Four weeks ago, your Dallas Cowboys were 2-2 and seemingly destined for implosion. They couldn’t go three plays without committing a penalty. Fans were crying for Wade Phillips’ ouster. And Jay Mariotti dared to suggest benching ”Phony” Romo. The Giants were undefeated. The Eagles were getting healthy again. It was enough to make you chuck your Party Pass and seek peace and solace at the bottom of a gin bottle.
Well, look at your Cowboys now. Tied for first place, with the chance to take the division lead outright if they beat Philly next Sunday Night. The Eagles are brutally erratic. The Giants can’t defend the pass. Of all the teams in the NFC East, Dallas is playing the best football right now, and has the most balance.
So the question at midseason is this: Will they end the season on top? That’s right. It’s time to bust out the remaining schedules of all three NFC East contenders and make a worthless prediction!
First, the Cowboys. The schedule ahead isn’t a kind one. Here are the remaining nine games: @PHI, @GB, WAS, OAK, @NYG, SD, @NO, @WAS, PHI. The Cowboys have yet to beat a good team on the road. The next two weeks, at Philly and Green Bay, will go a long way to establishing the Cowboy’s road cred. Let’s say they split the next two weeks, losing to Philly, even though I think they can still easily win that game. They’ll beat the Skins and Raiders, who both stink. I think they can also beat the Giants on the road the following week, given that team’s woes in the secondary. Dallas SHOULD have beaten New York in Week 2. The Chargers can’t beat anyone good, so call that a win. Call the game in New Orleans a loss, given the way the Saints are crushing people right now. Then a win in DC.
That puts the Cowboys at 11-4 going into the last game of the year against Philly at home. Would they need to win that game to take the division? Let’s peep the other schedules.
EAGLES: DAL, @SD, @CHI, WAS, @ATL, @NYG, SF, DEN, @DAL
GIANTS: SD, BYE, ATL, @DEN, DAL, PHI, @WAS, CAR, @MIN
The Eagles have only two opponents left on their schedule with losing records. That might be a good thing for Philly, given that Andy Reid and company just adore playing terrible football against losing teams. Let’s say the Eagles beat DAL on the road, then they lay an egg on the West Coast in San Diego. Chalk them up for another loss in Chicago, then a win against the Skins. I don’t think they come out of their road swing at Atlanta and New York better than 1-1. Then they’ll beat San Fran at home, then lose to a Denver squad bound to give them fits. That’s 9-6 going into the Dallas game, making it impossible for them to catch the Cowboys.
Now, to the Giants. They get five of their last eight games at home, plus an easy road trip to DC. I say they beat the Chargers at home, then beat Atlanta, then lose on the road at Denver. Then a loss at home to the Cowboys, a rebound win against Philly, and a two-game cakewalk through WAS and CAR. That puts them at 10-5 going into Minneapolis against a Vikings team that may have nothing to play for. Let’s have them lose that game anyway. Because why the hell not. That makes the Cowboys champs if they beat Philly the second time.
Of course, those predictions are all certain to be wrong. But looking at the schedules shows that A) the Cowboys have (barely) the most friendly schedule of the bunch, B) Atlanta and Denver could do Dallas a whole lotta favors by beating the Eagles and Giants when they play them, and C) the remaining four intradivision games between these three teams will mean everything. Especially that last game against Philly. I assure you that game will mean plenty in the end. It all starts next Sunday night. Fire up the grills, Dallas. This is about to get really interesting.