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Eatman: Sunday is Your First 'Game of the Year' 


FRISCO, Texas – As this season treks along, there will be more of these to come.

But as we sit here in mid-October, I think it's safe to say that Sunday is the first "Game of the Year" for this Cowboys team.

You want to be the type of team that competes for a playoff spot and even has a shot to do some damage in the postseason? Then win this game this week.

You want to be the team that just looks like a tennis match and just goes back and forth, back and forth and back forth all year long until you get to 8-8? Then take the L this week in D.C. heading into the bye.

To me, it's that simple. And that's why I'm calling this a huge, huge, huge game in terms of how you want the season to go.

I haven't always taken this stance so early in the year. In fact, I've always bought into the Bill Parcells approach that nothing really, truly matters until you get to Thanksgiving. In most seasons, he's right, and that could even be the case this year for the majority of the teams.

But for the Cowboys, you've got to start finding a way to string wins together. And to do that, you have to win on the road.

No place has been more friendly for the Cowboys than FedEx Field, and that even includes AT&T Stadium over the last few years. The Cowboys haven't lost a game up there since the end of the 2012 season, winning five straight.

If there is ever going to be a time when the Cowboys buck this recent road-game trend and get on track, it would seem to be on Sunday in Washington.

The Cowboys know how to win there. They'll have plenty of fans like always. And with the division games, they are usually pretty close battles that come down to the end. Those things are still in play.

One thing that I'm not sure about just yet is how good the Redskins are in 2018. For the last few years, the reason why Dallas has owned this series is because it had the better team.

Right now, it's pretty close. Through six weeks of the season, the jury is still out. While the Redskins handled the Panthers last week, beating a team that gave the Cowboys all kinds of problems in Week 1, it doesn't mean much in terms of this matchup. The Redskins also lost at home to the Colts, who don't exactly look like world-beaters right now.

But it does seem like the Redskins have a pretty aggressive, physical defense. And they've always been able to hold their own against Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack. That alone should keep them in the game.

Since we're still in the middle of this week, and both teams have plenty of injury concerns that will affect the game, it's really not the right time to be predicting wins or losses.

I know this: It'll be a highly-competitive game that comes down to the fourth quarter.

But that's not really the point. The point this week is the Cowboys have to win that fourth quarter. They've got to win the turnover battle. They've got to win the line of scrimmage. All of that needs to happen so the Cowboys can win the game.

If you're 3-4 heading into the bye week, it'll likely be a distracting two-week period. I'm sure we'll see some roster changes and maybe a few lineup alterations. Who knows, there could be talk about changing some duties and roles within the staff.

Because if you're under .500 with two weeks to talk about it, and you've just lost to a team that you've dominated for a half-decade, it should be time to stir the pot. And even if those changes prove to be good ones, and the Cowboys come back and beat the Titans on Monday Night Football, it still puts them at 4-4 with two straight road games in front of them, at Philadelphia and at Atlanta.

No, the time is now. What do they call Saturdays for the major golf tournaments? Moving Day? Yeah, Sunday's game is Moving Day for the Cowboys. It's not the end. It's not something you absolutely can't overcome. But you're running out of time to do anything if you keep sitting here in the middle spinning the tires.

A win on Sunday makes the Cowboys the only team in the NFC East with two victories. You get the bye week to rest up, get some key players back from injury and face the Titans on Monday night.

In the last two years, the Cowboys have won three straight games after the bye week in 2017, and six straight in 2016.

More than anything, I think you have to build on what we saw on Sunday. That was a dominating performance against what appears to be a good team. We know it's a pretty good defense.

But it won't mean much at all if the Cowboys don't take care of business on Sunday in Washington and stack some momentum-building wins together.

There will be others to follow. Sunday marks the first biggest game of the year.