Some will argue that it's only a must-win game if you're going to be eliminated from the postseason if you lose. Other might say since you only play 16 games, that all of them are must-win.
So depending on where you actually stand on this, I know going in that there will be a few that don't agree with this notion. That's fine.
But to me, this isn't really about a must-win for the Cowboys. It's more like "you better win."
Because this Cowboys team better win this game if they want to prove they're not just an average team that sits on the fence of .500.
This team was 1-1. It was 2-2. It was 3-3. Hey, if they lose Sunday… yeah, you got the pattern. We're seeing the exact signs of what has turned into 8-8 teams the last two seasons.
So if they don't beat Detroit on Sunday, why would anyone think that 2013 is any different?
After eight games, it'll be four home games and four on the road. If they're at 4-4, you have to wonder what this might do to a team's psyche, especially after most of these players have lived the 8-8's of the last two years.
At some point, it has to change. They can change offensive coordinators and play-callers. They can change an entire defensive scheme and bring in veterans coaches that seem to have a unique philosophy on that side of the ball.
They can have their quarterback come in on Tuesdays and work on the game-plan, which seems to have helped considering how improved the offense has been in the first quarters of games this year.
They can make all of these significant changes. But if this team is 4-4 after eight games, it's hard for anyone to believe any of these changes are enough to ultimately change the culture. [embedded_ad]
The players are supposed to take it one game at a time. But we don't have to. We all see the schedule. We know what comes behind Detroit. It's a home game with Minnesota followed by a visit to New Orleans against Drew Brees and the Saints on Sunday Night Football. Yeah, I know the Cowboys went down there and beat the Saints in 2009 – what a great game that was. But did you realize New Orleans has won nine straight night games at the Superdome since that Dallas win. It just doesn't happen often when the Saints lose on Prime Time, especially at home.
Once again, if the Cowboys don't beat Detroit, they'd be staring at 5-5 heading into the bye week.
Who knows, maybe an 8-8 finish will be good enough to land the Cowboys into the playoffs this year, if the NFC East continues to struggle.
But that's not a risk I'd be willing to take. The best way to get into the playoffs is to shoot for 10 wins. That will probably win this division and if not, should be good enough for a Wild Card. Beating the Lions on Sunday would be a huge step in that direction.
- Nick Eatman is the recent published author of: **“Art Briles: Looking Up,”* an authorized biography on the current Baylor football coach, with a foreword written by Robert Griffin III. *