Dallas has a young team. Inexperience could be a problem as things get down to the end of the season, but it may also be an advantage for them.
The NFL is a young man's game. It's hard for older players to withstand the rigors of a 16-game NFL season and be as productive at the end as they are at the beginning. Older players get hurt more frequently and take longer to heal.
If these Cowboys, who have the NFL's best record (10-1) and point differential (103) fall apart in December, it won't happen because they're too old to handle the season.
The Cowboys have only four starters in their 30s -- Jason Witten (34), Doug Free (30), Sean Lee (30) and Brandon Carr (30) -- and all of them are doing a good job this season.
There is a saying that things are different in the NFL once December rolls around, as playoff spots are decided. A lot of comparisons have been made between this year's run and the one in 2014, and hopefully there is one more way they will be alike.
While finishing has been one of Jason Garrett's tenets, the Cowboys have not ended seasons strongly since he took over as interim coach in 2010. The Cowboys are 14-15 in regular-season games in December and January.
Two years ago, when they finished 12-4 and won the NFC East, they finished 4-0 and carried that momentum into a wild-card win against the Detroit Lions. From 2011 to 2013 the Cowboys had three straight 8-8 records, mostly because of poor finishes. The Cowboys went 1-4 in 2011 and 1-3 in 2013. They had a winning final month of the season in 2012 (3-2) but closed the year with two straight losses.
There is a bit of concern about the recent performance by the Cowboy's defense, which has not forced a turnover since October. But Rod Marinelli isn't pushing the panic button.
"Everything that's kind of happened to us a little bit is teachable and correctable," the Cowboys' defensive coordinator said Monday.
Marinelli still believes in his group, and he still has good reason to, despite perhaps a little public panic this week even as the Cowboys enter December with everything in front of them at 10-1: best record in the NFL, first place in the NFC and a chance to clinch a playoff spot as early as this week.
Despite allowing 26 points against the Redskins and 30 against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 30, the Cowboys are still tied for sixth in scoring defense for the season (19.4). In between those two games, they held the Baltimore Ravens to 17 points on Nov. 20 - right around the defense's season average before the Redskins game.
They're also the only defense in the league that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in a game all season, and their success against the run on Thanksgiving, coupled with a two-possession lead for parts of the second half, pushed the Redskins into pass-first mode (53 attempts by Kirk Cousins).
Maybe, as Jeff Sullivan observes, the Cowboys are just changing the whole paradigm of how you win in the NFL.
Here's what is truly absurd: The Cowboys are 10-1 as the calendar turns to December and they haven't forced a turnover since before Halloween. This doesn't happen. This team, at least to this point, has been changing all those rules, those commandments, that we've been programed to believe. Defense wins championships, turnovers are the difference-maker, rookie quarterbacks - never mind those drafted in the fourth round - need to be development. Heck, the Los Angeles Rams gave the No. 1 overall pick 10 weeks of the regular season before letting him start.
ESPN makes the case for why Dak Prescott is deserving of being named the MVP as a rookie.
Although Prescott's teammates deserve credit for Dallas' turnaround (more on that later), few quarterbacks have been as efficient and productive as Prescott this season. He leads the NFL in Total QBR, which is now adjusted for opponents faced, and has gained positive expected points added on the second-highest percentage of his plays among NFL QBs.
Prescott's ability to avoid negative plays (five turnovers, 15 sacks) sets him apart from other quarterbacks, but he isn't simply a game manager. He makes plays when it matters, ranking third in QBR on third down and leading the league in QBR in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Washington tried a long field goal and an on-side kick that gave Dallas short fields. Baltimore abandoned their running game. Pittsburgh chased two-point conversions. All were bad coaching decisions that contributed to Cowboys wins, and they reflect the pressure Dallas puts on opponents.
But it's their efficiency -- Dallas has scored on 56 of 109 possessions -- that makes opposing coaches panic. They're second on third-down conversions (48.5 percent) and first downs (24.5 per game), which is among the reasons they keep the ball a league-leading 32:50 a game.
This is a great read on how a great offensive line works together and stays unified, and there is a very interesting nugget in here about their ages that we should not forget.
Right tackle Doug Free, 32, is the veteran of the group as the only lineman over 27, in Dallas since 2007. He said he's tried to continue the standard set by those before him, but that all of the linemen have a say.
"The biggest thing is having a group that is willing to communicate and is willing to do whatever it takes to get stuff done," Free said.
One more bit of evidence as to how Dallas has been very smart with how they have built their team.
The Vikings have struggled for the last three seasons to establish a reliable, stable starting five. Injuries, particularly this year with three starting tackles on injured reserve, have ravaged the position. But they've only invested two picks in the first three rounds of the last 10 drafts in an offensive lineman, with right tackle Phil Loadholt (No. 54 overall) in 2009 and left tackle Matt Kalil (No. 4 overall) in 2012. Loadholt retired before training camp because of injuries. Kalil had season-ending hip surgery after playing in the first two games this season.
The Cowboys, by stark contrast, have three first-round draft picks in their starting lineup: left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin.
