Tag: Dallas Cowboys

NFL playoff scenarios, Week 17: Patriots can clinch top seed, Lions vs. Packers decides NFC North

Ten teams — the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, and Miami Dolphins — have clinched playoff spots for 2017. Four more are battling for the final two openings, while most of the 10 teams already in the playoffs are jostling for seeding and byes.

A Sunday Night Football matchup between the Packers and Lions will determine the NFC North winner, with the loser potentially getting bounced from the playoffs altogether or grasping on to a wild card berth.

The Falcons, Seahawks, Raiders, and Chiefs are all looking to join the Patriots and Cowboys as teams who get to avoid playing in the Wild Card round, while the Patriots look to secure their home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Here are all the current playoff clinching scenarios for the upcoming week, courtesy of the NFL.

The Seahawks kept rolling with a dominating win themselves, blowing out the Ravens 35-6 in Baltimore. Russell Wilson has the Seattle offense clicking at historic levels and the defense did their job in taking the Jimmy Clausen-led offense out of the game.

Elsewhere, the Saints knocked off the Buccaneers 24-17, the Browns dominated the 49ers 24-10 and the Rams outlasted the Lions in an ugly game, 21-14. Oh, and by the way, the Chargers, Titans, Ravens, Lions, and 49ers were all eliminated from NFL playoff contention.

New Orleans continued their Jekyll and Hyde season Sunday with a nice road win over the Buccaneers, but while they’ve been wildly inconsistent this year, Drew Brees has largely remained the constant. A testament to Brees’ consistency, the future Hall of Famer threw for 300-plus yards for the 93rd time in his career per ESPN Stats and Info, which ties Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history. Amazing.

Jay Cutler has right thumb sprain, not expected to need surgery

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a sprained thumb on his throwing hand but is not expected to need surgery, coach John Fox said Tuesday.

“To my knowledge, right now, no [he will not need surgery],” Fox said. “But to eliminate it down the road, I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you that. But it doesn’t appear like that at this point.”

Fox said the veteran quarterback is considered day to day, but stopped short of declaring Cutler out for Sunday night’s road game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Cutler, 33, completed 12 of 17 pass attempts for 157 yards and one interception. He also lost a fumble.

An 11-year veteran, Cutler has missed 15 games because of injuries since 2010. He broke his right thumb in a Nov. 2011 game against the San Diego Chargers while trying to make a tackle following an interception. The injury caused him to miss the rest of the season.

“Jimmy played a lot of plays yesterday, which was good,” Pete Carroll said. “Not quite as many targets that I know what everybody would like to see, but he did a really good job when the ball was thrown to him. He had some nice plays, blocking, he had a lot of play time. He’s really in the groove to go, and that was significant that he was able to do that. That’s a good deal for us.”

Together, Allen and Woodhead accounted for about one-third of San Diego’s offensive output in 2015.

“I will promise you one thing — Danny will be back stronger than ever,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said about Woodhead, who is in the final year of his contract. “And that is why he has been so successful in this business. He always has that chip on his shoulder, comes to work every day and treats it like his last day. He is a great example of what it means to be a pro.”

With those two prolific playmakers out, the Chargers will have to count on the person who has not missed a start in more than a decade: quarterback Philip Rivers.

Reggie Ragland injures knee during Bills practice

The hammer-head linebacker was slated for a big role in the Bills’ defense and could wind up being a steal in the second round.

Buffalo is already without first-round pick Shaq Lawson to start the season after the pass rusher underwent shoulder surgery earlier this offseason. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport delievered more bad news for Bills ‘backers: Kevin Reddick will miss time with an MCL sprain.

After a down season for his defense in 2015, Ryan’s early plans for revamping his defense are being stymied by injuries.

Dallas Cowboys

1 to 10 percent: Tony Romo had an MVP-caliber season in 2014, but he didn’t take over as the starter until age 26 and has made only four Pro Bowls. He has neither the longevity nor the peak to seriously threaten. … Zack Martin has made Pro Bowls in each of his first two seasons, but it’s virtually impossible for an interior lineman to make serious HOF headway after two years.

