By Dwain Price
With a week off to heal their aching bodies while also hitting the reset button, the Dallas Cowboys will jump back into the fray this weekend when they hit the road to play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at 3:25 p.m.
And from the Cowboys’ standpoint, there’s plenty of room for optimism.
Despite owning a miserable 2-7 record, the Cowboys are actually in a good position to capture the NFC East and qualify for the playoffs. The Philadelphia Eagles currently lead the division with a 3-5-1 record, followed by the New York Giants (3-7), Washington (2-7) and the Cowboys.
That means if the Cowboys can eliminate some mental errors, keep their turnovers to a minimum, and find a pulse on the offensive end of the field, they could find themselves punching a playoff ticket by the end of this season.
“We still have seven games left, we still have to play everyone in our division,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “Our division is really not doing that well this year, so I think we still have a shot.
“We just got to just keep getting better.”
NDG 11/12: Supreme Court scheduled to hear arguments that will determine the fate of the Affordable Care Act
After playing the Vikings, the Cowboys will host Washington on Thanksgiving Day, then play at the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 3. From there, the Cowboys face the Bengals in Cincinnati on Dec. 13, host the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 20 and the Eagles on Dec. 27 before finishing the regular season on Jan. 3 at the New York Giants.
Of those seven remaining games the Cowboys have on their plate, the Ravens (6-3) are the only ones with a record that’s .500 or better. By contrast, five of Philadelphia’s remaining seven games are against teams with a better than .500 record, while four of the Giants’ remaining six games will be against opponents with a winning record.
“I see a huge amount of football to play and I see it being played at the most important time of all,” owner Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan. “And that’s here in the fourth quarter and that’s here with everything that’s still out there to be had.”
Jones added that despite his team being squarely in the thick of the NFC East race, look for some of the younger players to see some additional playing time so he determine if they’ll have a future with the Cowboys going forward.
“This time does call for us to really emphasize our direction, our attention, our focus on getting those guys on the field and getting them prepared,” Jones said. “The coaches will take this time to get that done.
“There will be no real time off from our coaching staff because they’re busy taking advantage of this time off.”
Head coach Mike McCarthy and Jones said Andy Dalton – if healthy — will be the starting quarterback against the Vikings. Dalton hasn’t played since suffering a concussion in the Oct. 25 game against Washington.
Dalton also was placed on the Covid-19 list during the time he was unavailable to play.
Reserve quarterback Garrett Gilbert fared pretty well during his one start with the Cowboys. In the 24-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 8, Garrett was 21-of-38 for 243 yards, one interception and one touchdown.
It was a game where the Cowboys led, 19-9, after the third quarter, only to see their offense fizzle and the Steelers rally to tally the game’s final 15 points.
“I feel really good about what he’s accomplished from him being here three weeks,” McCarthy said of Gilbert. “But Andy’s been with us since Day One. . .and hopefully he can pick up where he left off.”