The Miami Dolphins are one of six teams (Cleveland, Denver, Oakland, Baltimore and San Francisco are the others) who hold a winning record over the Cowboys with a series mark of 7-6. Of course, one of the six wins for Dallas happened to be in Super Bowl VI when Roger Staubach and the Cowboys won their very first NFL title, 24-3 in New Orleans. The Cowboys have also won four of the last five in the series, going back to 1996 when Dallas spoiled the showdown reunion game with then Dolphins-coach Jimmy Johnson in Miami 29-10.
But, this particular matchup has its own unique characteristics with the Cowboys desperate for a win under any circumstance after 63 days in the winless wilderness. Miami starts a stretch of five of their final seven at home. Both retain hope that today vaults them on their way to a playoff run that seemed impossible earlier in the year.
The Dolphins' best player is also its highest-paid player, the dominant Ndamukong Suh. He is playing at a level that puts him near the very top of the NFL and needs no introduction. Instead, let's look at three of Suh's mates who will also attempt to impact today's action.
QB Ryan Tannehill
As Tannehill entered training camp in the final year of his rookie deal, the Dolphins canceled the option year with a four-year extension for $77 million. They drafted the quarterback eighth overall in 2012 after just 20 starts at quarterback for Texas A&M. He is such a fine athlete that he was one of the top wide receivers for the Aggies before moving to quarterback. He has posted improved numbers in each of his three seasons as Miami's starter, and now he has the contract that secures his stature at the age of 27. He is generally efficient but will miss with accuracy under duress in spells. He also has stopped running the ball and has not enjoyed the most consistent performance in 2015.
WR Jarvis Landry
The LSU product, who watched three teammates get selected before he was taken late in the second round in 2014 (including fellow WR Odell Beckham), has emerged as a wonderful weapon for the Dolphins since his arrival. He is a receiving threat on short crossing routes and occasional long patterns. He is a running option with 14 carries and a return man on kickoffs and punts. He tested poorly in the 40-yard dash (4.61) and the bench press (12), yet appears plenty fast and plenty strong with great catch skills that showcase his talent on the way to the end zone. His yards-per-catch of 9.9 indicates most of his production is underneath, but he is versatile and competitive and a tough matchup every week.
DE Olivier Vernon
Vernon played high school, college, and now pro football in Miami, but he is one of the lesser-known pass rushers in the NFL. With 18 sacks in his last two seasons, he is certainly a threat off his right defensive end spot. The plan was to sign Suh to supplement the Vernon/Cameron Wake bookend duo, but Wake was lost for the year in Week 8 with a torn Achilles tendon. Vernon is having a quieter season with just two sacks, but he has picked up his play in the last few weeks. He uses explosiveness and a relentless effort to get around left tackles on his way to the quarterback.