FRISCO, Texas – This NFL, it's something else—No.
One night you go to bed down in the dumps.
The next night you're smiling, as if given a season's reprieve.
When former coach Jerry Glanville didn't particularly agree with a few calls that a young official was making against his Atlanta Falcons that 1988 season, he chastised the official and coined the phrase stating NFL meant "Not For Long".
Well, "Not For Long" could stand for many facets of the NFL these days: Job longevity for players, coaches, winning streaks and trends.
Take the Cowboys. They had a five-game winning streak heading into Buffalo Sunday afternoon, the longest currently active streak in the NFL along with San Francisco. They were soundly beaten by the Bills, once losers in three of four games and now winners of the past three of four.
The days of the Miami Dolphins going 14-0 during the 1972 season are over. Same for the sanctity of Patriots 16-0 regular season of 2007, to date the only other perfect regular seasons. Same for Mike McCarthy's 13-0 start to the Packers 2011 season after winning the 2010 season Super Bowl.
So, in these Cowboys parts, the sky was falling after the loss in Buffalo. No way now they could win the NFC East, now 10-4 and falling a full game behind the Philadelphia Eagles (10-3) in the loss column. Wildcard here they come.
Ah, but the very next night the Eagles fall to the Seattle Seahawks, they too settling in at 10-4, and at just 3-1 in the NFC East, so now falling back to a half game behind the Cowboys 4-1 division record. There is an old baseball saying from former Ranger Brian Downing, who once told radio voice of the Cowboys Brad Sham, "Just when you think you're in, you're out, and just when you think you're out, you're in."
Truer words never spoken.
Now with three games remaining in 2023 regular season, the Cowboys have a much worse bumpy road to navigate than the Eagles, first playing at Miami (10-4) on Sunday, then home Dec. 30 against Detroit (10-4) and finishing out at Washington (4-10). As for the Eagles from a record standpoint, they have an easy stretch, home against the 5-9 Giants, home against the 3-11 Cardinals and then the Giants again, the second time within three games and on the road.
And at this point here is the deal: If the Cowboys and Eagles both win out, they will finish with identical 13-4 records, tied for first in the NFC East, now at the mercy of the NFL two-team division tiebreakers, which are in order:
- Head-to-head records. Well, they beat each other. Still tied.
- Best division record. Still tied at 5-1.
- Best record against common opponents. Still tied at 10-04.
- Best NFC record. Still tied at 9-3.
- Strength of victory. The Eagles having beaten teams with 69 victories to this point, and the potential to pick up 13 more, for 82. The Cowboys check in at 53, with the ability to pick up 24 more, totaling 77. Eagles win.
But again, that's today.
And again, in the NFL, really, only today counts, tomorrow's never promised.
- On The Road Again: So much is being made of the Cowboys all four losses on the road. But let's consider three of those losses are to San Francisco (11-3), Philadelphia (10-4) and now Buffalo (8-6), combined records of 39-13. But nobody seems to mention the Eagles having lost three of their four games on the road, Jets (5-9), Cowboys (10-4) and now Seattle (7-7). But unlike the Cowboys, 7-0 at home, they lost to San Francisco at home for their other loss. Not much difference, right. And another thing, the Cowboys point differential is a plus-167, Eagles plus-18, and six of their 10 wins by an average of 4.5 points. Hey, beware the Giants, twice in three weeks.
- Go Fishing: The 10-4 Dolphins sure are glad to be playing the Cowboys at Hard Rock Stadium. Of their four losses, three of them have been on the road, losing 48-20 to Buffalo, 31-17 at Philly, 21-14 at Kansas City, then their only home loss so far, 28-27, to 5-9 Tennessee. As you can see, all three teams, Cowboys, Eagles and Dolphins, have thrown in clunkers to teams with losing records, the Cowboys to the now 3-11 Cardinals, Eagles to the 5-9 Jets and then Miami to the Titans. It happens. It's the NFL. Even NFL-leading San Francisco (11-3) has lost two of their three on the road, Cleveland (9-5) and Minnesota (7-7).
