When they return to work next week following this Week 6 bye, the Dallas Cowboys have to get back to the business of winning. They sit 2-3 and looking up at a soaring 5-1 Philadelphia Eagles team which is close to running away with the NFC East. The two teams play in Week 11, but Dallas can’t wait until then to figure things out.
Over the next four weeks before the first Cowboys-Eagles meeting of 2017, Dallas will face back-to-back road games in San Francisco and Washington, then host the Chiefs, then go back on the road for the Falcons. The Eagles will have three straight homes games against Washington, San Francisco, and Denver before taking their bye week, after which they’ll head to Dallas.
It will be hard for Dallas to close the gap during this time given the schedules. The Cowboys will have three-out-of-four on the road and Philly will have all of theirs at home. Dallas will have very tough games against the Chiefs and Falcons, plus an ever-unpredictable meeting with Washington.
The Eagles get the same Washington and San Francisco teams, plus a solid but beatable team in the Broncos. They already handled Washington once this year with a 30-17 victory in Week 1 and in their house. They could easily be 8-1 by the time Week 11 comes around.
At best, Dallas can be 6-3. That means perfection for the next four weeks and that’s hard to imagine given how the season’s started. Maybe the return of Sean Lee on defense, along with the arrival of David Irving and emergence of Jourdan Lewis, can help get Dallas swing some close games back in their favor. But even at full strength, beating the Chiefs and Falcons will be tall orders.
Even if the NFC East can’t be won, Dallas is obviously still in the running for a Wild Card spot. It may feel too early to be talking about such things, but playoff contention is the focus of this organization now and years to come. There are no more rebuilding years in Dallas with this new young core of talent. It is playoffs or bust, at least, for many seasons ahead.
By the time the Eagles come to town, we’ll know a lot more about who the 2017 Dallas Cowboys really are. Maybe Philadelphia will stumble along the way, but now the pressure is entirely on the Cowboys to stay within striking distance of the NFC’s hottest team.