Cowboys 1st and 10: The Risk, Reward of Tony Romo - And NFC Playoff Picture

Each weekend I provide 10 quick hits on the Dallas Cowboys. What might Dallas get from Tony Romo playing today in Philly? Plus, my keys to victory and my prediction in this edition of First and 10.

1. At one point this week I actually considered tweeting the following — Fake Breaking News: Cowboys will play Prescott, Romo and Sanchez on same play on Sunday. That’s how absurd this whole thing became to me by Friday.

So we still don’t quite know what the heck the Cowboys are going to do at quarterback on Sunday against Philadelphia. But we do know, as has been pointed out by our Mike Fisher, that the Cowboys’ mind on whether to play Tony Romo or not definitely evolved during the week, for reasons that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wouldn’t disclose on Friday during his late-week radio appearance.

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/814890857618931712

My guess? Dak Prescott starts and plays roughly a half. Then Romo relieves him for two or three possessions and then Mark Sanchez takes it to the house. Seems plausible.

Of course, playing Romo would fly in the face of what Jones said just a couple of weeks ago, that he felt there was no way Romo would play until the playoffs, and only if he was needed. So, it looks like he changed his mind. That would be, like, the 326,429th time that’s happened with Jerry Jones. (CowboysHQ.com reported on Wednesday that Romo didn't participate at all in that day's workout. So yeah, this is big flip-flop.)

So there’s a risk-reward to this if you play Romo. The risk is his health. The first hit Romo took in the preseason, however awkwardly, led to a fracture in his back. What happens this time is anyone’s guess. But in unrelated news, the league’s most expensive scout team quarterback is paying off big-time for the Cowboys’ defense.

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/814918721819078657

So here’s the reward. You find out if Romo really is as “ready” as Jones insists he is. You can only determine that by seeing Romo play an actual game. If he doesn’t look right, that makes your roster decisions in the playoffs a little easier. If he looks great, you have security that he’s ready. Plus, if he looks great you’ve jacked up Romo’s trade value this offseason. I’ve said all along that the Cowboys have to play Romo at some point, just to show prospective trade partners that he’s legitimately ready to play in 2017.

So there’s your risk and your reward. Is it worth it? It may not be totally worth it to risk Romo’s health and trade value on a couple of possessions in a meaningless game. But if you don’t do it now you probably won’t get another chance in the postseason. I reluctantly say roll the dice — and be thankful they didn’t release Mark Sanchez when Romo got healthy. Yeah, I just typed that and it’s freaking me out.

Fish, by the way, on Sunday morning live from the team hotel is suggesting that Romo being No. 2 in the rotation of the three QBs who will be used allows him to enter the game and play with the first-teamers. More protection. More security. More opportunity for a cool moment or two, too.

2. Jerry Jones says that cornerback Morris Claiborne and offensive lineman La’el Collins will be ready for the playoffs. When and if Claiborne is ready, he should slip right back into the starting lineup. When and if Collins is ready, he should sit behind Ron Leary at left guard.

Wait, what you mean he should sit?! He was the started at left guard. He shouldn’t lose his job because of an injur… oh, wait. Nevermind.

But, seriously, this offensive line is playing too well to disrupt it by inserting Collins back in the lineup unless it’s absolutely necessary (like due to an injury).

3. The team I wouldn’t want to face in the playoffs if I’m the Cowboys?  No, not the Giants. I think the Cowboys beat them in a third meeting. No, the team I wouldn’t want is Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers has figured it out, the Packers have cobbled together an effective running game with converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery and the defense is healthy again. They’re rolling like a tidal wave right now and they feel like that “team” that gets on a run in December and keeps rolling into January.

4. Jason Witten will likely write another piece of his Hall-of-Fame resume today. With 27 receiving yards he would pass Michael Irvin and become the franchise’s leader in receiving yards (Irvin has 11,904 yards). That led to a nice parlor game this week at the Star in Frisco.

https://twitter.com/fishsports/status/814926436633022464

5. As a public service, here is where the NFC playoff race stands going into the final weekend. Here is the current seeding (*-clinched playoff):

1. Cowboys (13-2)*

2. Falcons (10-5)*

3. Seahawks (9-5-1)*

4. Packers (9-6)

5. Giants (10-5)*

6. Lions (9-6)

And now a quick breakdown of each team and their current playoff situation.

