You can break down all the playoff scenarios and detail exactly what needs to happen for the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs.
But crucial to any mental gymnastics regarding the sequence of events needed for the Cowboys include one seemingly indisputable fact.
The Cowboys (6-6) need to win all four of their remaining games, starting Sunday against the New York Giants (2-10), to legitimize any and all hope.
And even that might be enough, considering the number of teams ahead of them in the race for two wild-card spots.
Their charge and their focus is set. They must win out.
“It’s just playoff starts now. Simple as that,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “You’ve got to embrace it. If you play this game and you don’t love … If you don’t love the fact that your back’s against the wall and it’s about you do every week or every day that it pays off on Sunday, that’s what makes this game fun.”
Prescott is so excited about the opportunity before his team, which has new life after snapping a three-game losing streak in last Thursday’s 38-14 victory against the Washington Redskins, that a bruised throwing hand that required a bandage during the early part of practice is regarded as more of a nuisance than a problem.
Prescott spent the weekend massaging and rubbing the swelling out of his hand.
But he says he has “no limitations. It’s not holding me back from doing anything. It’s simply bruised. It’s fine. Good to go.”
The wrapping he wore on his hand early in practice Wednesday was later removed.
Coach Jason Garrett doesn’t see the injury as a problem, either. Prescott completed 11 of 22 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns against the Redskins, but six of his 11 completions came after the injury, including a perfect touchdown pass to Dez Bryant.
“The biggest thing is gripping the ball and being able to throw it the way you want to throw it naturally,” Garrett said. “But he’s a tough guy, he’s a physically tough guy, he’s a mentally tough guy, so we don’t anticipate it being a big problem.”
Prescott said the passing game wasn’t perfect against the Redskins. But it was an improvement over the previous three weeks when he was intercepted five times with no touchdown passes.
He said it’s definitely something he can build on, especially the connection with Bryant, who leads the Cowboys with 58 catches for 639 yards and five touchdowns. Bryant does not have a 100-yard receiving game this season.
“We’re still working,” Prescott said. “There’s a lot that we can take and grow off of that was good, but it’s still not perfect or not where we want to be, so we’re going to continue to work on that.”
Prescott said the Cowboys are back on track after losing three consecutive games by a combined score of 92-22.
They plan to take the momentum against a desperate Giants team looking for renewed energy with a coaching change and a switch back to Eli Manning at quarterback.
“I’m sure they’ll have a different energy,” Prescott said. “New coach, Eli back in there. It’s also Cowboys-Giants. It’s going to be there, and the energy’s going to be there regardless because it’s a rivalry, it’s in the division and it’s two teams that are playing for pride, a lot of pride and then obviously us trying to make the playoffs.”
The Cowboys’ season has been reduced to a series of one-game playoffs.
“The whole point of us winning out, it motivates me,” Prescott said. “I feel like it should motivate anybody in this locker room. We’re not looking at letdowns. We’re not looking at anything. It’s one thing in our head and it’s to win. Win every game. Right now it’s about winning today at practice. We did that and we’re going to win tomorrow and give us the best shot to win on Sunday.”
Cowboys at Giants
Noon Sunday, KDFW/4