No. This is not a crack pipe in my hand. No. I am not delusional, deranged or mentally deficient, despite any testimony to the contrary by anyone who knows me well.
I know that, since the NFL went to the current playoff formula, only five in 1,345,277 one-and-four teams have made the playoffs. (OK, so the second half of that formula is a bit exaggerated, but the first half is accurate. Only five teams have done it.) The Dallas Cowboys ought to make it six just because they can.
Yes, they can. Moreover, they can win the NFC East outright. Here is why. And here is how.
Why the Cowboys can still win their division:
- Because the division is weak. No one is poised to run away with the NFC East. Philadelphia is still trying to figure out whether Michael Vick or Kevin Kolb gives them the best chance to win. Just yesterday, they blew a comfortable eight-point lead against the Tennessee Titans and were ultimately blown out, 37-19. Washington is trending upward, but that team needs a year to marinade in the Shanahan success sauce. The New New York Giants remain unconvincing.
- Because the NFC is a mess of middle-of-the-road teams. No one but no one in the NFC has asserted themselves through the first seven weeks of league play. Some thought to be the strongest contenders, like Dallas and the Minnesota Vikings, have suffered massive implosions, while others, like the New Orleans Saints, have just stumbled along with a win here and a loss there. Did the Cleveland Browns really dismantle the defending champs in the Super Dome yesterday?
- Because the only thing this Dallas Cowboys team seems to respond to is desperation. Witness their one win in Houston. After an 0-2 start, the Boys felt like they were on the ropes. So, what did they do? They went to Houston, a place where the fans and the football team hate them with the kind of hatred only jealousy can produce, hate them for being to Texas everything neither of their franchises ever could, and tanned their hides.
- Because, if they don’t, Jerry Jones will be forced to fire the coach who acts more like a favorite uncle than a football coach, and they will have to actually work for a living.
How the Cowboys can still win the NFC East:
- Romo! Romo! Wherefore art thou, Romo? While some people who may well be crack-smokers think Romo is more on the problem side of the equation than the answer side, football minds know better. This guy can do things few others can. He has the skill set and the mindset to be a champion, if he is put in a position to succeed by his offensive coordinator and his offensive line. While Romo remains a lightening rod for heated debate among fans, he is widely recognized by NFL players and analysts as a rare talent, a franchise quarterback. If ever there were a time for him to step up to the challenge, that time is now.
- Beat your bunkmates. The Cowboys have lost four games they could— and probably should— have won. Lucky for them, only one of those games was against a division opponent. They lost in week one in Washington. They still have the Redskins at home, and they still have two games each against the Eagles and the Giants. To win the division at this point, the Boys need to sweep these games.
- Stop the tom-foolery. The penalties and turn-overs have to stop now. A serious championship contender cannot lead the league in penalties. Nor will they be careless with the ball. Self-destruction has put you where you are. It will keep you there, if you don’t stop now.
- Begin tonight. The Monday Night Football stage is set. You face a hated-but-vulnerable division opponent on a national stage. Come out and play solid football, dominate the Giants, score a big division win, put yourself just a game and a half out of the division lead, and regain your confidence. (Leave the swagger to someone else. 2-4 teams are still closer to “stagger” than “swagger.” Just do your business.)
We keep hearing that there are 1-4 teams and then there are the the Dallas Cowboys. A win tonight against the New York Giants will go a long way toward substantiating the general feeling that this Dallas team is better than their record.
A loss, on the other hand, may bring Dandy Don Meredith out of retirement just long enough to sing a bar or two of “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”