[Ed. Note] - Hey all, please welcome Jess Haynie, formerly of Inside the Star, to the roster here at BTB. This veteran free agent should be a big addition to our coverage and we are excited to have him! - Dave Halprin
Can a single victory in September really change the course of an entire season? While the debate is mostly philosophical, there’s no denying that the Dallas Cowboys’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals provided some much-needed hope after the disastrous season-opening loss.
Two Sundays ago, Dallas only managed three points on offense and lost Dak Prescott for “6-8 weeks” with a thumb injury. They were the sole losers in the NFC East as the Commanders, Eagles, and Giants all won their first games. Throw in multi-week injuries to starters Connor McGovern and Jayron Kearse, and it was about as bad as a single week of football can go.
If you didn’t have much faith in Cooper Rush to get the job done last week, you weren’t being unreasonable. But after we saw Rush lead Dallas to victory last year in Minnesota, completely rejecting the notion was a little extreme.
Rush did his job on Sunday. But beyond just beating the Bengals, he provided hope that the Cowboys can compete in most of their upcoming games even without Prescott. And now with talk that Dak might return as soon as Week 5, the mood in Cowboys Nation is drastically different than a week ago.
Consider the alternative; Dallas is sitting at 0-2 with the Eagles and Giants 2-0 in the division. You’d be enjoying a week full of statistics about the odds of 0-2 teams making the playoffs and being pummeled with a sense of futility.
Now the Cowboys are headed to New York for Monday Night Football with positive vibes and the goal of pulling even with the Giants. Instead of wallowing in despair, we’re basking in Micah Parsons’ widely-declared greatness and asking how much better Daniel Jones really is than Cooper Rush.
All it took was one field goal from a guy that some fans didn’t believe should even be in the NFL anymore.
#Cowboys Twitter is WILD. Last week, season is over bc Dak is out. No one wanted Coop. Sky is falling. NOW… Cooper Rush should start and Dak is an average QB. Tap breaks everyone…if Brett Maher doesn’t make that kick today would be a different day on Twitter— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) September 19, 2022
The truth is that the pendulum can swing back to hopelessness pretty quickly. A loss to the Giants would be doubly damaging, widening the gap between Dallas and New York in the division and dropping the Cowboys’ overall record. Unfortunately, the postseason odds for 1-2 teams aren’t that much prettier.
What happens this week in New York is still to be determined. But at least now we can look ahead to the Giants and Commanders these next two games and still feel invested. If you were already looking for 2023 mock drafts, you can step back from the ledge for a week.
Of course, the Cowboys still have a lot of work to do if they want to compete with the likes of Tampa Bay. After watching the Bucs’ win last Sunday against the Saints, Tampa is arguably the class of the NFC. But even from Week 1, we saw Dallas’ defense go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady. We saw one half of a legitimate contender sabotaged by an offense that clearly wasn’t regular-season ready.
Now we may have Michael Gallup back on the field for Week 3. Now Tyler Smith is looking like another first-round stud on the offensive line. Now Noah Brown has earned a little respect from opposing defenses.
If Dak Prescott does return sooner than originally anticipated, there’s no reason to think the Cowboys can’t still make something out of this season. Thanks to Cooper Rush, Brett Maher, and MVP candidate Micah Parsons, fantasies are now realistic goals again.
What a difference a single game makes.