You've probably heard of the five stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance -- at some point.
No sane person would equate a playoff-less football season with the death of a loved one, which is to say that there are plenty of Cowboys fans probably going through something similar to those five stages since the loss to the Giants on Sunday night. A bit extreme, perhaps, but such is life when you pour your heart and soul into the Cowboys.
If you're looking for an exercise that allows you to keep wallowing in a disappointing season, we've come up with one that should do the trick. Take all eight Cowboys losses, analyze them and come up with the one that was the most galling. It's not easy, since almost all of the Cowboys losses were gutwrenchers that were there for the taking before cruel fate (or an iced kicker or Tony Romo) snatched them away.
Jets 27, Cowboys 24
The opening night loss set the tone for a season of kicks to the groin as a Romo fumble near the end zone, a blocked punt and a Romo interception erased a 14-point fourth quarter lead and handed the Jets a win. It was an incredibly painful way to lose a game, but it was just the first game of the season and that meant that it is hard for it to compete with some of the others on this list.
Lions 34, Cowboys 30
Similar script as the opener -- Romo turnovers erase a huge lead -- but more painful because the two pick-sixes that chipped away at a 27-3 lead were followed by defensive breakdowns in the fourth quarter. As bad as Romo's three picks were, if Rob Ryan's defense could have come up with a way to stop Calvin Johnson once in that final period the Cowboys would have held on.
Patriots 20, Cowboys 16
Another fourth quarter lead falls by the wayside thanks to an overly conservative offensive game plan and Tom Brady. The defense couldn't hold in the final two minutes, another sign of bad things to come, but this loss isn't nearly as galling as the first two. Losing on the road to the Patriots is never something that should make you want to strangle the closest kitten.
Eagles 34, Cowboys 7
There's no better illustration of how many awful Cowboys losses there were this season than the fact that a brutal beatdown at the hands of a division rival barely registers. At least the Cowboys were out of it early instead of breaking hearts in the final moments.
Cardinals 19, Cowboys 13 (OT)
An underrated contender for the top spot. The season wound up being decided by the two losses to the Giants and winning this game wouldn't have changed that, but this was the least defensible of the fourth quarter meltdowns. The Jets and Patriots were at home and the Lions are a playoff team, but blowing a game to John Skelton and the Cardinals is completely indefensible. As is icing your own field goal kicker after botching clock management on the entire final drive and then lying about the reason why in the aftermath of the game.
Giants 37, Cowboys 34
Hard to beat this one. After Dez Bryant strafed the secondary, the Cowboys were up 12 with 5:41 to play. The defense couldn't make a single play, though, and Romo just missed Miles Austin on a pass that would have ended the game and, as it turns out, handed the Cowboys the division. And then a blocked field goal at the very end, giving the Giants renewed life and making the season finale count for much more than it should.
Eagles 20, Cowboys 7
You can hate the lack of effort and the fact that this made a season sweep for the Eagles, but this loss just didn't matter.
Giants 31, Cowboys 14
No epic collapse and no singular moment of back-breaking agony, just a pretty complete butt-kicking that featured all of the Dallas weaknesses of the season on full display. Bad coaching, poor offensive line play and a defense that appeared to be confused about their purpose on every single play. But while it cost the team the division and probably could have gone differently if a handful of plays turned out differently, you have to ask yourself if it is worse to find out how flawed a team the Cowboys were or if it is worse to get a confirmation of those flaws.
Those are the losses, here's the way we're ranking them:
1. First Giants loss
4. Second Giants loss
7. First Eagles loss
8. Second Eagles loss