FRISCO, Texas -- In all likelihood the Dallas Cowboys will have to win their final five games to have a chance to make the playoffs.
The only other times the Cowboys have managed to win that many games at the close of a season in the Jerry Jones' era came in 1991 and '93. Since then, the best finish was four in a row in 2014 on their way to a 12-4 finish.
Since fives are wild, it's a perfect time for Five Wonders.
Away we go:
In his four games as the starting running back, Alfred Morris has 64 carries for 307 yards, which would put him on pace for a 1,228-yard season. Set to be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends, I wonder if any teams are noticing what he is doing and would make a play for him. Morris will be 29 next week but he has gone relatively unused in his two seasons with the Cowboys, which could refresh his legs after getting so much work in his first four seasons with the Washington Redskins. He could return to the Cowboys, but with Ezekiel Elliott carrying such a big load of the offense, Morris might want the opportunity to get more work as he enters his seventh NFL season.
Let's stick with running backs for a moment: I wonder how much the Cowboys would be willing to pay to keep Morris, add another free agent for decent money or how high they would take a runner in the draft to backup Elliott. Rod Smith is under contract for 2018, but the Cowboys will have to do something to fortify the position. Elliott's suspension means the Cowboys would be wise to have a plan ready in case there is another off-field incident. When you start thinking about all the needs -- linebacker, wide receiver, secondary, defensive line, offensive line -- you realize the Cowboys won't be able to rely solely on the draft to get it done.
A third straight wonder on running backs? Why not? I wonder how the Cowboys mix Elliott back into the lineup after his six-week break. Does he come in and have the same role he had before he left? He might be in great shape when he returns, but everybody talks about a difference between conditioning and football conditioning. Elliott has had slow starts to his first two seasons after not getting much preseason action. He will have a similar path when he returns from the suspension. Morris has done a solid job. So has Smith. Ah, who are we kidding? It will be the Elliott show when he gets back.
I wonder if right tackle La'el Collins crossed a threshold of sorts with the coaches and his teammates with his performance last week against the Washington Redskins. It wasn't that he was perfect and played so great. It was how he got through the game after not practicing during the week because of a back injury. He went through a pregame workout to see if he could make it to the game and then ended up playing every snap. Showing that kind of toughness can go a long way with coaches and teammates.
Coaches love versatility. I wonder if Byron Jones' versatility hurts him. I've wondered the same thing about Tyrone Crawford with him being yo-yoed back and forth from defensive end and defensive tackle. The Cowboys drafted Jones as a cornerback with the possibility of moving him to safety. By the end of his rookie season he was a safety and has been there ever since. The plan at the start of the season was to have him play a center-field role, but with Chidobe Awuzie hurt so much Jones had to defend tight ends more in a man-to-man role. He's good at it, but with his athleticism he is better when he can go sideline to sideline. Jones' problem might be that he can do many things but not master one.