The season is still young, but Mike McCarthy’s squad has become rather acquainted with overcoming the odds.
The Cowboys lost star quarterback Dak Prescott to a thumb injury in Week 1. Most everyone expected their season to collapse as soon as it became clear Cooper Rush was going to take over for the foreseeable future. Since then, Dallas hasn’t lost.
This type of surprise success naturally instills confidence in a team.
McCarthy was asked Thursday if he has ever used a point spread as a motivational tactic.
“I don’t know if I ever have,” McCarthy answered. “Ah no, yeah I have. What is it this week?”
When then presented with the spread for this Sunday’s Cowboys-Rams game — Dallas is a 5.5-point underdog as of Thursday, according to DraftKings Sportsbook — McCarthy’s confidence was on full display.
“We’re underdogs?” McCarthy asked, drawing laughs from media members in attendance. “We’re good. Alright. Just wrote my Saturday night speech. I’m good.
“I’ve never used it, but I’ll just say this: We’re nobody’s underdog. So, if you need a quote.”
Dallas had plenty of reasons to fold early in the year. The Cowboys lost left tackle Tyron Smith before the season began, then saw Prescott exit with a thumb injury that required surgery. The offensive firepower most envisioned returning to a team that finished as the NFL’s top offense in 2021 seemed to evaporate — at least on paper.
Instead, Rush has played well. The Cowboys have found ways to move the football with a two-back rushing attack, with Ezekiel Elliott doing the traditional dirty work and Tony Pollard using his burst to pick up chunks of yards. And Rush has demonstrated a rapport with typical backup receiver Noah Brown while also getting up to speed with CeeDee Lamb. Michael Gallup‘s return from a knee injury only improved their chances of victory, as evidenced by his touchdown reception in his first game back from ACL surgery last weekend.
Most importantly, Dallas has won because of its defense. The Cowboys are once again playing at a high level on that side of the football, ranking third in points allowed, sixth in pass defense and seventh in total defense. They’re harassing every opposing passer they face, tying for second in sacks, and second-year linebacker Micah Parsons — the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year — looks like a bona fide star.
Complementary football is winning Dallas games. On Sunday, the Cowboys face a struggling Rams offense that has serious issues protecting Matthew Stafford — potentially setting the stage for yet another Dallas victory.
With all of this in mind, it’s easy to see why McCarthy would be confident. He’s far from the only one — even if the sportsbooks say otherwise.