Although it took until the Dallas Cowboys exploded against the Washington Commanders for 25 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, the annual Thanksgiving Day game at AT&T Stadium was a true blowout, 45-10. Given the tradition of having a big feast on the holiday, it was a nice bit of home cooking for Dallas. And it really should not have come as a big surprise to anyone. Big wins at home are just what the 2023 Cowboys do.
They have played five games in Arlington this season, and won all of them by very impressive margins. And it is just getting more pronounced as the year progresses. Here are the scores, in order:
- New York Jets 30-10
- New England Patriots 38-3
- Los Angeles Rams 43-20
- New York Giants 49-17
- Commanders 45-10
I mean, this is getting a bit ridiculous. The Cowboys are averaging 41 points per game and only giving up 12. That is a winning margin of over four touchdowns on average.
Before we let ourselves get too excited about all that, we have to include the same caveats that apply to the rest of the season. All of these wins, all of the wins on the season in fact, have been against teams that now have a losing record. Dallas has only played two teams that are over .500, the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers, losing to both. Now they face a stretch of teams that should have winning records, starting with the Seattle Seahawks and including the Eagles rematch and the Detroit Lions. All those are big for the Cowboys’ playoff chances and hopeful playoff seeding, They will need to show they can indeed beat good teams.
But those three games have one important thing in common. All are home games for Dallas. While we cannot expect domination the way we have seen so far at AT&T, the way the Cowboys have played so far offers real encouragement they can beat those three. While that may not be enough to overtake Philadelphia for the NFC East title, much less the number one seed, just winning those three games would almost certainly assure at least a wild card spot, even if they struggle in the remaining road games.
It’s not just the huge margins of victory that are remarkable. Dak Prescott is on an absolute tear at home. He’s passed for 1,555 yards, or 311 per game, with 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions and seven sacks. And he is just getting better as things progress, with over 300 yards and four touchdown passes in each of the last three games in Arlington, and no sacks in the past two.
Obviously he is not doing it all by himself, with the play of the offensive line and his receiving corps vital. But there, Prescott also deserves some credit, as he is so good at evading the pass rush and has increasingly been spreading his passes around. He has completed passes to nine different receivers in every one of the home games, except for the Washington win - where he found ten.
It is also clear that the defense rather likes playing at home, as the point totals show. They have scored a touchdown in three of their home games, all but the two New York teams. Well, to be a bit more specific, new NFL record holder DaRon Bland scored a pick six in every one of the other three home games. It seems he plays very well at AT&T Stadium, too.
While we may be in for a rude awakening in the remaining home games, this just doesn’t seem insignificant. This is way more than the minor advantage the oddsmakers give teams playing in their own house. Dallas has played some bad teams on the road, and except for the first game in New Jersey against the Giants, they have not put together this kind of performance. Since it is the holidays, I won’t go into great detail on what happened against the Arizona Cardinals. While they had a lopsided score at the Carolina Panthers, it was with a fairly low offensive output as Bland also helped pad the score with one of his thefts.
There is just a stark difference between how the Cowboys are playing in Arlington and when they have to travel. It is a bit mysterious, as the crowd at AT&T is hardly one that provides a great deal of intimidation factor for the visitors. That argues this is more about something going on with the players. Confidence, comfort with sleeping at home or, just not having to ride an airliner to the game and check into an unfamiliar hotel all play a part. It must be psychological. That does not make it any less real, as the results so far demonstrate. While we definitely need to see them do better on the road, the remaining three games at home can be very important. It is hard to imagine double digit wins not getting a team into the playoffs, especially in the NFC.
Of course, with the most likely path in those playoffs being as a wild card team, the reduced effectiveness in away games needs to be fixed. But that is still weeks away. For now, they have two more home games in a row coming up, and winning both would be a huge help.
Especially when the Eagles come to town.