FRISCO, Texas –Not sure what is worse, seasons coming to a screeching halt when a team loses the last game of the season, being either Game 16 or a playoff game, or being eliminated from the playoffs and having to still play games to finish out a season.
To me, I think this: The Cowboys eliminated from playoff contention and still having to travel all the way to Philadelphia to play what amounts to a game with no tangible playoff ramifications, sort of a role reversal to last year's season finale against the Eagles.
And think about it: This is only the second time in head coach Jason Garrett's seven-year head coaching career this has taken place with the Cowboys. First in 2015, and now. Remember, those first three 8-8 seasons (2011-13) went down to the final game of the regular season, winner taking the NFC East title. Yep, the Cowboys did lose all three. And then in the other two years, the Cowboys lost in the playoffs in 2014 and 2016.
The Cowboys, who pulled back in last year's finale, only need to be reminded Philadelphia, didn't, beating the Cowboys in that final game, 27-13, dropping the Cowboys to 13-3 and preventing them from posting the most regular-season wins in club history. Maybe time for a little payback and focus on this final game to finish with a winning record for the third time in four seasons.
Just like we're not losing focus on these final Mick Shots of 2017.
- Close Shaves: Everyone seems to have a theory on what the Cowboys must do better next year to get back in the playoffs. Personally, thought Ezekiel Elliott had the best answer: "We just got to win those close games. You take a look at a couple of those games early in the season, the Rams game, the Packers game. Those were very winnable games for us and games we could have won, but we didn't and I think that's something we definitely have to look to and closing out those close games and just winning there." No kidding. The Cowboys had leads in both of those games, beating the Rams 17-6 after their first three possessions of the game and the Packers 31-28 with just 1:13 left to play. Score 30 in back-to-back games and lost, giving up 35 in each. Win those two and we're not talking about a meaningless final game. Be talking win-and-you're in.
- Warriors: Quiet as it's been kept, Dez Bryant finally admitted he hasn't been totally healthy all season long. Pointed out on Wednesday he's been dealing with right knee tendinitis since the Kansas City game at the halfway point of the season when the Cowboys stood 5-3 and had scored at least 28 points in the last six games. Now he never missed a game nor ended up on a practice report because as he says, "I'm a warrior, I consider myself as a warrior. If I can walk, if I can move, I'm going to go out there and try to play. That's probably dumb, but hey, that's who I am." No, Dez, it's not dumb. Tyron Smith did the same thing Christmas Eve, trying to go when he probably shouldn't have even tried, saying afterward of his sprained knee, "It just wouldn't hold up."
- Sack City: OK Tank, one game to go and just a half-sack behind NFL leader Chandler Jones' 15. Think he'll be jacked up to play this final game? You bet. Becoming the NFL leader in sacks comes with $$$ signs when you're in the final year of your contract. And to put in perspective, one more sack would give him 15½, meaning only DeMarcus Ware's 19½ has totaled more for the Cowboys since 2011. And in 2010, Ware led the league with 15½ sacks.
- Standing O: Probably not going to happen in Philly, but Jason Witten should receive a standing ovation when he runs out at The Linc for completing his 15th season, matching the record for most years played with the Cowboys, first established by Ed "Too Tall" Jones and then later by Bill Bates and the late Mark Tuinei. That ain't easy folks. So get off your couches at home for a ceremonial Standing O.