Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn’t often hide his true thoughts. He is willing to say out loud what most in the NFL would say only privately.
So when asked after Sunday’s 40-3 win over the Vikings if he thinks the Cowboys are Super Bowl contenders, of course Jones didn’t mince words.
“A resounding yes. Yes. Unequivocally,” Jones told reporters in Minneapolis. “I sure do think that what I see out here right now is the team that you could go get a Super Bowl with.”
Jones hasn’t been to a Super Bowl in 27 years, but this isn’t just his usual bluster.
The 7-3 Cowboys are looking like the most complete team in the NFC right now, which is where we begin the Week 11 review:
▪ The Cowboys may be the No. 5 seed in the NFC, two games behind the 9-1 Eagles in the East. And last week’s loss to the Packers, in which the Cowboys blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, could really hurt come playoff seeding time.
But they have all the elements of a championship team. Their defense held the Vikings to no touchdowns and just 183 yards while sacking Kirk Cousins seven times, and it was no fluke. The Cowboys have the NFL’s No. 1 scoring defense (16.7 points per game) and passing defense (174.5 yards per game), and they lead the league with 42 sacks for minus-274 yards.
And now the offense is catching up, following a five-game injury absence by Dak Prescott. He is 3-1 since his return, completing 72 percent of his passes, and the Cowboys have averaged 39 points and 440 yards the last three weeks. Against Minnesota, they gained 458 total yards and scored points on their first seven possessions.
The Cowboys have the second-best point differential in the NFL (plus-84), behind only Buffalo. They have a soft schedule coming up, with three straight home games against the Giants, Colts, and Texans followed by a road game at Jacksonville. And now they might add Odell Beckham Jr. to their receiver room.
Beware the Cowboys, who really are as good as Jones thinks they are.
▪ The Vikings are still 8-2, No. 2 in the NFC, and have a four-game lead in the NFC North. But after Sunday’s beatdown, they have a minus-2 point differential on the season — the lowest for an 8-2 team in NFL history.
We shouldn’t belittle the Vikings’ recent seven-game win streak, with each win coming by one score. It takes impressive toughness to consistently win close games. But the point differential is telling that the Vikings, ranked 13th in points scored and 19th in points allowed, perhaps aren’t quite as good as their record suggests.
▪ The Eagles also are regressing, though they deserve credit for overcoming a 10-point deficit to eke out a win. But that was an ugly 17-16 win over a punchless Colts team, and the Eagles are getting sloppy on offense. They committed just three turnovers in racing out to an 8-0 record, but had four in last week’s loss to Washington and two more Sunday.
The best part of Sunday’s win was the candor shown by coach Nick Sirianni in his postgame news conference. Sirianni, the Colts offensive coordinator from 2018-20, let it be known that he is not happy with the way Jim Irsay did in former coach Frank Reich.
“I’m emotional because I love Frank Reich,” Sirianni said. “You don’t want to know what I think of if he should be here or not. You guys can probably imagine what I really think.”
▪ Ho-hum, another road division win for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who improved to 8-2 and hold the No. 1 AFC playoff seed after a 30-27 win over the Chargers. Mahomes is now 14-0 in road games against AFC West opponents.
Mahomes threw for 329 yards and three more touchdowns, giving him a league-high 28.
Most impressive is how the machine has kept rolling despite trading Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs are the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense (30.0 per game), and Mahomes leads the NFL with 34 completions of 25-plus yards. That matches his total from last year, but this year he has done it in 400 attempts, compared with 658 last year.
▪ The Bengals are quietly getting it done after a tough start to the season. Sunday’s 37-30 win over the Steelers was their fourth in five games, and the offense is finally clicking.
Joe Burrow threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns, and he didn’t even have Ja’Marr Chase (ankle). Tee Higgins stepped up with 148 yards, and running back Samaje Perine caught three touchdown passes.
Chase could be back in a week or two. The Bengals won’t be a fun team to play down the stretch.
▪ The Commanders improved to 4-1 behind Taylor Heinicke with a 23-10 win over the Texans. You can see the confidence growing in that team, and their defense is playing lights-out. Ron Rivera is proving once again that he is a really solid coach.
▪ Nice win for the Bills after an emotionally draining loss to the Vikings. And they played well despite not practicing much and having the distractions of the big blizzard. But it only adds to the fuel that the Bills are a better dome team than outdoor team.
▪ The Colts reverted to form in Jeff Saturday’s second game, gaining just 284 yards and blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. They are certainly more respectable under Saturday, but that’s because they went back to Matt Ryan.
▪ Don’t look now, but the Lions have won three in a row (over the Packers, Bears, and Giants), and at 4-6, they are in second place in the NFC North. The Lions also have the Rams’ first-round pick, which unexpectedly is No. 6 overall right now.
▪ The Broncos’ loss to the Raiders was their sixth in seven games, and their third overtime loss of the season. The Broncos are 3-7 and have the worst offense in the NFL. It will be an upset if coach Nathaniel Hackett keeps his job through all 17 games.
▪ In Sunday’s NFL Notes column, I went into detail about the demise of kick-return touchdowns, and how there had been just one all season (compared with 42 in 2007). Sure enough, Cordarrelle Patterson took a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown in the Falcons’ win over the Bears, and Marcus Jones beat the Jets with an 84-yard punt-return touchdown. YOU’RE WELCOME, AMERICA.
Tracking former Patriots
▪ Browns QB Jacoby Brissett: Threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to the Bills. Brissett has a respectable 90.7 rating with 11 touchdowns against 5 interceptions, but the Browns surely hoped to be better than 3-7 as they gear up for Deshaun Watson’s return in a week.
▪ Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson: His 103-yard return was his ninth career kickoff-return touchdown, setting an NFL record. Patterson also has 454 rushing yards (5.3 average) and five touchdowns for the 5-6 Falcons. The Patriots let Patterson leave in 2019 for a modest two-year, $10 million deal with the Bears. He would’ve been a great piece to keep around.
▪ Raiders coach Josh McDaniels: Man, oh man, did he and the Raiders need that win, snapping a three-game losing streak to improve to 3-7. No matter what happens the rest of the season, McDaniels can at least say that he swept the Broncos.
▪ Giants coach Brian Daboll: The team came crashing back to reality with a 31-18 loss to Lions. The Giants are still 7-3 and have the No. 6 NFC seed, but have played only one division game.
▪ Titans coach Mike Vrabel: Went into Lambeau Field and bullied the Packers to improve to 7-3 for a three-game lead in the AFC South. Titans would host the Patriots in a playoff game if the season ended today.
Stats of the Week
▪ Patriots CB Marcus Jones became the sixth player to record a game-winning punt-return touchdown in the final two minutes or overtime. The others were Walter Stanley (1986), Tamarick Vanover (1995), Brian Westbrook (2003), DeSean Jackson (2010), and Patrick Peterson (2011).
▪ The Jets gained just 2 yards in the second half, the fewest allowed by the Patriots in a half in team history. The Texans gained just 5 yards in the first half against the Commanders.
▪ Raiders QB Derek Carr has an .800 career winning percentage in overtime games (8-2), the best in NFL history for quarterbacks with at least 10. Tom Brady is next at .714 (10-4).
▪ The Chiefs’ Travis Kelce surpassed Rob Gronkowski for most 100-yard receiving games by a tight end (33).
▪ The Rams’ loss to the Saints gave Sean McVay the first four-game losing streak of his career. The 3-7 Rams could become the first Super Bowl champions to have a losing record since the 2003 Bucs.
▪ Patterson has seven career touchdowns of 100-plus yards. No one else in NFL history has more than three.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.