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Cowboys point/counterpoint: Time to keep making statements

As much as we want to look ahead the Dallas Cowboys have to focus on the Seattle Seahawks.

NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
It’s time to “welcome” Seattle back to Texas.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The easy times are over for the Dallas Cowboys. In their first eleven games, they have only faced two teams that now have winning records, the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles, and we know how those turned out. Now they face a five-game stretch against teams that all are in the thick of the playoff race, with three of them currently leading their divisions, including the rematch with the Eagles who sit at 10-1. First up is the Seattle Seahawks, who are barely clinging to the seventh seed.

The Cowboys are in much better shape. Their 8-3 record has them tied for second best in the conference. At the moment they are the fifth seed, which would have them facing off against the NFC South winner, which looks like a very easy matchup. They may need that as all three of their losses have been on the road. Home field advantage in the playoffs looks more and more like an impossible dream.

There is a lot to consider as they prepare for the Seahawks and the gauntlet of December games. Considering things is kinda what our David Howman and Tom Ryle do when they get together.

Tom: So many people are watching the Eagles and clinging to the hope that the Cowboys will get some help to overtake them and get at least one home playoff game. I have written that off. Sure, I’d love to be surprised, but I just want to see them finish strong and hopefully get a couple of road wins to build a little confidence. Win the games you have and don’t worry about what you can’t control.

David: Exactly, win the games you have and focus on what you can control. That’s precisely what the Cowboys have done all year, despite the criticism that they’re just beating up on bad teams. Speaking of, seven of their eight wins this year have come by three or more scores. A lot of those were against bad teams, but they handed the New York Giants their two worst losses of the year, as well as giving the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers, and Washington Commanders their worst losses of the year. The only teams they didn’t beat worse than anybody else were the Los Angeles Chargers - a team that’s heavily committed to the bit of losing every game by one score - and the Jets, whom they beat by 20 points.

My point in bringing all of this up is that the Cowboys haven’t beat any good teams yet, but they’ve gone above and beyond in destroying the teams they have faced. They don’t control who they play, but they do control how they play them. It’s why the Cowboys sit alone at the top of the point differential rankings despite getting blown out 42-10 by the 49ers. It’s also why I expect them to keep playing well even as the schedule gets harder.

Tom: I have the same expectations. In a lot of ways, the schedule may actually have done them a favor. After they had to do some soul searching after the debacle against San Francisco, they had a bunch of very winnable games, except for Philadelphia. They did exactly that, but as you mentioned, were not just winning the games they should, but crushing opponents, while putting up a good fight at the Eagles’ house. Now they have a sort of ramp up game against Seattle, who are just barely a winning team and will stand at .500 if Dallas can take care of business. If they can put another strong showing together, which has been the trend at AT&T Stadium, they will have some nice momentum for the Eagles to come to town. If you believe in momentum. I look at it more as confidence, and right now, the Cowboys are a confident bunch.

One thing I do feel is that we are seeing the strength of the roster, along with some very good health for this stage of the season. They have established stars like Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, Tyron Smith, Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Stephon Gilmore, a bunch of rising or returning to form contributors like Tyler Smith, Terence Steele, Jake Ferguson, Brandin Cooks, Osa Odighizuwa, Jayron Kearse, and record-setting DaRon Bland, and surprisingly good depth. I am in the Jimmies and Joes beat Xs and Os camp, and think that is crucial for the rest of the season and the playoffs.

David: The Cowboys are, indeed, playing with a ton of confidence right now. Not just that, but the remaining schedule doesn’t even look as daunting as it did a month ago. Seattle was 5-2 but they’ve dropped three of their last four; Philadelphia might be the luckiest team in history; Buffalo is sitting at .500 with just a 14% chance to make the playoffs; Miami, like Dallas, hasn’t beaten a team above .500 so far this year; and Detroit just got upset by a pretty bad Green Bay Packers team four days after almost losing to the Chicago Bears.

That doesn’t make any of those games easy, of course, but it’s no longer the climb up Mordor that it once looked like. More importantly, while all of those teams have played some rather uninspired ball as of late, the Cowboys have played their best. Over the last five games, the Cowboys lead the league in total team EPA/play and are third in weighted team DVOA.

Mike McCarthy understands the importance of playing your best towards the end of the year. In Green Bay, his Packers teams were 39-16 in the months of December and January, and so far his Cowboys are 12-5 in those months. That makes for a very impressive 51-21 record in the final two months of the regular season. He’s already got his team playing well, and another strong finish to the year with this kind of schedule could set the Cowboys up in very good position come playoff time.

Tom: I agree they are playing their best football at the best time of the regular season. I hope December brings lots of nice presents, even if it might not quiet the “they haven’t played really good opponents” talk.

Mostly, though, I agree that administering big beat downs is the best counter to that stuff. If they keep that up, and can carry it into the new year, they could go on a real run. The Eagles game has been circled on our calendars since the day the schedule was announced, and it looms even bigger than we thought back then. If they can push Philly around and make it look fairly easy, it is going to be hard to argue they are not one of the real powers in the league.

That is still to come, however. This week, they need to thrash the Seahawks soundly and keep AT&T Stadium the place of nightmares for visitors. Then they get that nice mini-bye to get ready for the Eagles. Let’s hope the roll just keeps going.

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