FRISCO, TX — There's not much time for the Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys to engage the fashion in which they pulled every single feather off of the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14, a prime time shellacking for all to see, because their upcoming schedule doesn't permit more than a few hours of elation before hitting the reset button.
Sitting at 10-3 on the season, the third consecutive 10+ win season in the McCarthy era, the Cowboys are currently atop the NFC East (No. 2 in the NFC), but with a daunting task to come when they visit Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and the Buffalo Bills in Upstate New York.
"There's a path and it's always under construction," said McCarthy after the 33-3 backhanded slap to the Eagles. "It's not who you play as much as it is when you play them. We all know that because of the challenges that lay out every season. These types of games — especially in this current season — we've had a number of games where we've won by a decisive margin.
"So to play in these types of games, I feel, is a great preparation for playoff football."
That's a true statement when assessing what's to come, which is the aforementioned meeting with the Bills in Buffalo followed immediately by a trip to Miami to take on the high-powered Dolphins, then returning home to host the dangerous Detroit Lions in Week 17.
This is indeed playoff-caliber football for nearly the entirety of December.
"These are gonna be juggernauts," McCarthy said.
There's no two ways about it: now is the time for Dallas to morph into Colossus, Wolverine, Hulk and every other mutant with the ability to go toe-to-toe with the force working against the Cowboys' goals this month.
"We've been talking about Buffalo all morning," the Cowboys' head coach and play-caller added. "This is gonna be a great environment to play in — outdoors, northern climate, all of those things. I think this is what you need as part of that opportunity to win and grow. And if things go right and you're able to grab momentum and those chunks of confidence that come with it, a good division win as we had last night, this is an opportunity to learn and grow our football team.
"That's gonna be very important. … I'm looking forward to the competition [to come]."
It's no secret the Cowboys are the most dominant home team in the NFL, having won 15 straight at AT&T Stadium (seven in 2023) and with a point differential that rivals most collegiate programs, but they're 3-3 on the road and that has to improve — promptly.
"Your team has to be built to win anywhere," said McCarthy.
The good news is Dak Prescott is effectively the frontrunner for MVP based on his inhuman level of play following the team's loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5, and the defense has shaken off a bad day at the office against the Seattle Seahawks — though they were vital in helping to shut the door on the Seahawks to end the fight — to prevent Jalen Hurts and Co. from scoring a single offensive touchdown.
For context, Brandon Aubrey had more points than the Eagles.
Needless to say, riding a five-game win streak, and with the exclamation point of what occurred on Sunday evening against the Eagles, the Cowboys are indeed running their own race.
It's on to the next, though.
"[Our confidence is] where we need [it] to be," said McCarthy. "It's definitely high, and it should be. Is it the highest of the year [so far]? Probably so, and I think the reality is it was a fun ride home … but it's midnight or one o'clock in the morning so we had to wake up in Buffalo.
"That's an uncommon opponent. There's a lot of new faces — players that I've never competed against."
There are still plenty of possible playoff scenarios in the NFC that will unfold and solidify over the next four weeks, but the Cowboys aren't interested in doing anything more than running their own race and maybe, just maybe, they'll begin peeking at the potential seedings once they get their next win; and they're hard at work on trying to make sure they gain it in Buffalo.
Until then, there's nothing to talk about except what's right in front of them.
"There's nothing to juggle," McCarthy explained. "You can't control what the other aspects of it are. We need to beat Buffalo. When we're standing at 11 wins, then we'll look around and things will be a little more clear."