This is one of those “good news/bad news” columns. Since I’ m a glass-half-full kinda guy, I’ll give you the good news first.
The Cowboys will make the playoffs. Guaranteed.
What’s that? You think they’ll be fine if they can win a big home game next week vs. Indy and at pathetic Washington to close out the season at 11-5, even with another loss to the Eagles?
Well you’re right about one thing – they’ll be 11-5. Most years, that’s a playoff berth and there’s a good chance for a division crown.
This isn’t most years.
First off, a loss to the Eagles on Sunday gives Philly the NFC East. They would have to collapse with two losses to the Redskins and Giants for the Cowboys to have any shot at catching them. Nope.
So that would leave the Cowboys (9-4) gunning for one of the two Wild Card spots, battling Detroit (9-4), Seattle (9-4), and Arizona (10-3). San Francisco was in it but they’ve decided to do their best phantom impression and disappear.
More good news/bad news: the Cowboys hold the tie-breaker in a head-to-head with Seattle since they beat them back in October. The bad news – it probably won’t matter because of two reasons. A) The Seahawks will probably catch and pass the Cardinals for the NFC West crown. And B) the head-to-head would be thrown out the window in a three-way tie between Detroit, Seattle and Dallas for the two Wild Card spots. That tie-breaker is conference record, and both the Lions and Hawks have better ones. Oh, and that head-to-head in case there’s a tie between two teams — Arizona holds it over Dallas since they won in Arlington earlier this year.
Jason Garrett spoke the truth at his Monday press conference when he said, “It’s all in front of us. We control our own fate.”
He’s right. But the best path to the playoffs includes a win at Philadelphia on Sunday and a run at the NFC East. Can they do it? A 33-10 home loss to these same Eagles just two weeks ago doesn’t bode well. But there are several positives about this game for Dallas that weren’t there on Thanksgiving.
- The Cowboys are flawless (literally) on the road this season, sporting a 6-0 record. This team knows how to take care of business (mainly running the ball and playing defense) away from home.
- Instead of just 92 hours between games when they last faced the Eagles (plus a redeye plane ride home from NY), there will be a whopping 236 hours (or 10 days) between the last Cowboys game at Chicago when the ball is kicked off in the City of Brotherly Love. This is particularly key for Tony Romo, who admitted he should have taken a pain killer for the last meeting with such little time to recover.
- It’s a division foe at a place that this team has played before. If there is one certainty in the NFL – divisional games are still the best games due to familiarity and rivalry. This probably won’t be another blowout (and the Cowboys know how to win close games).
- Mark Sanchez is still at QB for the Eagles. Draw into that what you will.
The Cowboys have gone 8-8 in each of the last three seasons. If they would have gone 9-7 in any of them, they make the playoffs.
Final good news/bad news: Dallas got its ninth win last week. They might want to get to 10 this Sunday in a practical “playoff game” if they have any aspirations of playing in January.