2009 Season

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Relative Value Rankings After Week 17

The Cowboys stepped up to shut out the Eagles to set up Saturday’s game, a rematch with the same Philadelphia team. A repeat of several performances would certainly help Dallas.

There were, of course, some bad (hook ’em, Roy) performances.

Safety Michael Hamlin returned to field, sending linebacker Jason Williams to the inactive list.

Inactives vs. Philadelphia: QB Stephen McGee, S Pat Watkins, CB Cletis Gordon, LB Jason Williams (#41 last week), G Montrae Holland, C Duke Preston, T Marc Colombo, LB Curtis Johnson

45. Cory Procter, C/G

Last week: 45

vs. Philadelphia: Procter did not play at all against the Eagles, marking the second time in three weeks that he did not step onto the field.

44. Pat McQuistan, T

Last week: 44

vs. Philadelphia: McQuistan was a blocker on special teams. With the return of Marc Colombo, McQuistan probably won’t play this week.

43. Jon Kitna, QB

Last week: 43

vs. Philadelphia: Kitna went all season without playing a down. It would have been nice had that been the case with Brad Johnson last year…

42. Michael Hamlin, S

Last week: Inactive

vs. Philadelphia: Hamlin made the active list, but he did not record a tackle.

41. Victor Butler, LB

Last week: 40

vs. Philadelphia: Butler played against the Eagles, filling in late when the game was decided. He did not record a tackle.

40. Junior Siavii, DT

Last week: 39

vs. Philadelphia: Siavii did not record a tackle. He has not recorded a tackle since the December 13 game against San Diego.

39. Shaun Suisham, K

Last week: 38

vs. Philadelphia: Suisham made a 44-yarder but missed a 30-yarder later in the game. Cowboy nation gasped, thinking of what might happen if a forthcoming game came down to a field goal.

38. Steve Octavien, LB

Last week: 42

vs. Philadelphia: Octavien recorded one tackle on defense.

37. Roy Williams, WR

Last week: 30

vs. Philadelphia: This is perhaps way too far down on the list.

No, it’s not.

36. L.P. Ladouceur, LS

Last week: 36

vs. Philadelphia: For the 16th consecutive week, all I can say is Ladouceur did his job well.

35. Sam Hurd, WR

Last week: 34

vs. Philadelphia: Hurd did not record a tackle on special teams, and Kevin Ogletree has stepped forward as a bigger threat at receveir.

34. Deon Anderson, FB

Last week: 33

vs. Philadelphia: Jason Phillips had bigger blocks from the fullback position than Anderson. His holding penalty in the second quarter negated a 24-yard run by Felix Jones.

33. David Buehler, K

Last week: 34

vs. Philadelphia: Four of his five kickoffs went into the end zone and were downed for touchbacks. That’s why a team drafts a kickoff specialist.

32. Jason Hatcher, DE

Last week: 37

vs. Philadelphia: Hatcher wins the Jason Witten Real Man Award for recording a sack without a helmet. Wow.

31. Stephen Bowen, DE

Last week: 32

vs. Philadelphia: Bowen recorded one tackle on defense.

30. Kevin Ogletree, WR

Last week: 31

vs. Philadelphia: Ogletree had one reception for 15 yards and was targeted on another deep pass late in the first half (Romo was roughed on the play, which helped to set up Shaun Suisham’s field goal). Ogletree is emerging as a threat at just the right time.

29. Martellus Bennett, TE

Last week: 28

vs. Philadelphia: Bennett was targeted on one pass. John Phillips has looked better recently as both a blocker and as a receiver.

28. Tashard Choice, RB

Last week: 27

vs. Philadelphia: Choice left the game early with a concussion.

27. John Phillips, TE

Last week: 29

vs. Philadelphia: Phillips caught two passes for 14 yards and made a couple of key blocks.

26. Alan Ball, S

Last week: 26

vs. Philadelphia: Ball made a great play on a punt return with a perfect form tackle on DeSean Jackson. Ball also filled in for Terence Newman at corner and recorded two defensive tackles.

25. Bobby Carpenter, LB

Last week: 24

vs. Philadelphia: Carpenter recorded three tackles and provided some pressure in the QB. However, he had some trouble with tight end Brent Celek.

24. Orlando Scandrick, CB

Last week: 25

vs. Philadelphia: Scandrick had three tackles on defense along with a special teams tackle. The Eagles didn’t burn him over the middle the way some teams have.

