There are many, many reasons for the Dallas Cowboys and their fans to feel optimistic. They got their 2023 season off to a thundering start with the 40-0 blowout of the New York Giants in MetLife Stadium on SNF. It is always good to look at games and see what we have learned about the team, but with some real surprises around the league, we also need to widen our focus a little.
Be careful how much weight you put on that final score
It’s safe to say that Dallas greatly exceeded expectations in this game. While they were favorites with the bookmakers, the line going into the game only had them up by 3.5. One conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the Cowboys are actually much better than we thought.
Or you can deduce that the Giants are far worse than expected. While not all agreed, many thought they had taken some significant steps to upgrade the team that made the playoffs as a wild card last season. That was certainly true at our sister site, Big Blue View. Now that has to be questioned.
One of the problems with trying to read things into the first weekend’s slate of games is that we have nothing else to draw from. Is New York really as bad as they looked? Has Dallas assembled a roster that is really so superior across the board? Or did things just snowball for the Giants after a special teams touchdown and a pick six?
We won’t have much of an idea of that until sometime in October. For the Cowboys, this aspect needs to be relegated to the back of their minds. They have to focus each week on the upcoming opponent, and never expect things to go as well as they did on Sunday night.
The defense, however, does look great
These weren’t just good numbers for Dan Quinn’s crew. They were historic in ways. It is common for defenses to be further along than offenses in week one, but this was so big, it has to tell us something about what the DC has built. One thing noted already is how Quinn was able to rotate everyone on the defense to get valuable playing time. Several depth players, including Dorance Armstrong, Markquese Bell, and Juanyeh Thomas, stepped up and delivered, although it must be noted that Armstrong could probably start for many NFL teams. The fact he is in a depth role for Dallas testifies to how good the starters are.
To pitch the shutout when the top defenders all got lots of rest is significant. But keep in mind, this is just one game in a long, grueling season.
What role did the weather play?
It can’t be truly quantified. This was a rain game, something that is not going to happen often, especially for a team that plays all its home games under a roof when the weather isn’t perfect, plus they get the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions in their covered stadiums. This could mean things were at least partly a fluke on Sunday.
We don’t have a great map of the Texas Coast yet
Speaking of the rain, it had a real effect on how Mike McCarthy called the game, by his own admission. He was more cautious than he will be in most games. That means we have to wait to see how his changes play out.
There is some positive news. Dak Prescott, famously prone to interceptions last season, didn’t even come close to turning the ball over. Keep that up, and good things are likely to happen. We also got evidence that CeeDee Lamb is set for a big year, and tantalizing hints of how Brandin Cooks upgrades the receiving corps. On the negative side, Jake Ferguson was not very good at bringing the ball in, something to watch closely.
But there’s another positive note, as the offensive line held up quite well with Chuma Edoga filling in for Tyler Smith at left guard. Prescott was not sacked in the game, and the running backs found some success, especially Tony Pollard. Developing depth for the line is a major need. This was a pretty good step in that direction.
Special teams were big
The field goal block by Thomas that led to Noah Igbinoghene’s scoop and score was about as big a momentum shift as can be imagined. That is hardly something you can rely on, however. We will hope for more big plays from John Fassel’s unit, but that is seldom going to be the difference maker.
Elsewhere around the league...
The season started with a pretty significant upset as the Detroit Lions knocked off the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. Given that the Cowboys visit the Lions in the penultimate regular season game, there is a chance some playoff seeding could be on the line then.
Of the most immediate impact, the New York Jets lost Aaron Rodgers on his fourth play from scrimmage. The greatest nemesis for Dallas is off the board for this week’s season opener in AT&T Stadium. You can’t paint that as a disadvantage for the Cowboys, but it would have been nice to see how the defense handled him.
At the time of Rodgers’ unfortunate injury, everyone assumed the Buffalo Bills would coast to victory over the Jets. Instead, New York shocked everyone by pulling out an overtime win. Now Dallas is preparing to face Zach Wilson, and the big lesson is to never, ever overlook anyone. Wilson has to have gotten a big confidence boost by helping pull that one out. The team is probably going to rally around him. Bills quarterback Josh Allen took the blame for the loss, but that may have been more him saying the right thing for his teammates. While those were different teams, we have seen past Cowboys squads get stunned by backups and supposedly inferior rosters.
One other game from last weekend is interesting to look at. The Philadelphia Eagles won their opener over the New England Patriots, but offensively were unimpressive, with just 251 total yards and needing a pick six to get to the win. It’s still so very early, but we will definitely be keeping an eye on how things unfold in the City of Brotherly Love.
It’s just one game. That alone warrants a lot of caution into reading too much into anything. Enjoy the win, but wait before you start buying those Super Bowl tickets.