I don’t know about you, but I needed Monday night’s game. I needed it bad!
I needed a reminder as to why I’ve been so invested in this stuff for over 20 years. You can get too caught up on the names on the jerseys sometimes. But once that clock’s running down and your team’s pushing to tie and/or win the game, things blur just a little. You just start seeing that uniform for its colors, and that helmet for the blue star outlined in white. In those moments, as Terrell Owens might have put it, “That’s my team. (*sniff*) Those are my Cowboys.”
The old adage that “you can throw out the records when these two play” took on new meaning Monday night, and really for the rest of December when it comes to the NFC East. As ugly as things are, with the very real possibility of an 8-8 or even 7-9 team winning this division, the four teams are in one of the most bizarrely intriguing races we’ve ever seen. The entertainment value is going to stay high, even if the play on the field remains as putrid as what the Cowboys and Washington showed us.
Last year I talked a lot of trash about the NFC South. The champion Panthers were 7-8-1, followed by the 7-9 Falcons and the 6-10 Saints. I don’t regret anything I said as I would apply the same arguments to the NFC East this year. I don’t think a division champ with a losing record, or perhaps even at 8-8, deserves a home playoff game. Just making the tournament is more than enough reward for winning your division. I will say the same if, somehow, Dallas manages to come out of this mess with their second-straight division title.
At the back of the pack with just four wins to the others’ five, Dallas is certainly not the favorite to extend their season. They have arguably the toughest remaining schedule; road games in Green Bay and Buffalo and a home game against the Jets before their rematch with Washington. They have the least trustworthy quarterback in the division, with Matt Cassel never looking worse than he did on Monday night. I don’t blame anyone who’s refusing to buy into the dream. You’re probably the smart one.
Some of us just can’t help ourselves and apparently I’m in that camp. Dallas winning this division would be one of the great oddities of NFL history, but we’ve seen the absurd play out more than a few times in sports. And hey, it wouldn’t be the first time Matt Cassel “led” a team to the playoffs as a backup quarterback.
(Removing tongue from cheek.)
If the defense can maintain the level of play we saw on Monday night then this thing becomes a lot more reasonable. Sean Lee led the way with usual standard of play but other guys, particularly DeMarcus Lawrence, seemed to finally close the gap. Barry Church had one of his more notable games in some time and Morris Claiborne was putting in strong work outside of the touchdown to DeSean Jackson.
If Scott Linehan can find a way to mitigate Cassel’s weaknesses and give him some confidence, this team may be able to put something together over the next four weeks. Crazier things have happened then a team with a superior offensive line and defense going on a hot streak. Cassel just needs to get to the point of being a solid bus driver, and not the drunken one having PTSD issues.
I know… I’m crazy for thinking anything positive is going to come from this. But for now I’m okay with downing the kool-aid, because logic and reason have run out the door in the NFC East. Whoever wins this thing is going to be an oddball in the playoffs.
Why not us?