Santa Claus has to deliver presents worldwide in one night, and yet, the Dallas Cowboys winning three games in 12 days feels like an even more significant accomplishment. No slight to the Holly Jolly man, but credit to Mike McCarthy for making sure his guys were prepared to travel, play two games outside their regular Sunday-Sunday schedule, and run the table.
The Cowboys delivered two dominating performances against the struggling Carolina Panthers and division-rival Washington Commanders. However, their final performance against the Seattle Seahawks was perhaps their most impressive. They delivered a masterclass on offense, while the stumbling defense collected themselves enough to make two last stops. This showed the team has a playoff performance in their DNA.
There’s no question some of the players are hitting their stride and continue to stack good games on top of each other. Considering all three games, here are the top six players from Weeks 11-13.
6. Osa Odighizuwa, DT
The Cowboys’ defensive tackle has turned into a Pro Bowl player for their defense. He might not be a household name, but when it comes to stopping the run or rushing the passer, there aren’t too many snaps that go by without mentioning his name.
According to Pro Football Focus, Odighizuwa had his second-best game of the season against the Commanders. He finished with an overall grade of 88.3 and had a run defense grade of 86.2. His grade defending the run was the best among all defensive interior players for Week 12.
He followed it up with his third-best performance of the year against the Seahawks. Odighizuwa had four tackles on Thursday night, and all four were recorded as stops or negative plays for the opposing offense.
One of the biggest concerns for Dallas’ defense entering the season was defending the run. Even though they drafted Mazi Smith and re-signed Johnathan Hankins, Odighizuwa has been their most impactful player, which shows in his play this year.
5. Tony Pollard, RB
The Cowboys franchise player has finally found his footing. It looked bumpy for Tony Pollard to start the season, but over the last few weeks, he’s turned a corner and looks as explosive as ever.
The Dallas offense has balance when they can get Pollard running the football. Since the Carolina game, Pollard has 208 rushing yards and three touchdowns. His yardage on the ground ranks eighth among running backs since Week 11, and his rushing touchdowns rank tied for second.
The most crucial part of Pollard’s game has always been his ability to force missed tackles. Since the game against the Panthers, he has forced 14 missed tackles, tied for second with Miami’s Raheem Mostert.
Considering Pollard has 26 on the season, having 14 in three weeks is a step in the right direction and one he certainly needs to continue.
4. Brandin Cooks, WR
This time last year, the Cowboys were looking for a second receiver to separate themselves and take stress away from CeeDee Lamb. A recovering Michael Gallup was doing his best, but wasn’t having the impact needed. It took the Cowboys to look outside their building and sign free agent T.Y. Hilton.
What a difference a year makes.
Dallas’ offense has finally found a rhythm when using Brandin Cooks in their weekly game plan. He has 497 yards, but 332 have come from Week 10 to 13. Cooks’ speed and pristine route running perfectly complement Lamb’s game.
Cooks earned Prescott’s trust in training camp, and it’s great to see the chemistry showing itself in big moments. It feels like Cooks has a critical catch on a third- or fourth-down play every week. This offense is better with him in it, and the receivers around him are better because of his mentorship.
3. CeeDee Lamb, WR
What can be said about CeeDee Lamb that hasn’t already been said? Even though he had “down” weeks against the Panthers and Commanders, his most important game came when his team needed him the most against the Seahawks.
Lamb was dealing with an ankle injury that seemed aggravated in Carolina, but that didn’t bother him on Thursday night. When the offense needed a first down or a big play, Dak Prescott looked in his direction 17 times.
No. 88 finished the game with 12 receptions, 116 yards, and one touchdown. What’s unique about Lamb’s performance is that he took most of his snaps as an outside receiver on 51.9 percent of the plays.
Since Week 10, Lamb has played more on the outside, which speaks to his game being so dangerous and versatile that Mike McCarthy can use him in various ways to win.
2. Micah Parsons, DE
Questions surrounded Micah Parsons after the game at home against the New York Giants. Outside of the matchup in San Francisco versus the 49ers, the Giants game was Parsons’ second-lowest PFF-graded performance of the season. Parsons followed it up by having two of his best outputs of the season in Weeks 11 and 13.
The pregame workout may have helped Parsons look like a man possessed, but he was a one-man wrecking crew in Carolina. He had a season-high in pressures, sacks, and hurries. Bryce Young never stood a chance.
Parsons feasted on Thanksgiving, but what could be his signature moment in Defensive Player of the Year voting is the final defensive stop against Seattle. With Geno Smith needing a game-winning drive, they called a screenplay on fourth down that couldn’t materialize because Parsons got to Smith in just 1.4 seconds.
Parsons is usually the fastest player on the field, so keeping him fresh and healthy for the playoffs will make the difference between an early exit and a legitimate run at the Super Bowl.
1. Dak Prescott, QB
Dak Prescott is playing MVP football right now. Ever since the game against the 49ers, he’s become a completely different player and is putting up insane numbers on offense.
From Weeks 11 to 13, Prescott leads all quarterbacks in touchdowns, PFF grade (93.1), and passing grade (92.3) and is third with a 116.9 QBR. His perfect performance on Thanksgiving was the most impressive game of his season, but what he did against Seattle’s secondary might be the most meaningful. Not just for his MVP campaign but for fan’s hopes at another Lombardi Trophy.
For the first half of the season, Mike McCarthy talked about leaning on their defense as the strength of their team. Since the bye week, the offense has become the backbone of what the Cowboys do best.
On a night when their defense couldn’t slow down the Seahawks offense, Prescott kept giving them a chance to find themselves before the end of the game. We’ve seen this team win against lesser opponents, but against a current Wild Card team, Prescott showed he could win an offensive shootout—something that didn’t happen earlier in the year.