NFL Roundtable: Are Dallas’ playoff hopes dashed without Dak?
Each week we sit down with BetAmerica Extra columnists Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Scott Shapiro to discuss the latest news and trends from around the National Football League. This week they weigh in on the possibility of a perfect season in Seattle, Alex Smith’s inspiring comeback, and Dak Prescott’s devastating injury.
Which is more likely: The Seattle Seahawks will go 16-0 or the Atlanta Falcons will go 0-16?
Ashley: A winless Falcons season. Seattle’s defense is too much of an issue and will prevent the Seahawks from going undefeated. The Falcons have been plagued by an equally miserable defense, plus coaching issues. With Atlanta’s fifth defeat on Sunday and Dan Quinn’s firing, it’s clear the season is lost. The best hope for a win on the schedule is at home against Detroit or Denver. From Week 11 on, the Falcons face New Orleans and Tampa Bay (both twice), the Raiders, and road games against the Chargers and Chiefs. Those should all result in losses.
James: I don’t expect either to happen, but Seattle going undefeated is more realistic than Atlanta being winless. Russell Wilson is proving to be magical, and this has the makings of a special season in Seattle. An undefeated campaign probably won’t happen because the defense is so bad, but it’s not impossible. Barring an injury to Matt Ryan, Atlanta has too much offense to lose out. Competitive in all five losses, they made a much-needed coaching change this week, and Atlanta will finish with at least a few wins this season.
Scott: Neither outcome is likely, but there is a better chance the Falcons go 0-16. Seattle is getting elite quarterback play from Russell Wilson and is difficult to keep off the scoreboard, but their pass defense is terrible. They struggle to cover opposing receivers and their pass rush is non-existent. This is likely to catch up with them in the coming weeks when they face the Bills, Rams, and Cardinals twice. Pete Carroll’s squad is no doubt a top contender to win the NFC, but an undefeated season is not happening.
Alex Smith took his first snaps since 2018 on Sunday. How would you grade his return?
Ashley: I’m a huge fan of the Alex Smith comeback story, but unfortunately, he is playing behind an awful offensive line that eliminated any hope of a feel-good Smith performance Sunday. Smith completed just 9-of-17 passes for 37 yards and took six sacks for a loss of 31 yards. I hate to give him a failing grade based on stats. I’ll hand him a B for his determination to get back on the field, despite enduring a life-threatening injury, and his courage, especially having to play behind Washington’s offensive line.
James: It was an emotional scene as Alex Smith returned from injury in Week 5, but his performance left plenty to be desired. Of course, he was pressed into action against a Los Angeles Rams defense that held Washington to 108 total yards, and it was an impossible situation for the third-string quarterback. It would be delusional to think Washington is a playoff team, and Ron Rivera should have never benched Dwayne Haskins, who was inactive for Week 5. Washington must discover whether the second-year quarterback can cut it as a starter, and Sunday’s dismal loss only casts doubt upon the competence of the coaching staff.
Scott: Alex Smith returning to the field for the first time since suffering a gruesome leg injury nearly two years ago was the story of the day in the NFL, but unfortunately his play was subpar. The first overall pick in the 2015 draft failed to matriculate the ball downfield tallying just 37 yards on 17 attempts. I give his play a C, but it was great to see the former University of Utah star back on the gridiron.
Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome injury on Sunday. Can the Cowboys still reach the playoffs without their QB1?
Ashley: The Cowboys can definitely earn a playoff berth in the abysmal NFC East. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton has plenty of playoff experience and did an overall decent job on Sunday, aside from his fourth-quarter fumble that resulted in a Giants touchdown. The Eagles are once again Dallas’ main competition in the division, but Philly’s schedule down the stretch is tougher compared to Dallas’. I can absolutely see the Cowboys making the postseason, but in ugly fashion.
James: No. The NFC East is so bad that the division winner will probably have a losing record, but Dallas was dependent upon Dak Prescott to outscore the competition because the defense really stinks. They’ve lost all hope without one of the most dynamic players in the game, and won’t be able to replace Prescott’s production. Dallas is eligible to reach double-digit losses this season with a past-his-prime Andy Dalton taking over as the starter.
Scott: The Cowboys already had serious holes in their roster and the loss of Prescott is a major blow, but they definitely can still reach the playoffs this season. Fortunately for Dallas fans, “America’s Team” plays in the NFL’s weakest division. The New York Giants and Washington Football Team have one victory between them and are battling for the first pick in next year’s draft, while Philadelphia has a plethora of injuries and has yet to click in 2020. Dallas may finish the year with 6 or 7 wins, but that still could be good enough to win the NFC East.