As undeserved as it will likely feel, the Dallas Cowboys are probably going to make the 2019 playoffs thanks to winning the NFC East. But even if hopes are low after the team’s ugly Thanksgiving loss and falling to a 6-6 record, there is reason for optimism if Dallas is playing in January. It comes from an unlikely source; the 2011 New York Giants and their improbable run to a Super Bowl championship.
That Giants team won the NFC East with an unimpressive 9-7 record. They were 6-6 after Week 13 and had just lost four games in a row. New York was a game behind the 7-5 Cowboys at that point and appeared headed in the wrong direction.
But the Giants rallied, beating Dallas twice and picking up one additional victory to finish with nine wins and a narrow division title over both the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles with 8-8 records. Despite that clutch December play, though, New York went into the tournament looking like the champion of a weak division and a non-contender.
New York surprised many by defending home turf in the first round of the playoffs over the 10-6 Atlanta Falcons, one of the wild card teams that year. But the real upset came the following week when the Giants went into Lambeau Field and knocked off the defending Super Bowl champions, the 15-1 Green Bay Packers.
After beating the NFC’s number-one seed, New York’s stunning playoff run continued when the Giants traveled to San Francisco and defeated the second-seeded 49ers in overtime. The Giants became only the third team in NFL history to advance to the Super Bowl without 10 or more wins during the regular season. It hasn’t happened since.
From there New York faced the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI and unthinkably defeated them for the second time in four years. It was the storybook ending for one of the wildest, most unfathomable championship runs in the history of football.
What a different two months made for those Giants. At 6-6 they were at the precipice of despair, but eight games later Eli Manning was holding up his second Lombardi Trophy.
Can the 2019 Dallas Cowboys write a similar story?
Much like those 2011 Giants, this year’s Cowboys are in a grim mood following their Thanksgiving week. A demoralizing home loss to the Buffalo Bills dropped Dallas to 6-6, though still narrowly hanging on to the NFC East lead thanks to down years from our division rivals.
Just as former Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin faced during those 2011 struggles, Jason Garrett is hearing the talk about both his immediate firing or not being signed to a new contract following the season.
All Garrett and Cowboys fans can hope for now is that we just made it through the darkness before the dawn. With the playoffs still in reach, can this team rally and finish the year with a much different feeling?
The light got a little brighter yesterday when the Eagles suffered a shocking loss to the Miami Dolphins. The idea that Philadelphia (now 5-7) could overtake Dallas in December thanks to an easier schedule just took a major blow.
The Cowboys are relatively healthy heading into December play. Assuming Leighton Vander Esch does eventually make it back on the field, Dallas will have made it through the season without what could be classified as a major injury.
The next three weeks aren’t easy. Dallas faces two decent teams in the 6-6 Bears and 7-6 Rams the next two games, then heads to Philly for what should be a big divisional showdown. All would seem like winnable games if the Cowboys were playing up to their potential, but you can’t count on anything after what we’ve seen so far this season.
It’s easy to dismiss any good coming from this season, even if Dallas makes the playoffs, based on the way they’ve performed up til now. Most seem to have lost faith in Garrett’s coaching, and now some are even turning on the so-called “talented” roster.
But that was the Giants’ situation in 2011. It was one of the many times that fans were calling for Coughlin’s head and thinking they should find an upgrade over Eli Manning. But then magic happened, and now both are probably headed for the Hall of Fame one day.
The Dallas Cowboys probably won’t win a Super Bowl in 2019 (I know, understatement of the year), but can they at least go out with positive momentum? Even if it’s not enough for Jason Garrett to keep his job, can they overcome the regular seasons struggles and validate the early belief that this would be a contending team?
It’s unlikely. It may even feel impossible.
But it’s happened before.