The Cowboys can clinch a playoff berth Sunday. A victory over the Vikings on Thursday combined with a loss by the Redskins or the Bucs (or a tie by the Bucs) will assure the postseason for Dallas.
“It would be great, but I think the goals for this team are bigger than that,” Cowboys guard Zack Martin said. “We’ve got five weeks left, and we know that this season really starts after Thanksgiving here, so we’re ready to make a push here and finish strong.”
The Bucs play at San Diego. The Redskins play at Arizona.
In 2014, the Cowboys clinched the NFC East and a playoff spot in a Week 16 victory over the Colts. The Cowboys lost three consecutive Week 17, winner-take-all, NFC East championship games from 2011-13.
The Cowboys sport a 10-1 record this season, holding a two-game lead over the Giants in the division. The Giants (8-3) are the only NFC team within two games of the Cowboys, and the only team to beat the Cowboys.
“The first goal is winning the division,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “And we still have the division to take care of. A lot of football left. That’s great if we can clinch the playoffs this week, but win, lose or draw, we keep our heads down and keep grinding. This is the third quarter of the season. We want to finish out and get to the fourth quarter. That’s still down the road, still trying to get better every single day.”
Linebacker Sean Lee didn’t practice Tuesday because of an illness. It is not considered serious and he is expected to be in the lineup when the Cowboys take the field Thursday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Lee is leading the Cowboys with 124 tackles.
Linebacker Justin Durant didn’t practice for the second consecutive day with a strained hamstring. He is unlikely to play against the Vikings.
Safety J.J. Wilcox will also miss the Vikings’ game as expected with a deep thigh bruise.
Defensive end David Irving was back at practice after being limited earlier in the week with an illness.
The good news for the Cowboys is that safety Barry Church practiced for a third straight day after missing the past four games with a fractured forearm.
He wore a padded brace on his forearm but has no limitations.
Owner Jerry Jones doesn’t see a reason why the NFL should get rid of “Thursday Night Football.”
Even though the matchups have been less-than-intriguing and TV ratings are down this season, Jones feels that the prime-time matchup is worth having.
A report on NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk website on Sunday said the league would explore the idea of ending, or at least limiting, the number of “Thursday Night Football” games in the future.
The league issued a statement refuting that notion on Monday, and Jones reiterated that during his 105.3 The Fan radio show on Tuesday.
“I think [Thursday Night Football] is here for good,” Jones said. “Why that it is prime time. It’s a great opportunity for the NFL to basically be a part of what we want to be. And that is we appreciate the interest that is in our game.
“I don’t anticipate anything happening to Thursday Night Football.”
Drew Davison contributed to this report.