The regular season has come and gone and the Dallas Cowboys are just a couple of days away from their Wild Card round matchup with the Seattle Seahawks and the most important player on the field for America’s Team is playing his best football heading into the postseason. As Dak Prescott mentioned yesterday when speaking with reporters, it’s this time of year where quarterbacks are judged — whether fairly or not that’s fair is a solid debate– and it seems that Prescott is prepared to put on a show this postseason.
Whether it was the Giants game in the finale or the second Philadelphia Eagles game, we’ve seen a quarterback in Prescott who has unleashed those big quarterback games that you dream of. The Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or Peyton Manning 300 and 400 yard games. He’s come up big over the last half of the season and has been a big reason why the Cowboys are in the playoffs. If you look at his last five weeks, there may not be a quarterback playing as well as Dak Prescott heading into the postseason.
Pro Football Focus keeps tracks of how a quarterback performs under pressure, and Dak Prescott has been good in this regard over the last five weeks. In fact, among quarterbacks with at least 114 drop backs in that time frame, no quarterback has a higher passer rating under pressure than Dak Prescott’s 112.4. Now, some will tell you that passer rating isn’t a great stat, and I admit that it has its flaws, but of the 10 best quarterbacks in passer rating under pressure over the last five weeks, only three aren’t in the postseason: Matt Ryan, Baker Mayfield, and Jameis Winston. Under pressure, Prescott’s thrown for six touchdowns in that same time frame. Only one quarterback has thrown for as many: the Dallas Cowboys opponent on Sunday, Russell Wilson. DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes are the only quarterbacks to have thrown for more yards under pressure than Dak Prescott.
The Cowboys have needed Prescott to take more deep shots and be better throwing the ball deep and he’s responded. Over the last five weeks of the season, Prescott ranks sixth in the NFL in adjusted completion percentage, which factors in drops and has Dak completing 41.7% of his passes greater than 20 yards down the field. Prescott wasn’t nearly as good in the first 12 weeks of the season, posting a deep adjusted completion percentage of only 36.4%, which was 21st in the NFL over that span while having the fewest attempts in the NFL during that stretch of the season. Over the last five weeks of the season, Dak is tied for seventh in deep passing attempts. It’s paying dividends.
Dak Prescott’s completion percentage over the last five weeks is 72.1% good for third in the NFL in that stretch and as we just discussed, they aren’t all dump offs or check downs to Ezekiel Elliott or Cole Beasley. He’s taking more deep attempts than he did earlier in the season and his completion percentage has gone up from 65.2% over the first 12 weeks of the season, which was 23rd in the NFL.
Completion percentage and passer rating not doing it for you, well how about this, Dak Prescott has thrown for nine touchdowns over the last five weeks, which is four fewer than Patrick Mahomes 13 and only one fewer than Tom Brady, Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson, and Ben Roethlisberger. In passing yards, Dak ranks sixth in the NFL over the last five weeks. Only four quarterbacks in the top 10 in passing yards since week 13 are not slated to play in the postseason this year: Nick Mullens, Baker Mayfield, Jameis Winston, and Matt Ryan.
Dak Prescott is doing all of this while throwing the ball far more than he did in the early part of the season. He ranks fourth in the NFL in attempts since week 13 and is eighth in the NFL in yards per attempt at 7.7. Weeks 1-12 of the season, Prescott ranked 19th in passing attempts and 19th in yards per attempt at 7.2.
How’s Dak doing on the money down (3rd down) since week 13? Well, Fun Fact Specialist Mark Lane from The Texans Wire and WFAA.com has you covered.
Fun fact: Over the final five weeks of 2018, among starting QBs, #Dak had the absolute best third down passer rating at 124.9, a full 6.5 points better than second place Patrick Mahomes.
Third down is by far the most important down in football. How well a team produces on third downs is a solid indicator of how well they do scoring points. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense has been excellent over the last five games at sustaining drives and giving their team an opportunity to score. We’ve seen a lot of long drives, even if they haven’t always come away with points. However, if the last eight games are any indication, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are rolling. Over the first eight games of the season, the Cowboys averaged 19.25 points per game and since week 10 have averaged 23.12 points per game. That 23.12 points per game includes the shutout loss to the Colts and the 13 they scored in the win against the Saints.
If you took what Prescott has done over the last five weeks of the season and projected those stats over 16 games, here’s what they’d look like: 72% completion percentage with an average of 38 attempts per game for 4,666 yards, 29 touchdowns, two interceptions and three rushing touchdowns. This includes the Tampa By game where he threw for only 161 yards.
If the last five weeks of the season tell you anything, it’s that we should completely get rid of the “Dak needs a great team to be great” narrative. The Cowboys have had an offensive line that has been held together by training tape as they’ve struggled with injuries to Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Xavier Su’a-Filo, while Connor Williams is still adjusting to the NFL game and La’el Collins has had ups and downs. All the while playing without probably the most important piece of the offensive line, Travis Frederick. The running game has been good, but it’s not carrying this team like it did in 2016. Prescott’s had to make plays to keep this thing going and he has.
The Dallas Cowboys look like a team that could do some damage in the postseason. They’ve got a defense playing at an elite level. They have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. And they have a quarterback playing his best football at the most important time of the season. As we’ve seen in years past, how you play heading into the postseason matters and right now few quarterbacks are playing as well as Dak Prescott.