1. The Cowboys have already clinched a playoff spot. What is your biggest concern about this team come playoff time?
Right now my biggest concern is the Cowboys defense suddenly looking very beatable, as opposed to the elite level they were playing at about a month ago. Injuries have played a part in it, with the Cowboys losing two starting cornerbacks for the rest of the season, and a couple of guys important to the run defense missing the last few games. Their run defense has been an issue most of the year, but that was covered up by a good secondary and a ferocious pass rush.
Now they are struggling to find a third corner and their pass rush has exactly one sack in the last three games. It wasn’t too long ago the Cowboys were leading the NFL in sacks, but that has dried up. Not getting those sacks has opened up the defense and the injury-plagued secondary has been paying the price. The Cowboys offense will score points, even with Dak Prescott throwing interceptions at a high rate, but their defense needs to get right before the playoffs arrive.
2. The Cowboys were the team most mentioned in the Odell Beckham, Jr. rumors. Is there still a chance he ends up in Dallas?
If Odell Beckham Jr. is going to end up in Dallas, it will be for the 2023 season. The Cowboys decided to sign T.Y. Hilton instead because he was healthy and could help them now and into the playoffs. There was a lot of concern that Beckham just wasn’t going to be ready for meaningful playing time in this season, so the Cowboys have decided to wait on that. There is still interest, just not for this year.
3. Grade Mike McCarthy’s performance as the Cowboys head coach.
I’d give it a B+. He has the Cowboys in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in a long time. He also has back-to-back double digit win seasons. These are things the Cowboys have really struggled with since their 90s dynasty. So that is very good. He also helped the team navigate the early part of the season when Dak Prescott was hurt and Cooper Rush had to play, and the Cowboys went 4-1 in that time. He has the players behind him and the team seems unified. So all of that is good. He still makes some curious decisions during the game at times, and his clock-management and other detailed stuff on gameday can be confusing. But all in all, it’s been a good run. Of course, he is really being measured on the playoffs, so none of this matters unless he can win in the upcoming playoffs.
4. Give us a player on defense that we haven’t heard of who will have an impact on this game.
DaRon Bland is one of the replacement cornerbacks I was speaking of above, and he has turned into a real steal. The Cowboys got him in the fifth-round of the 2022 draft, and have had to push him in the lineup because of injury. He has really responded. Bland has only started six games this season but already has five interceptions including one last week. The Cowboys have been able to replace one of the injured corners because of Bland. He also does a decent job tackling so is a well-rounded player. The Cowboys stole one in the draft with Bland and he looks like he will stick around for a while in the Cowboys defense.
5. The line has moved all the way up to Cowboys -12. Which side of that bet are you taking? Give us a score prediction.
I’ll take the Cowboys to win and cover only because it looks like the Titans will rest some of their players. Normally the Titans are the kind of team Dallas hates to play, a very strong running back combined with a mobile quarterback. That combination has hurt Dallas in the past. But with the Titans looking ahead to Week 18, and the Cowboys offense playing very well, I’ll take the Cowboys 34-17.