For the Dallas Cowboys and the NFC East, the Road Ahead Is All Uphill

Gene StrotherCorrespondent IIINovember 7, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 28:  Donovan McNabb #5 of the Philadelphia Eagles throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys on December 28, 2008 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The NFC East is boiling down to the Big Three and the Big Mess. Dallas, Philadelphia, and New York will duke it out for the Division Title, while the Redskins just duke it out. (Of course, this assumes the Giants will right their listing ship soon.)

All Dallas Cowboys fans get nervous as the holidays approach and the dreaded month of December looms like a team of deranged reindeer with bloody eyes, furiously driven by a band of renegade elves.

The way the 'Pokes have played in December and January in recent years makes it hard to enjoy Santa's bounty, even if it does include a wall-covering flat screen HD television.

Who wants to see Wade Phillips and Jerry Jones explain and excuse all over themselves in such vivid detail, anyway?

But I digress.

The thing to do here is look at the schedule of the three legitimate contenders, compare them, and ask yourself, "Does my team have a snowball's chance in the hot place of getting to 10 or 11 wins and either winning the division or securing a wild card spot?"

So, here goes...

For the New York Football Giants, the remaining schedule looks like this:

11/8, SAN DIEGO, 4:15 PM
11/15, BYE
11/22, ATLANTA, 1 PM
11/26 (Thu), @Denver, 8:20 PM
12/6, DALLAS, 4:15 PM
12/13, PHILADELPHIA, 8:20 PM
12/21 (Mon), @Washington, 8:30 PM
12/27, CAROLINA, 1 PM
1/3, @Minnesota, 1PM

No cakewalk there, with six, maybe seven legitimate playoff contending teams on the docket. The remaining opponents have a .630 winning percentage to date.

The Giants are currently 5-3, with a bye week yet to come.

Next, the Philadelphia Eagles.

11/8, DALLAS, 8:20 PM
11/15,@San Diego, 4:15 PM
11/22, @Chicago, 8:20 PM
12/6, @Atlanta, 1 PM
12/13, @New York Giants, 8:20 PM
12/27, DENVER, 1 PM
1/3, @Dallas, 1 PM

The Eagles' homestretch run is brutal. Nine games left and eight of them against teams expecting to make a playoff run.

Five of the nine games are on the road, and that last one, in Dallas, could conceivably be for all the NFC East marbles. Their upcoming foes have combined for a .600 winning percentage.

The Iggles are currently 5-2, tied with the 'Pokes atop the East.

The Dallas Cowboys fare no better in the stretch run. They have posted a 5-2 record to date, having played one of the NFL's most favorable schedules through seven games.

But business picks up in town this Sunday, and the breaks are few and far between from there on.

Here's how the Cowboys' remaining schedule looks:

11/8, @Philadelphia, 8:20 PM
11/15, @Green Bay, 4:15 PM
11/26 (Thu), OAKLAND, 4:15 PM
12/6, @New York Giants, 4:15 PM
12/13, SAN DIEGO, 4:15 PM
12/19 (Sat), @New Orleans, 8:20 PM
12/27, @Washington, 8:20 PM

Oakland and Washington represent the only patsies on the remainder of the 'Pokes' schedule, and Washington is a division rival, and that always means something . The Cowboys' remaining opponents have posted a .560 winning percentage to date.

December is the deal. That's the month that haunts the Dallas Cowboys. They need to put to rest the Ghosts of Christmases Past and close strong.

Easy for me to say. It won't be easy for them to do. Three of the five games in December are on the road, including tough trips to New Orleans (currently undefeated) and New York.

The two weeks they do get to stay home, Norv Turner bring his Chargers, always a bit desperate themselves come the holidays, to town. Then, the Eagles will plan to ruin yet another new year in Big D.

The task begins Sunday in Philly, the scene of the Merciless Massacre of 2008, the game that should have cost Wade Phillips his job and did cost Pacman Jones and Terrell Owens theirs. A win Sunday puts Dallas in the driver's seat on an NFC East bus headed downhill with no brakes.

Better to be steering than steered on such trips.

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