Even the eternally publicly optimistic Jerry Jones admits that time's running out on the 2012 Dallas Cowboys after Dallas failed to show up for the majority of a disappointing Thanksgiving loss to the Washington Redskins, falling into third place in what, on paper, is the second-worst division in the National Football League.
But Dallas this week plays a team that has lost seven in a row, while the New York Giants will have their hands full with the Washington Redskins. So, we could be singing a very different tune in regard to their chances in a week's time.
But let's focus on this week's somber tune first...
What They Should Be Thinking
We're not a playoff-worthy team. It's cyclical with us. We tease fans with some decent enough performances and get close to the line that separates contenders from pretenders, but then we slip up in grand fashion, falling to lesser teams in performances low-lighted by ridiculous turnovers, amateurish mistakes and countless penalties.
We've turned it over three or more times in four of our 11 games now. We had five more dropped passes and some disgusting lapses in coverage against Washington Thursday. We also took more penalties than the league's most penalized team (remaining in second in that category).
What's scary is that the majority of our problems have stemmed from the offense, but with Sean Lee, Barry Church and Kenyon Coleman already out and now Bruce Carter and Orlando Scandrick also injured, it's becoming difficult to see how this defense is going to consistently stop opponents during the final five weeks. Too many starters lost, which contributed to us giving up a season-high 38 points at Cowboys Stadium last week.
The questions we have to ask now pertain to whether Tony Romo in the long-term answer and whether we should be paying him and franchise tag recipient Anthony Spencer. Do we reload after this season or simply readjust? One thing's apparent: We'll be able to focus on these decisions in five short weeks.
We play the Eagles this week.
Oh, you're looking for more than that? Well, also on the bright side is that the Giants could struggle to get past Washington. If the 'Skins win that game, we'll be one of three teams separated by only one game atop the NFC East. And remember that our schedule is significantly easier, on paper, than New York's.
We survived the Lee injury with a next-man-up approach, and we'll do the same here. Everybody's got injuries. The Redskins are more banged up than us, and look at how well they're playing. Sure, we wish we had a late bye like them and the Giants, but we're not making excuses. We still have the talent and we can definitely beat everyone left on our schedule, which features Philly, two 6-5 teams and two 5-6 teams.
Romo threw two bad interceptions against Washington, but he was forcing things in an attempt to ignite the offense while facing a deficit. He was playing superbly before that and can undoubtedly lead this team back to the playoffs with his big three receiving options healthy.
And more importantly, Tyron Smith and Ryan Cook look set to return to the offensive line. We might be more banged up on D, but we could really explode with everyone in place on offense.
This team has more than a faint chance. We just have to stay focused.
What I'm Thinking
Stock Rising (offense): Dez Bryant
He's finally beginning to look like an elite receiver. I took a lot of heat in the summertime for declaring him to be the best receiver in the division, but with the best two games of his career coming five days apart last week, he looks to be delivering on that.
Stock Rising (defense): Morris Claiborne
While Brandon Carr struggled, the rookie Claiborne surrendered just a single catch for a two-yard loss against the Redskins. Best performance of his career thus far.
Stock Dropping (offense): Tony Romo
I defended him above (don't I always?), and several offensive linemen deserve heat, but the line sucked already. Romo hits this spot because he was responsible for those two interceptions.
Stock Dropping (defense): Danny McCray
He had two missed tackles and was responsible for Aldrick Robinson's touchdown. Terrible day for the safety, forcing Cowboys fans to wonder what things would be like if Church hadn't gone down early in the year.
Again, the schedule is super easy compared to New York's, and even Washington's (see the chart above), but the Cowboys haven't strung together three straight wins all season. They might not have to do that to pull this off, but they'll have to win four of their final five. And can anyone see this team suddenly becoming that consistent at this point in time?
Sorry, I like this roster a lot, but I just don't think it's the Cowboys' year...again.
View last week's report here