The Dallas Cowboys enter their annual Thanksgiving Day game feeling good about themselves. They are coming off a road win and now get to play at home where they are riding a 12-game win streak. Their opponent, the Washington Commanders, come into the game off an embarrassing loss to the New York Giants.
The Cowboys are currently 11-point favorites in the game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. We spoke to our sister site, Hogs Haven, about the current state of the Commanders.
Blogging The Boys: Now that you’ve had a good look at Sam Howell, is he the future? Can you build a winning team around him?
Hogs Haven: He might be. He has played in only 12 games – 11 this year and one at the end of last year that Cowboys fans might remember. As with any young quarterback, you need at least a full season to know what you’ve got. As we should expect, he takes two steps forward and one back (like the game last weekend against the Giants). My personal feeling is that he’s the guy, although it’s too early know whether he will be a good QB or a great one.
On the positive side: he has a great, live arm; he is a leader who is tough as nails; he learns from his mistakes and his progress this year has been rapid and impressive; he is fearless, yet has a very calm, even keeled, and humble demeanor. Negatives: he’s greatly improved in getting rid of the ball quickly instead of taking sacks, but he has more work to do there; he is generally pretty good at reading the defense, but he can be fooled at times; he is still learning how to move around in the pocket (in fairness, it’s hard to learn when the OL often doesn’t give you a pocket).
BTB: Does Ron Rivera make it to another season, or is he a dead man walking? Who would you like to replace him if he gets fired?
HH: He’s a dead man walking. He will finish without having a winning season in four years in Washington and with a career record of about .500. It may surprise some, but he has only coached his team to a winning record three times. The roster is full of holes and draftee performance has been disappointing; that’s on Rivera because he has control over personnel in the “coach-centric” model they use. Players don’t show enough improvement during the season and from year to year, and that’s on the coaches. Finally, the defense has collapsed, from a top 10 defense last year to one of the worst in the league this year. Is that what the new owners signed up for? No way.
BTB: Who are some players that are making you more optimistic about the future?
HH: Howell, first and foremost. Terry McLaurin is a premier WR and a tough-minded leader. Brian Robinson is a very good RB and he has become an outstanding receiver out of the backfield this year. On defense, the strength is in the middle of the line. Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne are as good a pair of DTs as is on any team, but the defense lacks proven talent. Kam Curl is an outstanding Safety and Buffalo Nickel, but his rookie contract is up after the season, and he may not resign. Kendall Fuller is their best CB, but he is getting older and his contract also is up. Free Safety Derrick Forrest had a breakout year last year but did not look special in 2023 before he went on IR for most of the season. Everyone else is an average or worse player or very young and difficult to evaluate.
BTB: How is the new ownership? Is there any feeling of ‘change’ yet, or will it take a while?
HH: They are very quiet right now. Josh Harris clearly is the leader of that pack, and early on he said all the right things. He made some popular, fan-friendly moves like providing covered seating for viewing preseason practices. But ownership wasn’t approved until so late in the game (nearly August) that it was too late to make thoughtful front office and coaching changes for 2023. That makes this a year of purgatory. I suspect that Harris is busy thinking through his list of General Manager candidates, but I don’t expect firings before the end of the season. Firing coaches and front office personnel would make some fans happy but would not help the team.
BTB: DraftKings Sportsbook has Dallas as 11-point favorites. Does that feel fair and how do you think the game will play out?
HH: The spread is more than fair considering the records and performance of these two teams, but rivalry games are different. The team that did not “deserve” to win has won many times in the history of this rivalry – including the last game that the two played. Moreover, betting on that the favorite will beat a big spread generally has not been a winning move in 2023. Safest bet: take the Cowboys but take the Commanders to beat the spread. But in a game between these teams, anything can happen.
Thanks for the knowledge, Hogs Haven.