Conference Title Games will be a Bad Reminder for the 2008 Cowboys

Of the seven losses by the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, five came against playoff teams that were still playing on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Four of the teams that beat Dallas moved on to the conference championship games, which means that one of the Cowboys’ losses will have come against the team that wins the Super Bowl.

What makes it worse (if possible) is that Dallas had a good chance to win games against three of those teams, while the fourth game was a blowout loss when Dallas had a chance to make the playoffs.

Week 6 vs. Arizona: The Cowboys came back against the Cardinals to force overtime, but then tragedy struck in several forms. First, Tony Romo broke his pinky, rendering him ineffective. And second, when Dallas tried to punt from deep in its own end, Mat McBriar’s punt was blocked, and the Cardinals recovered the ball for a touchdown to give Arizona a 30-24 win. McBriar broke his foot on the play and was lost for the season.

Week 14 vs. Pittsburgh: The Cowboys led by 10 in the fourth quarter but gave up 17 points to lose, 20-13. Deshea Townsend’s interception for a touchdown won the game for Pittsburgh.

Week 16 vs. Baltimore: The Cowboys played an uninspired game in the final game at Texas Stadium, but Dallas still had a chance to win late. However, the defense gave up two long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, as Dallas lost 33-24.

Week 17 vs. Philadelphia: The Cowboys decided that dominoes in the locker room sounded better than the playoffs and did not show up to play the Eagles in the season finale. Philadelphia won 44-6. This was a far cry from the 41-37 win that Dallas posted in week 2.

Historical Precedent

For the first time since 1999, all four teams playing in the conference title games have faced at least one common opponent. This has occurred because the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins each faced the Eagles, Cardinals, Ravens, and Steelers during the regular season. Dallas, New York, and Washington are now among 16 teams since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to play all four conference finalists during the regular season.

1971 Rams (8-5-1)

vs. Miami, L 20-14

vs. Baltimore, L 24-17

vs. Dallas, L 28-21

vs. San Francisco, W 20-13, W 17-6

1972 Cardinals (4-9-1)

vs. Miami, L 31-10

vs. Pittsburgh, L 25-19

vs. Dallas, L 33-24, L 27-6

vs. Washington, L 24-10, L 33-3

1980 Redskins (6-10)

vs. Oakland, L 24-21

vs. San Diego, W 40-17

vs. Dallas, L 17-3, L 14-10

vs. Philadelphia, L 24-14, L 24-0

1980 Giants (4-12)

vs. Oakland, L 33-17

vs. San Diego, L 44-7

vs. Dallas, L 24-3, W 38-35

vs. Philadelphia, L 35-3, L 31-16

1983 Cowboys (12-4)

vs. L.A. Raiders, L 40-38

vs. Seattle, W 35-10

vs. Washington, W 31-30, L 31-10

vs. San Francisco, L 42-17

1985 Packers (8-8)

vs. New England, L 26-20

vs. Miami, L 34-24

vs. Chicago, L 23-7, L 16-10

vs. L.A. Rams, L 34-17

1986 Chargers (4-12)

vs. N.Y. Giants, L 20-7

vs. Washington, L 30-27

vs. Denver, L 31-14, W 9-3

vs. Cleveland, L 47-17

1986 Raiders (8-8)

vs. N.Y. Giants, L 14-9

vs. Washington, L 10-6

vs. Denver, L 38-36, L 21-10

vs. Cleveland, W 27-14

1989 Colts (8-8)

vs. Denver, L 14-3

vs. Cleveland, W 23-17

vs. San Francisco, L 30-24

vs. L.A. Rams, L 31-17

1992 Rams (6-10)

vs. Buffalo, L 40-7

vs. Miami, L 26-10

vs. Dallas, W 27-23

vs. San Francisco, L 27-24, L 27-10

1992 Falcons (6-10)

vs. Buffalo, L 41-14

vs. Miami, L 21-17

vs. Dallas, L 41-17

vs. San Francisco, L 56-17, L 41-3

1999 Saints (3-13)

vs. Tennessee, L 24-21

vs. Jacksonville, L 41-23

vs. St. Louis, L 43-12, L 30-14

vs. Tampa Bay, L 31-16

1999 Falcons (5-11)

vs. Tennessee, L 30-17

vs. Jacksonville, L 30-7

vs. St. Louis, L 35-7, L 41-13

vs. Tampa Bay, L 19-10

2008 Cowboys (9-7)

vs. Arizona, L 30-24

vs. Philadelphia, W 41-37, L 44-6

vs. Baltimore, L 33-24

vs. Pittsburgh, L 20-13

2008 Redskins (8-8)

vs. Arizona, W 24-17

vs. Philadelphia, W 23-17, W 10-3

vs. Baltimore, L 24-10

vs. Pittsburgh, L 23-6

2008 Giants (12-4)

vs. Arizona, W 37-29

vs. Philadelphia, W 36-31, L 20-14

vs. Baltimore, W 30-10

vs. Pittsburgh, W 21-14

Note: Between 1970 and 1977, interconference matchups were determined by record, not by division. When the league moved to a 16-game schedule in 1978, interconference matchups were determined by division, except one team (i.e., the one that finished last the year before), would play different teams from the other conference than that other teams in the same division. The league moved to the current 32-team format in 2002, and until 2008, no two teams from the same division have played one another in a conference championship game.