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Cowboys Shouldn't Pay Attention to Giants Result

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Unless you've been living under a rock, you know what's at stake on Christmas Eve.

    If you've been naughty, you'll wind up with a lump of coal in your stocking but bicycles await all who have been nice this year. Oh, you thought we were talking about football?

    Same deal, there. The Cowboys win the division with a win and a Giants loss and they will have a chance to play for the division title in Week 17 if the Giants beat the Jets. Because a Giants win means that the division race will come down to the final game of the season, there's a school of thought that argues Jason Garrett should approach things differently on Saturday afternoon based on the early results.

    It's not a suggestion without merit. Keeping the team as healthy as possible for a winner-take-all showdown in Week 17 is worthy of consideration when you know that anything less than your best will lead to an ugly finish to the season.

    That consideration shouldn't last very long, however. A Giants win doesn't make the Eagles game meaningless for the Cowboys which means that it shouldn't be approached any differently than if the Giants lose and the division hangs in the balance. Winning helps the Cowboys in a couple of different ways.

    The first is the most obvious one, namely that the Cowboys would have a shot at a Wild Card spot if they beat the Eagles and lose to the Giants. That shot would be a slim one, but it would exist and it isn't something to be taken lightly. It doesn't hurt that the Eagles would find themselves playing a totally meaningless game in the event of a Giants win that eliminates them from playoff contention, a situation that could lead to a less than heroic effort from Andy Reid's gang.

    Even without the Wild Card possibility, it's tough to really buy an argument that the Cowboys are better off with anything less than their best effort against the Eagles. People often talk about teams being able to flip a switch, but there's not much evidence that it is quite that easy in actual practice.

    You gain more by playing well than you get by being overly cautious. That's not to say that the Cowboys should be taking any unnecessary risks to win a game that won't wind up helping them all that much, but they shouldn't hit the field with a plan to do anything less than beat the Eagles as soundly as possible.

    If none of those arguments work for you, try this one on for size. The Cowboys have one sure route to the playoffs and that's winning both of their remaining games. Why bother thinking about anything else?