Did you watch Saturday’s Cowboys preseason opener? If so, I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that. Did you also watch Cole Ragans’ Thursday start against the Astros? If so, double woof. I can only hope you caught some Wings basketball for a much-needed palate cleanser, especially with the playoffs tipping off this week.
Here’s what I’m watching:
Wednesday, 8/17—Philadelphia Union at FC Dallas—8 p.m., ESPN+
As our Will Maddox wrote last week, this a different FC Dallas team, one that has been climbing up the standings in lieu of its usual late-summer swoon. If FCD’s current third-place position holds, it will be the team’s highest finish in the Western Conference since 2016. But while first-place LAFC and second-place Austin are cruising to the postseason, only six points separate Dallas from being out of the playoff seeds entirely
They need to keep winning, in other words, and Wednesday’s tilt against the East-leading Union could say plenty about how real this run is and just how resilient Dallas might be.
Thursday 8/18 & Sunday 8/21—Wings at Sun Games 1 and 2—7 p.m., ESPNU; 11 a.m., ABC
Good news: Dallas made the playoffs for the second consecutive season, a feat they hadn’t accomplished since the 2017 and 2018 campaigns. And after getting knocked out in a single-elimination format last year, they’ll now play a best-of-three as they seek to advance to the second round for the first time since 2015, when the franchise played in Tulsa.
Now the bad news: both games are in Connecticut and the Wings will play them without All-Star Arike Ogunbowale, who is nursing a hip injury. Not ideal.
Sam Hale has more ahead of the series. We’ll have plenty during the series, too: Sam and I will be doing What We Saw, What It Felt Like for however long Dallas’ run lasts, with Dorothy J. Gentry dropping larger stories after each series.
Saturday, 8/20—Will the Cowboys surpass their own penalty milestone?—9 p.m., CBS
Seventeen. That’s the number of penalties the Cowboys put up in Saturday’s clunker of a loss to Denver, the most in an NFL preseason game since 2019.
You do not require StrongSide’s hard-hitting analysis to tell you that this is a) a lot, and b) despite Mike McCarthy’s hand-waving to the contrary, not terribly encouraging for the NFL’s most penalized team last season, especially given his very pointed statement six months ago that cutting down on the flags was his “No. 1 focus” in the offseason.
There will be plenty of players jostling for position up and down Dallas’ roster on Saturday, but all of it is incidental next to teamwide discipline. There’s still plenty of time to get that in ship shape, so let’s start with the bar low: 16 penalties or fewer. Seems doable—right?