Even with that winning record the Cowboys looked shaky. After a surprisingly solid season opener in beating the New York Giants, Dallas followed that up with a disastrous trip to Seattle. Turnovers put them down 10-0 early and the game never got better from there. The team that seemed to find the long plays easy against the Giants reverted to the costly mistakes that doomed their season last year.
After that win against the Buccaneers the Cowboys followed up with back-to-back losses to the Bears and Ravens. Can you point to early-season losses as where everything broke down? Probably not. But in the NFC East every loss counts. It’s highly improbable the Cowboys would have a shot at a wild card and would therefore need to win the NFC East outright to advance to the playoffs.
It’s how those losses unfolded that should probably worry the Cowboys; at least it would be a starting point if the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs. The Cowboys had five turnovers in the loss to the Bears, a game that was almost out of hand by halftime.
Against the Ravens the Cowboys actually looked poised to head down the field after a miraculous recovery of a last-minute onside kick. And then they botched a game-winning field goal attempt. Typical Cowboys.
Last weekend the Cowboys did win a nice NFC East-rivalry game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Could this matter? Well, it’s up to the New York Giants. It is a fact that the latter part of the Giants schedule this year is much more difficult than that of the Cowboys. If the Cowboys take care of business against the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins they will be a winning team (again) after Thanksgiving.
They would then have to hope for a Giants collapse at the end of the season to make the playoffs.
Is a pratfall by the defending Super Bowl champions likely? Did the Cowboys already lose their chance at a playoff bid? Technically, the answer is “no.” But they would need to rely on many other factors to make that goal a reality.