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Eatman: Let's Hope This Isn't A Playoff Preview


ARLINGTON, Texas – Our world likes to define people in two ways – either a glass half-full person, or someone who sees the same glass and calls it half-empty.

Sure, there's probably some scientific study that can determine how optimistic or pessimistic you are by what you think you see.

In reality, if we're being honest about it – the answer is both. And in the Cowboys' case, you can take this 25-22 loss to the Cardinals and analyze it any way you want.

Me, personally, I think what I saw is more of a problem. And it's not because they got completely dominated by a Cardinals team that got blown out by Detroit a couple of weeks ago and had lost three straight. To me, it's another example that the Cowboys might not be ready to compete against the best of the best.

And trust me when I say the Cardinals really aren't in that category, but they are in the playoffs. And if we're being realistic, they're probably going to be here in two weeks for a rematch.

But if you go back and look at what the Cowboys have done against those top teams this year, it's not great – at all.

They lost to Tampa Bay in Week 1. They lost to the Chiefs in what was supposed to be a "statement" game in Kansas City. And then in this game Sunday against a team that has already clinched a playoff spot despite its recent struggles, the Cowboys were flat out of the gate and ran out of time trying to rally back for the win.

Now, yes, they've beaten some other teams that are now in the playoffs like New England, and beat teams that are right on the verge like the Eagles and Chargers. But of those teams that we think are the cream of the crop, the Cowboys haven't won those games.

Now, here comes the glass half-full or half-empty approach.

It's not like they can't win these games. They lost to the Buccaneers in the final seconds. They played decent enough against the Chiefs on the road without some key offensive players, and were at least in the game at the end.

They played awful early here Sunday and still nearly won the game.

On the flip side, they needed walk-off scores to beat the Chargers and Patriots.

So these games against these top teams will be close. And in the playoffs, probably even down to the last second.

That's the silver lining here. But the problem is, most fans don't want to hear that. They wanted the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye or at least the No. 2 seed and assuring themselves of two home games.

But I don't know if it really matters. We like to say home games make a difference, but this year the Cowboys are 5-3 at home and 6-2 on the road with still one more to play.

The one thing that has to happen – whether they're on the road or at home, whether they play on Saturday or Sunday or on a Tuesday afternoon in Nebraska – the Cowboys better figure out how to run the ball.

Right now, the lack of a running game is hurting this offense. Dak Prescott needs to run the ball at times, but he certainly doesn't need to be the leading rusher. And that's what he was on Sunday, and not because he transformed into Lamar Jackson. He ran for 20 yards on four attempts. It's because Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 16 yards on nine attempts and Tony Pollard had nine yards on three carries.

The running backs totaled 25 yards on 12 carries. Some guy named Greg Dortch had a 24-yard run on one attempt for the Cardinals.

Even when the Cowboys torched Washington for 56 points last week, they still couldn't run the ball that well. This is something that has been a trend here lately, but they've been able to overcome it, mainly because of a defense that has gotten sacks and turnovers.

But like I've said numerous times over the last month, Taylor Heinicke, Taysom Hill and Mike Glennon are not playoff-caliber quarterbacks. Maybe the Saints sneak into the last playoff spot, but even at that, I don't think anyone truly believes Hill is someone to worry about as a passer.

The guys to worry about are the ones already in the playoffs. It's a different story against Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and even Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford. And of course against Patrick Mahomes if it goes that far. As of right now, the Cowboys have shown they can compete against those guys, but haven't been able to win.

Whether that glass is half-full or half-empty, the Cowboys should probably wash the bad taste out of their mouths as quickly as possible.

They're going to be in the playoffs, but they won't be there long if they play like this again.

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