Once again, it appears the NFC East championship may very well be decided in Week 17. That’s when the Dallas Cowboys host the surging Philadelphia Eagles, coming off a victory over the streaky 7-5 Arizona Cardinals. This puts the Eagles, because of the edge Dallas (also 7-5) has over the tiebreaker, just outside of wildcard contention. Philadelphia is also riding a four game winning streak, whereas the Cowboys can’t seem to muster up more than two wins in a row.
For Dallas, their remaining four games are winnable. Their next game, a week from Monday night at Chicago, may be their most difficult game left on the schedule. That might be Philly coming into AT&T Stadium on the 29th of December.
The Cowboys can’t afford any mental meltdowns – on either side of the ball – if they expect to play for the division title for a third year in a row. December hasn’t been kind to Dallas, or starting quarterback Tony Romo, but the feeling around the organization is more positive than in recent years. The Cowboys are beginning to show some signs of resilience. Face it. Sweeping the New York Giants, regardless of their record, is not easy.
If Dallas wants in the postseason, they need to sweep their division, or rely heavily on outside help. Right now, a loss by the San Francisco 49ers would help either Dallas or Philadelphia. But who wants to get in the playoffs that way?
Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles is playing at a very high level for Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, all but turning out the lights on former starting quarterback Michael Vick’s colorful career in the NFL.
All while Romo is once again having one of his best years, statistically, throwing for over 3000 yards, with just seven interceptions to date. Realistically, he could eclipse the 4000 yard mark by season’s end, but he must continue to cut down on the turnovers. Romo’s been dialed back this season. There aren’t as many “big plays”, and there aren’t as many interceptions. Don’t be so hard on him! The Cowboys receivers, with the exception of tight end Jason Witten (and on occasion, Cole Beasley) don’t run the prettiest routes. Not to mention wideout Dez Bryant’s affinity to fumble, or drop passes.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett must continue to put much more emphasis on the running game. It’s very important that running back DeMarco Murray not only stay healthy, but continue to produce. And not only in scoring touchdowns, but also in yardage. If the team fall behind, which they inevitably will, it always falls on the shoulders of Romo. Then it’s only a matter of time before his patience wears thin, and Tony takes his chances downfield. In the past, Garrett has struggled to mentally prepare his team. When the going gets tough, the Cowboys fragile psyches have a history of wilting under pressure. Garrett doesn’t need the team to like him, but he does need them to play for him.