FIRSCO, Texas – The 6-4 Cowboys vs. the 9-1 Patriots, certainly creating an air of excitement in these parts.
Can feel it. In this building. With the media. On talk radio. Even somewhat in the locker room, even though the standard response seems to be this is the next game.
OK, fine, but some game it is. And not just because the Cowboys are heading up to Foxborough, Mass., to play the Patriots where they have not won a game since 1987 – three straight losses there. But knowing the Cowboys need to string a few victories together if they want to accomplish their first goal of 2019: Become the first team in the NFC East to win back-to-back division titles since the Eagles in 2003-04.
Because face it, a one-game lead over the Eagles with six to go is no cushion whatsoever.
Hopefully the shots are up to this week's expectations.
- Hot Ticket: This is rather amazing. According to this site TickPick, the average ticket for Sunday's Cowboys-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium has now risen to $719.93, the highest average for the 2019 season so far. On SeatGeek, tickets are selling between $323 to $1,853, and on other resale sites as much as $2,200.
- De-Fense: No matter we keep hearing how much the Patriots offense has been struggling these past two games, held to 20 points in the loss to Baltimore and just 17 in beating Philadelphia this past week. The Cowboys defense has been on a downturn these past two weeks. The Cowboys were beaten 28-24 by the Vikings two weeks ago, the second-most points they've given up this season – six less than the Packers scored in the 34-24 beating of the Cowboys. And then this past Sunday, Dallas did beat the Detroit Lions, but by only eight, 35-27. So a team giving up an average of 17.7 points a game over the first eight has been hit for an average of 27.5 in the past two. That won't do when playing the NFL's top-ranked scoring defense (10.8 per game).
- Peas In A Pod: How strange you think this is: The Cowboys, with the No. 1 offense when it comes to total yards, have scored 286 points in 10 games, an easy math of 28.6 a game, fourth in the NFL. The Patriots with the 15th-ranked offense, have scored 287 points, or 28.7 points a game, third in the NFL. But here is where the Patriots points are different. They have six returns for touchdowns, two interceptions and four fumbles.
- Big Take Away: Want to know why the Patriots have the No. 1 defense in the NFL. Look no further than turnover differential. They have an unheard of 28 takeaways already – 19 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries for a plus-18 differential. The next best differential belongs to the Steelers and Packers at plus-8. As for the Cowboys, oh boy, they are at minus-1. Only five teams have fewer than the Cowboys' 12 takeaways, and only Detroit has fewer than the Cowboys' four interceptions, but by just one.
- Ski Bums: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recalls this close brush with now Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, and seems as though this would have been following the Cowboys' Super Bowl XXX victory over Pittsburgh that 1995 season. At the time, Belichick, the former defensive coordinator for Bill Parcells with the New York Giants when they won Super Bowls XXI and XXV, had just been fired as the Cleveland Browns head coach after that 1995 season. "I'll never forget I was skiing after the season was over, the Cowboys season was over," Jones said Monday during his segment on 105.3 The Fan with Shan & RJ," and I was renting skis for my grandkids, and there was a line. I'm sitting in the back and somebody bumps into me a few times and I turn around. There was this guy, and I couldn't make of him because he had his ski stuff on, and goggles. Raised them up, and it was Bill. Of course, he no longer had a job, he'd been with Cleveland and they let him go up there. And he said, 'Boy listen, I can coach, and if you ever get an opportunity, don't forget about me.' And I thought about that many times." But probably not until the Patriots hired him as head coach in 2000. Because in his five seasons as the Browns head coach he went 36-44, with only one winning season, that in 1994 when he went 11-5 and earned a wild-card berth into the AFC playoffs. Since, now in his 20th season in New England, Belichick has suffered only one losing season, his first with the Patriots (5-11), and at 9-1 this year is just one more shy of tying the Cowboys' NFL record of 20 straight winning seasons under Tom Landry. "You never know where you can find a great coach," Jones quipped. "You can find them in a ski checkout line sometime."
- Parting Shot: And maybe you can find a franchise quarterback in the fourth round, the second fourth-round pick at that. Why, Dak Prescott has just been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season after his 444-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Lions. Currently, Dak leads the NFL with 3,221 yards passing, is second in average-gain per attempt at 8.8, second in touchdowns with 21 and third in completions with 247, along with the eighth-ranked QB rating of 104.1. And just for historical perspective, Dak's 104.9 his rookie season in 2016 is second to only Tony Romo's 113.2 in 2014. Wonder where all those folks are who insisted Dak would never, ever, ever be a franchise quarterback. Poor accuracy. Couldn't throw deep. Hangs on to the ball too long. Can't hit receivers on the move. Probably hope all that blabber has disintegrated into thin air.