FRISCO, Texas – Happy Thanksgiving?
Er, maybe just, Thanksgiving.
Since no one seems to be happy these days around here.
The owner is not happy.
The president is not happy.
The general manager is not happy.
The head coach is not real happy.
The players aren't happy.
Goodness knows, you guys aren't happy, either.
That's what happens when the high-expectation Cowboys are 6-5, heading into the 52nd edition of Thanksgiving that began at the Cotton Bowl, continued into Texas Stadium and now has become an annual staple at AT&T Stadium.
And this is the conundrum the Cowboys are in these days: Are they 6-5 because they are not good enough? Or are they more talented than your normal 6-5 team?
Cowboys Pro Bowl guard Zack Mart probably sums up this conundrum best, saying, "Look, we're definitely not where we'd seen ourselves at this point, before the year started, but look, we're still on top of our division and control our destiny.
"The most important part for us is to go out there on Thursday and get a win."
Got that right.
Obviously, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is seconding that motion, not shy about saying Wednesday morning when promoting The Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign kickoff Thanksgiving Day on NFL Network's _Good Morning Football_, "How about, let's win some ballgames, folks."
Which definitely would put the Happy into Thanksgiving.
Now for some holiday shots.
- Strike Three: We had initially heard the NFL had informed the Cowboys on Monday that the two tripping penalties in Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium were judged bad calls by the umpire against the Cowboys. But found out later that same umpire's flag on Tyron Smith for holding also should not have been called. Bad day at the office? To me, a guy who advances this high in his profession can't make mistakes like this in a game of this magnitude. And when going back looking at those plays, it's not as if they were in any gray area. Hmmm, maybe you really do see ghosts on NFL fields.
- Special Effects: So here is what was supposed to happen on that kickoff with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter after the Patriots' field goal put them up 13-6. First, there was no need for rookie Tony Pollard lining up at the goal line since no way any kickoff that direction at that time of the game was going to go that far. Should have been closer. Second, the Cowboys purposely put fullback Jamize Olawale as an up-back in case the kickoff was short. It was, and he was right there to catch the ball, but decided to move out of the way for a running full speed Pollard to make the catch he didn't, the Cowboys ending up starting instead at their own 11-yard line. Let's not forget mine.
- Chance Of Rain: To steal the response at LSU home games, Never. And unlike the constant blowing rain that hindered Cowboys-Patriots at Gillette Stadium Sunday, while the chance of rain in Arlington on Thanksgiving is around 60 percent early in the day, it never rains inside AT&T Stadium. There is a roof. Imagine that concept. Unsure why team's in the northeast insist on playing outdoors. That mess Sunday in Foxborough didn't aid either team. Think about it, if not for the Cowboys having that punt blocked, and the rain had nothing to do with that, the Patriots never would have scored a touchdown. So don't tell me a protective roof eliminates homefield advantage.
- Bennett Watch: The Cowboys have ruled linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (knee) out for this game. And we know the Cowboys will compensate for LVE's absence with Sean Lee moving to weakside linebacker and Joe Thomas manning the strong side, with the two guys alternating in at linebacker on the nickel next to Jaylon Smith. But at defensive tackle, look out for Michael Bennett to continue playing a bigger role. Seems as though Christian Covington will start next to Maliek Collins, but watch for more Bennett. In his first three games with the Cowboys, Bennett played 43, 45 and 43 snaps. But against the Patriots, the 11-year veteran played a Cowboys season-high 50 snaps. And as head coach Jason Garrett pointed out, Bennett can play either defensive tackle spot. Saw a few times when the Patriots did not take him lightly, doubling him and at least the one time I saw, triple-teaming him. The Cowboys should get a few snaps from rookie Trysten Hill, expected to be active for the first time in five games. 'Bout time for his first NFL sack.
- Joshing Around: We see where the Bills are ranked fifth in rushing, averaging 139 yards a game. And they have been quite consistent, going for at least 100 in nine of their 11 games, with a season high this past Sunday, 244 against Denver. And a big problem is quarterback Josh Allen. He has rushed for 387 yards in 11 games, with a team-leading seven touchdowns, and went nine for 56 against the Broncos. Now, we've seen how the Cowboys have struggled with mobile quarterbacks this year, the Giants' Daniel Jones gaining 54 on six carries and Detroit's Jeff Driskell running eight times for 51 yards and a touchdown. Suggest they be aware.
- Coop: So there is this narrative spreading around that Amari Cooper doesn't play well on the road. Well, wish those subscribing to this would point out the Cowboys' entire offense malfunctioned at New Orleans, gaining a season-low 257 yards and losing two fumbles when he had five catches for 48 yards. Then at the Jets he only played three plays (one catch, 3 yards). At Detroit, while playing through that sore knee, three catches for 38 yards. And then there was Sunday against the Patriots, where he zeroed out, but failed to be mentioned is his two catches nullified by penalty and that diving reception on the final drive eliminated by video replay, all in the driving rain. Problem with analytics is there is no insight to mere numbers.
So here the Cowboys go, playing their 52nd Thanksgiving Day game, 42nd consecutively, ever since 1978, with destiny in their hands, and in charge of the Happy part of Thanksgiving.