Despite a 5-4 overall record and having won three of their last four games, the Dallas Cowboys enter tonight's rivalry match with the Philadelphia Eagles on the brink of disaster. After a brutal week where they lost Ezekiel Elliott for six games and then got manhandled by the Atlanta Falcons, the mood in Dallas is very grim.
It's understandable; what happened in Atlanta gives many the sense that the Cowboys cannot contend with Elliott suspended until Week 16. The fact that they're also missing Sean Lee, the man who keep their defense solvent, is almost just as distressing.
A loss tonight will drop Dallas to 5-5 and further out of the NFC playoff picture. But still, they'd only have five losses. Any NFL fan knows that until you hit seven or even eight losses, your season isn't over.
Things like trajectory and momentum matter, but seasons can turn around on a dime. We've seen many teams go on late-season runs; teams that seemed completely irrelevant in November who go onto make big noise in January.
Even if the Cowboys fall tonight, which they are likely to do with key players out and the Eagles coming in healthy and rested after their bye week, the season is hardly over. It will feel that way, and to some it already does, but there is still a lot that can happen.
Sean Lee should be back next week to help such a run. Helping even more will be that the Cowboys' next three opponents are the 3-6 Chargers, Washington at 4-6, and the 2-8 Giants. Dallas will get to stay home for L.A. and Washington.
As awful as 5-5 will feel, 8-5 is very possible. Pull that off and you're only one more game away (@ Oakland) before Ezekiel Elliott returns. Even if the best you can do is split the different, that means an 8-6 record going into your final two games with Zeke back in the fold.
A loss tonight would almost certainly mean the Eagles will take the NFC East, but the Wild Card race would still be very much in the Cowboys' range. They will still have opportunities to right the ship and get into the tournament. At that point, anything can happen.
Don't smash your TV tonight or you just might miss it.