44-6 vs. Philadelphia in 2008.
31-14 vs. New York in 2011.
28-18 vs. Washington in 2012.
Every Cowboys fan has these scores unwillingly burned in their heads. Dallas’ miraculous 24-23 come-from-behind victory against the Redskins sets the stage for arguably sports’ greatest and debilitating do-or-die scenario – a Cowboys Week 17 “win and you’re in” scenario.
Next Sunday marks the fourth time in the past six years the Cowboys enter the regular season’s final work day with the division and playoffs on the line. It’s yet another seminal moment for a franchise that teeters on mediocrity and unbridled entertainment more seamlessly than any franchise in American sports. It’s another chance for Dallas not to “screw up the church’s money,” in the illustrious words of my brother Kenny Masenda.
In fact, when the Eagles visit Dallas – with the same set of circumstances on the line – they’ll be the ones doing so with absolutely no pressure. They’re not the ones with a history of setbacks on Week 17 stages. They weren’t predicted to win the division by many in August. They’re hated, but they’re not “Cowboys hated.” And for better and worse, Tony Romo isn’t their quarterback.
And yet, here I am again, fully aware these situations normally don’t pan out in my favor in the absolute worst ways possible and fully…invested. Call me an idiot because I am for continuing to pledge allegiance to a team hellbent on shooting itself in the foot. But, it’s all a part of the territory I willingly sign myself up for every summer.
In the coming days, I’ll have more thoughts as we march closer to Cowboys/Eagles. Thoughts that will include a prayer circle for a Dallas defense that played about as well as it possibly could have yesterday. Thoughts that will include more vitriolic statements to my personal most hated franchise in professional sports, too (the Eagles).
Until then, however, just let me wrap my brain around on the situation. When you’re a Cowboys fan, playing on the devil’s playground is unfortunately familiar territory.
— It’s safe to say Peyton Manning will win his fifth MVP trophy this year. The living legend tossed for 400 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-13 laugher in Houston. Manning also set a league record in the process with one game left, accounting for 51 touchdown passes on the season (one more than Tom Brady’s 50 in 2007).
— There was a time this season when New Orleans appeared to have the NFC South all wrapped up by Halloween. That’s definitely not the case two days before Christmas since the Saints lost 17-13 in Carolina yesterday. The win for the Panthers allows them to capture the divisional crown and No. 2 seed in the NFC next week with a victory over Atlanta.
— The Dolphins picked the absolute worst time to take a L when in a fight for their lives with three other teams for a wild card spot. In fact, Miami allowed Buffalo to blank them 19-0, only amassing 103 total yards on Sunday.
— Andy Dalton had one of the better games of his career tossing for four touchdowns and 366 yards (two scores went to AJ Green) as the Bengals improved to 10-5 and made light work of the Vikings 42-14 while capturing the AFC North crown. Vontaze Burfict and his 151 tackles deserve consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.
— The Kansas City Chiefs are going to make the playoffs, but they’re going to make the playoffs stumbling in. The Colts visited Arrowhead and left with 23-7 W, dropping KC to 11-4 on the season (2-4 since their Week 10 Bye).
— Salute to the St. Louis Rams for attempting to finish the season on a high note. Owners of a two-game winning streak – the most recent being a 23-13 home victory against Tampa Bay – the Rams actually won twice on Sunday. The Redskins loss basically all but guarantees they’ll have a top three pick; a pick, which again, falls in the lap of St. Louis.
— Rex Ryan told his players “word on the street” was his time with the Jets was nearing its end. So they waltzed out and beat the Browns 24-13, led by “Broadway” Geno Smith’s 214 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers. Chris Ivory’s 109 yards put a smile on Rex’s face, too.
— Philadelphia played like the team who “had” to win and Chicago played like the team who played like the team who cared less about the impact of their Week 16 match up. Too bad the roles were reversed. The Eagles caused me to fall asleep on the Bears thanks to a 54-11 public humiliation. I doubt that happens next Sunday night.
— So, yes, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s two divisions wide open next Sunday with playoff sports on the line – Cowboys/Eagles and Bears/Packers.
— Momentarily, it appeared as if the Jaguars were going to screw up and win. Thankfully, Nate Washington’s 30-yard TD reception proved to be the game-winning touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter giving Tennessee the 20-16 win.
— We feel really good about our Arizona prediction before the start of the season. The Cardinals notched their tenth win of the season after stunning the Seahawks at home 17-10. With NFC East and North games likely to garner the majority of the headlines, Cardinals/49ers next week will be just as important in terms of who secures a NFC wild card spot.
Update: It will be worth something if the 49ers lose tonight. If San Fran wins, they’re in the playoffs regardless.
— And just like that, the Detroit Lions are officially eliminated from playoff contention with their most recent loss – a 23-20 overtime defeat at the hands of the New York Giants. Life seemed so great following their Thanksgiving Day victory over Green Bay.
— Thanks to a 38-31 win over the Packers, the Steelers are still in the hunt for the playoffs.
— Speaking of keeping postseason hopes alive, the Chargers won their third straight with a 26-13 win over Oakland. With a win over Kansas City next week and losses by both Miami and Baltimore, Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen and company are in. That’s right, Chargers fans. So I’m telling you there’s a chance…
— …which is exactly what the Ravens didn’t have going up against New England. In a rematch of the last two AFC title games, Tom Brady and his band of merry men dumptrucked Baltimore 41-7. And instead of going any further, I leave you with a Tom Brady GIF. This is the second time this season Sir Thomas has been left hanging. Get your life together, Patriots. Assholes.