Now that the Dallas Cowboys (9-6) have clinched the NFC East title, punching their ticket to the postseason with one game to go, they could rest their starters in the season finale against the New York Giants.
The 27-20 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave them the option to do so.
They will host a wild card game the following week most likely against the Minnesota Vikings or Seattle Seahawks.
The Cowboys, however, plan on passing on that luxurious option.
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“Absolutely. We’re all-out. We’ve got work to do. We’ve got some work to do out here, I think we’ll all agree,” owner Jerry Jones said. We don’t want to, if we can, go into the playoff with dangling participles — loose ends.”
The goal was not to get to the playoffs but win in the playoffs and possibly reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995. And the Cowboys have too much work to do, especially with a continually struggling offense, to take the final game of the season.
Now, the Cowboys plan to be smart with it. Don’t look for them to risk any injured players in the game or to give running back Ezekiel Elliott 30 carries in what is essentially a meaningless game.
The Cowboys have already clinched the division and are locked into the fourth seed in the playoffs.
“If guys are injured, obviously they aren’t going to play,” coach Jason Garrett said. “If guys are able to play we’re going to play them. We’ve got an important ball game in New York next week.”
A week after being shut out in a 23-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Cowboys managed just two touchdowns, one coming via a 4-yard drive following a forced fumble on defense.
They got field goals of 69 and 20 yards from Brett Maher. The former came right before half on a drive that netted five yards on four plays. The latter was the result of another disappointing turn in the red zone for a team that ranks second-to-last in the league in touchdowns inside the 20 and last among playoff teams.
Elliott had 18 carries for 85 yards but also had two fumbles, both recovered by the Cowboys. It was his second straight game under 100 yards.
Receiver Amari Cooper had just four catches for 20 yards one week after notching four for 32 in the loss to the Colts.
Elliott said the Cowboys have no room to ease up against the Giants.
“No, I don’t think so at all. I don’t think we can approach it that way. We can’t afford to take a week off,” he said. “That’s not even an option. We’ve got to attack this week the same way we’ve been attacking these games — it’s must win and we’ve go to go out there and get that win and finish this season off right.
“We’ve got to go back and look at this game and see what we did well and look and see what we didn’t do so well and we’ve got to learn from it. And like I said, we can’t get comfortable, we can’t afford to take a week off next week just because we’ve clinched our playoff spot. We’ve got to keep working so we’re ready for the playoffs. ”
Clarence E. Hill Jr. :@clarencehilljr