IRVING, Texas - Remember when 8-8 was supposed to be good enough to win this division?
That was at least the mindset about the NFC East even a few weeks ago. It doesn't look to be anywhere close to the case now.
I'm not even sure 9-7 will be good enough right now.
Hey, here's a news bulletin: Looks like the last game of the season against the Eagles is going to decide the fate of both teams.
If that happens, which is exactly what the NFL wants by scheduling division games to end the season, it would mark the fourth time out of five years that the Cowboys will play something meaningful in the final game.
In 2009, they had to beat the Eagles to win the NFC East and set up a rematch with Philly in the first round of the playoffs, which they also won.In 2010, the Cowboys were 5-10 and started Stephen McGee, yet managed to beat the Eagles, who were sitting their starters after already clinching a spot.
In 2011, with a shot to win the NFC East and get into the playoffs, the Cowboys lost to the Giants. And the same thing occurred last year in Washington as the Cowboys were again denied a spot.
In 2013, it'll come down to the Eagles game at AT&T Stadium. If that's the case, you can all but forget that noon (CDT) time slot, too. That has "flexed" written all over it. Remember, there aren't many places the networks can go to that won't be brutally cold on Dec. 29. AT&T Stadium will be a cozy place to end the year, so if the game means anything, you can bet on that change.
But the reason I keep saying "if" it means anything is because the Cowboys will have some work to do to get into position.
Personally, I don't see the Eagles losing any more games. I know they've got some good teams to play, but they're at home. Their next three games are Detroit at home, at Minnesota and Chicago at home. Then it's the Cowboys to end the regular season.
The way they're playing right now with Nick Foles at quarterback, and the defense making plays, I see Philly going 3-0 down the stretch. And yeah, you can say the Eagles were fortunate to beat the Cardinals late in the game on Sunday, but I just think Philly has it rolling right now and I wouldn't expect them to lose any. [embedded_ad]
If that happens, the Cowboys must go 2-1 over the next three to stand a chance. Even if they're 9-6 and the Eagles are 10-5, they can win the division by beating Philadelphia and earning a tie, which would put them in the playoffs based off of the head-to-head sweep.
Now, can the Cowboys win two of three? That's the big question. They're going to be facing three teams with a lot of question marks.
Who starts at quarterback for Chicago this week?
Who starts at quarterback for Green Bay? Will Aaron Rodgers be back?
And what will the Redskins look like by Week 16?
Those are just some of the pressing questions that could determine these next three games. Let's not forget the Cowboys have been all over the map themselves.
No, the NFC East isn't a world-beater division this year. But it's not as bad as we made it out to be a few weeks ago.
While there is a shot the runner-up of the division can earn a wild card spot, that's not looking likely right now. Both Carolina (9-3) and San Francisco (8-4) are the wild card leaders, although that could change since the Panthers play the Saints twice in the final month.
No, this is going to come down to Dallas and Philadelphia. But the Cowboys certainly have to stay in the race long before that showdown on Dec. 29.