While the Dallas Cowboys have had some very impressive wins of late (see: Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts) they still are trailing the Philadelphia Eagles and the Vikings in the chase for the number one seed in the playoffs. They need help to have any chance of catching up. It is frustrating.
Well, maybe it shouldn’t be. Because denying the Cowboys that top seed and the accompanying bye could actually be a huge favor to them.
Dallas always seems to have a slow start when they are not on the normal weekly practice schedule. The only exception may have been the first game against the Giants on MNF and the following week’s one over the Washington Commanders, but that was just a single day disruption both ways, and the team might have been better able to adjust. Also, those were both games quarterbacked by Cooper Rush.
That might be pertinent, because the trend is much more noticeable when Dak Prescott is at QB. (See details from this last week.) In the weeks when he has been on the normal seven-day interval, he has come out on fire. (Chicago Bears, Vikings) It is a fluky thing that all five of his other starts this year have not given him that routine. We have a chance to see if that holds up when the Houston Texans visit next Sunday. If Dallas comes out playing like it is the fourth quarter against the Colts, then it will be a little bit more evidence that this may indeed be a Prescott issue.
It is not a good thing that the Cowboys face a Saturday kick for the second Eagles game, followed by a Thursday night contest against the Tennessee Titans. They will not get back to Sunday games until the regular-season finale against the Commanders.
Which all could be a boon for Dallas. If they don’t get the help needed to catch both the Eagles and Vikings, they would play on a more normal week, with a Saturday playoff game being the worst result. Given the ratings Cowboys games generate, the networks and streamers will definitely want them playing on Sunday if possible. But that would give them a close to normal practice schedule in any case. That seems to be the best way for Prescott to come out in rhythm and on target.
Not having the added rest of the bye week may not be as important to the team’s performance. It depends on health, perhaps. Still, the way the team comes out on offense is dependent on how Prescott plays, and in all the aforementioned cases, when his week has been rearranged, he has not looked good early. According to the SNF announcers, all of his interceptions this year have come in the first half. That seems more than mere coincidence. As he has had some playtime to shake off the effects, he starts to look more like the version of himself that his team needs.
But if the Cowboys somehow make it to that top seed, they will have a full two weeks to wait. That was the situation facing them against the Packers. It is the only loss since Prescott returned from his injury early in the season. If he comes out as cold as he did in Green Bay, the opponent could well be too good for them. The Packers are hardly a power this year, and still they managed to win. Those other playoff teams are all likely to be more dangerous.
There is no doubt the team will fight to get that bye week as long as they are mathematically in the hunt. Players certainly will take some extra recovery time over a not exactly scientific theory about Prescott’s play. And they absolutely want to play at home through the postseason rather than having to go on the road. But this may wind up out of their hands. If you just look at how things have gone on the field, it may be a better path for Dallas, one they are forced on.