By SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Pro Football Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys have one more game before a highly anticipated NFC East rematch.
This time, it’s an opponent with a winning record as the Seattle Seahawks visit Thursday night before the Cowboys (8-3) get a little break in anticipation of the Philadelphia Eagles coming to town Dec. 10.
Dallas, which has a 13-game home winning streak, has beaten three consecutive double-digit underdogs by an average of 30 points. The Seahawks (6-5) are close, with Dallas favored by nine, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
But the Cowboys say they won’t be peeking around the corner at the Eagles, who won 28-23 in Philadelphia to start November in a game Dallas easily could have won.
“Seattle is giving us plenty to worry about, plenty to focus on,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “There’s a lot of length between Seattle and the next one. I don’t see that as an issue at all.”
Prescott is on one of the best rolls of his career, with the star quarterback throwing 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions since one of the worst games of his career in a 42-10 loss at San Francisco on Oct. 8.
The Seahawks are coming off a 31-13 Thanksgiving loss to the Niners that was their second in a row, with quarterback Geno Smith needing to end a streak of 20 consecutive possessions without an offensive touchdown.
Before the two-game skid, Smith threw for a career-high 369 yards in a win over Washington.
“First off, let’s get him well. Let’s get him really healthy, a whole week of practice, that’ll be good,” coach Pete Carroll said, referring to Smith nursing a sore elbow. “It was only a couple of weeks ago he had one of the better games he’s ever had. We just need to be in sync.”
Dallas is the first team in NFL history to win its first five home games in a season by at least 20 points.
The lead was 10 going into the fourth quarter on Thanksgiving against Washington, before DaRon Bland’s NFL-record fifth interception return for a touchdown this season capped a 25-point quarter and 45-10 win.
The catch for the Cowboys is all eight of their victories have come against teams currently with losing records.
“We’ve won some games in a tough league,” Prescott said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about the next game, and right now a good Seattle team is coming in. I understand they’ve dropped a couple here recently, but this is a good team and they probably need this win more than a lot of teams in the league right now.”
After the past couple of weeks there was no question there needed to be tweaks to Seattle’s passing game. And everyone involved believes it starts with getting the ball out of Smith’s hands quicker.
Smith was sacked a season-high six times last week by San Francisco and a number of those were situations where Smith held the ball longer than he should have and the pocket collapsed.
Seattle is hoping the expected return of right tackle Abe Lucas will help the protection, but the priority has been on Smith throwing in rhythm and not being forced to hold the ball against Dallas’ stout defense.
“Coach (Pete) Carroll is right,” Smith said. “I probably have been holding the ball a little bit too long to try to see guys open, instead of what I normally do, is to throw them open.”
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED
Even if they keep winning, the Cowboys need help to catch the Eagles, defending NFC and division champs, if they want avoid going on the road in the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Philadelphia’s lead is two games, and Dallas probably hoped to gain ground with the Eagles facing Kansas City and Buffalo the past two weeks. The Eagles held on to beat the Chiefs, then pulled off an improbable win over the Bills when Jake Elliott forced overtime with a 59-yard field goal in the rain.
McCarthy says his team won’t get discouraged.
“In your journey in this league, the road to the championship’s always under construction,” McCarthy said. “It’s never the same for two teams. There’s a lot of football left to be played.”
RESTART THE RUSH
For the better part of five weeks, the Seahawks were getting the kind of consistent pressure they were hoping from the pass rush.
There was the outlier of the 11 sacks they had against the Giants, but even in other weeks during the stretch, the Seahawks were getting three or four sacks and regularly getting the quarterback to move.
Lately, some of that success with pressure has gone away. Seattle has six sacks in the past four games, but three of those came in its lone win during the stretch against Washington.
The challenge won’t get any easier this week. The Cowboys haven’t allowed a sack in the past three games, a first in Prescott’s eight seasons.
“We got to get teams behind the sticks, so we can really let our pass rush go get after guys,” Seattle defensive lineman Jarran Reed said. “We’ve been kind of giving up a few yards here and there and letting them get to third-and-shorts. We need more third-and-long downs.”