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Science Lab: Final Piece to Make 'Boys Best in NFC?


Patrik [No C] Walker joined the Dallas Cowboys digital media group as a staff writer and media personality in July 2022, having professionally covered the NFL and, more specifically, the Cowboys since 2007.

He most recently did so for CBS Sports by way of 247Sports, where he also spent time delving into collegiate recruiting as well – ultimately becoming well-known for his level of unapologetic objectivity labeled by many as his own unique brand of football "science".

Welcome to "The Science Lab", a place where football facts and in-depth analysis always triumph over feelings.

FRISCO, TX - I feel like I'm sitting in the viewing room at the Time Variance Agency, because I have low key (Loki) now seen all variants of the Dallas Cowboys in 2022, and the one the world witnessed deliver Ragnarok to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday is, in my humble opinion, the best team in the entire NFC, excluding no one.

So why are they not atop the NFC East right now?

Simple: inconsistency.

If they can begin stringing together games that even remotely look like the eruption that buried Pompei … er, um … Minneapolis in Week 11, there are only two teams in the NFL who are formidable enough to go 12 rounds with them and they're both in the AFC - i.e., the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. And while this is no disrespect to the Philadelphia Eagles at 9-1, it is to say there are cracks beginning to show in their armor the past two weeks.

First came the loss to the Washington Commanders at Lincoln Financial Field and then the near-loss to the Indianapolis Colts, a victory gained in the waning seconds of the contest after the Colts defense did their best Moses and The Red Sea impression to allow Jalen Hurts a walk-in game-winning touchdown.

And, yes, they defeated the Cowboys in Week 6, but it was a three-interception game by Cooper Rush that gave way to a nine-point (yes, only nine) margin of victory for the Eagles.

Can Philly defeat the version of the Cowboys that hung 40 points on the Vikings (13 more than the Eagles did) while holding them to only three (four fewer than the Eagles did) on the road at U.S. Bank Stadium (Eagles defeated them in Philadelphia)?

For me, the answer is, objectively, no.

They'd need help from the Cowboys, again, as noted above in the Week 6 recap.

That isn't to say the Eagles can not defeat the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys in 2022, but rather to say that a second Dallas loss to Philadelphia would likely be predicated upon an inability (on that day) of Dan Quinn's defense to stop the run and/or miscommunication(s) between Prescott and his receiving corps that devolve into turnovers.

But what if they line up against a hungry, mistake-free, visceral variant of the Cowboys offense, defense and special teams?

Um, good luck stopping that.

It's no secret the Eagles are building to stave off the Cowboys in the NFC East, adding Linvale Joseph and Ndamokung Suh to bolster the interior run defense after the Commanders exposed it in the absence of Jordan Davis, but the Cowboys haven't been shy about adding talent themselves, evidenced by the trade for Johnathan Hankins and their currently active pursuit of Odell Beckham, Jr. - a race they (at the moment) have an edge in.

My my my, Christmas Eve will be electric, as it will help decide the division and overall playoff seeding in the conference.

As a related sidebar,I'm left to wonder if Beckham is keen to make his final decision based upon the outcome of the Thanksgiving bout between the Cowboys and the Giants, two teams all-in on landing him, with the eventual victor successfully making their final case for him to join them to put them over the top within the division and the conference. I could see the Giants upping their offer in the wake of losing rookie wideout Wan'Dale Robinson to a torn ACL on Sunday.

But hey, I'm just thinking out loud here, but should Beckham join this version of the Cowboys?

Again, gather all of the four-leaf clovers, rabbit's feet, horseshoes and plucked eyelashes you can find because good luck stopping that.

In a wide-open NFC, the Cowboys overcame a wildly missed opportunity in their Week 10 collapse against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by taking the No. 2-seeded Vikings out back and beating them like a dirty rug and regain ground in the process - the Giants having suffered their own embarrassing loss just this past weekend with a 31-18 loss to the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium (also losing Adoree Jackson for several games due to injury along with the aforementioned Robinson).

Everything is still very much in front of Dallas as the holidays take hold, and you can now justifiably begin looking at the standings and asking yourself a very fair question: "When the Cowboys play like they did in Minnesota, are they better than the other current playoff teams?"

Here's the field heading into Week 12:

Division leaders -

  • Eagles (9-1)
  • Vikings (8-2)
  • Seahawks (6-4)
  • Buccaneers (5-5)

Wild Card (non-Cowboys) -

  • Giants (7-3)
  • 49ers (6-4)

With Big Blue weakened and the Cowboys getting healthier, as in the looming return of eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith to upgrade and already top-performing offensive line along with new defensive addition Takk McKinley to possibly strengthen the run defense further (while also dropping in yet another talented pass rusher), signs point toward Dallas moving further north in the NFC standings going into their mini-bye to end the month of November.

If they can step into a record of 8-3 this week, they'll remain in striking distance of an Eagles team who must now face an unpredictable Packers team who has shown they might decide to show up on any given week to land an upset.

That's one time the Cowboys will be actively rooting for Rodgers.

To varying degrees, I say yes, the Cowboys are better than the others in the conference, but not unless the version that showed up against the Vikings (whom they now own the tiebreaker against, along with one over the Giants) keeps showing up going forward, and especially in January and … dare I say … early February.

For it would be then, and only then, that they could truly control their own destiny like Kang the Conqueror. Anything less and it is back to the center of the multiverse to regroup for 2023.

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