Don’t look now, but today is the first day of December. Yes, that magical time of year when the Elf on the Shelf comes out, the Christmas lights go up, and the Dallas Cowboys do their impression of Houdini and disappear.
The Cowboys have posted a winning record in the month of December just three times since the 1995 season, going 29-44 in that span.
If the Cowboys have any thoughts of making it to the postseason, continuing that winning percentage of .397 this month ain’t gunna cut it (which would basically translate to a 1-3 record in Dallas’ remaining four games).
So what should Cowboys fans root for? Well, besides the obvious of winning some of their games, there are some other things you should be rooting for as well.
Let’s start with the Cowboys’ schedule: at Chicago, at Philadelphia, Indianapolis, at Washington. The Cowboys’ best formula to make the playoffs would be to post a winning record of 3-1 in December, and if you have to pick which team to lose to, it would be the lone game remaining against the AFC and Indianapolis (giving Dallas a better conference record).
OK, well, that’s not the most likely formula. If the Cowboys do go 3-1, and the loss is to Indy, that means that Dallas would go 8-0 this season on the road. But one way or another, 3-1 is the number to shoot for, which would put Dallas at 11-5. Do that, and you probably do not have to rely on much help.
What to Root For
First thing’s first – any chance for the Cowboys to win the NFC East starts next Sunday when the Seahawks play at the Eagles. If Seattle wins that game, it opens up the door for Dallas, who comes in that next week. Since Philly plays at Washington and at the Giants to close out the season, that has the makings of a 2-0 finish for the Eagles.
A Wild Card playoff berth is more probable for the Cowboys. There are basically five teams playing for three spots: Arizona, Seattle, Detroit, San Francisco and Dallas.
One of those three spots won’t affect the Cowboys, as either Arizona or Seattle will win the NFC West. The team that falls short will be the one battling Dallas. I’m betting on Arizona to be a wild card; they’ve lost their last two with a backup QB. The Cardinals play KC, St. Louis, Seattle and San Francisco. Since the Cards have the tie-breaker over Dallas, better root for no better than 1-3.
Detroit has two home games vs. Tampa Bay and Minnesota, then travels to Chicago and Green Bay. Better hope that the Bears still give a rip about their season in week 16 and that the Packers haven’t secured their spot in the standings yet in week 17. I don’t like this setup for Dallas unless the Boys go 4-0. I’m penciling the Lions in (be happy – the last time I penciled the Lions in they went 0-16).
San Francisco plays at Oakland and Seattle, then finishes with home games against San Diego and Arizona.
Since Arizona and San Francisco have the tiebreaker over the Cowboys, it makes it that much more important for Dallas to go 3-1. And since we’re on the topic of tiebreakers, root for those Cardinals to win the NFC West since Dallas owns the tiebreaker over the Seahawks.
Did you get all that?
A final record of 11-5 should get the Cowboys in. Personally, I see the best recipe for that record including wins at Chicago, at home vs. Indy and at Washington. Even then, it might be dicey. Go 2-2 and finish at 10-6, and I think Dallas is sitting at home again. That is, unless they get some major help.
If you weren’t a Cardinals fan yet, time to jump on the bandwagon. Oh, and hope that Houdini doesn’t show up again for his annual December tour.