- Kicking It Around: Once again, right, but the story is too compelling. Now that rookie Brandon Aubrey made his NFL record-setting 31st consecutive field goal to start a career, this dawns on me. In a year's time so far, while also kicking during the 2023 USFL season, Aubrey now has made 45 of 46 field goal attempts when you add his 14 of 15 for the Birmingham Stallions. That's by the way 98 percent. Truly incredible for a former soccer player.
- Lamb Chops: Do you realize CeeDee already has become the first player in Cowboys history to total consecutive 100-catch seasons, and three of the franchise's wide receiver are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with tight end Jason Witten in a matter of time? Do you realize his 103 catches so far with three games to go is just nine catches from topping Michael Irvin's franchise single season record of 111 set in 1995? Do you realize Lamb with three games remaining is just 297 yards from topping Irvin's franchise single season receiving yardage record of 1,603 set in 1995? Or that he is No. 2 in NFL receptions, just five behind Chargers Keenan Allen but six more than Tyreek Hill? Can you say All-Pro?
- Fish Sticks: Three former Cowboys are property of the Miami Dolphins, although 2018 second-round draft choice Connor Williams, their former starting left guard and now the Dolphins starting center until being place on injured reserve with a torn ACL suffered two weeks ago. Miami backup QB Mike White is a 2018 fifth round pick of Cowboys, spending that season as the team's third QB but never playing. In 2019 the Cowboys decided not to sign White to the practice squad in favor of Clayton Thorson, White signed to the Jets practice squad instead. And then there is wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, the Cowboys 2018 sixth-round pick who spent his rookie season on the practice squad, but then the next three seasons playing 65 games, catching 95 passes for 1,166 and 10 touchdowns. Good gadget guy, too, the Dolphins signed in free agency last year, and this year has 16 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
- Cow Bites: We've pointed out the Cowboys have posted three consecutive double-digit winning seasons for the first time since 1991-96 and qualified for the playoffs three consecutive years now for the first time since those same years. Well, the Dolphins at 10-4 have now posted four consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1997-2003, uh when Jimmy Johnson for the first of those three years and former Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt for the next four were the head coaches . . . Keep an eye on this, since safety Juanyeh Thomas playing 40 snaps against Buffalo (58 percent), his highest snap count since the opener when he played 41 snaps (58.6 percent) against the Giants . . . Even though the Cowboys got beat by 21 in Buffalo they still are ranked No. 2 in point differential (+167) to only the Niners' +191 . . . And with this one, something must give Sunday, the Cowboys allowing 153.9 net yards passing per road game, No. 2 in the NFL, while the Dolphins are averaging 285.1 net passing yards per home game, No. 1 in the NFL . . . Let's go.
And we're gong to change up this week's final word, going to Miami head coach Mike McDaniel who is facing the same questions Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy will face all week, being asked what his thoughts were on heading down this final three game stretch, both teams with the division title and playoff seedings on the line.
McDaniel was about as precise and somewhat diplomatic as would be expected from a coach really not wanting to answer any big picture questions, knowing he's facing one of the best teams in the NFL come Christmas Eve.
"Not much," McDaniel said, parring away the question right from the start. "The thoughts are firmly on getting better from this previous game. As I talked to the team today, I instructed the players anything other than concerning yourself with the next opponent, which for us is the Dallas Cowboys, and any other narrative that has to do with good teams or playoff seed or the next three games, all that stuff, I gave them the clearance to tell all members of the media to – with all due respect – to F-off. With all due respect!
"Because all we are focused on is the Dallas Cowboys, and they definitely deserve our attention. So, as we clean up our game from the previous one, we'll be thinking about that, and the narratives will be what they'll be and not really concerned, knowing that, that's really inconsequential for what we're trying to do."
Just another NFL team. in the same boat. Today.