Dez Bryant rolled off three consecutive monster seasons before a foot injury blew up his 2015 campaign. His average season during that run — 91 catches, 1,312 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns — would qualify as most star wideouts’ peak campaign. At the moment, Bryant hasn’t done enough. He has two Pro Bowls from those three huge seasons, but he still needs to add quite a bit to his résumé to stand out in a generation with so many incredible wide receivers. If he looks fully healed from the foot injury and doesn’t have any recurrences over the next couple of seasons, Dez will be in much better shape. 25 percent

Tyron Smith has made it to three consecutive Pro Bowls, throwing in an All-Pro berth in 2014. He has the added benefit of being young for his draft class; as mentioned earlier, Smith just finished his age-25 season and doesn’t turn 26 until December. Just over 30 percent of post-merger players who made three Pro Bowls by 25 made it to the Hall of Fame. Elite offensive linemen also typically enjoy longer careers by virtue of the possibility for veteran tackles to kick inside to guard. It certainly appears Smith is in the middle of a long streak of consecutive Pro Bowls. 35 percent

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has more than 1,000 career receptions and 11,000 receiving yards. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Jason Witten should be about as much of a lock for the Hall of Fame as any active non-quarterback. The only argument you can make is that he hasn’t had a blow-away season, but his consistency has been remarkable. Witten hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season and has caught at least 60 passes for 700 yards in 12 consecutive campaigns. He’s second on the all-time tight end leaderboard for catches and receiving yards behind Tony Gonzalez, and he’ll join Gonzalez in Canton one day. 95 percent

Lance Moore has landed back in the NFC South.

After a two-year stint in the Rust Belt, the 10-year veteran has signed with the Atlanta Falcons, the team announced Friday. Moore reportedly worked out for the Chargers earlier this week before San Diego signed fellow veteran James Jones.

Moore won a Super Bowl during his eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints, with whom he caught 38 touchdowns and compiled 4,281 receiving yards as Drew Brees’ second and third option. He never found his place in Pittsburgh in 2014, but felt rejuvenated with the Lions in 2015, playing in the slot and earning 337 yards on 20 catches in 14 games.

The 2013 draft was a mess, but here are three first-rounders with hope

The Raiders’ defense is improving by leaps and bounds, he has cover skills and an ever-improving pass rush and front seven in front of him. I love Raiders defensive backs coach Rod Woodson, who believes he can cull more from Hayden, and few have Hall of Famer Woodson’s first-hand knowledge of the position.

Despite upgrades to the roster, Hayden still has a chance to see the field. David Amerson stepped into a starting corner spot for Oakland, but that doesn’t mean Hayden couldn’t supplant him, and the safety pair of newcomer Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson should be able to give the corners the freedom to jump routes. It’s do-or-die time for Hayden in Oakland, and I’m not ready to write him off just yet.

LB Jarvis Jones, No. 17, Steelers: This team knows a thing or two about drafting linebackers, and it hasn’t been all that unusual for some recent edge players — be it LaMarr Woodley, Cam Heyward or Jason Worilds — to take time to find their way in this 3-4 defense. So Jones needing some time to get himself going shouldn’t be a total shocker.

When drafted, he looked like a perfect fit for this scheme, though he too came in with injury concerns. He has been a sporadic contributor at best and his pass rush has yet to really flash at the NFL level.

On the bright side, he did start 15 games last season, more than his first two seasons combined. He also produced his first career interception in 2015 and forced a fumble. Yes, this is modest production … but at least he was regularly on the field, a necessary first step. Some of the other outside linebackers need work, too. James Harrison is like 40 by now (actually, he’s 38) and mulled retirement. Bud Dupree, a 2015 first-round pick, didn’t exactly have a scintillating rookie campaign.

I believe this defense will start to make strides again, and in this scheme Jones should be in position to make more plays, with no fifth-year option a motivating factor for him as well.

He’s No. 21 in your program, No. 4 in the 2016 NFL Draft and No. 1 among rookies in jersey sales through one week. That’s running back Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, folks.

No. 21 is No. 1 when it comes to jersey sales through the first full week after the draft. https://t.co/oGTJColOd3 pic.twitter.com/6rmowm2NIK

— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) May 5, 2016
Is this all that surprising? Not really. There’s a reason they call the Cowboys “America’s Team.” If they don’t have the largest fan base of any team in the NFL, it’s pretty close. And when a team with a fan base of that size not only has a high draft pick, but uses it on an exciting skill position player, they’re going to sell a lot of jerseys. (These are presumably full jerseys and not the kind that cut off just below the shoulder pads so everyone can see your abs.)

