Dallas Cowboys: Steelers Game Not Detrimental, Still Control Destiny

robert aSenior Analyst IDecember 10, 2008

In a piece I wrote last week, I mentioned that the Pittsburgh game "could be the game that sends the 'Boys on a fatal decline in what could quickly become one of, if not the most, disappointing seasons in Cowboys history."

Well, I am changing my tune on that just a little, not just because I am a blind Cowboy homer (which I readily admit I am), but also because Atlanta gave the Cowboys a little help last week.

As painful as last week's game was for the Cowboys, they still control their own destiny by virtue of the Atlanta loss to New Orleans. Even with its loss, Dallas currently occupies the second wild-card spot.

This is not to say that the Pittsburgh game will not ultimately cause the downfall of the Cowboys' season. It still can. If the Dallas players and coaches let the disappointment of losing a heartbreaker affect their preparation for this week's game against the Giants, things might only get worse.

I, for one, do not think that will happen.

The Giants are also coming off a loss to the Eagles in a game they should have won, but in a game in which they were dominated. They will be looking to rebound this week against the Cowboys.

The Cowboys, likewise, will have to move on. They outplayed a Pittsburgh team that nobody expected them to beat but made too many mistakes down the stretch. They lost a game that they had in their control, and they lost in heartbreaking fashion. But again, they need to move on.

I am sure the players and coaches understand that, of the four December games, this Pittsburgh game was the most dispensable. If they were to circle one game of the final four that they absolutely could not lose, the Pittsburgh game would not have been that game.

Sure, they are all important, but if you are going to lose one of them, this was the one to lose.

The Giants and Eagles games are the most important December games for the Cowboys because they are division games, and less specifically but more importantly, they are conference games. These are the games the Cowboys need to win in case their playoff hopes are contingent on winning a tiebreaker.

Sure, Pittsburgh and Baltimore were both considered crucial games, but nowhere near as crucial as the Giants and Eagles games. The Steelers and Ravens are both AFC teams, and thus are not nearly as essential when determining the playoff picture.

Now, I am not in the coaches' meetings, but if they had to choose one of those two that was an absolute must win, I would think they would have chosen the home game against the Ravens over the road game at the Steelers.

The Cowboys still control their own destiny, and they have three more important games to worry about. I think Dallas will realize that and take care of a Giants team that has little to play for and is going through turmoil of its own.

When and if this happens, anything is still possible for the Cowboys this season.