Back in early September, nobody predicted the Dallas Cowboys would be in the Elite Eight of the NFL playoff tournament. Yet, a one-and-done Wild Card game loss to the Detroit Lions last week in their own house would have been a disastrous outcome for Cowboys Nation. The season would have been considered a failure… again.
That fear of losing created a nervous vibe for the Cowboys faithful and hung like a black cloud over AT&T Stadium before their first post-season game since 2009. Trailing the Lions 20-7 late in the 3rd quarter, it appeared that the Cowboys had finally caved under the pressure.
“I know we ain’t playing with house money. We’re trying to go win a Super Bowl” – Orlando Scandrick
The favored Cowboys were well on their way to a loss and a sudden and very disappointing end to their season. Romo-Haters where crafting their “I told you so” texts and the anti-Garrett crowd was ready to storm Valley Ranch.
But as they have done throughout this magical run, The Boys answered the bell and where able to deliver a late round knockout blow to finish another fight.
This week feels so much different. America’s Team is playing with house money now!
While no Cowboys player would ever admit it and Dallas’ head coach Jason Garrett would deny it to his grave, but the 2014 season has already been a huge success for this franchise. And every win from here on out is just icing on the cake.
This is exactly why the Dallas Cowboys are the most dangerous team left in the NFL Playoffs.
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The “House Money Effect” was first coined by Cornell University’s Richard H. Thaler and Eric J. Johnson. It basically states that if they are playing with profits from previous gains, people are more inclined to take greater risks.
Translation: The Cowboys have nothing to lose and they will play like it.
But that’s not how all the players’ feel. According to Cowboys’ cornerback Orlando Scandrick, he has a bigger goal in mind without overlooking the Green Bay Packers. And anything less, for him, would be a disappointment.
"“I know we ain’t playing with house money. We’re trying to go win a Super Bowl,” Scandrick told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week. “Nothing about this is house money. You don’t play with house money until it’s over. I’m sure (the Packers are) going to be ready to play. They’re gonna be rested. They’ve got the advantage of playing at home. The elements. We’re gonna have to go out and play our best football game.”"
Again, no Cowboys player would ever admit it. Still, some personalities need that pressure to play well. But with the weight of a first round embarrassing loss off their shoulders, Dallas may just play more like that loose team that went up to Seattle and punched that bully right in the face earlier this season.
Perhaps Tony Romo will perform like the NFL’s most effective quarterback in the crucial first half of this Sunday’s game rather than the skittish signal caller that struggled to get the offensive train out of the station last weekend.
Over on the other side of the Frozen Tundra on Sunday afternoon, the near touchdown favorite Green Bay Packers will be feeling the heat. Losing your first home post-season game as a heavy favorite equates to a failure.
Combine that pressure with the uncertainty of what to expect from their hobbling franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Cheese-Heads across the globe will be white-knuckling their frozen beers throughout Sunday’s game.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the Cowboys are content with where they stand today. It appears that this year’s version of America’s Team has bought into Garrett’s #FinishTheFight battle cry.
Playing with the house money they won last week may just be the extra edge that Dallas needs to win this next round.