The Cowboys are hoping for a bit of a Christmas miracle this year, needing to pull out tough wins over the Dolphins, Lions, and Commanders while being gifted just one more Eagles loss. Oh, and a 49ers loss would be a nice cherry on top, too. Is that too much to ask for, Santa Claus?
We’ll find out on Monday, when both the Eagles and 49ers play, but the Cowboys first have to beat a red-hot Dolphins team on the road. The Cowboys have struggled away from home, while the Dolphins have only lost once in front of their home crowd this year. Can the Cowboys bounce back from last week’s embarrassing loss? Let’s see what our writers think.
When Miami has the ball
Control the line of scrimmage
This one is a little obvious, but still bears repeating. The Cowboys got gashed on the ground last week by a team that isn’t even known for their run game. Now they face a Dolphins team whose entire offensive scheme is built around it. Miami may not be the most run-heavy team, but they do lead the league in yards per carry (5.1) and are third in play-action rate.
The last time Dallas faced this offensive scheme, against the 49ers, they were able to limit the opponent to just 4.1 yards per carry. However, they got ripped to shreds in the play-action game, giving up three touchdowns on play-action passes. The Cowboys need to control the line of scrimmage against this Dolphins offense without completely selling out to stop the run. That might actually be doable this week, as four starters along Miami’s offensive line are listed on the injury report while their starting center - former Cowboy Connor Williams - tore his ACL two weeks ago and is out for the year.
When Dallas has the ball
The Cowboys have been one of the better offenses at moving the chains consistently and extending drives, leading the league in both yards per drive and plays per drive. That wasn’t the case last week, though, as the Cowboys had just four drives of seven plays or more; two of them came in the fourth quarter when they were down by four touchdowns and the game was effectively over.
If there is any game where it would be especially beneficial to consistently feature longer drives, it’s this one. Keeping the Dolphins offense off the field as much as possible is the best way to slow them down, and the Cowboys have the capacity to do just that. Obviously, they also need these long drives to result in points - they also lead the league in percentage of drives that result in a score - but a quick strike offense isn’t the ideal way to counter this high-powered Dolphins attack.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...
Tom Ryle (9-5):
I simply don’t have any confidence about what is going to happen. The Cowboys looked so dismal against the Bills, but there were a handful of plays that really changed the trajectory of the game (the Sam Williams roughing the punter and the missed fumble) and it was a terrible performance by Dak Prescott.
Buffalo beat Dallas with the run, and Miami is one of the better running teams. If the Cowboys wind up failing to stop their ground attack, this will go badly, and I’m afraid that will happen.
Look for another failure on the road against a good team, and I’m not going to say that this will not look just as bad as last Sunday.
Tony Catalina (11-3):
I know that the Dolphins pose a lot of different challenges and containing their offensive attack will take a much better effort than what we saw last week. I’ve said all along that this game was the matchup that scared me the most with Mike McDaniel and that 49ers flavor he brought to the southeast with him.
However, I just don’t think the Cowboys are going to lose two in a row and whatever the best of the defense has to give, they’re going to give it this week and be just enough to win.
Give me Dallas 24-20.
Matt Holleran (12-2):
History tells us good teams almost always bounce back the week after getting embarrassed. I think we see the Cowboys follow suit this Sunday and put on display a much more competitive performance in Miami.
Still, I don’t trust their defense, specially their run defense, to be able to slow down Miami’s high powered offense. If Zack Martin was a lock to play in this game I’d be more inclined to pick Dallas, but his status seems 50/50 at best at this point. I think the Cowboys keep it close, but Miami’s offense and pass rush is too much in the end.
Give me the Dolphins, 30-23.
Brandon Lore (9-3):
If you would have asked me before the season, I would have said the Cowboys go 0–2 during this stretch of at Buffalo and Miami. Even before last week’s game, I never felt confident about the Cowboys matching up with this high-powered, fast offense.
However, the Cowboys have never lost back-to-back games in two years under Mike McCarthy, so people should give him the benefit of the doubt. Miami will have much warmer weather, and I expect this game to be closer because of how strong both defenses are.
People expect a shootout, but I say the Cowboys win in a nail-biter, 26-23.
Matthew Lenix (10-4):
The Dallas Cowboys have a huge test when they face the Miami Dolphins who have the league’s top offense and a top-five defense that’s second in sacks. So, it will he paramount for them to start fast offensively, especially after their dismal performance in Buffalo, and hopefully force the Dolphins to pass more and let their pass-rush feast, which is their specialty.
I have the Cowboys winning 31-27.
Mike Poland (10-4):
The Cowboys face a battle this week against the quarterback that leads the league in passing, the wide receiver that leads the NFL in a number of receiving categories, and a running back duo that is hot. All this sounds daunting, but the Miami Dolphins are 0-3 when facing a team with a .500 record or better this year.
On top of this, the Cowboys lead the NFL in defensive touchdowns, where the Dolphins offense have turned the ball over 20 times this year, that’s seventh-most this year. And the Dolphins lead the NFL in opposing teams scoring the most defensive touchdowns against them.
This is a bounce-back game for the Cowboys defense and a win on the road, 27-20.
Brian Martin (10-4):
This will be the first time I’ve picked against the Cowboys all season. Unfortunately, I just believe the Dolphins create too many problematic matchups Dallas may not be able to overcome. I hope I’m wrong, but I decided to go with my gut on this one by predicting a “W” for Miami in a close one.
Cowboys lose, 24-17.
RJ Ochoa (11-3):
This has been an annoying week but it is important for us to remember that this version of the Dallas Cowboys is one that does not tend to let a bad loss hang over their heads and mount a streak. I am very afraid of the Dolphins and their high-powered offense, but also am wondering how they could possibly avoid looking ahead to an important matchup next week against the Ravens.
I’ll take the Cowboys in one that is probably way closer than we would all prefer.
David Howman (9-5):
The Cowboys and Dolphins are two extremely similar teams in terms of how they play. Schematically, they’re nothing alike, but both teams struggle on the road and against good teams while dominating at home. Plus, the Cowboys are usually really good coming off a loss. So this game promises to be interesting at the very least, which would be a big step up from last week.
I do expect a better game from this team in all three phases, but the Dolphins are a tough team to beat in Miami. They’re well-coached and extremely talented, and their strengths happen to be the Cowboys’ weaknesses. This should be a really close game that goes down to the wire, but if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that the team who wins will have a head coach with the initials MM.
Cowboys lose 24-20.