What a win over the Patriots could mean for Prescott, Cowboys
By Greg Lehr | @greglehr3
The Dallas Cowboys (6-4) enter Sunday’s showdown against the New England Patriots (9-1) still desperate to add a signature win on their up-and-down 2019 campaign. Through their first ten games, it's been well documented how the Cowboys have only beaten teams at or below the .500 mark. In fact, Dallas' six wins (Giants twice, Redskins, Dolphins, Eagles, and Lions) have come against teams with a combined record of 13-36-
1. In contrast, three of their four losses have come against NFC teams with eight wins on the year (Saints, Packers, and Vikings). Simply put, this is a hump the Cowboys need to find a way to get over if they want to play in the postseason. Jason Garrett, in particular, needs to put together some significant wins down the stretch as he faces growing pressure with each and every disappointing loss that piles up against other top NFC teams.
Right now, Dallas is widely viewed as a fraud because of their lack of success against other playoff-caliber teams, especially in their own conference. Dallas' roster, from top to bottom, is considered one of the better rosters in the entire league, so it's only fair to look towards the two main factors to wins and losses in this league – head coach and quarterback. However, while Garrett may have the most to lose if things go south, QB Dak Prescott perhaps has the most to gain if Dallas escapes Foxboro with a win.
For the most part, all eyes will be on the Prescott and the Cowboys' top-ranked offense as they face off against the Patriots' first-overall defense. Each unit is well established as to who they are this season and why they have been so effective on their respective sides of the ball, with each ranking near the top of the league in several significant categories.
The Cowboys’ offense has taken massive leaps forward this season under the play calling of Kellen Moore in addition to the rapid development of Dak Prescott. Moore’s impact on this offense has been evident by way of utilizing multiple formations, more pre-snap motioning, and a much more vertical passing attack - all of which has made the Dallas offense look much more modern than in years past under Scott Linehan. Over the last three seasons, the offense in Dallas has gone through Ezekiel Elliott, so much so that the Cowboys rewarded Zeke by making him the highest-paid running back in NFL history just before the start of the regular season. Up until the last few weeks, it would not be a stretch to say the majority of opinions surrounding the Cowboys pointed towards the idea that Dak needed Zeke in order to be worth any sort of extension past his rookie deal. However, just ten games into this season, that tide has quickly shifted the other way in large part due to Dak’s substantial improvement.
After last week’s performance in Detroit, in which Prescott threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns, the chatter has grown in terms of mentioning Dak’s name in the MVP conversation, and rightfully so. Prescott’s command of the offense has been much more apparent this year than in any other previous season, and his numbers back it up. He currently leads the league in passing (is currently on pace for over 5,000 yards), is second in ESPN’s QBR behind Russell Wilson, and is completing 68% (T-8th) of his passes while ranking third in yards per attempt. The NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks compared Dak’s passing pace to last year’s league MVP Patrick Mahomes, showing Dak’s thrown for more yards per game and has a higher completion percentage through ten games than Mahomes at this time a year ago.
An even deeper dive into advanced stats and analytics will show you Prescott’s name near the top of the list in many other categories as well. So what is holding him back from being mentioned on the same page as Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson? Wins – especially signature wins that put the league on notice that Dallas is a real contender. Jackson’s performance in primetime against this same Patriots team a couple weeks ago vaulted him into the top-two of the MVP discussion.
While even a great showing by Dak won’t get him on the same level as Wilson and Jackson just yet, it’s a necessary stepping stone to move into that realm of the MVP conversation. Since 2016 (Dak’s rookie season), only Tom Brady has more wins to his name than Dak. On Sunday afternoon in Foxboro, Prescott and the Cowboys can put a lot of legitimacy to their 2019 MVP and postseason campaigns – this is the time to see if they can deliver.