It’s been a long time since we last saw the Dallas Cowboys play football. Their last game was on October 21st and it’s already Halloween. That’s forever in football time.
The Cowboys have been on their bye which explains their extended absence in our lives. What’s more is we have to wait 24 hours more than usual after a bye because the Cowboys next play on Monday Night Football. We’ll make it, don’t worry.
Interestingly, the next opponents up for the Cowboys, the Tennessee Titans, are also coming off of their bye. We talked about the details surrounding the Cowboys bye week back in the summer as it does feel unfair that the Cowboys are playing two teams in a row that are coming off of their byes in the Titans and Eagles.
Dallas is the only team that has to face two playoff teams coming off of their byes in 2018, both of whom happen to have been playoff teams last season, and they have to do the second against the reigning world champions while they’re on a short week. What’s more is they don’t even get the “advantage” of having an extra week on the opponent they’re playing coming out of a bye because it’s equalized by Tennessee being on theirs simultaneously. It’s a difficult thing to put together a 32-team schedule that establishes total fairness, but seems like you could avoid imbalances like this.
It’s true that next week the Eagles will be coming off of their bye while the Cowboys are coming off of a short week. It’s not ideal but it’s where we’re at. Speaking of where we’re at, we’re talking about this week against the Titans when the Cowboys are coming off of their bye.
For only the second time in the now eight-year Jason Garrett era the Cowboys will play at home following their bye. They won the first game of such kind, but how do they generally play in the game following their week off?
Jason Garrett’s Cowboys are barely above .500 in his first game after the bye
Since Jason Garrett fully took over the Cowboys in 2011, here’s how they’ve done after the bye.
- 2011: At New England Patriots, Loss
- 2012: At Baltimore Ravens, Loss
- 2013: At New York Giants, Win
- 2014: At New York Giants, Win
- 2015: At New York Giants, Loss
- 2016: Philadelphia Eagles, Win
- 2017: At San Francisco 49ers, Win
It feels fair to give anyone a pass for losing in New England, and if you thought Cowboys/Giants in Week 1’s Sunday Night Football slot was a tradition you might want to also add Dallas in New York after the former’s bye. The lone loss over the last five years was that third game in the Big Apple and in the Cowboys’ defense their quarterback was Matt Cassel.
Generally Jason Garrett’s squads play well coming off of their bye. He hasn’t exactly been in a situation like this year before where his offense was consistently stalling, but 2015 was somewhat similar in that regard. Much like this year we saw the Cowboys make a few changes during the bye three years ago including their starting quarterback (Cassel) and running back of choice (Darren McFadden).
The Cowboys have made significant changes this year in that they traded for Amari Cooper, fired Paul Alexander, promoted Marc Colombo, and brought back Hudson Houck. While it isn’t necessarily of the seismic variety this is definitely a lot of change to put your football team through which is an indication at where the Cowboys were at before the bye. Change was necessary and change was made.
The Cowboys have won their first three games after the bye in each of the last two seasons
Tennessee isn’t exactly a foregone conclusion of a win but this game does feel akin to last year’s game following the bye in San Francisco. You’ll remember that the Cowboys handily beat the 49ers then 40-10 (the Jeff Heath kicking game!) which provided a small boost for them. They won impressively the next week in Washington and had quite the victory at home over the Kansas City Chiefs in the week following. Of course after the Chiefs win was when Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension began and things were never truly the same.
Dallas isn’t necessarily going to flip a switch and become an elite team just because they went on bye and shuffled a few things around, but there is some precedent here for the Cowboys getting hot-ish after the bye. In four of Jason Garrett’s seasons as head coach the Cowboys have won at least two of their next three games following the bye. In each of the last two seasons the Cowboys have even won all three games following the bye:
- 2011: Loss, Win, Loss
- 2012: Loss, Win, Loss
- 2013: Win, Win, Loss
- 2014: Win, Loss, Win
- 2015: Loss, Loss, Loss
- 2016: Win, Win, Win
- 2017: Win, Win, Win
Over the weekend we discussed how important this upcoming stretch (Titans, at Eagles, at Falcons, Redskins, Saints) is for the Cowboys. It’s going to define whether or not they’re a playoff team. Considering that it overlaps with Thanksgiving these are going to be some fun times for Cowboys fans everywhere.
It all starts after the bye, and considering that’s on MNF that means it all starts under the watchful eye of Jason Witten in his homecoming. Will things go well? Will the thread be yanked at? We’re going to have quite the time finding out.