The Dallas Cowboys face their first “real test” of 2019, according to some, with a road game this Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints. If there already wasn't enough pressure to perform, a big win by the Philadelphia Eagles last night in Green Bay only turned up the heat.
The victory over the Packers was a major swing game for Philly's season. Instead of dropping into a 1-3 hole, the Eagles salvaged their September by getting back to .500 and picking up a tough road win in the process.
That's big-time stuff when it comes to momentum and mood for a team and its fans. It also keeps Philadelphia that much closer to the Cowboys in the NFC East race.
The cherry on the Eagles' Week 4 sundae would be seeing Dallas drop to to 3-1 against the Saints. Heck, if the “Dallas sucks” chants last night from Philly fans were any indication, it might be ice cream and hot fudge combined.
Some would argue that Green Bay losing last night was actually better for the Cowboys in the long run. After all, the Packers were 3-0 and could be a major contender for the top seed in the NFC by the end of 2019. Avoiding a playoff game at Lambeau Field is always a plus.
But that perspective makes a bold assumption about how easily Dallas will win their own division. It also grossly underestimates the threat that the Eagles still pose.
After this week there are still 12 games to go in the regular season. That's plenty of time for something to go wrong and give Philadelphia an opportunity to catch up.
Remember, the Eagles' two losses so far are by just four and three points. They're just a couple of plays away from being 4-0, at which point our entire world view would be different.
There would be no room for hubris. Philly would be the ultimate enemy, regardless of who the Cowboys were actually lining up against that week.
It's too early in the season to get away from that perspective. Last night gave the Eagles' new hope and a sunnier outlook on their season; it was a net negative for Dallas.
The Cowboys didn't need anything from last night to be motivated to win this Sunday. After all, staying undefeated and pushing for the number-one seed in the NFC are major goals. Dallas would also love to get another win versus New Orleans and prove last year wasn't a fluke, especially with Drew Brees out.
Don't buy it when players and coaches preach the “one week at a time” mentality, because it doesn't go nearly as far as they lead you to believe. They know the standings and find purpose in how their team fits into the big picture, or in rivalry and revenge factors with various clubs.
The Cowboys would have loved to come out of September with a three-game lead over the Eagles. Now their trip to New Orleans this Sunday will decide if it's a two-game cushion or just a single game that separates them in the NFC East.
Again, that's a big swing for momentum and perception. And it only adds to the pressure that Dallas now faces in its already crucial Week 4 matchup.