Thursday, January 27, 2022

Cowboys’ Dak Prescott ‘plans on playing’ in regular season finale vs. Eagles, Mike McCarthy wants to discuss

With an opportunity to either hold onto the No. 2 seed in the NFC or potentially track down and steal the No. 1 seed from the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys failed to take care of business and allowed Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals to leave AT&T Stadium with a 25-22 victory that pushed Mike McCarthy’s bunch to No. 4 and on a collision course to potentially host Kliff Kingsbury’s group in a rematch on Wild-Card Weekend. But first, the Cowboys have to head east to face the Philadelphia Eagles, and that’s where things first get interesting.

The Eagles escaped the Washington Football Team with a win and, thanks to a win by the San Francisco 49ers and a loss by the Minnesota Vikings, clinched a playoff berth on Sunday. 

That being the case, the Eagles have nothing more to gain by playing starters in Week 18, but the Cowboys can benefit from a victory on a game now rescheduled for Saturday, Jan. 8 at 8:25 p.m. ET, seeing as a win still gives them a shot at regaining the No. 2 seed (depending on what happens with the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). That’s one reason the Cowboys should play Dak Prescott and their other starters, but will they?

“We’ll talk about that [on Monday],” said McCarthy following Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals.

Of course, there’s another less tangible but still very important reason, and that’s in how the Cowboys offense desperately needs to establish some type of consistency and work out the obvious kinks going into the playoffs. Otherwise, they might find themselves simply rolling the issues over into Wild Card Weekend and beyond, assuming there is a beyond and said issues don’t end their postseason prematurely. And with both of those variables on the table, Prescott had a much more definitive answer to the question.

“I plan on playing,” said the two-time Pro Bowler. “Period.”

In discussions such as these, it’s always prudent to mention the obvious: the possibility of injury. And after having seen game-breaking wideout Michael Gallup go down with a torn ACL on Sunday that ends his 2021 season, it’s likely McCarthy still has that swimming around in his mind as he mulls how to handle the coming bout against the Eagles. It’s a fair concern, but it’s also key to note Gallup wasn’t lost in a meaningless game or on a meaningless play — his early-game yardage and second-quarter touchdown attempting to jumpstart the offense — and as noted above, the coming Saturday matchup in Philly isn’t meaningless, either.

It’s something not lost on team exec Stephen Jones, who sounds as if he understands the assignment.

“Not at this point,” Jones told 105.3FM the Fan on Monday when asked about the possibility of sitting starters. “I feel like we’ll be full-bore ready to go. …We need the momentum and to work on our execution.”

B-i-n-g-o.

There’s an option that sees starters taking the field but being pulled when it makes the most sense, so don’t rule that out, but the bottom line here is Prescott and the offense needs to find top gear it has to happen now, or there won’t be much of a later. That includes offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who saw several of his screen plays read perfectly by the Cardinals, leading to a handful of pass deflections that could’ve ended much worse than simple incompletions. 

So no matter how you slice the pie, sure, injuries are a concern but always will be, because they’re an occupational hazard. But if the Cowboys had taken care of business in November as opposed to going 1-3 before needing an undefeated December to right the ship, and/or if they didn’t suffer a slew of drops to combine with questionable officiating that is 100 percent out of their control to drop a close one to the Cardinals to begin January, they’d be allowed much more leeway in deciding if starters should take the field this weekend.

They didn’t, so now they’re forced with a much more challenging decision that will likely decide what seed they end up in and, as such, not only who they’ll play one week from Saturday; but possibly if they’ll be awarded a second postseason home game should they advance to the NFC Divisional Round. 

But for his part, Prescott has already decided.

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