FRISCO – People always joke about the week between Christmas and New Year's, and it feels like it's permeated to this Cowboys season.
The joke goes like this: you go home for the holidays, you watch a few dozen Christmas movies, you eat a few thousand calories, you spend a few dozen hours on the couch – and all of a sudden you're in a Holiday Twilight Zone. Time doesn't pass, you lose track of the days, and all of a sudden you climb out of your hibernation den on Jan. 3, with no idea of where all the time went.
Didn't I just kind of describe what we're dealing with right now? The Dallas Cowboys have another game to play, the stakes are pretty high, the NFL playoff race is at a fever pitch, but it sure doesn't feel like it.
That's to be expected when you lose a do-or-die divisional game in the days leading up to Christmas. The Cowboys looked terrible in Philadelphia, they came home – and then we all kind of got lost in the holiday wormhole.
Thanks to that two-day gap in the schedule, this game is going to sneak up on everyone. We're going to blink our eyes in a few days and be shocked to discover that either 1. The Cowboys made the playoffs, or 2. This long and grueling season is over.
With the way the past four months have gone, I'm not sure what I'd find more surprising.
1. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I can't get over how weird this week feels.
Yes, they need some help, but the Cowboys are still technically fighting for a playoff spot. You know the situation by now: a win against Washington, coupled with a Philly loss to New York, gets them into the postseason as the NFC's No. 4 seed. In such a scenario, they'd host either Seattle or San Francisco next weekend.
And yet, if you spend 10 minutes talking Cowboys football with anyone, that feeling doesn't exactly shine through. This is a frustrated fan base and a disappointing team, and there seems to be an overwhelming desire to simply turn the page.
It's understandable, given the preseason expectations on this team and the Week 17 reality.
That said, it's still strange to be talking about a potential playoff berth and a potential coaching search – all at the same time. I know it's happened before, but it's still a bizarre place to be.
Theoretically speaking, Sunday could spark the beginning of a multi-week playoff run. I know we're all tired of saying it, but I genuinely do believe this team is talented enough to beat anyone on any given day. It's a slim chance, but the Cowboys could still possibly be playing football deep into January.
At the same time, this could all be over by Sunday evening – and not just over for the year, but a full-on regime change.
It's almost like Schrödinger's cat. This season still has the potential to be a success or a failure, simultaneously. But we won't know for sure until we open the box – or in this case, play this game.
2. While answering a question about Jason Garrett's future, Dak Prescott absolutely shook me.
Prescott was asked Thursday whether he thought at all about the fact that Sunday could be Garrett's final game under contract with the club. His answer was predictably professional and quick-witted, as we've come to expect from him.
"I think it's the last game on mine, as well," he said. "I'll be damned if I speak on anybody else's future or their place."
Obviously, I'm aware that Dak needs a new contract. I'd have to be an oblivious idiot not to put that together. But we've been talking about it for so long, and this season has been so up and down – I had basically forgotten that Sunday could be Dak's last hurrah before he needs a new contract.
If things don't fall the Cowboys' way on Sunday, it will be the last time we see Prescott in his current status. One way or another, his price tag will go up significantly in 2020 – whether that's because of the franchise tag or a long-term deal.
Again, we've known that for some time. But basically, we're staring down the barrel of nine months of contract speculation. Truthfully, I'm not sure I'm ready for it.
3. I tried to get a handle on the Cowboys' draft possibilities and nearly broke my brain.
Suffice to say, there's a ton of potential for Dallas to move in the draft order, because there are currently 11 teams within one game of them.
How much they might move is hard to say, because there 10 games in the NFL this weekend that could affect that positioning. The currently sit at No. 15 in the order, but they could climb as high as No. 18 or No. 19 with a win. They could also potentially drop down near No. 12 if they lose – assuming a myriad of other results go their way.
And then there's the ultimate irony. As mediocre as they've been all season, either the Cowboys or the Eagles will jump up the draft order if they win the NFC East. Currently, the Eagles are slotted to pick No. 21, and they could climb if they advance in the playoffs.
This is the time of year where cynical people advocate for losing football games in the name of draft stock. I don't think that makes sense this season. With so many games affecting the pecking order, it's doubtful the Cowboys could climb much higher than one more spot.
But if they don't manage to sneak into the playoffs, at least there's some consolation in potentially holding their highest draft pick since 2016 – which worked out pretty well for them, you might remember.
4. I know Marshawn Lynch probably isn't going to look like BEAST MODE, but just let me have this. I can't think of a better Christmas present than for him to be back in Seattle, carrying the rock in a do-or-die Week 17 and into the postseason. Lynch is easily one of the best running backs of the last decade and one of the best personalities in NFL history. I mean, did you see his first press conference back with the Seahawks?
The guy hasn't played a game in over a year, and he's 33 years old. I'm trying not to get my hopes up that we're going to see some magical resurgence. But he has been training, and who knows – maybe the downtime will give him some added burst, like what we saw from Jason Witten at the outset of the year.
Seattle only needs him for three or four games. Watching Beast Mode rip through arm tackles would be the perfect pick-me-up after a long, exhausting season.
5. Fair warning, I'm going to write about Star Wars below. I'm saving it for the end of the column so you can just close out if you aren't interested in reading. Or if you are interested in reading, beware of spoilers and such.
I don't feel like writing 10,000 words about the end of the Star Wars saga, which culminated in "The Rise of Skywalker," which was released last week. There are other, better qualified writers to do that than me.
But man, I'm really tired of popular culture feeling like one long, extended homage to popular culture that came before it.
That's my only takeaway from watching "The Rise of Skywalker." Didn't we hit all of these familiar notes with the first movies? We've got Emperor Palpetine as the bad guy, we've got the heroine of the story being surprisingly related to the villain. We've got Lando Calrissian showing up, seemingly for no reason. We've got an X-Wing flying up out of the water thanks to the power of the Force.
These things were all awesome when they happened in the original trilogy, literally decades ago. In 2019, it just feels like a lame attempt to capture the nostalgia of people who grew up on Star Wars – me being one of them.
But once you get past the thrill of re-living your childhood, you're just left with a pretty hollow movie that doesn't make much sense.
Don't get me wrong, I still love Star Wars. Light saber battles, space dog fights and witty banter are always going to be a good time. But there's so many possibilities you could explore in a galaxy so large. I'm ready to see something new.