely figure out a way to get a deal done. There is no way the Cowboys will allow Prescott to leave. Obviously they would like to get a deal done first but it wouldn’t surprise me if they end up using the franchise tag on him and then sign a long-term deal. There were a lot of negotiations before this season started but they could never come to an agreement. The word is that the Cowboys offered something in the $30 million a year range and Prescott’s camp countered with something closer to $40 million a year. So the negotiations went on hold while the season played out and that looks like a smart deal for Prescott after he’s had a great year. I imagine the deal will probably be north of Russell Wilson’s $35 million a year deal, pushing closer to the $40 million a year that Prescott’s camp asked for before the season began. Of course, the guaranteed money is the real important part and my guess is that will be top dollar too.
WCG: There was a report that talented Cornerback Byron Jones will not be retained by Dallas when he hits Free Agency this spring. Are there truth to those rumors and if so, do you believe Dallas is allocating its cap space into the right personnel (Zeke, Cooper?, etc.)?
BtB: I wouldn’t read too much into that report, it was pretty flawed and didn’t even have all the details right about the components of the CBA for the 2020 offseason. Having said that, it is conceivable that Byron Jones ends up getting a bigger offer from another team that the Cowboys will be unwilling to match given they still need to sign Prescott and Amari Cooper. The Cowboys will want to sign Jones, but they will have to make some financial decisions somewhere and given Jones’ ability as a cornerback, he is going to get big offers elsewhere. As for the proper allocation of money, I think it was a mistake to pay Ezekiel Elliott the money they did, and I would have used some of that cap space to re-sign Jones. Running back is just not a position to spend heavily on as you can find replacement value relatively cheaply there. But what’s done is done.
WCG: We should probably talk about the actual game on Thursday night. What do you think has to happen for Dallas to come into Soldier Field and take care of business? Is it more important for Zeke to get his carries or for Cooper to get his targets?
BtB: The Cowboys have to quit making mistakes. That is thing one, two and three for this team. As mentioned above, they tend to hurt themselves. If they can avoid that they can be competitive with anybody. The Cowboys have been more reliant on the passing game than they have been in the past and seem to function smoother on offense when Cooper is on his game. Given the weather conditions, they might want to run more in this game, but in the end Prescott’s arm will have to be the difference.
Thank you to David and Blogging the Boys!