It seems a little bit early for the late season cliché's. It's probably a little premature for the must-wins, the “season's on the line”'s and “it's time to fire player/coach X” Yet, there does seem to be an eerie feeling surrounding Sunday's game in New York against the rival Giants.
So how important is it?
Logical fans who tend to stay away from the typical “the sky is falling” weekly overreaction would probably say that this is one game in a six game season. The Cowboys have a few winnable games ahead that could put them in a position to clinch the division in week 17 against Philly even if the Cowboys suffer a loss.
Those logical fans make up about 10 percent of the fan base. The other 90 percent is what I call the “what the hell?… I've waited 20 years for a decent #$%* team to show around here” fans. And for all intents in purposes, while a little over-the-top with their reactions, they aren't incorrect.
Those fans would probably describe this game as a must-win knowing that a likely healthy Green Bay looms, a dangerous Chicago team with Jay Ratliff is on the course and games against some scrappy NFC East teams that always seem to play tougher than they are against division rivals also provide huge challenges.
So, besides two different viewpoints and no clarity, where does that leave us?
Simple. A loss drops us to 3-1 in the division and 5-6 on the season. Heading into Oakland is a pretty predictable win but even so, heading into December with a team that historically doesn't do well in the Christmas month with a defense that is giving up yards at a historical rate doesn't exactly bode well for a 6-6 team in need of going 3-1 over the final games.
Green Bay is 3-1 in the NFC with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. Chicago, although mostly a mystery, has all the potential to light up a team with its incredibly talented offense.
Now, I'm not saying the Cowboys are going to lose both of those games. I also acknowledge that the team is getting healthier and could be a much different version of themselves after the BYE week.
However, in my opinion, this game is more than what logical fans would deduce. It is more than just another game on the schedule that puts players on stress-con delta. If this team can't come out of the BYE with a win, it affects more than just the standings, it affects psyches.
A win is crucial not just because the standings are affected, it's crucial because a loss will inevitably destroy the core of this team, their confidence and ultimately their ability to win.