Credit: Fox Sports/NFL Game Pass
Yes. The Dallas Cowboys.
I know, I know, they already lost to Philadelphia. In fact, they lost a couple of weeks ago. But that was with Cooper Rush at quarterback, not Dak Prescott. And while Rush is 5-1 as an emergency starter, the difference between the two was apparent in Sunday’s 49-29 beat down of Chicago.
Prescott was back to being Dak, running and throwing with confidence, and the Cowboys were back to being a team that can bury you a myriad of ways. They ran for 200 yards. They threw for another 242. They converted nine of 11 third downs, scored a defensive touchdown and sacked Chicago’s Justin Fields four times.
In short, they looked a lot like … well, a lot like the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, keep in mind, this was on an afternoon when running back Zeke Elliott didn’t suit up. So the Cowboys had to rely on backup Tony Pollard, and all he did was shred the Bears’ defense for 147 scrimmage yards and three TDs.
Yet Pollard was the sidebar. Dak was the story.
In rhythm throughout, he led the Cowboys to four successive scoring drives to open the game and catapult them to a 28-7 lead. The rest you know: Dallas wound up scoring more points than any game this season. Its third-down conversion rate of 81.8 was its best in at least 30 years. And things went so smoothly that even the Cowboys’ punter made news. Bryan Anger nailed an 83-yard punt, with a 63-yard net after the touchback.
See what I mean? All its bases were covered.
Now, where the Eagles and Cowboys diverge is the schedule. The Cowboys’ next three games are vs. Green Bay, Minnesota and the New York Giants. The Eagles’ next three are vs. Houston, Washington and Indianapolis. Nevertheless, at some point, someone will emerge to push Philadelphia.
It may be Minnesota. It may be San Francisco. It may even be a longshot like the Giants who, at 6-2, are tied with Dallas, or Seattle. But if you ask me which team I’d choose to push the Eagles to the finish line … give me the Cowboys, and not just because they can beat you with the run and pass; but because they have a Top-5 defense, too.
The last time that happened with a Mike McCarthy-coached team was 2010. And that team (Green Bay) won the Super Bowl.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Jalen Hurts is making an MVP case. He just threw four TD passes of 25 or more yards, the first time in 53 years of Eagles’ history that happened. But here’s the clincher: The guy’s thrown 10 TD passes, run for six more scores and has only two turnovers all year. Two. And no lost fumbles. Then there’s this: Hurts quarterbacks the league’s only unbeaten team and won his last 10 regular-season starts. Look in your rear-view mirror, Josh Allen: That image that’s larger than it appears? It’s Jalen Hurts.
2. Mike Tomlin is doomed. He hasn’t had a losing season in 15 years as the Steelers’ head coach, but that streak ends this season. The Steelers are 2-6 and going nowhere with a rookie quarterback learning on the fly. Hard to believe, but the Steelers might be sellers this week.
3. We were wrong about Seattle. When the Seahawks traded away Russell Wilson, it seemed to signal they were in a tear-down mode. Not true, said Pete Carroll. He insisted they were good enough to make a run at a division title with … Geno Smith? We don’t make ‘em up. Critics scoffed, but look where we are eight weeks into the season: The Seahawks … with Geno Smith as their quarterback … are in first place in the NFC West, for Pete’s sake, ahead of the defending Super Bowl-champion L.A. Rams.
4. Green Bay is in deep doo-doo. A week ago, Aaron Rodgers said that going to Buffalo “might be the best thing for us.” Wrong. The Packers didn’t just lose. They were flattened. Rodgers couldn’t make plays. The offensive line couldn’t protect. The defense couldn’t make stops. There were injuries, an ejection, too much Josh Allen, too little Aaron Rodgers … I think you get the picture. The Packers got drilled. Again. Now 3-5, they’re 3-1/2 games behind front-running Minnesota in the NFC North and looking less and less like a team that will … or can … make a playoff run.
5. Beware Miami. The Dolphins don’t play an opponent with a winning record until Dec. 11 (the Chargers), and you can look it up. Their next three opponents are a combined 6-15-1.
THIRD AND 20
1. Let’s be honest: Atlanta didn’t win that game. Carolina lost it. Attention, D.J. Moore and Eddy Pineiro: Pick up your game balls in the Falcons’ locker room. Atlanta couldn’t have survived without you.
2. Another reason to like what’s going on in Buffalo: The Bills have beaten four opponents that were 2021 division winners (Kansas City, Green Bay, Tennessee and the L.A. Rams).
3. It doesn’t matter where you go in the NFL East. You can’t lose. The NFC East is 23-8. The AFC East is 20-7. Put them together, and you have eight clubs at 43-15, a 74.1 winning percentage. Better yet, there isn’t anyone in either division with a losing record. By contrast, four other divisions have no more than one team above .500, while the NFC South has none.
