Beating Seattle Becomes Next Must Win

the final four to win the NFC East, and in 1985 and 1998, they went 2-2 over the final four games and won the division title with 10-6 records.

So, yes, this can be done - has been done - but they just have to worry about themselves because the rest will take care of itself. You watch.

Among the 12 teams at .500 or better in the NFC, and starting with Monday night's Green Bay-New Orleans game between two 5-5 teams, they still have to play one another 20 times. That means there are 20 losses to be spread out over those 12 teams.

Take the upcoming Week 13 for example: Arizona (7-4) plays at Philadelphia (5-5-1); Carolina (8-3) is at Green Bay; New Orleans is at Tampa Bay (8-3); the Giants are at Washington; Chicago (6-5) is at Minnesota (6-5). Five losses.

By beating Seattle, the Cowboys very well could wake up next Monday morning tied for the second-best record in the NFC, and would own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tampa Bay and could conceivably own the top wild-card position if a three-way tiebreaker comes into play. Conceivably.

Now anyone want to argue with me about how important beating Seattle is - a team with victories over only St. Louis and San Francisco to their names?

"That's the way it is in the playoffs," Phillips said of this mentality of the next game is the most important. "Every game is really, really important and that's the message we've got to get across to the team and the players . . . it's really what we do, and I've got to keep them on that path."

And you get the feeling the Cowboys learned a very hard lesson early in the season, losing three of four games after jumping out to that 3-0 record, maybe figuring this winning stuff is not all that difficult when piggy-backing that start on last year's 13-3 record.

Plus, no matter what anyone says, after going 13-3 last year, it was going to be awfully difficult for the Cowboys to duplicate or improve on that record this year. Pressure is one thing. Losing, and panicking a little, is another. And history - there I go again - was never with them.

Because remember, 13-3 matched the 1992 team's mark for the best record in club history, so never - and still never to this day - has a Cowboys team gone 13-3 or better in consecutive seasons. And sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but I just don't think we are in the midst of watching the greatest team in the franchise's 49-year history.

"Those early losses, if you ask me, those were informative for us," Newman said, "because we thought we were a better team than we were, and goes to show you we weren't as good as we thought we were. Everybody had to come back out here and go to work.

"So actually, I think it was a blessing in disguise."

Got a reminder, not only of how hard it is to win in the NFL, no matter who you are or what you think you are, but also of how one season does not begat the next, and how injuries to some of your best players can sure sock you right upside the head.

What was my mantra at the beginning of the season?

One game at a time.

Seattle, that is all the Cowboys can think about, the team that only lost 20-17 to Washington this past Sunday, and actually had the ball in the final two minutes with a chance to drive for the win or send the game into overtime.

The Cowboys cannot lose to another St. Louis. As Mike Singletary might say, cannot have it, not if this team is going to get to 8-4 and go where all those 13 previous Cowboys teams with 8-4 records at the 12-game mark went:

To the playoffs.

"It's human nature, and it's almost a belief that we were going to win every game, that's what we thought," Spears said, "and when things started happening, and losing, you look at that situation and you say, 'Wait a minute, we're 5-4.' This dynasty we were supposed to have this year, and staring back at the way we were in the '90s, it was surprising to everybody.

"For that to happen, it could be humbling or you can just get beat to death. But the thing about this team I really like, despite all the things we had go on, guys will still fight,

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