We have almost made it to the first games of the NFL postseason. In the playoffs, we often see that the hottest teams at the end of the regular season carry that momentum into the playoffs.
The Hall-of-Famer himself, Bill Parcells, said that you know what kind of team you have at Thanksgiving, which falls during week 12 of the NFL season. Dallas was 5-5 at the start of week 12 with six games to play. The Cowboys were one of just four teams to finish 5-1 in their final six games.
Using Parcells’ terminology, the Cowboys have to be one of the hottest teams over the last six weeks. Though they have been the target of most of the criticism this season, this Cowboys offense is starting to find itself and have taken huge strides over the last six weeks.
What’s been hot about the Cowboys offense over the last 6 games?
Dak Prescott is one of the hottest hands entering the playoffs
We begin with the most important position of them all, the quarterback. If you’re hoping to win a playoff game or two, the odds are exponentially better if you’re quarterback is playing his best football. Thankfully, that’s exactly the case for Dak Prescott, who is on-par with the best quarterbacks in the tournament over the last six games.
We have to credit the acquisition of Amari Cooper, the elevated play from Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, and lately, Blake Jarwin, but it still takes a trigger man. We can’t talk emergence without mentioning the resurgence of Prescott. Here are the numbers for playoff quarterbacks over the last six games:
|Name||W/L||Pass. Yds||Comp.%||TDs||INT||Rate||Yds/ Att.||Pass. YPG|
Dak Prescott has passed for over 1,700 yards and only Andrew Luck has more passing yards in the same time frame. Of quarterbacks to start at least five games, Prescott is third in passer rating at 105.9. Overall, Prescott’s completion percentage is third among playoff quarterbacks to close out the season.
Dak Prescott and Pat Mahomes are the only two playoff quarterbacks to account for 13 total touchdowns for their respective teams since Thanksgiving.
Prescott also has 14 passes of 20+ yards or more in the last six games with six of them resulting in touchdowns, highest mark in the league. Prescott’s 39.2 yards gained per pass is five yards higher than the next quarterback, Russell Wilson.
Dak Prescott has received his share of worthy criticism over the course of the season but he’s one of the hottest hands left to start the playoffs.
The Cowboys offense has mastered the “Money Down”
Winning playoff games is tough but if you don’t convert on the “money down” it’s almost impossible. The Cowboys have been the very best third-down offense over the second-half of the season, converting 49% of their third downs. The Cowboys went 11-for-17 against the Giants in their final regular season game. Here are the Cowboys that have contributed most to the success on third downs.
|3rd DN Clinic||All Att.||Conv.||3DN %||Yds/Conv.||TDs (Pass/Run)||RK-Pos.|
|Dak Prescott||69||35||51%||8.4 Att. / 3.75 YPC||6 (5/1)||1st-QB|
|Ezekiel Elliott||17||8||47%||6.8 Rec. / 4.8 YPC||0||5th-RB (Tie)|
|Cole Beasley||8||6||75%||12.3||0||5th-WR (Tie)|
The Cowboys have 37 conversions by seven different receivers over these past six games. The Cowboys have punted 20 times in six games, only the Ravens have played six games and punted less. The Cowboys’ opponent this week, the Seahawks, have been forced to punt 31 times.
The Cowboys may not be among the top scoring offenses in the NFL by average but they stay on the field, which allows them to grind down their opponents. If the Cowboys keep up their third-down dominance in the playoffs, that’s going to be one hard formula for opponents.
Cowboys are scoring at a very high rate on few explosive plays
The Cowboys aren’t the first team that comes to mind when you think explosive plays. NFL Matchup stats defines an explosive play as any play that accounts for 15 or more yards. The Cowboys only have 108 total explosive plays on the season, only the Bears have fewer big plays. However, when it comes to scoring percentage on big plays, the Cowboys have been red-hot as of late.
|Expl. Plays (Last 6 Gms)||Expl. Plays||Yds/Play||Expl. TDs|
Since Thanksgiving, the Cowboys have just 36 explosive plays with the Saints, Rams, and Bears all sitting just below them. Though the Cowboys are eighth out of 12 playoff teams, they are tied for first in explosive scoring. They are also averaging 26 yards per explosive play, which is also at the top of the league.
Dak Prescott ranks ninth in explosive passing with 77 completions for 1,948 yards but he’s fifth in explosive touchdown passes with 14 on the season. Prescott is also the only playoff quarterback with an explosive run for touchdown this season. Ezekiel Elliott has three explosive rushing touchdowns, which is the most by a running back in the playoffs. Amari Cooper is 10th out of 12 playoff receivers in explosive receptions but he’s third in explosive receiving touchdowns with five.
The Cowboys don’t hit the explosive plays as much as their playoff peers. Still, they make every one count as they have nearly doubled the scoring percentage of the Patriots 17% on 37% less explosive plays. That’s a win for the Cowboys.
We know that the Cowboys don’t have the top-rated offense in the playoffs. That’s not how the Cowboys are built but if they can just continue to do what they do well, they have a great chance of sticking around for a while.