The Miami Dolphins begin a tough three-game stretch to end their 2023 regular season when they host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16. The game brings a multitude of playoff implications as Miami faces an opponent they have not seen in four years. Both teams currently lead their respective divisions and are in contention for the top seed in their respective conferences.
Who are the Cowboys in 2023? I turned to Blogging the Boys to get an insider look at Dallas. David Halprin was kind enough to sit down to answer my questions about the Cowboys, the storyline that they cannot beat winning teams, the struggles with injuries on the offensive line, and how to attack the Dallas defense.
You can check out my side of the conversation as I answered questions about the Dolphins here:
I feel like the Cowboys and Dolphins are very similar franchises in the eyes of the media. There is always a “but” when talking about how well they are both playing, the “cannot win against winning teams,” and an MVP-caliber quarterback that people just love to hate. One additional piece of the media discussion about the Cowboys is the lack of ability to win on the road. I know I hate these storylines because it just feels lazy, but they become talking points across all the pre-game analysis shows. It is not really a question, but I wanted to give you a chance to discuss the perception of the Cowboys in the media versus the reality you have seen each day.
The thing about all those storylines like ‘can’t win against winning teams’, ‘can’t win on the road’, etc. is that statistically they can be shown to be true, at least for the Cowboys. I won’t speak to the Dolphins situation because I don’t follow them closely enough. The Cowboys are so much better at home in terms of points scored and many other metrics. There have always been teams that seem better indoors, on turf, or at home and that all seems to fit the Cowboys. When we play under those conditions this year, the offense explodes and the defense sometimes gets in on the scoring. It is also true that we’ve done a lot of that damage against poor teams, although we have beat some good teams like the Eagles, the resurgent Rams, and a decent Seahawks team. So I don’t spend a lot of time trying to defend against those storylines, and that’s not even getting into the whole Dak Prescott debate. There are some solid facts for the Cowboys with all those ‘buts’ you referneced in the question. I can’t sit here and say that some of it is not objective fact.
But the Cowboys schedule has consisted of a lot of bad teams. We play the Giants and the Commanders four times, and we’ve had plenty of other bad teams. So we’ve done what you are supposed to do, beat up on bad teams. We have also beaten a few of the good teams on our schedule. Basically if the Cowboys would have gone to Buffalo and won, all of those storylines would have faded. But does it make sense to define a team so much based on what happens in one particular game? It really is just always trying to define why a team wins or loses, and that can vary from week-to-week. So basically I just say keep your head down, keep stacking wins, and when you falter try to repair the problems. You just can’t spend a lot of time on all that other stuff.
Under the NFL scheduling rules, NFC and AFC teams typically only play each other once every four years, meaning the Dolphins and Cowboys have not faced off since 2019. While that game featured players like Dak Prescott and Tony Pollard, there has been plenty of roster turnover during the past four years. Who is an offensive player Dolphins fans may not know but who will have an impact on this game? A defensive player?
Maybe tight end Jake Ferguson has caught on some in the national media over the last month for his hurdles and ‘in your face’ runs after catch. but he is an emerging star for the Cowboys. He is solid as a run blocker, and a real weapon in the passing game. He has become the second option to CeeDee Lamb in the passing game and is very good at picking up yards after the catch.. He makes himself available in the red zone and loves working the middle and down the seams. He requires special attention from safeties right past the linebacker level or he can break off chunk plays.
On defense, I am going to say the Cowboys linebacker duo of Damone Clark and Markquese Bell. Now the problem with me saying that is they both had terrible games against the Buffalo Bills last week, so there is a little worry about them going forward. But prior to the Bills game we were singing their praises. Damone Clark is more the run-stopper in the middle type and more of the traditional off-ball linebacker. Bell is a converted safety who has speed to go sideline-to-sideline, and is very good at covering tight ends or running backs. They are both sure tacklers who have really helped the Cowboys at linebacker after they lost Leighton Vander Esch for the season. Last week they were really bad, especially with missed tackles and not getting off blocks, but hopefully they will return to form this week.
The Cowboys have one of the top offensive lines in the league, but they seem to be dealing with injuries right now. What do you expect the line to look like on Sunday?
We’ll start with what we do know. Right now Tyler Smith will play left guard, Tyler Biadasz will play center and Terence Steele will be at right tackle barring anything unforeseen this week. Tyler Smith at guard is another of the Cowboys young stars. In his rookie season last year he was a pretty good at left tackle playing for an injured Tyron Smith. This season he has shifted back to guard and is a monster in the run game. Steele had an ACL injury last season so he is still working back into top form. He’s played all season but has been inconsistent from pretty good to poor. But on the average he is an above average right tackle. Biadasz is solid in the middle.
Right guard Zack Martin got helmeted in the thigh against Buffalo and his status is really up in the air. At the beginning of the week there was optimism he might be able to go, but he hasn’t practiced yet. His replacement would be T.J. Bass who has played some games this season early on, filling in for injuries, and has not looked overwhelmed. Obviously he is not the talent that Martin is, but he’s been serviceable when called upon. Left tackle Tyron Smith’s back injury is new and we’ll just have to see. It’s always a concern when his name is on the injury list because he has missed so many games over recent history due to injury. He usually doesn’t practice during the week much anyway because of age and injury history, so it will probably be until Saturday before we get more of an idea of his status. His replacement would be veteran Chuma Edoga.
If you were designing the Dolphins’ offense to attack the Cowboys’ defense, what would you do?
Run the ball right at them. Even before Buffalo and James Cook went wild on them, that was the best way to play the Cowboys defense. Run the ball effectively, try to get a lead and negate their punishing pass rush. The Cowboys defense is built around the idea of confusing offensive lines with the way they line players up at the line of scrimmage, the way they will overload one side, and then the way they will stunt to get to the quarterback. All of that makes them vulnerable to straight line running, and they can also lose gap discipline allowing running backs, or even quarterbacks, open room to roam. The Cowboys are also a defense built on speed and movement, so powerful run games can get to them. In the passing game, just make sure you have plenty of quick release options for the quarterback. You don’t want to hold the ball, so Tagovailoa must have that internal clock running and make quick decisions.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Dolphins are favored by 1.5 points in a game, with the point total set at 50 points. Do you think this is a high-scoring shootout type of game, with the over being the right bet? Should the Cowboys be favored in the game or is the line accurate?
I don’t think the Cowboys should be favored, and I feel like the line is pretty accurate. As you mentioned above, these two teams have a lot of similarities in how they are perceived, but they also have the same record, both are trying to prove themselves, and both are playing for playoff seeding. But the Dolphins are at home, and the Cowboys just are not as explosive of a team on the road, on grass. I still think the over of 50 is very obtainable and I think I would probably take that bet. In the end, I just don’t have the confidence in the Cowboys this week to win and expect something like a 31-28 Dolphins win.