Are the Dallas Cowboys a serious contender for a run at a Super Bowl? Given a watershed kind of win against the New Orleans Saints and a dramatic victory over the rival Philadelphia Eagles, maybe playing after the New Year is part of the plan in Big D.
The Dallas Cowboys, as is the story every season, are a hot topic on all platforms of NFL driven media. From talk radio to talk radio on TV, Big D is dominating discussion, perhaps even more than teams who are not just playing better than them, but are actually better than them.
At 8-5, Dallas is still looking up at NFC teams like the 9-4 Chicago Bears, the 11-2 New Orleans Saints, and the 11-2 Los Angeles Rams. Even so, it’s hard to find an analyst or media fan-boy who hasn’t earmarked the Cowboys as the hottest team entering the stretch run of December.
All that aside, Dallas has gone from being typically inconsistent and underperforming, to consistent and performing. With a defense that is getting better each week and an offense that looks to have finally found some traction, the Cowboys may actually be earning some of the hype being tossed their way.
Entering Week 15, the Cowboys have a mixed bag on the schedule to finish the season after essentially clinching the NFC East by sweeping the season series over the Eagles. On tap Sunday is a road game at the Indianapolis Colts. They are then home for the disappointing Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and their season finale is on the East Coast against NFC East doormat New York Giants.
All of these are winnable games with perhaps the biggest challenge against the upstart Indianapolis. Dallas can afford a loss or two given that one more win or losses by Philadelphia and the Washington Redskins clinches the division, but they don’t want to lose momentum heading into a stacked playoff picture. The Cowboys have three keys that will work in their favor over the last three weeks of the regular season and as the playoffs begin.
The Dallas Cowboys offense is getting better, finally
Dak Prescott and the offense overall are getting better at just the right time, and that’s welcome news for Dallas fans. Also, getting receiver Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders for a first round pick next spring is paying off. Passing yards per game are up from 202.4 to 285.7, and touchdowns have increased beginning in Week 9. For an offense that was sputtering at best, that’s significant.
That acquisition, as well as the elevation of Marc Colombo, looks to have reinvigorated Prescott. Everything from his completion percentage (62.1%-74.1%) to his passer rating (87.4-105.7) have increased.
One last thing, and it’s a significant enough number worth noting, is that the Cowboys offense in totality has seen an increase in production from 320 yards per game to 350.6. In an NFC where teams like Los Angeles and New Orleans can score points in the bunches, this is a good trend for Dallas.
Cowboys defense is best news heading into December
Defense continues to be good news for Dallas. The best indication that the Cowboys are a legitimate threat in the postseason is their performance against the Saints. Prior to quarterback Drew Brees & Co. showing up at Jerry World, they looked to be the best team in the conference and probably in the NFL.
Maybe not so much now.
The Cowboys held the highest scoring offense (37.6 ppg heading into the matchup) to 10.
That’s right, TEN points. They also limited the leading candidate for league MVP to 176 total yards of offense. Don’t kid yourself, for a team turning it around on the fly, the Cowboys’ three-point win in Week 13 was a season changer from perennial pretender to legitimate contender.
When looking at their December schedule, they won’t face another dynamic kind of offense as they did when they played the Saints. If Dallas can do what they did defensively against New Orleans, they could conceivably run the table to close out the season and take an eight-game winning streak into a postseason, where anything can happen.
Intangibles may be a big part of a postseason run
One last thing worth noting are the intangibles. The Cowboys don’t have the firepower like the Rams or Saints, and the Chicago Bears may be overachieving in an NFC North that hasn’t been impressive, which ironically is an argument reasonably made about the NFC East as well.
But, if Dallas goes on one of those magical kind of runs, fans and NFL watchers alike will point to Week 13 and their 13-10 win against an MVP kind of quarterback in Brees and the perceived best team in the league. That’s a springboard kind of win that opens up all kinds of possibilities.
A lot will happen before the Cowboys wrap up the regular season in New York, but given the state of affairs in Dallas, fans have some tangible momentum that may result in a big January. Maybe even a bigger February.