If any team understands the value of winning every game possible on the schedule it is these Dallas Cowboys. Their feet are justifiably held to the fire to erase a pair of 8-8 letdown finishes.
Cowboys fans are fed up with constant mediocrity, excuses will no longer calm the flames, and Head Coach Jason Garrett certainly has to be in a playoffs or bust spot.
That being said, this Sunday’s showdown with the Denver Broncos provides a very unique scenario for the Cowboys. The rare circumstances surrounding losing this particular game provide relatively small repercussions so early in the season.
I’m certainly not saying it is okay to concede anything to the Broncos. I firmly believe this Dallas team can play with anyone when focused and firing on all cylinders.
What I’m eluding to is that this match-up is a very unique opportunity to throw caution to the wind and simply “go for it”. Take risks they may not assume otherwise.
If they are going to make mistakes, make them big with every ounce of fire they’ve got. The low risk / high reward nature of this daunting battle allows such a rare opportunity.
LOW RISK TO RECORD (RELATIVELY)
In the scope of a 16-game season, the easiest losses a team can overcome are in the opposite conference. Winning and losing a non-conference game alters the final record by a game and not much else.
If Dallas were to win this game, it would count no more than an overall record victory. While those 4 AFC contests are important as all games are, they are the least damaging to lose.
By this I mean, it matters little more if you beat Denver or Oakland, either win gets the same reward, a one-game boost to the overall record.
There are also no extra consequences for losing this game than there were to Kansas City or San Diego.
The same cannot even remotely be said for losing a divisional game or even a game in your own conference.
Dallas has 2 main missions in this order of importance…finish at 4-2 or greater in the 6 NFC East contests, and do the same in the other 6 NFC conference games (non- divisional).
Those results at worst would give Dallas an 8-4 NFC record, and make them 8-6 overall. To finish 9-7, Dallas would only need to have won 1 of 4 AFC contests over the course of the season.
2 AFC games have been squandered already, with 2 remaining. A shot at Denver this week and the Raiders on Nov. 28. Dallas should step up and reject the Raiders at home on Thanksgiving. A loss there and they likely wouldn’t deserve the playoffs.
DOORMATS LINE THE NFC EAST FLOOR
Why is 9-7 a solid target to shoot for? The rest of the NFC East are playing whipping boys for the NFL. Regardless of losing the Denver game on Sunday and limping on a 2-3 record, Dallas at worst would still be tied for first in the NFC East.
Only an Eagles win coupled with a Dallas loss would tie the teams for the lead spot at 2-3.
If the reeling 0-4 Giants beat Philly on Sunday for their first victory, Dallas would still retain sole ownership of first place even with a loss.
It’s quite a poor state of affairs for the division opponents, but you’ll hear no complaining in Dallas. It’s been a surprise blessing for the Jekyll and Hyde Cowboys.
LOW RISK TO PLAYERS
No team wants to get handled, along with no NFL player wants to be overwhelmed and exposed by opposing players. But let’s be realistic, the Denver Broncos are not just another team…they now stand alone as THE TEAM.
Would you really feel like things were much more dire if Dallas lost this game? Who would they have lost to? Only the team that has obliterated all 4 opponents.
Not many but the Cowboys and their fans expect any other outcome. Denver has led by 18, 8, 16, and 29 heading into the 4th quarter…and has yet to even let a team win the final frame merely to save face.
Suffice to say, no team has remotely threatened the Broncos chance of winning. Would it shock anyone if the trend continued this week? To me this an opposing player and team’s dream opportunity.
So what if you get torched again like last week by Phillips Rivers? The Chargers’ offense is barely the poor man’s version of Peyton Manning’s mighty Broncos.
What’s the real harm if the best QB in the league (if not history) has a field day on the Dallas secondary? No team has come close to preventing that so far in 4 attempts.
This should be an ideal spot for struggling CB Morris Claiborne to quit over-thinking and throw caution to the wind. It should be a great opportunity for DC Monte Kiffin to unleash the hounds and bring exotic blitzes in an attempt to rock Manning.
On the other side of the ball, it’s a wonderful position for new play-caller Bill Callahan to take the reigns off the offense and let it fly. Forget the multi-TE looks that are marginally effective.
Trade that in for 3 and 4 WR sets and also pound Murray at them from the spread formation. Let’s see what this talented offense can really do with less caution and more octane.
This match-up is by far not a forgone conclusion of defeat if the Dallas coaches and players buy into the urgency and attitude they have lacked in their two losses.
The low risk / high reward aspect of this war with the best team in football is the best situation possible to really take this Cowboys’ race car for a high speed ride and see what it can do.
Dallas will show up in this game with something to prove and play with full intensity. If they avoid letting off the gas, there is no reason why they can’t be the first to defeat Manning and his finesse offensive attack.
Make the receivers pay with physical hits following underneath catches. Do not allow the huge play, quick scores like last week. And pressure the quarterback by any design necessary. If Manning has all day to choose his windows, it’s a useless cause.
The right defensive combination to slow them down is a tall order, but it can be done by this collection of talented Cowboys’ players. With the right mindset of relentless attack with urgency, Sunday could be a real eye opener and crucial course correction for this identity confused Cowboys’ team.