The Dallas Cowboys’ 4-2 record to kickoff the 2023 NFL season is impressive on the surface, but if you dive a little deeper it seems fair to question whether their resume as a potential contender has been embellished. Let’s take a dive into their first six games and use this as context for how they might fare against the Los Angeles Rams this weekend in what is becoming an important matchup for both sides:
Week 1 at New York Giants: Win, 40-0
The Giants’ offensive line got off to a horrid start to the year and earned a 35.4 pass blocking grade in the blowout loss to the Cowboys. Daniel Jones was pressured on an astonishing 67% of his 42 drop backs according to PFF tracking data, and he was sacked seven times. It’s nearly impossible to effectively quarterback under those conditions, but credit to the Cowboys’ defense for keeping Jones consistently under duress.
Dallas’ defensive line is aggressive and can get after the quarterback, and this performance underscores just how important keeping Matthew Stafford upright is for Los Angeles this weekend.
Week 2 vs New York Jets: Win, 30-10
Dallas drew the Jets in Zach Wilson’s first start of the season in replacement of Aaron Rodgers, whose New York debut lasted only four plays. It’s worth pointing out that the Cowboys defense lost one of their best players after this game when Trevon Diggs tore his ACL in practice while the team was preparing for Week 3. The secondary has been porous at times without one of the best playmaking cornerbacks in the NFL.
Will the defensive backs be able to keep up with LA’s dangerous WR trio in Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, and Tutu Atwell?
Week 3 at Arizona Cardinals: Loss, 16-28
Do you blame the Dallas defense for this loss after giving up 28 points to a limited Arizona offense, or does Dak Prescott shoulder the criticism after throwing an end zone interception late into the fourth quarter? Either way, losing to a team that expects to finish towards the top of the 2024 NFL Draft order is not a good sign for the Cowboys who expect to contend this season.
LA defeated the Cardinals 26-9 just a couple of weeks ago, though the game was close before the Rams broke it open in the second half.
Week 4 vs New England Patriots: Win, 38-3
The Cowboys deserve credit for making Mac Jones and the Patriots offense look inept, but New England has been hot and cold so far this season—just last week Jones led an impressive comeback win over the Buffalo Bills.
This game is yet another reminder that Micah Parson and the Dallas defensive line can completely wreck offensive game plans, and it’s on LA’s big guys up front to keep Stafford clean and allow the offense to operate as intended.
Week 5 at San Francisco 49ers: Loss, 42-10
The 49ers dismantled the Cowboys in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football. Prescott threw three interceptions while Brock Purdy surgically passed for four touchdowns—three to TE George Kittle alone. It was 21-7 49ers at the half and San Francisco only extended their lead in the second half.
We shouldn’t expect many three-interception outings from Prescott moving forward, and this game should be remembered as an outlier in that regard.
Week 6 at Los Angeles Chargers: Win, 20-17
The last time we saw the Cowboys, they earned an impressive Monday Night Football win over the other team from LA. Justin Herbert, who has consistently been one of the least clutch QB’s on game-winning drives so far this season, threw an interception late in the fourth quarter to close out the victory for Dallas.
This game started out as a barnburner but quickly turned into a defensive struggle. The Cowboys didn’t accomplish much offensively, as Prescott threw for 272 yards and a touchdown and added another score on the ground. He finished as the team’s leading rusher with 40 yards.
COWBOYS WIN AFTER JUSTIN HERBERT THROWS AN INTERCEPTION pic.twitter.com/SBYvjYBw2i— Sportsville (@Sportsville_) October 17, 2023
What does this mean for the Rams?
How much stock should we put behind the Cowboys’ wins over the Giants, Jets, and Patriots? These three teams have looked inept at times this season, though each have had their shining moments as well. For the same reason, the loss against the Cardinals is concerning. At a minimum, contenders should be able to keep losing teams losing.
It’s wise to weigh more strongly the games against the 49ers and Chargers, though Prescott’s three interceptions against San Francisco probably made the teams seem further apart in that matchup than they truly are. How close the Chargers contest was suggests that Dallas may be closer to the middle of the pack (the Chargers are 2-4) than their 4-2 record suggests.
Ultimately, Sunday’s game is of the upmost importance for the Rams. If Los Angeles expects to make the playoffs in 2023, they cannot afford to drop to 3-5—and moving back to 0.500 in with favorable matchups on the horizon would be a big boost to their postseason hopes.
Can the Rams get back on track against Dallas?