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Cowboys Face Dolphins In Dress Rehearsal: Does Third Preseason Game Mean More Than Others?

We take a look back at the last five preseason dress rehearsals for the Cowboys and wonder whether the game against the Dolphins could provide us with an early glimpse of what the coming season coud hold in store.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tasseography (also known as tasseomancy or tassology) is a form of predicting the future that seeks to interpret patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds or wine sediments left in a cup or glass.

The preseason is no different from a cup of tea with tea leaves left at the bottom: Everybody is trying to divine some meaning from it, even though making predicions based on preseason results is largely a hit-and-miss affair. Depending on your persuasion, you might worry about the fact that the Cowboys are 0-2 so far this season, you might be excited by the potential of the offense, you might be indifferent to the umpteenth retelling of the concerns surrounding Tony Romo's back, you might show some concern for the listless performance of special teams or pray for the continued health of every single Dallas Cowboys defender.

Regardless of where each of us stands, we're probably reading too much into the preseason. We all know that preseason performance isn't any indicator of regular season performance. The 2008 Lions are the best example of that, going 4-0 in the preseason and ending up 0-16 in the regular season. Last year, the Texans won three of four preseason games, and had the sixth best preseason points differential in the league, yet ended up with the league's worst record at 2-14. The second worst record in the league last year belonged to the 3-13 Washington Redskins, who finished the preseason 4-0.

Clearly, it's not a good idea to read too much into preseason results. But that may be different for the third preseason game. Typically the games in the third week of preseason are the "dress rehearsals" for teams around the NFL, games in which the (healthy) starters see a lot of playing time. The Cowboys for example expect to play their starters for most of the first half in Saturday’s "dress rehearsal" game against the Dolphins. So in anticipation of the game, let's take a look at the Cowboys' dress rehearsals of the last five seasons, and see how much of an indicator Saturday's game against the Dolphins could be for the coming season.

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Week 3 dress rehearsal: Cowboys 30,
Titans 10
Cowboys 7,
Texans 23
Cowboys 23,
Vikings 17
Cowboys 20,
Rams 19
Cowboys 24,
Rams 18
Regular season: 11-5 record,
playoff win
6-10 record
8-8 record,
narrowly missed playoffs
8-8 record,
narrowly missed playoffs
8-8 record,
narrowly missed playoffs

The table above seems to suggest that a convincing win in preseason Week 3 augurs a good season; a decisive loss is a harbinger of a losing season; a close score is an indication of a closely fought but ultimately futile season effort. Of course, it's almost certain that this is pure coincidence, but you never know.

It's never wise to read too much into a preseason game. even the third game. As you sit down to watch Saturday's dress rehearsal, don't focus too much on the largely vanilla schemes, the meaningless stats or even the final result. In part, the preseason is what it is because teams are knocking off the rust on their starters, playing mostly vanilla schemes, and using the games to test their 2nd- and 3rd-stringers - or whoever happens to be healthy.

Instead, look for the overall cohesiveness of the separate units; look at how the individual players who'll have a significant impact on this upcoming season are performing; look for evidence of mental toughness that could help the team through some tough spots this year; watch the second and third teamers to get a feeling for how good the Cowboys' depth really is.

Also, watch the game on the off chance that for the sixth year in a row, the Cowboys' Week 3 preseason game will be a crystal ball providing us with a glimpse of what the coming season coud hold in store.

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