Sun, 24 Jan 2021

3 & Out: Dez vs. Dallas A Feel-Good Story We Need

Dallas Cowboys
02 Dec 2020, 19:24 GMT+10

Rob Phillips

FRISCO, Texas - Back with three quick topics as the Cowboys find themselves in the middle of an unexpected mini-bye before Baltimore in just over a week:

Dez's Comeback Schedule Changes NFC East Prediction

I Know...

the 2020 season needs more stories like Dez Bryant's comeback with Baltimore.

The Ravens still have a game to go (Wednesday's pandemic-delayed kickoff against the Steelers) before facing the Cowboys next Tuesday in primetime. That's the matchup everyone wants to see: Dez vs. his beloved former team.

Bryant is the Cowboys' all-time leader in touchdown catches (73) and their unofficial leader in ridiculous catches, touchdowns or otherwise. When CeeDee Lamb made that spectacular end-zone grab against Minnesota two weeks ago wearing the famed No. 88, a lot of fans had feel-good Dez flashbacks. That speaks to the moments he gave them for eight seasons.

Many thought Bryant's career ended in 2018. Not after the Cowboys released him that April, but after he tore his Achilles' tendon that November, two days into a new contract with the New Orleans Saints. To his credit, he worked his way back. Baltimore officially signed him from its practice squad Saturday after he posted four catches for 28 yards in 35 offensive snaps against the Titans.

"Dez has an eternal light of good, and I mean that," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. "His whole being is about getting to compete. He's got his teammates' best interests, great teammate. Dez is an eternal light of positiveness for our game. I couldn't be happier to see him on the field."

By all accounts, Bryant would have preferred to finish his career in Dallas, where he's a potential Ring of Honor pick one day. During his two-year time off, he lobbied to return in a lesser role. The Cowboys went in a different direction drafting Lamb, who has Pro Bowl potential at just 21 years old.

It's definitely strange watching Dez wear 88 in purple, but the 32-year-old wideout is actually a good fit for Baltimore. The Ravens are always dangerous with reigning MVP Lamar Jackson at quarterback, but they haven't topped 30 points since Week 2. Seems like they've been looking for receiver help, and Bryant gives Jackson another option there.

The Cowboys have two inspirational comeback players on this year's roster. Defensive ends Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory have faced personal issues and past suspensions but are rebounding with productive seasons.

Dez's return from injury is about perseverance, too. This year, we need as many of those stories as possible.

I Think...

the schedule is what it is, unfortunately.

Moving Cowboys-Ravens from this Thursday to next Monday and again to next Tuesday isn't necessarily a huge scheduling inconvenience. The circumstances are unfortunate with Baltimore facing a growing number of COVID-19 cases in recent days. Hopefully everyone affected on the Ravens is feeling better soon. If there's a silver lining, the delay does give the Cowboys a few extra days to rest up physically and emotionally after the tragic loss of strength and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul last week.

It's the back end of this scheduling switch that unquestionably becomes a challenge for the Cowboys, though. Sure, the team is used to playing their annual two-games-in-five-days Thanksgiving stretch. Now they're about to embark on a two-games-in-six-days stretch: Ravens, then Bengals.

Yet in this case, both are on the road: first a night game at Baltimore next Tuesday, then a noon game at Cincinnati next Sunday.

Not exactly ideal from a logistical standpoint, but hey, that's the word from the league office.

"That's what we've got scheduled. That's the plan," said Jones, who understands the NFL is trying to handle an unprecedented situation - a global pandemic, and a second wave of U.S. COVID cases as fall turns to winter - as best they can.

Some argue the league should create a "Week 18" makeup week for postponed games. Ravens-Steelers obviously would have been a candidate under that hypothetical. But it seems the league has been trying to avoid a Week 18, and a primary reason might be the impact it would have on the top seeds in both conferences facing not one but two full weeks off before the second round of the playoffs. Rest is one thing. Rust is another.

And so the Cowboys will press forward, just as they've done all year long.

"It's 2020. What is normal right now in 2020?" center Joe Looney said. "I think we're all rolling with these punches and just making sure that we're going out there and putting the best ball out there and trying to win games at the end of the day."

I Have No Idea...

who wins the NFC East, but I have a prediction.

Give me the team with the best turnover differential in the final five games.

Why? Well, right now the division standings are directly in line with the turnover margin rankings among the four teams:

Giants (4-7) (+2)

Washington (4-7) (-5)

Eagles (3-7-1) (-10)

Cowboys (3-8) (-13)

Is the logic too simple here? Probably. But the margin for error is razor-thin for all four teams given the injuries they've faced and the issues they've had playing efficient, 60-minute games. The fewer mistakes you make, the less catch-up you have to do.

Right now the Giants have played the closest thing to consistent winning football. Does that change in five weeks? We're about to find out.

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