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Nick at Nite

Nick at Nite: Wins in December are wins to remember


FRISCO, Texas — Heading into week 15, the Dallas Cowboys are hitting their stride at the perfect time of the season. They head onto their AFC East road swing riding a five-game winning streak and fresh off the high of a 20-point victory over the defending NFC champions.

Everything is clicking. 

Offensively, Dak Prescott has vaulted himself to the top of the MVP conversation on his way to powering the league's top scoring offense. Defensively, while it has been up-and-down in the last couple of weeks, the defense overall has been suffocating with its pass rush (8th in NFL with 39 sacks) and lockdown in coverage with its various All-Pro defensive back weapons. And on special teams, is there anything else we can say about Brandon Aubrey?

With that winning streak in hand, the Cowboys will head to unfamiliar territories in Buffalo and Miami in the next two weeks with a growing history of success in the month of December under Mike McCarthy.

Let's dive into it.

Since Mike McCarthy was hired in 2020, the Cowboys are 12-2 in the month of December and are averaging 33.6 points per game during that 14-game stretch. The two losses came in McCarthy's first December game with the Cowboys (34-17 loss to Baltimore) and last season's overtime loss to Jacksonville. At home, they're a perfect 7-0 with a chance to extend that mark on Dec. 30 against the Lions.

But this time around, things feel a little different, don't they?

Even though the Cowboys won three December games last season, a couple of those wins felt like they did more bad than good. A win over a one-win Houston team took Dallas every second to accomplish, and a road win at Tennessee against a third-string quarterback generated more concerns than positivity going into the final stretch. Shortly after in January, that was punctuated with a demoralizing loss in Washington.

This time around, those types of "bad" wins aren't present, and they aren't showing signs of rearing around. A commanding win against Philadelphia – while it did have its offensive issues in the second half – has the confidence higher than its been all season in the locker room going into the final four games.

"I think we're where we need to be," McCarthy said on Monday about the confidence around the locker room. "It's definitely high. And it should be. Is it the highest of the year? Probably so."

A challenge against the elements in Buffalo awaits. While it won't be the blizzard tundra-like conditions that we may have anticipated back in May when the schedule was released, potential high winds could still make it a unique road environment from a climate standpoint. Additionally, it will be one of the more hostile crowds the Cowboys will see paired with an opponent that is chomping at the bit to put some big time wins together.

It doesn't get any easier after that. A trip to Miami follows on Christmas Eve where the Dallas defense will look to stop the one thing that has been a thorn in the side of the unit all season: speed. A lot of speed.

To finish the month, Detroit comes into town in the midst of one of the best seasons in franchise history and an offense that can certainly keep pace with the Cowboys high-octane feel over the last seven games.

After a season full of games against lowly opponents, the Cowboys are finally getting their opportunity to shine against some of the league's toughest challenges, and they're excelling as they approach the midway point of that stretch.

Wins in any of these three upcoming games are obviously big ones. Wins in all three? Then we're talking about potentially winning the division or the conference.

McCarthy has been a part of a lot of meaningful Decembers. His Aaron Rodgers-led Packers teams won five divisional crowns in his time in Green Bay. His short time in Dallas has already earned him one NFC East crown.

But this one just might be his most important. Three opponents, three playoff-type atmospheres. Division and conference titles still very much in play.

What awaits?

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