The Dallas Cowboys face their toughest test of the season this Sunday when they travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots.
We’re going to learn a lot about the Dallas Cowboys this week. On Sunday, the team travels to Foxborough to take on the first-place New England Patriots in what will undoubtedly be their toughest game of the season.
Despite being in first place in the NFC East, no one really knows what to make of this year’s Dallas Cowboys. It’s been a season of Jekyll and Hyde for them. They beat the bad teams, as they should; but, they often struggle against the good ones.
Because of this, many have labeled them “pretenders” when it comes to the playoffs. Rightfully so, too. All of the Cowboys wins this season have come against teams with losing records. Conversely, three of their four losses have come against teams with winning records, save for that dreadful game against the lowly New York Jets.
That is why Sunday’s game against the Patriots is so important; the Cowboys need to prove they can win against playoff-caliber talent. It’s an important game, no doubt. A win against the toughest team in the AFC would shift the narrative surrounding the Cowboys this season completely.
It would also be a confidence booster for the team as they would knock off a legitimate Super Bowl contender (and many’s favorites to win it all). But it’s not a must-win for the Cowboys by any means.
If the Cowboys lose, it’ll further perpetuate the narrative that they can’t win the big games against tough opponents. But looking at it purely from a record perspective, there would be no real harm done in terms of playoff standings.
At 6-4, the Cowboys are safe in first place for at least another week. Even a loss combined with an Eagles win would put both teams at 6-5 on the year, with Dallas holding the current edge. They beat the Eagles in their first matchup back in October and have a perfect record against NFC East opponents with just two divisional games left.
Even with a loss against the Patriots, the Cowboys would remain in the driver’s seat for the playoffs. And what looked like a daunting end of year schedule suddenly looks a lot more winnable.
After the Patriots, the Cowboys are looking at a schedule consisting of the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins. I’m not saying these are easy wins, but it certainly looks a lot less intimidating given what has unfolded around the league these past few weeks.
The Bills struggle on offense. The Bears are in shambles. The Rams are inconsistent. The Eagles are injured. The Redskins are a train wreck. Each of these teams has serious flaws that the Cowboys could take advantage of, so I’m not too concerned about the result of this week’s game in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, a win would be nice as it would move the team one step closer to clinching the division. But it also wouldn’t mean the Cowboys get to take their foot off the gas, though, as the Eagles would remain hot on their heels.
Sunday’s game is important in media narrative only. The headlines are swirling through my head already. Pending the results, the Cowboys will be labeled Super Bowl favorites or playoff busts by the media talking heads.
In reality, a loss won’t really hamper the Cowboys’ playoff chances too much given that they have five very winnable games coming up, including a rematch against the Eagles in Week 16. It will be that game, more likely than not, that will determine who comes away as champions of the NFC East.
A win against the Patriots this Sunday simply moves the Cowboys closer to the playoffs but secures nothing. It sure would quiet the doubters, though.
On the flip side, a loss would open the team up to further skepticism; from questions about the future of head coach Jason Garrett to quarterback Dak Prescott‘s lingering contract to the effectiveness of running back Ezekiel Elliott, it will simply be a media nightmare for fans. But that’s all that’s really on the line this week.