Eagles, and going on to win, 41-21.
"And it's, 'Oh man, we got to play those with three days practice,'" said Parcells, who also knows that of the second-half opponents, today, only Detroit (3-4) has a losing record.
But if we can just table the woe-is-me 'tude for just a sec, if we can just forget how maddening it's been to witness the Cowboys squander the 13-point lead to Washington late in the fourth quarter and the seven-point lead late, late in the fourth against Seattle, then just maybe a ray of hope my poke through all these storm clouds.
If eight games is enough evidence for a consensus opinion from this high court, then the Cowboys have proven they can play with anyone this year in the NFL. OK, I know they haven't played Indy or Denver or Carolina or Cincinnati. And I know comparison scores don't mean doodly, but look, Carolina only beat the Cards by four, and Denver did lose to the Giants and beat the Eagles about as badly as the Cowboys did.
Plus, the Cowboys' three losses? Try by one point, by six and by three on a last-second field goal following an interception in the waning five seconds. That's it.
There has been no 26-10 loss as there was last year to the Giants, or a 41-20 one to the Packers or a 26-3 beating by Cincinnati. And hey, even go back to 2003 when the Cowboys finished 10-6 in Parcells' first season. There hasn't been one of those 16-0 shutouts administered that year by Tampa Bay or 40-21 beating by Miami or 36-10 one by Philadelphia. Not yet anyway.
At least you can say the Cowboys have been good enough to be in every game so far.
"Without a doubt, we can compete with anybody in the league," quarterback Drew Bledsoe said. "From a talent level, scheme, all the things you have to have, I definitely think we can be competitive with any team."
These guys have found that out for themselves, especially when you consider the worst loss of the season - er, let's put it this way, the only loss to a team with a losing record - has to be the one in Oakland, 19-13, to what now is a 3-4 team. And even at that, remember, the Cowboys were sitting there inside the five-yard line in the final seconds with a chance to score the winning touchdown.
If not all that, then this is all the evidence these guys needed to gain confidence: Beating Philadelphia, the four-time NFC East Division champs and last year's NFC champ, 33-10, in a game that wasn't even that close.
"Just coming out and playing as well as we did," said tight end Jason Witten, "it was like, all right guys, get your expectations up around here. We can make a run at this, that's what the coach says."
Maybe that right there, and armed with the thought of being good enough to compete with any team in the NFL for a nine-year change, has returned Parcells into worry-wart status quite common to his coaching career. He knows in this NFL nothing is promised, that if you should win six games one year and then nine games the next doesn't guarantee you wining 11 games the year after that. Doesn't work that way, and he preaches to his players to seize the moment.
And you just get the sneaky suspicion Parcells senses there is a moment to be seized with this team, this year, over the next nine weeks. So this is no time to let your hair down, even if it's the bye week, and certainly no time to start considering this is a whole lot of fun when you have a 5-3 record.
"Fun?" Parcells incredulously retorted, then going into this long dissertation of how not fun this is to coach in the NFL. "You asked me if it was fun . . . trying to be honest. You know what, my ex-wife used to ask me that question all the time: 'Where is it? Where is it?' She used to say, 'The times that you're happy percentage-wise are so minimal to the times you're frustrated, so where is it?' I don't know.
"Seeing those faces sometimes, those happy kids, those faces, you know that's what I really remember. Of all the things in football, it's not even the games, it's the locker rooms after the games when they won a big game or a championship, and those smiles, and that's what - and I'm not trying to be nostalgic here - that's how you remember the person. You don't remember 'em