When the Jerry-dome was built a few years back it immediately became the perfect location for
sudden death knout-out football games. However, what Jerry Jones didn’t envisage was that those
matches might during the regular season rather than in the playoffs themselves. That is where we
find ourselves this week as the 8-6 Seahawks travel to Dallas to face the 8-6 Cowboys. With both
teams essentially out of their division race and sitting two games behind the Panthers (10-4) their
only real hope is to win out and pray that the Falcons (9-5), currently one game up on both teams,
go winless in their final two games. Both teams need to finish with more wins that the Falcons if they
are to clinch the final playoff spot as they have both lost to the Falcons already this season which
would give Atlanta the tie-breaker for the final wildcard spot.
This all means that a loss this week eliminates either of these teams and any slim chance of catching
the Panthers would be gone and they can do no better than tie with the Falcons. Honestly, winning
this game might not be enough and the air could be totally sucked out of the stadium if the Falcons
and Panthers win their games which kick-off earlier in the day. However, if Atlanta stumbles then
Jerry-world could be rocking for the kick-off with both sets of fans knowing that the highly unlikely
can still happen.
Mixed in amongst the main headline we have two smaller storylines which could dominate this
game. The first is the return of Ezekiel Elliott to the Dallas offence. Zeke was suspended for six games for domestic abuse allegations and after a lengthy legal battle served his time from weeks 10
through 16. Right now he will just be grateful that the Cowboys still have some semblance of a
chance at the playoffs upon his return.
If Zeke can get the run game rolling then hopefully we can see this offence begin to click. With a run
game to terrify defences the Cowboys can use their play action to get Prescott time on the ball and
bring their big play receivers more into the frame. Equally the threat of Zeke will slow the pass rush
and give rise to more defenders in the box which will allow Prescott to work the one on ones to get
the pass game going at the level we saw it earlier in the season. Having Zeke doesn’t just benefit the
passing game from a defence respecting the run angle; Zeke is an electric pass catcher who keeps
defences guessing as to whether he is a runner, pass blocker or ball catcher. The Cowboys don’t
have another true three threat running back on their team and that has shown in their sluggish
offence in the past few weeks.
On the other side line we have another talisman in the shape of Russell Wilson. He has been a
monster among men this season to keep the Seahawks season alive despite constant pressure and
very little run game support. In baseball they use a stat called WAR or wins above replacement and
never has a stat been more required to define a football player than it has for Wilson this season. It
is always hard to judge QBs because they are always so polarising in whether a team wins or loses
but I think it would be fair to say that the Seahawks with a replacement level QB would be 3-5 wins
less right now than they currently are. I don’t think there is a single player in the NFL who has been
more valuable to his team. Brady kept the Patriots afloat in the early part of the season but since
week 5 or 6 the whole team has upped its game. Wilson has been doing it virtually all season and at
times it has felt like he has been doing it despite his team rather than with them.
However, all of the debate about what Wilson has done this season will be for nothing if the
Seahawks lose this game. Being a MVP candidate means nothing if your team doesn’t make the
playoffs and Wilson will be the first to tell you that himself. If the Seahawks are to win this week
Wilson will likely play a huge part in what I expect to be a reasonably high scoring game. If the result
goes their way then expect a huge part of the conversation Monday morning to be about Russell
Wilson for MVP. Equally though if the Cowboys win I fully expect it to be Ezekiel Elliott grabbing the
headlines for Dallas.
My only hope for this game is that when it kicks off there is still something for these teams to play
for because even if they do then they will throw everything they have into trying to get a win and
keep their season alive and it will be a lot of fun to watch.
This guest piece was written by Ben Rolfe. Ben is a New England Patriots fan and can be found on Twitter at @BenRolfe15.