Playoff Preview: The Dallas Cowboys Perspective


The Dallas Cowboys had already clinched the NFC East division crown a couple weeks ago thanks to a favorable result from an AFC West showdown (of all matchups) due to an obscure “strength of opponent” tiebreaker. The Eagles were already in the tournament as well and opted to rest some of their starters to be ready for whoever their opponent would be in the Wildcard round. The Cowboys dominated the matchup from start to finish, winning 51-26 while getting whatever they wanted. Dak Prescott was 21/27 with nearly 300 yards and 5 touchdowns while the running game blasted off to the tune of 171 yards. It was total domination. There wasn’t much to play for on either side except for a potential Minshew Magic renaissance, but that never materialized. As a result, the regular season finale became a bit of a snoozefest as both teams already had their eyes on the playoffs, as do we here at JJ Sportsfan. Here is the playoff preview from the Dallas Cowboys perspective.

There was a time during the season where I felt that the Cowboys were playing like the best team in the NFL. Their offensive line was giving Dak generations to throw. Zeke wasn’t dominating but Pollard was filling that void well, and the three headed monster at the wide receiver position were firing on all cylinders. CeeDee Lamb has ascended in his sophomore season beyond all expectations and has for all intents and purposes become the leader of that position group. Not to mention that the Cowboys went defensive in the early rounds of the 2021 NFL draft and were rewarded with the generational pro-bowler and future all pro talent in Micah Parsons. If not for a tough overtime loss on opening to the defending champs, the Cowboys could have been undefeated (7-0) heading into week 8. You couldn’t have convinced me at the time to not book my ticket to Los Angeles, that’s how sure I was of the Cowboys finally overcoming the hump and becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Cowboys even sat Dak in their week 7 matchup with the tough Minnesota Vikings and Cooper Rush got the job done to keep the well oiled machine moving. However, injuries hit, the AFC west part of the schedule came around, and a slight bit of a malaise set in.

As a result of the stumbles in a November that saw the Cowboys only claim one win out of four tries, it meant that the Cowboys will now only host one home playoff game in the Wildcard round and will likely have to go on the road for their divisional matchup. We said “bye bye” to the playoff bye week several weeks ago as now it seems that in order to get to Inglewood, the Cowboys will have to go through the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field first. We all remember the highway robbery that happened the last time that Dallas and Green Bay met up in the playoffs. However, we won’t go back down that painful rabbit hole in this iteration because this week we have another classic playoff matchup that has turned out historically significant games between two giant franchises with 5 championships each. The Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers will meet up in a knock down drag battle of whits and physical toughness! It should be a high quality and highly viewed treat of a game to watch for fans worldwide.

Personally, I feel like the Achilles heel of the Cowboys showed itself this season when they played AFC opponents. The Cowboys were a dominant 10-2 versus the NFC and only one of those losses was at home. The Cowboys open up as 3-point favorites over the 49ers and for good reason. It will be a close game no matter the records. This is a rivalry game. The 49ers have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and will be going up against one of the best offensive lines in the NFL on Sunday. This will be a strength-on-strength matchup, but I believe the 49er defense will certainly limit Zeke and Pollard to having inefficient rushing days. Kellen Moore should be able to scheme up some good counters to open up the 49er defense on the back end.

The Cowboys will need big performances from Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb to have a shot to win this game. I would also look see the quick passing game going early as the 49ers will no doubt try to get after Dak Prescott early and often. Play action pass should be there for the taking as well, so the Cowboys will need to be patient with the running game. The scouting report on Dak is that if the opposition gets to him early, you can manipulate his performance for the rest of the game. Commitment to the running game, play action pass, screens, and quick passes should help mitigate those risks. Dak needs to play within the framework of the offense and trust that if he takes what the defense gives him, it will be enough to secure the win. Patience will be key in this trial padawan.

On the other side of the ball the Cowboys must know where Deebo Samuel is at all times! Kyle Shanahan has been using the former Gamecock as a swiss army dagger of sorts and Deebo travels all over the field. There will even be plays where Deebo comes out of the backfield with a few carries and Samuel has the speed and elusiveness to put tremendous stress on the Cowboys defense. Dallas must diminish Deebo’s impact at all costs. The Cowboys must make someone else beat them on long drawn-out drives that don’t include big plays from Deebo Samuel. This will certainly be a major test because the weakness of the Dallas defense is in coverage on the back end.

Additionally, the 49ers are tough to beat when Jimmy Garoppolo throws 1 interception or less in a game. They are 7-0 on the season when he does that, so if the Cowboys don’t turn him over it could be night night for the Cowboy crew. Conversely, the 49ers lose games at an amazing rate when Jimmy G throws 2 or more interceptions in a game. Jimmy G is more likely to throw an interception when pressure comes his way up the middle due to his lack of mobility and propensity to not protect the football at times. This is not rocket science. The Cowboys need to send pressure right up the middle and into Jimmy G’s face to keep him uncomfortable and off balance all game. If Jimmy G is smelling Micah Parsons’s cologne early, often, and throughout the game, this will dramatically increase the Cowboys’ chances of a win! I realize that you can’t stop everything, and it seems grossly negligent to discuss a game plan that doesn’t involve bracket coverage on Kittle. I believe we will see some of that as well, but the priorities are containing Deebo Samuel from making big time game breaking plays and forcing Jimmy Garoppolo into turnovers with pressure. That’s how the Dallas Cowboys will win this game.

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