Cowboys' Rooting Guide for 2021 NFL Draft Implications of Week 13
The 3-8 Dallas Cowboys aren't out of the NFC East mix just yet, thanks to the underwhelming nature of the division this year. However, it's unrealistic to think that Dallas can parlay one home playoff game into a deep postseason run.
For fans more interested in seeing the Cowboys secure a high draft pick than push for a largely meaningless playoff appearance, losses will be more valuable than wins in the coming weeks. Of course, if those fans are looking for someone to cheer for in Week 13, they will have options.
Dallas is one of six NFL teams with three wins or fewer after 12 weeks. With draft prospects who could help the Cowboys—such as Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell and Miami edge-rusher Gregory Rousseau—potentially available at the top of the draft, fans should hope to see Dallas jump as many of those teams in the draft order as possible.
We'll examine who to root for here in Week 13, but first, let's take a look at the current draft standings.
The Draft Order
Projected Top 10 (via Tankathon)
1. New York Jets (0-11)
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1)
4. Dallas Cowboys (3-8)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (3-8)
6. Philadelphia Eagles 3-7-1
7. Carolina Panthers (4-8)
8. Washington Football Team (4-7)
9. Detroit Lions (4-7)
10. Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
For Teams Ahead Of/Tied with Dallas in the Pick Order
Right now, the Cowboys sit below three teams in the draft order and are tied with the Los Angeles Chargers at 3-8. Naturally, losing out will be the preferred goal if Dallas is chasing draft positioning. Therefore, these four other squads are the ones we'll focus most on here.
Las Vegas Raiders at New York Jets (Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, CBS)
The New York Jets currently sit at 0-11 and in control of the No. 1 pick. If we're being realistic, they're not going to win three of their last four games to end up in a coin-flip scenario with the Cowboys. However, surprises do happen—and it's very hard to finish a season winless—so fans should hope to see the Jets upset the Las Vegas Raiders.
There may not be much drama in this one. While the Raiders were blown out by the Atlanta Falcons in Week 12, they're not a bad football team. In fact, they're 6-5 and still have a shot at the postseason.
This game shouldn't be particularly close, even with Las Vegas traveling east to play on the road. Fans should only need to hope that last week's disaster didn't break the Raiders' will.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings (Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, CBS)
This is another game that, on paper, shouldn't be close. The Minnesota Vikings are all but out of the NFC playoff race, but at 5-6, they do still have hope. The 1-11 Jacksonville Jaguars—set to start Mike Glennon at quarterback for a second straight week—do not.
Presumably, the Jaguars aren't too interested in winning anyway. They still have a shot at securing the No. 1 pick, and there's virtually no way they aren't eying one of the top quarterbacks in this draft class. A win over Minnesota means nothing compared to a chance to select Clemson's Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State's Justin Fields.
Now, the Vikings have experienced their fair share of let downs in 2020—they too, got blown out by the Falcons. However, with weapons like Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson on the roster, they should surge past Jacksonville.
Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins (Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, CBS)
The Cincinnati Bengals sit at 2-8-1, and their tie could come into play. If the Bengals finish with the same number of wins as Dallas, the Cowboys will leap them in the draft order.
This game should be a bit closer than the first two we've examined. No, the Bengals aren't good, especially now that Joe Burrow is done for the year. However, the Miami Dolphins have been inconsistent for a 7-4 team and have yet to decide between Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback for the week.
According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins will make that decision on Sunday.
Tagovailoa has shown promise, but he has also had his fair share of rookie struggles. He had just 83 passing yards against the Denver Broncos before he was pulled with a thumb injury. If he gets the start and has a similar outing, Cincinnati could steal one here. Fans should be hoping for exactly that.
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)
If Cowboys fans hope to avoid a coin-flip scenario with the Chargers, they should want Los Angeles to win at home versus the New England Patriots. This is entirely possible for a variety of factors.
For one, the Patriots haven't been that good this season. They're 5-6 and still in the playoff mix, but they've struggled offensively and have a run defense ranked just 21st in the league. With running back Austin Ekeler back in action for the Chargers, they could have a hard time on the road.
Secondly, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton may not be at 100 percent. He was listed on the injury report (abdomen) this week, though he has downplayed the issue.
"I'm feeling as good as I should be feeling," he said in a press conference.
If Newton isn't at full strength, the Chargers will have a decided edge at quarterback. Rookie Justin Herbert has been special this season, and he can hand the Chargers—and draft-focused Cowboys fans—a victory here.
In the NFC East
Losing out will be the easiest way for Dallas to secure a top-five draft selection. Here's the problem, though. The Cowboys have winnable games against Cincinnati, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants left on the schedule. If they stumble into an NFC East title, their draft position will drop dramatically.
Therefore, fans should be rooting for the three other NFC East teams to pick up wins in Week 13.
New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox)
At 4-7, the Giants are tied with the Washington Football Team atop the NFC East. To ensure they stay there, they'll have to pull off an upset of the Seattle Seahawks on the road.
However, the Seahawks are one of the NFC's top teams, and they have a legitimate MVP candidate in quarterback Russell Wilson. They also possess the league's worst pass defense and have lost two of their last four games.
Unfortunately, this may be Dallas' best bet to lose ground in the division this week, and it's a long shot. The good news is that the Giants are playing well and have strung together three straight wins. Here's to hoping they can make it four in a row on Sunday.
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers (Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS)
The Philadelphia Eagles are in second place in the NFC East at 3-7-1. They can take the division lead with a win and losses by Washington and New York. Let's be real, though, with Carson Wentz playing as poorly as any quarterback in football, the Eagles aren't winning this one.
The Packers are tied with the Seahawks near the top of the NFC standings at 8-3. They have their own MVP candidate in quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and they have a vastly underrated running back duo in Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones.
Green Bay had a close call against the Jaguars a couple of weeks ago, but they're not going to underestimate a lesser team this time around. Fans can hope to see the Eagles shock the football world by winning in Lambeau, but it's not very realistic.
Washington Football Team at Pittsburgh Steelers (Monday at 5 p.m. ET, Fox)
Washington decimated Dallas on Thanksgiving, but it is going to have a much tougher time against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their first-ranked scoring defense. The Football Team has a stout defensive front that can keep this game close, but it lacks the offensive firepower to pull the upset barring anything fluky.
Fortunately, a fluke is entirely possible here. Washington will have had 11 days to prepare, while Pittsburgh—which played the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday—will be on a short week. The Steelers have had plenty of close calls this season, narrowly beat the Ravens and lost pass-rusher Bud Dupree (ACL) for the season in the process.
After a close call against an undermanned Baltimore team, though, the Steelers aren't going to underestimate their next opponent. It's going to take an evening of mistake-filled football for Pittsburgh to blow this one. Cowboys fans with their eyes on the draft should be hoping that's exactly what they get.