Well, it’s time for the stretch run.
I don’t think anyone expected Sunday night’s loss to New Orleans to be quite the lopsided mismatch it was. But it’s hardly a surprise that the Cowboys, who don’t appear to have a grasp on the word “consistency,” lost to fall back to .500.
The ineptitude of the NFC East has bailed the Cowboys out after several losses this season. To illustrate my point: Sunday was the first time this season that multiple division rivals have won games the same weekend as Dallas lost.
In fact, the Cowboys’ three division opponents have posted a combined winning record in three of the past four weekends, after failing to do that once in the first six weeks of the season. To simplify: the Eagles, Redskins and Giants were a combined 4-13 through the first six games, before New York even entered the win column. Since then, the combined record has improved to 7-4.
That’s not necessarily to say anyone is getting better, though. I wrote at the end of last week about Washington’s failure to defeat a Minnesota team that – close game against Dallas aside – isn’t all that good.
The Eagles and Giants both picked up wins Sunday before the Cowboys played the Saints, but I’m not convinced either victory was something to get hyped about.
The box score of Philadelphia’s win against Green Bay suggests a fairly dominant performance, but having re-watched the game Monday morning, I’m not so convinced. Nick Foles had an efficient outing, and LeSean McCoy rushed for 155 yards, but it looked like two long touchdown passes, one to DeSean Jackson and one to Riley Cooper, offset was a bit of a herky-jerky offensive performance.
It’s also worth mentioning the 280 yards the Eagles secondary allowed to Green Bay third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien. In his first meaningful action of the year, Tolzien got the Packers into the Eagles’ red zone with a chance to force a 7-7 tie in the second quarter when he threw an end zone interception which was returned 70 yards.
The Giants outlasted the same Oakland team the Eagles crushed last week, 24-20. Take a gander at that box score, and you’ll see the same issues that landed the Giants at 0-6 earlier this season.
Eli Manning was sacked three times and threw for just 140 yards. The New York running game averaged 3.5 yards per carry, and the Giants lost two fumbles.
Neither performance is what I’d call awe-inspiring. Though it’s fair to say the Cowboys looked far below what you’d even call competent in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It’s easy to feel the division slipping away when you lose a game 49-17 with six weeks remaining. But here’s some encouragement: Dallas might have the easiest road remaining in the division.
That might be hard to believe when you consider the three remaining division games, not to mention dates with the Bears and Packers. But the combined record of the Cowboys’ last six opponents is just 24-31, and only two of those teams have winning records.
Compare that to the last six weeks for the Eagles, who face a combined record of 26-28 and three winning opponents. The combined record of Washington’s last six is a slightly improved 30-26, including playoff contenders Kansas City and San Francisco.
Ironically enough, it’s the Giants, who find themselves on a three game winning streak, who face the toughest slate. New York’s final six opponents are a collective 35-28 with games against San Diego, Seattle and Detroit all still to play.
There’s a lot of football left to play. But I won’t be surprised if three more wins is all it takes for the Cowboys to reach the playoffs, considering the up-and-down way we’ve seen this division play.