During the five-game win streak that the Dallas Cowboys were on the same conversation was going on in my head. It was centered around a hypothetical playoff game for the Dallas Cowboys against the San Francisco 49ers for the third year in a row. After Dallas lost to San Francisco earlier this season, it would be impossible to pick the Cowboys against the 49ers given recent history.
But the win streak gave birth to a new sort of optimism, one that still exists despite last week’s horrible loss, and maybe there was a way where I would pick Dallas to upset Thanos. Maybe these Cowboys, like many before them, would earn their stripes in a playoff game against the 49ers and finally break any kind of curse.
Ultimately it would purely be emotional to pick the Cowboys against San Francisco in a playoff game, and we may not even get a third straight postseason game between the two teams as that is all still a ways away. But there is no question that the fear of it lives rent free in all of our minds which is why Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins is rather important.
Sunday’s Cowboys game against Miami offers a practice test of sorts
The Cowboys are still in the running for the NFC East and top seed in the conference (the latter is certainly a much longer hope), and therefore winning any and all games is of the utmost importance, especially considering how formidable Dallas is at home.
With this understood and acknowledged, we can now discuss the topic at hand which is that the Miami Dolphins offer a practice test of sorts for that hypothetical rematch against San Francisco. Shout out to PFF’s Ben Larimore for putting this thought into the ether on Thursday.
Let me talk to ya for a minute #Cowboys Nation.— Ben Larimore (@larimore_ben) December 21, 2023
Can we talk about why this game is actually important other than seeding??
I’m gonna keep this is as brief as possible.
Mike McDaniel of the Miami Dolphins is the former run game coordinator for… Kyle Shanahan. He’s of the…
Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel hails from the Kyle Shanahan tree and has built an offense that similarly disassembles and embarrasses opposing defenses. Beyond the obvious “the Dolphins have a great offense and the 49ers have a great offense so seeing one great offense is preparation for another great offense”, this is an offense built in the same sort of image what with how much motion and distraction they use.
This is from two weeks ago so the numbers are not reflective of the current moment, but it is safe to say that the Cowboys will expect a ton of motion against the Dolphins.
Motion report, updated through Week 13!— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 7, 2023
League-wide offenses are showing an advantage using motion at the snap on both run and pass plays (still true even if we exclude Dolphins, too).
Data via @ESPNStatsInfo video tracking team. pic.twitter.com/Y1G1LmXDBm
Notice that next Saturday’s opponent, the Detroit Lions, are near the top of the league as well, but nobody is doing this at the same rate that Miami and San Francisco are generally. Except for the team that Dallas would play in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs if they started today (they do not), the Los Angeles Rams.
We are not even a full week removed from the Cowboys defense getting all sorts of lit up, but that was mostly work done on the ground. This isn’t to say that Miami is preparing for some sort of aerial assault but they are certainly preparing to outwit Dan Quinn and his unit at every possible chance. Consider that his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has done so at every opportunity since Quinn has held his current post in Dallas.
Surviving Miami’s offense, or beating the Dolphins outright, would in no way prove that the Cowboys were ready for the 49ers in a potential playoff game. But there are very few opportunities to go up against teams/offenses with the same disposition that Kyle Shanahan has, and if there was a true understudy to fill in for the main performer, then Mike McDaniel is absolutely it.
We will see how things go.