Cowboys vs Giants ; The Dallas Cowboys are already guaranteed to finish fourth in the NFC, but they won’t use that to effectively kick back and relax in the final week of the 2018 NFL regular season.
“Absolutely. We’re all-out,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said when asked whether Dallas will play its starters in the team’s Week 17 matchup with the New York Giants, per Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams. “We’ve got work to do. We’ve got some work to do out here, I think we’ll all agree. We don’t want to, if we can, go into the playoffs with dangling participles—loose ends.”
The Cowboys clinched the NFC East division title following Sunday’s 27-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Because it trails the third-seeded Chicago Bears by two games, Dallas can’t move up or down in the NFC standings based on Week 17’s results.
Jones’ desire to treat next week as business as usual is understandable.
The Cowboys offense has struggled of late. Dallas gained just 232 yards against a Buccaneers defense that has consistently been among the NFL’s worst this year. It was the second straight game in which the team had fewer than 300 yards of total offense.
Using Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and Cole Beasley for a full game allows the coaching staff to have one more opportunity to get things on track ahead of the postseason.
Having said that, playing all of your starters carries risk as well.
There’s the obvious danger of losing a key player in what is effectively a meaningless contest. Elliott in particular might at the very least benefit from a week off since he has registered a league-high 304 carries.
From a less quantifiable perspective, a disappointing performance against the Giants could exacerbate the general concern around the Cowboys offense. Dallas would have the opposite of momentum if the team is going into the playoffs on the back of three straight underwhelming showings.
Ultimately, whatever Jones and head coach Jason Garrett decide in Week 17 is unlikely to alter the Cowboys’ postseason trajectory. Cooper’s arrival provided a nice boost, but this is still a very flawed team. There’s only so much Garrett can do to change that with one week left in the regular season.