FRISCO, Texas – Before I forget, Happy Thanksgiving.
Now then, on to these Dallas Cowboys.
Do yourselves a favor. Quit trying to predict the future. Quit trying to base your thoughts on whether this team can win a Super Bowl after each win, and then giving up after each loss. Let the season play out.
Remember, the Cowboys are 7-3, first in the NFC East, a 2.5 game lead over second place Philadelphia. The only team in the NFL with fewer losses is Arizona with two.
There is a lot of football left to play, starting Thanksgiving Day, 3:30 p.m., AT&T Stadium against the 5-5 Las Vegas Raiders. Then comes a tough part in the schedule with three consecutive road games – at New Orleans, at Washington, at the Giants.
Now some might say it's tough playing three games in 12 days, not getting the extended break after playing on a short week. And if you think about it, their task is playing four games in just 19 days, from Nov. 21 vs. Atlanta to Dec. 2 vs. the Saints.
And when Cowboys linebacker Keanu Neal was asked what he tells the younger players, knowing they still have seven games to play, that it's a long season, he might as well have been talking to the overeating fans.
"I'd say not to think too far in the future," the veteran and wise Neal said. "Focus on the next game."
Then, "Stay in the present … then let the season take care of itself."
Nice shot to cheer by.
- You Don't Say: We have known for 11 years now that Tyron Smith is a man of few words. Well, he finally has practiced all this short week after missing the last three games with an ankle injury and is being listed as full go for Thursday's game. During his Wednesday interview, linemate La'el Collins was asked what the communication is like with Tyron on game day. "Tyron doesn't say much, especially when he straps the helmet on," Collins says. Even before the game? "He's locked in," Collins said. "He's a different dude." But a darn good one to have out there starting at left tackle.
- Head Games: After suffering that concussion right before halftime against the Chiefs, receiver CeeDee Lamb was entered into the concussion protocol. As of Wednesday, he had returned to practice and is being listed as questionable for the game. He must clear the last concussion protocol component to return, that being no concussion symptoms the day after practicing on Wednesday. CeeDee will be examined by an independent neurologist, who will make the final call on if he plays Thanksgiving Day. All signs are hopeful.
- Calvary Coming: And the Cowboys hope these injured reserve players come to the rescue. So first, Tyron returning Thursday. Then defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence returning to practice Wednesday for the first time since landing on IR Sept. 16 with a fractured fifth metatarsal of his right foot. Now he can continue his rehab for another three days and can get into three days of practice starting Sunday, with an eye on returning for the Dec. 2 game against the Saints. Says Neal of having D-Law back, it's "the presence and the voice." After that, Amari Cooper's mandatory 10-day stay on Reserve/COVID-19 will expire the beginning of next week if he is asymptomatic and tests negative, giving him a chance to return in time for the Saints game. Then there is defensive end Randy Gregory, who will miss his third game Thursday with a calf strain. Has a good chance of returning for the Dec. 12 game against Washington. And don't forget defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, expected to come back the week after that.
- Truth Hurts: Writing was on the wall that someone was going to take the fall for the Giants getting off to their 3-7 start and scoring an average of just 18.9 points a game. So it became Jason Garrett, the offensive coordinator of a personnel-challenged and injured offense, getting fired right after the Giants' Monday night loss. Probably no one wanted to hear Garrett say the previous week during his weekly media session this about the Giants offensive line problems: "You know, you have to make the decision to say, 'OK, we've got to allocate this resource because this is important to us.' And we did that (in Dallas) time and time again. And all of a sudden you've built a really powerful, strong offensive line that's still going today that (includes) really good players, cornerstone players. So that's what you have to do." Got that right, and sometimes the truth does hurt. Some college would do well to hire Garrett as their head coach.
- About Face: Think about this, the 10-game difference between where the Cowboys defense is today and where it was at this point of the 2020 season. The Cowboys are giving up 21.7 points a game. Last year 31.8, already 318 points, more points than the Cowboys had given up in 14 seasons over 16 games since Cowboys owner Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989. Last year after 10 games the Cowboys were ranked 30th in run defense. This year ninth. And get this, 24 passing touchdowns last year to this year's 14.
- Thanksgiving Sides: These numbers from Sunday's loss to the Chiefs are startling, with 167 of Kansas City's 260 receiving yards coming on yards after catch, or 64 percent … During this three-game Raiders losing streak they are averaging just 13.3 points a game … Don't forget, not only is Cowboys former special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia the Raiders' interim head coach after Jon Gruden's forced resignation, but former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is their defensive line coach … The Raiders went 15 consecutive possessions over the past two games without a third down conversion.
And our last word goes to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones during his 105.3 The Fan radio segment on Tuesday when talking about the unvaccinated Amari Cooper testing positive for COVID-19, saying this when asked if he was disappointed in Cooper for not being vaccinated and then testing positive:
"You check 'me' at the door in a football team. That has nothing to do with the issues of masking or not masking, getting vaccinated or not getting vaccinated, and if I have a tone, I shouldn't. It just has nothing to do with it. The facts are, it is a 'we' thing when you walk into the locker room, and everybody is being counted on to pull his weight. Everybody expects that. They look around at each other. They understand everybody's rights. They do. We do. Everybody understands our rights and our options as it pertains to those rights. But if you forget it's a 'we' thing and how important your part is, obviously these guys are rewarded, they're rewarded financially.
"Now, Amari Cooper is outstanding, folks. He is one of the highest character guys that you will ever be around in any area. … Nobody is saying he isn't outstanding, but this is a classic case of how it can impact a team. … This is not individual. It is team.
"You cannot win anything individually."
Amen to that, and by the way, for one last shot, that goes for those calling for the quarterback to put the team on his back. It's one thing for Dak Prescott to try to put the Cowboys on his back, but it becomes burdensome when the other team is on his back, too, the Chiefs sacking him five times and hitting him another eight times.