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When the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants officially begin play this Sunday Night on Sunday Night Football, a few things need to be considered:
- With a victory the Cowboys will secure the 2016 NFC East Championship.
- If this victory is compounded with a loss by Detroit or Seattle, the Cowboys will secure a First-Round Bye as well.
- If this victory is compounded with a loss by Detroit and Seattle, the Cowboys will secure Home-Field Advantage through the NFC Playoffs.
There is one more thing that will be true on Sunday Night that you need to be aware of… January 14th, 2017 will be 34 days away.
Why Is January 14th, 2017 Important?
What’s going on 14 days into the New Year, you ask? Well that likely-cloudy day is the Saturday that the 2016 Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs begins (two games are played Saturday, the other two the next-day Sunday).
Why is this important, RJ? I’m focused on RIGHT NOW. Giants on Sunday Night, it’s Christmas season, life is good… what does the Divisional Round have to do with NOW?
If the Dallas Cowboys do in fact clinch everything that a team can in regards to the playoffs this Sunday Night, that means that they will be playing consequence-free football for 34 days. This stretch includes games against Tampa Bay, those very Lions, in Philadelphia, and a week of rest during the Wild Card Round. Do we really want to go that long? 34 days?!
Could The Cowboys Keep Up “Momentum” For 34 Days With Nothing On The Line?
This is why sports are awesome… because we get to talk about things like this.
It would no doubt be a tall order for the impending Coach of the Year in Jason Garrett to keep his Dallas Cowboys locked in for over a month. It would be a tall order for any coach. It certainly would help the cause that Dallas would be playing Tampa Bay and Detroit – both of whom are playoff teams through Week 13 – and that one of the two could come trotting through AT&T Stadium when it really matters in January, but would that be enough to keep everyone focused?
There is zero, and I mean absolutely zero, reason to doubt Jason Garrett at this point as far as our Cowboys are concerned. He has made it abundantly clear that he knows what he’s doing and is capable of winning a ton of football games (like 11 in a row, ya know?).
How Do Teams In A Situation Like The “34 Days Conundrum” Typically Fare?
After combing through teams in similar sets of circumstances that the 2016 Dallas Cowboys currently find themselves in, I kept coming back to one team who has seemingly lived this life before – The 2009 Indianapolis Colts.
What’s pretty neat is that those Colts scored 27 points in Week 2, 31 points in Week 3, and 35 points in Week 10… these Cowboys did just that this season. I know that’s weird and random, but I liked it – and I’m driving this ship at the moment so, Huzzah.
Anyway, the truly interesting common denominator is that the Colts clinched Home-Field Advantage in the AFC after a Week 14 victory over the Denver Broncos. That game took place on December 13th, 2009 and the Colts’ next consequence-carrying game wasn’t until January 16th, 2010… 34 days later.
What Can We Do To Avoid The “34 Days Conundrum”?
At the end of the day, you want to win every game you play. That’s common sense.
If the Lions and Seahawks both happen to lose and the Cowboys clinch… well, alright. Jason Garrett has shown that he can guide this team through multiple levels of adversity at various points across the season.
What we may want to consider though as Cowboys fans, is rooting for Detroit and/or Seattle this coming Sunday. Should one/both of them win then the Cowboys won’t be playing “consequence-free” football for at least one week as any win between then and the end of the regular season would net Home-Field Advantage. What’s ironic is that the Head Coach of the Detroit Lions who we’re contemplating rooting for, Jim Caldwell, knows all about the “34 Days Conundrum” as he was also the Head Coach of the 2009 Indianapolis Colts that we referenced.
A “27 Day Conundrum” – which could be the case if this all gets postponed a week by Detroit and/or Seattle – isn’t ideal either, but it at least numerically isn’t as as daunting as 34. It would be silly though to “lose on purpose” simply to try and thread a ridiculous needle to go one way because we’re scared of something. You play to win and you deal with what happens afterwards.