4. Fright Night came early to L.A. Bad enough that the Rams dropped their eighth straight regular-season game to arch-rival San Francisco. What’s worse is that they lost All-World wide receiver Cooper Kupp to an ankle injury late in the game. Stay tuned.
5. How much do the Jets miss rookie Breece Hall? We just found out. Zach Wilson can’t carry this team. He was 1 for 14 when pressured, with three interceptions. Halfway through the season, the Jets still have a quarterback problem.
6. It’s time to worry about Trevor Lawrence. In 25 starts, the guy has 22 TD passes, 23 interceptions and a 5-20 record. Once upon a time, you could blame his shortcomings on Urban Meyer. Not anymore.
7. More evidence that it’s not so much parity as it is mediocrity that rules today’s NFL: The Seattle-N.Y. Giants game was the only one Sunday involving two teams with winning records.
8. Forget accuracy. Justin Fields needs to work on tackling, too. Rewind Micah Parsons’ fumble return for a TD, and you’ll see what I mean.
9. Philadelphia isn’t going 16-0. We know that. But who’s going to beat the Eagles? They don’t face an opponent with a winning record until Dec. 4 when Tennessee comes to town.
10. Derrick Henry owns the Texans. In his last four starts vs. Houston, King Henry has 892 yards rushing (an average of 223 per), nine rushing TDs and over 200 yards rushing in each contest. No need to remind rookie quarterback Malik Willis. Making his first NFL start, he won by throwing just 10 times. How? Easy: Derrick Henry had 32 carries.
11. If you’re shopping in New Orleans, the price for Alvin Kamara just went up. He put up 158 scrimmage yards and scored three times.
12. That didn’t take long. Christian McCaffrey just demonstrated why he’s the difference maker that could (should?) make San Francisco – not the Rams or Seattle -- the team to beat in the NFC West. With 183 yards, he was responsible for 51 percent of the 49ers’ 362. He also became the first player since Hall-of-Famer LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005 to score a touchdown by running, another by receiving and a third by passing. “The guy can just do it all,” said NBC analyst Jason Garrett. Bingo.
13. Miami is 5-0 when Tua starts and finishes a game this season. Just sayin.’
14. Just a hunch but … no talk this week about a quarterback controversy in Foxboro.
15. Sorry, but I still don’t get why coaches line up in shotgun with a yard or less to go. Case in point: It’s third-and-goal at the Washington three-inch line, and Frank Reich has rookie quarterback Sam Ehlinger in -- what else? – the shotgun. Why? Beats me. Result: A run up the middle gains nothing, the Colts kick a field goal and lose by one.
16. The more I see Kenneth Walker III, the more I see a young Derrick Henry.
17. No surprise that Indianapolis lost. The Colts started a rookie quarterback. Since 1970, Colts’ quarterbacks making their first career starts are 1-16.
18. Buffalo should demand more Sunday Night exposure. Since Sean McDermott took over in 2017, the Bills are 4-0 on Sunday Night Football, the only team with multiple victories and no defeats on Sunday Night the past six years.
19. Just when you think it can’t get worse for Vegas and Josh McDaniels, it does. Sunday’s 24-0 loss was the 22nd defeat in McDaniels last 29 games as a head coach. A year ago the Raiders went to the playoffs with Rich Bisaccia. They’re going nowhere now with McDaniels. Draw your own conclusions.
20. Coming soon to Pay Per View” Jaire Alexander vs. Stefon Diggs.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET STATS
Courtesy of NFL Research: The Broncos’ Latavius Murray is the first player in league history to score a rushing TD for two different teams in London in the same season.
Geno Smith has six games this season with multiple touchdown passes. He had seven in his first nine NFL seasons.
Tyreek Hill’s four games with 150 or more receiving yards tie him with Mark Duper (1984) for the most in one season in Miami history.
Stefon Diggs has at least one touchdown in his last eight games vs. Green Bay. That’s the longest such streak by any opponent in Packers’ history, bettering Randy Moss (7) by one game.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET QUOTES
“We never can allow somebody to score that many points on us. That’s embarrassing.” -- Chicago linebacker Roquan Smith.
“I need to play better.” – N.Y. Jets’ quarterback Zach Wilson.
“Obviously, that wasn’t good enough in any way, shape or form.” – Denver coach Josh McDaniels.
“We don’t have to do anything, but if it’s right we’ll do something.” – Dallas owner Jerry Jones on a possible trade this week.
“It hurts. I know this is not going to define me as a kicker. Everybody misses kicks. Unfortunately, my time was today” – Carolina kicker Eddy Pineiro on his misses.