Dallas Cowboys: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 14

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Dallas Cowboys: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 14
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After a Philadelphia Eagles victory, the Dallas Cowboys sit in a tie atop the NFC East heading into Week 14. The 'Boys have the head-to-head tiebreaker right now, but the Eagles will get another crack at Dallas in the final week of the year.

Despite winning two straight games to reach 7-5, though, things might not be looking up for Dallas as they enter one of the more difficult stretches of their schedule. After taking on the Chicago Bears on Monday night, the 'Boys will host a Green Bay Packers team that will have quarterback Aaron Rodgers back at the helm, followed by a trip to Washington and, of course, the final Week 17 matchup with Philly.

Before diving into this week's contest with Chicago, let's take a look around the division.

Division Standings 

Team Record PF PA
Dallas Cowboys 7-5 329 303
Philadelphia Eagles 7-5 300 281
New York Giants 5-7 237 297
Washington Redskins 3-9 269 362

Taking a look at the Eagles' remaining schedule, they have home matchups with the Lions and Bears and road tilts with the Vikings and Cowboys. If Dallas finishes 2-2 to conclude the season at 9-7, the Eagles would need to either finish the season at 3-1 or win two of four, including a win over Dallas and a Cowboys' loss to Washington, to take the NFC East crown.

Breaking down the points scored and allowed for each team, we can calculate their Pythagorean Expectation.

Team Wins Pythagorean Wins Difference
Dallas Cowboys 7 6.59 -0.41
Philadelphia Eagles 7 6.47 -0.53
New York Giants 5 4.42 -0.58
Washington Redskins 3 3.96 +0.96

Looking around the division, you can see that only the Redskins have fewer wins than expected. Based on the points scored and allowed for each team, the most likely records for each team are 7-5 for Dallas, 6-6 for Philly, 4-8 for New York and 4-8 for Washington. If the teams were to play out this season 10,000 times and randomly distribute the points they've scored and allowed among all 12 games, the most likely occurrence would be the Cowboys holding a one-game lead over the Eagles.

Injury Report 

Player Injury Status
LB Sean Lee Hamstring Day-to-Day
RB Lance Dunbar PCL Out for Season
WR Dwayne Harris Hamstring Week-to-Week
CB Morris Claiborne Hamstring Week-to-Week
TE Gavin Escobar Hamstring Week-to-Week
LB Justin Durant Hamstring Week-to-Week

The Cowboys have some good news waiting for them in Week 14 in that stud linebacker Sean Lee is probably going to be back, according to ESPN.com. Dallas needs Lee to help contain Bears running back Matt Forte, and the extra rest should help his chances.

However, it's not all great news for Dallas, as Rainer Sabin of The Dallas Morning News is reporting, running back Lance Dunbar is out for the year. That's a bigger blow than most realize. We saw Dunbar's explosiveness against the Raiders, and if DeMarco Murray gets hurt, the Cowboys will be down to rookie Joseph Randle and veteran Phillip Tanner. Not good.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Dwayne Harris, cornerback Morris Claiborne, linebacker Justin Durant, and tight end Gavin Escobar all missed last week's game with hamstring injuries. Those have a tendency to linger, so all of the players are game-to-game at this point, according to The Dallas Morning News reporter Brandon George. Harris's return might be the most vital for Dallas since he was so dominant as a returner.

What Must Improve: George Selvie's Play

I've talked about the Cowboys' lack of pressure in recent weeks, and defensive end George Selvie is a microcosm of that. Check out Selvie's pressure rate by game in 2013.

Jonathan Bales

Thursday's win over Oakland was the first game this year in which Selvie hasn't recorded a quarterback pressure, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Part of that was because Selvie didn't play well, but part was also due to reduced snaps. The coaches have been giving more playing time to defensive end Kyle Wilber, who played 33 snaps to Selvie's 36.

Nonetheless, Selvie has the potential to be a highly effective pass-rusher. With his long arms, Selvie can get off of blocks and wreak havoc in the backfield at times. The Cowboys desperately need their No. 2 pass-rusher to step up his game in a hurry.

Predicting a Selvie Breakout vs. Bears

Despite his lackluster play of late, Selvie could be in for a breakout against the Bears. The reason is that he's going to be matched up on right tackle Jordan Mills, who has struggled badly in pass protection this year.

To give you an idea of how poorly Mills has played, consider that PFF (subscription required) has tracked only one offensive tackle as allowing more than 38 pressures in 2013. It's Mills, and he has an unbelievable 54.

If Selvie is going to rebound, there's no more likely game than this one against the Bears in Week 14.

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