During my time in scouting departments around the league, I always remember guys like Ron Wolf, Tom Coughlin and Bill Parcells preaching that the push for the playoffs begins after Thanksgiving Day. If all things manage to hold together for the Dallas Cowboys, this once again will clearly be the case. You wanted to be playing your best at the end of the season when the games meant the most.
What will be key about the month of December for the Cowboys in 2013 is that with the four games in which they play, the matchups will be against conference opponents that will most likely be battling for the same playoff positioning as themselves. Wins against conference opponents is often the difference between a home game in the playoffs or having to make a trip on the road.
Teams have made that journey of late with success but it’s something that you want to try and avoid at all cost. What is also important about those final four contests, is that two of those games are against division opponents, the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles to end the season. In the last two seasons, we have all grown accustom to those final divisional games being winner take all matchups with the Cowboys coming up on the short end the last two seasons.
What also makes this month difficult is not only the opponents: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles but the uncertainty with the potential problems with weather in Chicago and Washington. Having spent five years of my life in Green Bay, it’s a real plus to catch the Bears early in the month and not later where the conditions can be completely different. Serious playoff teams have to be able to function in all conditions and with so much on the line, the Cowboys cannot allow those conditions to hamper how they play those road games.
I understand that teams change from season to season but the Cowboys in that month of December will face two teams that have first year head coaches in Marc Trestman and Chip Kelly. Sometimes that is an advantage depending on how the season is going up until that point. If the team is winning that means the players are buying into the message, if not, we saw what happened to Andy Reid in Philadelphia last season.
Sometimes we use numbers to tell the stories with these teams. I went back to games played since 2008 to get my sample size for this point. The Chicago Bears are 6-6 during home games in the month of December which is surprising to me because of how difficult it has been teams for to get victories at Soldier Field over the years. The Washington Redskins are only 4-8, with one of those victories coming against the Cowboys in 2012. As far as road teams in the month of December that the Cowboys will face in 2013, the Green Bay Packers are 4-7 which is completely surprising because of how much success they have enjoyed even winning a Super Bowl a few short years ago.
The team that has been money on the road during this time has been the Philadelphia Eagles who have a record of 7-5. As for the Cowboys in the month of December, their record is 6-7 on the road and 5-5 at home, which is a reflection of what we have seen from this team the last several years. As important as all these games are in a season, what the month of December will once again tell the true story, for their sake, I hope it’s a different ending.