Elliott is followed on the rookie jerseys sales list by the No. 2 and then No. 1 picks in the 2016 draft. Division rival Carson Wentz, the future quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, is in second place for his No. 11 jersey. Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick and new QB of the Los Angeles Rams, saw his No. 16 uni sell the third-most among rookies during the first week of his career.

No word on whether Elliott’s jersey sales have helped the Cowboys defense in any way.

Shaq Lawson has a big fan, possible endorsement due to Google alerts

It’s not hard to figure out from where new Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson got his name. There’s a very famous Shaq that was taking the basketball world by storm when Lawson was born in June 1994. Shaquille O’Neal had just finished his second NBA season, one in which he had averaged 29.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 blocks when Lawson’s father, Lawrence, chose to name his son Shaq because he was such a long baby, according to the Buffalo News.

“We do think that the way we play will feature some of the physical traits that he has,” Garrett said shortly after his club drafted Tapper. “He plays the right way.”

Other thoughts on the Cowboys’ 2016 draft class:

Critics will argue that running backs are the easiest position to find and thus spending a first-round draft pick on one — especially as high as No. 4 overall — is almost by definition a reach. Dallas may have paid a premium price for Ezekiel Elliott, but make no mistake: he is an elite talent, with the blend of vision, power, speed, hands and competitiveness as a blocker to be a three-down difference-maker immediately for the Cowboys. Drafted into an optimum situation with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and a terrific offensive line aiding his transition into the NFL, Elliott is the odds-on-favorite at this early point to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year this season.

Perhaps in part because Elliott offers immediate impact potential for a team built to win now, the Cowboys’ decision a round later to select injured linebacker Jaylon Smith was a surprising one. Like Elliott, Smith’s talent is undeniable. Prior to tearing multiple knee ligaments in his knee on New Year’s Day in a Fiesta Bowl loss to Elliott and the Buckeyes, Smith looked like a strong candidate to be the Cowboys’ choice at No. 4 overall. Therefore, it is difficult to question the Cowboys for gambling on Smith 30 picks later. Last week Jerry Jones stated that the Cowboys will not place Smith on Injured Reserve this season, hoping instead that he will be ready in time for a potential playoff run.

With all due respect to Smith, it was a different post-draft declaration by Jones which created even more buzz, with the always opinionated Cowboys’ owner expressing regret that he didn’t push harder for a trade up to land former Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. The Denver Broncos ultimately offered more, trading up with the Seattle Seahawks to land the 6-foot-7, 240 pound Lynch at No. 26 overall.

Cowboys’ Randy Gregory facing additional suspension

The situation on the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive front seven continues to grow ever bleaker.

Defensive end Randy Gregory, already suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season, is enrolling into a treatment program as he faces the prospect of an additional suspension, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the player’s plans.

The real worry, per Rapoport, is that Gregory has shut out people in his inner circle. It’s now hoped that treatment will help him resolve the problem and allow him to get his football career back on track.

The latest ban is also for violation of the NFL’s Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse, which will likely bring the suspension to at least 10 games. There is concern amongst the Cowboys’ braintrust, Rapoport added, that Gregory might not play again.

“I don’t want to comment on that,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett in response to news of Gregory facing suspension, according to the Cowboys’ official website. “I’m not commenting on Randy Gregory.”

A consensus top-10 talent leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, Gregory plummeted to Dallas in the second round due to a failed drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Nebraska star also was late to pre-draft interviews amid concerns about his ability to handle the “mental rigors” of professional football.

Needless to say, the Cowboys were well aware of the risk in drafting Gregory.

Executive vice president and chief operating officer Stephen Jones made it clear months ago that the second-year edge rusher was on thin ice.

“This is a disappointment,” Jones said in February. “We have been clear with Randy about what his responsibilities are and what is expected of him. This is something that he is going to have to work through and correct.”

Along with Gregory’s lengthy absence, the Cowboys also have middle linebacker Rolando McClain serving a 10-game suspension and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence sitting out the first four games.

The front office is under increasing pressure to import pass rushing help over the next six weeks.