Week 14 of the NFL season brings about a rare occurrence. A regular-season game between the two NFL football teams in the state of Texas. The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans don’t see each other regularly. In fact, the game on Sunday will only be the sixth time the two franchises have met in the regular season. The five games they have played are the fewest for any opponent of the Cowboys in history. The Cowboys hold a 3-2 record in those games, and are heavily favored (17 points) by DraftKings Sportsbook to win for the fourth time against the Texans.
Every Cowboys fan who was around at the time remembers the Texans shocking the Cowboys in the first game between the two by a 19-10 score way back in 2002. Since then, the Cowboys have won three of the four but lost the last game between the two, 19-16 back in 2018.
The 2022 Cowboys and Texans couldn’t be more different. The Cowboys are 9-3 and are serious contenders for the Super Bowl. The Texans are 1-10-1 and looking squarely at the first pick in the 2023 draft. Just to highlight the disparity between the two teams, we’ll take a look at some stats.
The Cowboys are tied for third in scoring average (27.8 per game), the Texans are 31st (15.7 per game). The Cowboys only allow 17.3 ppg (3rd in the NFL) while the Texans allow 23.9 (23rd). The Texans are last in total offense at 279 yards per game while the Cowboys are 11th at 356. Dallas is fifth in total defense (310 yards per game) while Houston is 28th (378 per game).
Perhaps no statistic should be more disheartening to Texans fans this week than the Cowboys rushing attack versus the Texans rush defense. The Texans are dead last in the NFL at rush defense, giving up a staggering 169 yards per game. The Cowboys are seventh with 146 yards per game, and that is without having a true running quarterback adding yards like many of the teams above them in this category.
The duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard are as good as it gets in the 2022 season. Elliott does all the battering, picking up the important first downs and short-yardage situations, including at the goal line. Pollard devastates with his long-range runs. He had five touchdown runs of 30+ yards this season, the first time that has happened in Cowboys history.
Another crushing stat for the Texans is turnovers. The Cowboys are +9 in turnover margin, second-best in the NFL. The Texans are -6 which is 29th in the NFL. The Cowboys pass rush, leaders in both sacks and pressures, causes errant passes and creates strip sacks which all help add to their turnover margin. And the Cowboys rarely fumble. On the flip side, the Texans lead the league in interceptions at 15. The Cowboys also have returned three fumbles for touchdowns this season. One more will be a franchise record for a season.
December used to be a month when Cowboys fans got nervous as the team would fail to close strong. Under Mike McCarthy, that is not the case. Since McCarthy came to Dallas in 2020, they are 8-1 in December, tied for the most wins during the month in the NFL in that span.
The Cowboys are also wining by big margins in 2022. Their 17.2 point margin in wins this year is the most in the NFL. And that number goes up to 19,2 points since the return of Dak Prescott in Week 7. And it’s not like the Cowboys are getting blowout in losses, they lead the league in point differential at +127.
A couple of Cowboys players used to play for the Texans. Punter Bryan Anger played two years in Houston (2019 and 2020). He was playing there before coming over to the Cowboys. He had a 46.5 average while with the Texans. Defensive tackle Carlos Watkins played 42 games with the Texans starting in 2017 when they drafted him in the fourth round.
The Cowboys will be going into this game trying to avoid the dreaded ‘trap game’. But with the Texans struggling so profoundly, and with Davis Mills back at quarterback after playing poorly enough to lose his job, it’s tough to see how the Texans can score enough points to win this game. Running back Dameon Pierce is a weapon, but they just don’t have enough to complement him. And the Cowboys running game should have one of their bigger days. It’s just hard to find any facts or stats to recommend the Texans in this game.