At the end of the day on November 26, with a belly full of catnap-inducing tryptophan and bits of cranberry sauce staining the area around your mouth, you will have a pretty good idea of where this Cowboys season is going. That day, which will see the Cowboys host the Oakland Raiders, will wrap up a 33 day span (beginning on Sunday) of absolutely crucial games for the team.
This span--featuring home games against Atlanta, Seattle, Washington and Oakland, and away games against Green Bay and Philadelphia--will, in all likelihood, determine the reality of Dallas's playoff aspirations going into December, a month that has been less than kind to the Cowboys of recent. That is, these are difficult, but winnable games.
If Dallas is to reverse the increasingly publicized trend of December struggles, they will do so against a brutal schedule: at New York (yikes), versus San Diego (could be tough), at New Orleans (yikes), at Washington (should win), versus Philadelphia (yikes). Ah, but this is a long way off, at least in the context of the football season, and to arrive at this hellish month with any realistic hope of anything, a winning streak is in order.
This is potentially frightening news, considering that this stretch of games, upon which Dallas will embark in less than 48 hours, is anything but a cake walk. But, as the players so often say, "we're just taking it one game at a time." This brings us back to Sunday.
If Dallas doesn't come out from the bye firing--or, more accurately, playing disciplined, clean, efficient football--there is little in the way of reasonable hope for an arbitrary turnaround. And what better proving ground than JerryWorld (the stadium that Jones once believed, in a bow to senility, could raise Dallas's level of play) against a 4-1 conference opponent.
Whether one could accurately describe an October game as "crunch time," I don't know; more accurately, it's identity time for the Dallas Cowboys. Are they the team that struggles to defeat Kansas City on the road, or the one that was a drive or a penalty or a turnover away from beating the Giants, and the Broncos, the very class of the league?
In this light, my first sentence seems woefully obtuse; there may be no need to wait until Thanksgiving to see who this team is, where they are going. Wade and company should give us a pretty good glimpse of that this Sunday.