Coming off a shellacking against the Buffalo Bills in week 15, the Dallas Cowboys, currently with a 10–4 record, will look to rebound against another AFC East team, the Miami Dolphins, in a pivotal week 16 showdown. The Cowboys possess a perfect 7–0 record at AT&T Stadium so far this season, with one remaining regular season home game upcoming against the Detroit Lions.
Despite this, the Cowboys will be on the road for their next game, their eighth of the year. Their road performance has been a far cry from their home showings, averaging 39.9 points per game in Arlington compared to 18.2 points per game as visitors. This contrast, coupled with a 3-4 road record, has led national media and critics alike to question their potential for success, especially knowing a strong playoff run will likely require road victories for the Cowboys to achieve their sixth Super Bowl title.
I do not buy into that narrative and believe that the difference in scoring is more due to the level of competition and the home versus away schedule than anything else. The Cowboys’ four road defeats include losses to top-tier teams: the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and, most recently, the Buffalo Bills. These teams are known for their home crowd and the way the 12th man can impact rival teams. From the crowd noise generated and the complexity it adds to pre-snap related adjustments, to the hostility and intimidation presented by opposing fans, they are tough environments to play in, evidenced by their combined 16-4 home record.
The fourth road loss was a 28-16 upset against the Arizona Cardinals in week three, a game where the Cowboys likely underestimated their opponent. Furthermore, they were enduring the impact of three starters missing from their offensive line and the impact of news regarding Trevon Diggs, their All-Pro cornerback. However, that is water under the bridge at this point. Dan Quinn, the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, chalks it up to poor tackling and a lack of ball-hawking, two areas where the team has otherwise excelled at home.
Now is the time for the Cowboys to rewrite their road narrative
Similarly, the Miami Dolphins, with a 10–4 record, enter week 16 with a comparable narrative including sentiments like, who have they beaten? The Dolphins come into the game, despite their record, and the convincing fashion with which they have won, without a win against a team with a winning record. Something must give this week…
The weather forecast in Miami, FL, predicts a high of 76 degrees on Christmas Eve, a sharp contrast to the mid-40s and rainy conditions in Orchard Park, NY, where the Cowboys played last Sunday. Although the weather was warmer than typical mid-December conditions, the Cowboys will certainly welcome Miami’s warmer and dryer climate. The Cowboys enter as slight underdogs by one point for their upcoming game in South Beach.
Although there is not a longstanding historical rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins in the same way you might see with other NFL teams, especially divisional rivals, their past encounters have produced lasting memories. Specifically, it was against the same Dolphins that the Cowboys captured their first NFL championship in Super Bowl VI on January 31, 1972, in a 24-3 rout.
Similarly, over 30 years ago on Thanksgiving Day in 1993, another unforgettable moment between these teams became an INSTANT CLASSIC. I was just 16, and I vividly remember watching the game—my dad, a Miami Dolphins fan, in another room. It is as clear in my mind today as it was the moment it happened. The game was tightly contested, a low scoring battle, with the Dolphins attempting what would be a game-winning field goal with 15 seconds remaining. It was unseasonably cold with a snow-covered field, conditions some consider among the worst ever for an NFL game in Texas, with wind chills near zero. As Miami kicker, Pete Stoyanovich, attempted the game-winning kick, the ball was blocked and rolled close to the 10-yard line. Instead of leaving the ball alone, Dallas Cowboy defensive lineman, Leon Lett, ran like he was shot out of a cannon and slid into the ball, inadvertently setting off a scramble that led to Miami’s recovery. I remember shouting in celebration, loud enough to ignite my father, only to then watch in disbelief as Lett unintentionally knocked the ball, allowing Miami to recover it and quickly set up another field goal attempt by Stoyanovich.
Miami won 16-14, and the Cowboys fans, myself included, were left in disbelief over what had just been witnessed. The images of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, shifting from celebratory to shock, still live in my mind.
So, as we prepare for the holiday season and a Christmas Eve showdown, something has to give. The Dallas Cowboys have not lost back-to-back games since late November 2021, a 37-game streak. Despite this impressive streak, they hold a losing record on the road this season at 3–4 and haven’t defeated a team with a winning record away from home. At the same time, their opponent, the Miami Dolphins, come in with a speedy and flashy offense that features the likes of Hill, Mostert, Waddle and Tua. Yet, the Dolphins, despite their flashiness and brilliance, are battling their own reputation and doubts cast upon them just like the Cowboys.
This reputation has been hard for them to shake as they have not beaten a good team despite their 10–4 record this season. In fact, Miami has yet to beat a team with a winning record. Suffice it to say, on this Christmas Eve, one team’s narrative will change. For us diehard fans, I am counting my lucky stars for this matchup! If the past is a predictor of the future, one thing is for certain, we are in for an early holiday treat as these two proud, playoff-bound franchises, square off in South Beach.