Eatman: NFC East is Something To Clap About 


ARLINGTON, Texas – If you can't celebrate this one, that's just on you.

Not to get too psychological, especially about football games, but if watching your team win the NFC East, especially where the Cowboys were midway through the season, then maybe you just don't appreciate things like everyone else.

Because this Dallas squad should be appreciated for flipping the script, which led to a division title on Sunday. The Cowboys' 27-20 win over the Buccaneers has this team right back in the playoffs for the third time in five years.

Big deal?

You bet it is. Winning the division is the goal for every team, and the Cowboys accomplished theirs. So they could've done it last week. So they didn't actually blow out the Bucs and win by more than a touchdown.

But go back to the halfway point of the year and find someone who just watched the Cowboys lose at home to the Titans to fall to 3-5. You could easily convince people that the Week 17 game against the Giants would be rather meaningless.

But you certainly couldn't find more than a handful of people to believe you if you said something like this:

"Hey, I think this Amari Cooper trade is going to change everything. I think the Cowboys will get hot and win about six of the next seven games and have the NFC East clinched with a game to go."

Find me that person. And tell them to meet me in Vegas.

You don't have to love head coach Jason Garrett to appreciate what he has been able to do. You can make fun of his clapping on the sidelines and his stoic facial expressions.

But trust me, he's doing something right. These players could've easily gone in the tank on several occasions, especially when it was 3-5 after the Tennessee game. And it looked last week that they might be heading that way again.

From everything I've heard over the last week, though, Garrett sent a rather stern message to his team. It sounded like he called out a few of them who might've appeared more focused about off-the-field merchandise and apparel.

He called out just about everyone for playing a game that looked nothing like the previous five weeks that got them to this point.

And Garrett basically told them to get their backs back against that proverbial wall and come out hungry.

They did. They marched down and scored on offense. They made a huge play on defense and scored on that side, too.

From there, they had to claw and scratch, but would you expect anything else? Nothing comes easy for this Cowboys team. They've won nine games, and eight of them have been by just one score.

The Cowboys have some big-time issues on offense, especially in the red zone. Yeah, Sunday's game was better as they scored touchdowns two of the three times they were inside the 20-yard line.

And the kicker might be a little shaky, especially inside of 50 yards. But really, most kickers in this league are the same.

This team has some warts. But I think you can make the case that every team in this NFC is in the same boat. The good thing is, the Cowboys have already beaten the best one out there.

Now, it might be a little (or a lot) different if they have to face the Saints in the Superdome. And yeah, it'll be tough to face the Rams or the Bears, especially if it's on the road.

But all of that will be worried about at another time. Right now, the Cowboys are celebrating an NFC East title, and that is the way it should be.

If you get to AT&T Stadium, it's nearly impossible not to see Six Flags over Texas just a few blocks away here in Arlington. Trust me when I say there aren't any rollercoasters with more twists and turns than the one this Cowboys team has been on all season long.

The offensive line has been a patchwork all year, starting with Travis Frederick's illness before the season. The offense has struggled at times, especially on the road. The defense has carried the team most of the year despite its share of injuries along the way.

Through it all, the Cowboys will enter Week 17 with a playoff spot already clinched.

That's an accomplishment! Whether you can appreciate it or not.