It was a simple question to quarterback Dak Prescott.
But the answer spoke volumes about his confidence and attitude during what is hoped to be a narrative-altering, barrier-breaking season for himself and the Cowboys in 2019.
Asked if he won any money off owner Jerry Jones and his son vice president Stephen Jones last weekend when Mississippi State put a 54-24 drubbing on Arkansas, Prescott responded with “Nah.”
Jerry Jones played at Arkansas, where his grandson John Stephen plays quarterback. Prescott starred at Mississippi State before being taken in the fourth round by the Cowboys 2016.
He then added with a smile, “the only bet I’m making is on myself.”
And there you have it, Prescott openly admitted he has yet to sign a new contract extension with the Cowboys because he is betting on himself.
The Cowboys (5-3) are in first place in the NFC East and he is playing the best football of his life while directing the NFL’s top-ranked offense.
He is second in the NFL in QBR, fifth in completion percentage, eighth in yards and eighth in quarterback rating heading into Sunday’s showdown against the Minnesota Vikings (6-3) to start the second half of a season the Cowboys hope ends with their first trip to the Super Bowl since 1995.
The Cowboys have offered Prescott a deal worth more than $30 million annually that would put him among the top five players at his position.
But he and his agent Todd France of CAA have resisted and asked for at least $34 million, which is a gamble considering that Prescott is making just $2.02 million in the final year of his rookie deal and risking it all going kaput via injury or poor play.
The latter has never been in question and was never a concern for a quarterback who already exuded confidence before the season and now has no doubts about himself or his offense’s explosive ability to strike at any moment.
The Cowboys have had their share of issues but they have mostly been of their own doing. When they get out of their own way, Prescott said they can be unstoppable no matter who they play.
“I’m definitely confident in myself and what I can do,” Prescott said. “I’m confident in what I am going to see, in what the defense is giving me and my guys making plays. I don’t know if I have been this confident in that before.”
Prescott’s confident attitude is also why he hasn’t allowed the uncertainty of the contract situation to affect his play. He knows a deal is going to get done sooner or later, allowing him to focus on what he’s always focused on since he started playing the game as a kid.
“It’s about why I play this game,” Prescott said. “It’s going to be great when it happens but it has no motivation or reason why I play this game. I played three seasons without a contract. So its super easy to play now. It’s going to happen at some point. It doesn’t mean anything to how I take care of today or tomorrow. When it gets done, it gets done.”
And no need to take money from the Joneses over college football when he getting ready to back a Brinks truck up to their driveway.
Here are ffive things to Watch against the Vikings:
Dak Prescott solving the Vikings defense
The Cowboys and their No. 1 ranked offense will face their toughest defense of the season on Sunday against a Vikings defense features a ferocious pass rush and has Pro Bowlers on every level of the unit.
The Vikings gave quarterback Dak Prescott fits as a rookie in 2016 when he passes for just 139 yards in a 17-15 victory.
While the Vikings employ the same scheme on defense, Prescott said he is a completely different quarterback now.
“Yeah, completely different. I mean obviously style and all that is still the same but as far as knowing what I see, being comfortable, being confident, yeah, completely different,” Prescott said. “I was just younger then. I knew what I was thinking. Nah I wasn’t seeing ghosts. Not that game. But yeah just a more confident quarterback now obviously. Believing in myself and every throw out there. I saw some throws, going back at that tape, that I’d definitely make now and let it rip that I didn’t make. That’s just the growth that comes with it.”
Four games in 18 days
Sunday’s game against the Vikings begins a stretch of four games in 18 days against arguably the toughest opponents the Cowboys have faced so far.
They play at the Detroit Lions Nov. 17 then at the New England Patriots Nov. 24 before the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 28.
The Cowboys are taking it one game at a time and are only focusing on the Vikings on Sunday.
But they know what lies ahead in terms of taking care of their bodies in a short period of time and needing to reel off some wins to keep pace in the playoff chase.
“To be honest with you, this is the toughest test we’ve had as an offense going against this (Vikings) defense,” Witten said. “I don’t think it’d be smart for us to look ahead. This is when you start playing your best football. It’s the second half of the season. We’ve got a lot of games coming up in a short amount of time. This is when you need to rattle off some wins.”
Amari Cooper’s health
The health of Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper is a major issue.
He has played through foot, ankle and thigh injuries and is now dealing with a knee contusion. A magnetic resonance imaging exam came back negative for structural damage.
Cooper missed practice all week but will try to give it a go on Sunday.
Cooper, who leads the Cowboys with 42 catches for 701 yards and six touchdowns, opens so much up for the offense in the passing and running games. Opponents can’t stack the box to stop Ezekiel Elliott and the running game with Cooper on the field.
So his presence crucial to the Cowboys success on Sunday.
“I want to play, you know what I’m saying, to be able to put up numbers to help my team win,” Cooper said. “Whatever I’ve got to do to do that, I’m cool with it.”
Ezekiel Elliott vs. Dalvin Cook on the ground
The game within the game Sunday is Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott trying to close the gap with Vikings runner Dalvin Cook in the race for the NFL rushing title.
Cook leads the way with with 894 yards son 177 carries. But he has played nine games.
Elliott is sixth in the NFL with 741 yards on 158 carries but he is tied with Cook and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey with five 100-yard games.
Elliott has three 100-yard games in the last three weeks when he has led the league in rushing, averaging 118 yards game.
“It just kind of adds a little fuel to the fire,” said Elliott, who has won two rushing titles since 2016 and whose 4,789 yards rushing since entering the league are almost 1,000 yards more than anyone else. “I’ve got some more work to do, that’s all.”
Elliott said Cook is “definitely a special guy” and he likes “his speed, his ability to stretch and cut and make guys miss”
Said Cook: “He’s a good back. I’m trying to out-rush him, and I know he’s trying to do the same thing. I think … this game’s going to be won in the trenches. My offensive line against their defensive line and [vice versa]. I think if we win in the trenches, this thing could go right for us.”
Dak Prescott over Kirk Cousins in prime time
The numbers and history point to taking Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott over Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Prescott is 4-0 vs. Cousins dating back to his days with the Washington Redskins.
This is his first meeting against Cousins with the Vikings.
Also there is the little matter of the game being on Sunday night where Prescott tends to shine and Cousins doesn’t.
Prescott has 14 career wins in prime-time games, the most of any quarterback in the NFL since he entered the NFL in 2016.
“Yeah, sure, I mean I love it,” Prescott said of playing in prime time. Yeah, it’s part of playing for this organization. As you said, become accustomed to it. So it’s exciting to know the whole world is watching but football is football. Any time you’re going to get the same form me whether it’s millions watching or nobody’s watching. So it’s fun.”
It hasn’t been fun for Cousins, who is 7-13 as a starter over his eight-year career in prime-time games.
Even more to the point,Cousins has a 6-28 record when facing a team that is above .500.
He is also 15-25-2 in road games.
Was it mentioned that the Cowboys are hosting the Vikings at AT&T Stadium on Sunday?