The Dallas Cowboys have been dominant at home this season, but they have yet to win a game against a team over .500. Something will have to give over the next month.
Thursday marks the start of a five-game span for the Cowboys during which every one of their opponents is currently above .500, including Seattle, their Week 13 opponent. Three of their next five games are in Dallas, along with the Eagles rematch and an important Week 17 game against the Lions, with whom the Cowboys could be jockeying for postseason position. All three opponents potentially could be playoff previews, too.
At 8-3, the Cowboys are in great position to make the postseason. The problem is that the 10-1 Eagles keep winning, and Dallas can't afford to fall farther behind if it wants to win the NFC East and earn a home playoff game.
The Cowboys have been dominant at times this season, with the league's best point differential at plus-162. They've been unbeatable at home so far, not trailing at any point this season at AT&T Stadium. But their five home victories have come against teams that could end up picking in the top 10 of the 2024 NFL Draft. Dallas has faced the easiest schedule in the NFL so far, with a .384 opponent win percentage.
Beating the Seahawks would end some of this chatter. But is Seattle still a very good team?
The Seahawks have lost three of four games, dropping to 6-5 following a Thanksgiving blowout at the hands of the 49ers. Seattle has lost its past three road games, including a 34-point blowout at the hands of the Ravens.
Both teams remain in the playoff hunt, but the Seahawks are the more desperate of the two teams. A loss to Dallas wouldn't end their chances, but a victory prior to their rematch against the 49ers at Levi's Stadium on Dec. 10 would be huge.
Will the Cowboys' homefield factor tilt the game? Or can the Seahawks rediscover their early-season magic?
Here are four things to watch for when the Seahawks visit the Cowboys on Thursday night on Prime Video:
1) Do Seahawks have any offensive spark left? The Seahawks offense is in a full-blown slump, currently on a 20-drive streak without a touchdown, the longest in the NFL. Kicker Jason Myers has outscored the rest of the Seattle offense in four straight games and in five of seven outings since the Week 5 bye. In fact, Dallas' defense has more touchdowns (two) than the Seahawks' offense (one) in the past two games. Geno Smith was put in a tough spot on Thanksgiving, starting four days after suffering a right elbow injury, although head coach Pete Carroll indicated that Smith was “night and day” from last week's health. Smith's numbers have dropped across the board from his terrific 2022 season. He's taking more deep shots than a year ago, but the success rate on those plays has plummeted. Smith also hasn't fared well against heavy pressure in 2023, which is concerning against a Dallas defense that leads the league in pressure rate. Although Smith's receiving talent arguably is better this year, the Seahawks have struggled with injuries along the offensive line and could still be without Kenneth Walker III, who is doubtful after he was injured against the Rams and missed Week 12. Offensive lineman Abraham Lucas has missed all but 35 snaps in the opener to injury but is slated to return Thursday. It would be a huge boost for a team that has tried three right tackles (Stone Forsythe, Jake Curhan and Jason Peters) and has not seen much success with any of them. Smith has thrown for 12 TDs this season, with only three in his past four games, and the Seahawks have struggled in the red zone for a while now.
2) Dak Prescott looks to boost MVP candidacy. One year ago, Prescott was amid a streak of consecutive games with at least one interception that would extend to the final seven-regular season games. But right now, he's arguably playing some of the best ball of his career. Since Week 8, Prescott has completed more than 70% of his passes, throwing for 1,602 yards, 17 TDs and only two picks. He's also not been sacked in three straight games. And though Prescott has done an excellent job spreading the ball around in recent games, his connection with CeeDee Lamb has been downright special. When targeting Lamb, Prescott has generated a plus-119.1 total EPA (expected points added) since the start of last season, which is the highest for any duo -- better than Tua Tagovailoa to Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce, even -- over that span. The run game has also achieved more consistency, ringing up four straight 100-plus yard games. This, along with a top-10 defense behind him, has given Prescott the perfect ecosystem in which to thrive. He might not be the MVP favorite at this point, but he's as hot as any QB right now and could boost his candidacy with another big game in prime time against Seattle. If there's hope for Seattle, it's that Prescott has been far more effective against man coverage than zone this season, and the Seahawks have played zone more than 80% of the time.
3) DaRon Bland, pass rush put punch in Dallas defense. The Cowboys aren't taking the ball away at quite the same rate they were earlier in the season, but that didn't prevent Bland from breaking the all-time record for pick-sixes in a season (five) last week versus Washington. Bland has more touchdowns in 2023 than any of the receivers he's likely to cover on Thursday. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett remain dangerous, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba has been steady lately, but don't expect Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to veer from Dallas' man-heavy system. Geno Smith has been almost completely opposite of Prescott this season, thriving versus zones (7.8 YPA, 51.2% success rate) and lagging against man coverage (5.2 YPA, 34.7% success rate). There's also Micah Parsons and a prolific pass rush. Dallas leads the NFL in pressure rate at 45.4%, and Parsons is a big reason why. Despite being double-teamed more than almost any player, he leads the league in pressures with 71 -- five more than his nearest competitor. If Walker can't go, it could be a long night for Seattle. The Seahawks might have to beef up their screen game and be ready to give rookie running back Zach Charbonnet a heavy workload if necessary.
4) Seattle standouts try to corral Cowboys' playmakers. Lamb has nearly double the targets and receptions of any other Cowboys pass catcher, but this is no one-man operation. Brandin Cooks was very quiet early, adjusting to Mike McCarthy's "Texas Coast" system, but he's led Dallas in receiving yards three straight games. Tight end Jake Ferguson has been a steady, reliable target, and wide receivers Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert and KaVontae Turpin all scored last week. Running back Tony Pollard also has been on the upswing lately, backed by the intriguing Rico Dowdle. The Seahawks have struggled against the run against certain teams, and defensive tackle Leonard Williams -- their big trade-deadline acquisition -- is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, so this could be a decent game for Dallas to work on its ground game. Throwing it remains the Cowboys' bread and butter, and though the Seahawks have given up some deep shots this season, their zone and playmakers might be able to short-circuit the passing game. Rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon has made his impact felt defending the run and pass, with three games this season with at least one pass defended and one tackle for loss. Second-year cornerback Riq Woolen (5.2) and Witherspoon (5.5) rank second and fifth in the NFL, respectively, in fewest yards allowed per target. Seattle can also get pressure, as coordinator Clint Hurtt has schemed up some free rushers effectively. Boye Mafe and Darrell Taylor can heat up the edges, and Jarran Reed and Williams get good pushes inside, but Dallas pass protects very well and Prescott has done a great job of evading pressure and extending plays this season.