One thing that is clearly evident is that the Cowboys are not just winning, they are having a lot of fun doing it. An example is the frequently tweeted-about routine of Zack Martin and Travis Frederick pretending they are a quarterback and receiver before games. When you are among the best at your position in the league, you can be whatever you want in warmups.
For roughly 45 minutes, Martin will throw passes to Frederick and Frederick will throw passes to Martin. They will go through most of a wide receiver's route tree.
"Honestly for us, it's more fun way to kinda get warmed up," Frederick said. "It kinda keeps us loose. Oftentimes, when you're before a big game or anytime in the NFL, every game is a big game, a lot of times you can tighten up and kinda psych yourself out before the game, so for us to just run around, have some fun is a good way to keep loose before the game as well as get warmed up and kinda open the lungs up."
You'll have to follow the link to get the names - but does the word "triplets" bring anyone to mind?
The Cowboys pride themselves on doing everything as a team. Regardless of the outcome on the field, the goal is for the players, coaches and entire organization to come together as one. However, there are always standouts that rise above the rest. In the month of November, the Cowboys again won every game, cruising to the best record in the NFL at 10-1. Let's look back at November's 3 Stars of the Month, voted on by the DallasCowboys.com staff and presented by Benrus.
Bryan Broaddus takes a look at some keys to the game, and starts off with some much needed help returning to the secondary.
Look for Barry Church to be back in the starting lineup against Minnesota. He was able to practice all week without any limitations. Church will be wearing a custom graphite shell on his arm to protect it from injury. Associate Athletic Trainer Britt Brown was able to take a cast mold of Church's arm and send it away so the graphite shell could be developed. Church has missed the previous four games, and I don't believe we will have to wait long in the game to see him test it out.
It's a double dose of wisdom from Broaddus, with this as probably the biggest thing that would lead to a Cowboys win.
The Vikings are not built to match the Cowboys score for score and if it turns into one of those games, then they are in trouble. If the Cowboys don't help the Vikings with cheap turnovers or non-offensive touchdowns they should be in good enough shape to get the win.
With a slew of missed extra points and possible game winning field goals this year, it is so good to have Dan Bailey wearing the Star.
Jason Witten marvels that Bailey rarely misses in practice. The Pro Bowl tight end calls Bailey a hard worker, one of the best athletes on the Cowboys and tops it off with the ultimate compliment.
"I mean it when I say it, I don't view him, and I don't think teammates view him, as a kicker," Witten declared. "He's a football player, and he's really good."
Jerry Jones has a vernacular all his own. His remark calling Dak Prescott "the Daddy" after the win over Washington confused some, including Dak himself.
But it's not really complicated if you think it through. "The daddy" is the man of the house - the man, period.
As Jones said Tuesday here on 105.3 The Fan, "It can mean ‘the boss'," it can mean ‘dominated him.' To me, that's an expression. I'm really shocked that anybody is having any problem with ... (or) doesn't understand that he was the daddy in that deal."
See? It's as sensible as it is an old Jerry chestnut. If you've been around Jerry Jones, you've heard him say it many times before.
It's about time other teams were doing the worrying about the Cowboys.
When you've got the best record in the NFL, opponents are going to look ahead at the schedule to games against you. That's what they do.
That's the trap the New York Giants are trying to avoid right now. The Cowboys' division rivals will host Dallas in the Meadowlands on Dec. 11. With an 8-3 record, the Giants are two games behind the Cowboys in the NFC East race and a win over 10-1 Dallas in Week 14 would give the Giants a much better chance to win the division and a home playoff game rather than settle for a wild card bid.
But before that the Giants will face the 6-5 Steelers in an unforgiving road environment this Sunday. So New York is trying to avoid looking ahead at the Cowboys before they handle the task at hand.
We don't just get to see the color rush uniforms this week against the Vikings. We get to see some really great footgear.
Every week on Thursday Night Football, fans have had the pleasure of seeing a fashion show of specially designed cleats to accompany this year's Nike Color Rush uniforms. We've seen everything from snakeskin cleats worn by Von Miller to cleats with foxtails on them made for Cam Newton.
Well, this week it's the Cowboys turn to don those custom made Nike color rush uniforms and custom-made cleats. We've all seen the uniforms, but on Monday the cleats were finally unveiled to the players with the #MyCauseMyCleats Custom Cleats Reveal.
Each player's cleats had their favorite charity integrated into the design. The team is very excited not only to try on some new gear but also bring awareness to some awesome causes.
Follow the link to get a preview of the cleats.
All the special cleats are for charities, but Gavin Escobar has a unique story behind his.
Gavin Escobar was an 18-year-old freshman at San Diego State when he started feeling pain in his groin during football practice. Team doctors advised him to get checked for sexually transmitted diseases.
Tests showed he did not have an STD, so Escobar searched the internet for symptoms of testicular cancer. He had many of them, which led to his mother setting up an appointment with a UCLA doctor.
A day after meeting with the doctor, Escobar had surgery to remove a tumor. A couple of months later, he had lymph nodes removed from his stomach.
Although the Cowboys tight end is cancer free, he wants to raise awareness for the disease. He'll do so during Thursday's game in Minnesota by wearing special cleats.