FRISCO, Texas – As the 2023 calendar year came to an end, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy admitted one of the last things he did before the New Year:
Cheering for the Cardinals, of course.
Obviously, he wasn't alone as Cowboys Nation - from fans, to players and coaches - all celebrated Arizona's win over the Eagles, which gives the Cowboys now a direct chance to win the NFC East and gain the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
"Nothing surprises me," McCarthy said on Monday. "I was there rooting for the Cardinals all the way – my wife and I –in the fourth quarter. But you see it all the time. It's such a competitive league. I think we all understand all hard it is to win a game each and every week. If there's ever a time in our season where we have to lock down and really keep the blinders on, because it's right in front of us."
As it stood, the Cowboys needed some help with an Eagles, which was provided on Sunday with Arizona's 35-31 comeback win in Philadelphia. The irony is that one of the reasons the Cowboys were in this position was their own Week 3 loss to the Cardinals, who are now just 4-12 on the season.
But the Cowboys and Eagles are now 11-5, and another win by Dallas would secure the NFC East, regardless what Philadelphia does in New York. If both teams finish at 12-5, or even 11-6, the Cowboys will win the fourth tiebreaker with a better NFC record than the Eagles.
Yes, the Cowboys needed some help this week, but head coach Mike McCarthy didn't exactly dismiss what his own team has accomplished to get here – winning 11 games so far, the third straight season for double-digit victories.
"Clearly, where we are today, we've put ourselves in a position to win the division and get the No. 2 seed and that's a good place to be," said McCarthy.
But to do that, and get the No. 2 seed, the Cowboys must take care of business next Sunday, putting the focus on beating the Commanders on the road. We all know the Cowboys have struggled away from AT&T Stadium, where they are 8-0, with just a 3-5 road record. The Cowboys are facing a Commanders team they defeated on Thanksgiving Day 45-10, and one that hasn't won a game since Nov. 5 against New England, losing seven straight.
While coaches usually say they aren't focused on the past, McCarthy said he will "absolutely" remind his team of last year's season finale in Washington and how the Cowboys were dominated by the Commanders 26-6 to end the regular season.
"It will definitely be a part of our (video) cut-ups," McCarthy said. "Especially, with the weather that we could be getting. We'll talk about all of those things."
Of course, last year's situation was a bit different as the Cowboys needed the Eagles to lose for them to have any chance of winning the NFC East. Dallas played most of its starters in the Washington game, but not for the entire game and it was clear they were trying to keep the team healthy for the next week's playoff game as well.
But this time, it's a much different situation as the Cowboys don't need any outside help, just a win over the Commanders. If that happens, it means the Cowboys will be at home for the first round and the second, if they can get there.