Cowboys: Dallas is the No. 1 seed and has home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Falcons: The Falcons have clinched the NFC South and can clinch a first-round bye with a win on Sunday. The Falcons could drop out of the No. 2 spot with a loss, depending on what happens with the Seahawks, Lions and Packers.

Seahawks: The Seahawks have clinched the NFC West. The Seahawks can still claim the first-round bye with a win over San Francisco and a Falcons loss to New Orleans.

Packers: The Packers cannot clinch a first-round bye. They can clinch the NFC North with a win over the Lions. If the Packers lose, they can still claim a Wild Card berth, if Washington loses to the Giants.

Giants: The Giants are the No. 5 seed and are locked into that position.

Lions: If the Lions beat the Packers they win the NFC North and will be the No. 4 seed. If they lose they can still make the playoffs if Washington loses. There is an outside chance the Lions could claim the No. 2 seed with a win, but it would require the Falcons and Seahawks to both lose.

Outside looking in:

There are two teams that have a shot to sneak into the Wild Card playoffs.

Redskins: If Washington beats the Giants, they will claim the No. 6 playoff seed, based on the loser of the Green Bay-Detroit game. If Green Bay and Detroit tie the Redskins are in trouble.

Tampa Bay: The Bucs can actually claim a playoff berth if the following happens: the Bucs beat Carolina, and the Colts, Cowboys, Titans, 49ers and Lions all win. Oh, and the Redskins and Giants must tie. Can’t forget that.

6. Need to get ready for this Sunday’s game with the Eagles? Let me help. Here are links to all our stories from the game:

'The Cowboys Creed': The Private Agreement That 'Helps Us Win'

Dallas Cowboys Fantasy Picks and Week 17 Injury Report (and a Romo tip)

Draft Analysis of Michigan DE Taco Charlton

Cowboys 100: Facts and Figures for Cowboys-Eagles II

StarCast: The Plan for ‘Practice’ at Philly

Cowboys Roster Tacks: Activating Sanchez, Backing Tyron, the Thin Blue (D) Line

The Cowboys Romo Rainy Day Plan

Cowboys Coaches who deserve credit for this season

7. Here are my three keys to victory on Sunday afternoon for the Dallas Cowboys:

Don’t get anyone hurt. That is the overriding concern on Sunday. I think most Cowboys fans would trade a win in this one to make sure none of their players come out injured. A healthy roster coming out of this game would be a victory in of itself.

Get the other receivers involved. The Eagles have gotten weaker in the secondary as the season has gone on. I suspect Dez Bryant won’t play much in this one, so this is a great opportunity to get receivers like Terrance Williams and Brice Butler, along with tight end Gavin Escobar, some additional work heading into the postseason. It will also have the benefit of stretching the Eagles’ defense downfield.

Keep creating turnovers. The Cowboys have been on a turnover run the last month, with this defense creating at least three turnovers in their last three games. The Cowboys want to keep that momentum rolling into the bye week, so expect the Cowboys’ defense to be aggressive all over the field.

 8. It’s our Tweet of the Week:

https://twitter.com/dallascowboys/status/814201689892737024

You know you love it that these guys like each other. I mean the utter lack of ego, jealousy or competition between the two of them is like winning the millennial lottery.

9. This week’s great moments in headline porn: “Why You Shouldn’t Overreact if Dallas Cowboys don’t get past Divisional round of playoffs” from dallasnews.com

Geez, could we play the game first?

10. My prediction: Eagles 28, Cowboys 21

I’ll take the opponent for the second straight week. The Cowboys are going to work a conservative game plan. I don’t see them taking many chances and since Philly is done after this game, I suspect they’ll be happy to be the aggressor. The victory doesn’t matter. Keeping players healthy and sharp enough for the playoffs does matter. The Cowboys will do enough of that on Sunday, but it won’t amount to a win.

Want to talk more Cowboys? Hit the CowboysHQ.com message boards with your FREE membership or hit up Postins @PostinsPostcard or Mike Fisher @FishSports on Twitter.


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