23. Marcus Spears, DE

Last week: 21

vs. Philadelphia: Spears recorded one solo tackle and one assist. His assist came early in the game on a solid play, as he and Anthony Spencer stuffed Brian Westbrook.

22. Doug Free, T

Last week: 23

vs. Philadelphia: Free made the block of the year for highlight film purposes, clearing a 40-yard path for Felix Jones in the third quarter.

21. Flozell Adams, T

Last week: 22

vs. Philadelphia: The Eagles did not generate much pressure, and Adams did not commit a penalty. Both are good trends.

20. Mat McBriar, P

Last week: 18

vs. Philadelphia: Only one of McBriar’s punts ended up inside the 20, and he put one kick into the end zone.

19. Gerald Sensabaugh, S

Last week: 17

vs. Philadelphia: Sensabaugh had four solo tackles and one assist in a pretty good game. He dropepd a

18. Patrick Crayton, WR

Last week: 19

vs. Philadelphia: Crayton was huge, catching four passes for 99 yards with a touchdown.

17. Ken Hamlin, S

Last week: 20

vs. Philadelphia: Hamlin has been solid since returning from a high ankle sprain. He had three tackles and made a huge play by breaking up a pass attempt to DeSean Jackson.

16. Kyle Kosier, G

Last week: 16

vs. Philadelphia: The line in general had a great game against the Eagles. Kosier had a couple of solid blocks, especially when he pulled.

15. Andre Gurode, C

Last week: 14

vs. Philadelphia: The Eagles did not get much pressure up the middle, reflecting a solid game by Gurode. However, Gurode had two costly penalties.

14. Leonard Davis, G

Last week: 15

vs. Philadelphia: Davis had a penalty early in the game, but otherwise, he was solid.

13. Igor Olshansky, DE

Last week: 13

vs. Philadelphia: Olshansky had one tackle and one QB hurry.

12. Terence Newman, CB

Last week: 12

vs. Philadelphia: Newman had one tackle and played a pretty good game. However, he let Jackson get past him on one play, though Donovan McNabb overthrew the ball.

11. Felix Jones, RB

Last week: 11

vs. Philadelphia: Jones showed that he is still a home run threat. He recorded 91 rushing yards to give the Cowboys another threat out of the backfield.

10. Marion Barber, RB

Last week: 10

vs. Philadelphia: Barber was stronger earlier in the game than late. He also finished with 91 rushing yards.

9. Jay Ratliff, NT

Last week: 7

vs. Philadelphia: Ratliff had one of the game’s big plays when he recovered a fumble. However, he otherwise failed to record a tackle.

8. Keith Brooking, LB

Last week: 5

vs. Philadelphia: After recording 106 tackles this season, Brooking did not even make the stat sheet against the Eagles. He was, though, around the football quite a bit.

7. Jason Witten, TE

Last week: 9

vs. Philadelphia: Witten was a big weapon and caught his first touchdown pass since week 2. The Eagles do not have anyone who can cover Witten.

6. Mike Jenkins, CB

Last week: 8

vs. Philadelphia: Jenkins has been great for most of the season and had another outstanding effort in shutting down Jackson.

5. Bradie James, LB

Last week: 4

vs. Philadelphia: James is coming up big when it matters most. He recorded four solos (two for loss), an assist, a sack, and a QB hurry.

4. Anthony Spencer, LB

Last week: 6

vs. Philadelphia: Spencer earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He recorded four solo tackles, one assist, two sacks, a QB hurry, and a forced fumble.

3. DeMarcus Ware, LB

Last week: 2

vs. Philadelphia: Ware had one tackle and a QB hurry against Philadelphia. The Eagles paid so much attention to Ware that it opened up Spencer’s game.

2. Miles Austin, WR

Last week: 3

vs. Philadelphia: Austin caught seven of the eight passes that came his way. He has been everything the team would want out of a #1 receiver.

1. Tony Romo, QB

Last week: 1

vs. Philadelphia: Austin should receiver consideration as the team’s MVP, but this latest run has been all about Tony Romo. Romo completed 24 of 34 passes for 311 yards and 2 TD to cap off his best season yet.

A Closer Look at Playoff Teams Playing in Consecutive Weeks

This week has seen quite a bit of chatter about the fact that Dallas and Philadelphia will play one another in consecutive weeks. In nine previous instances where two teams that faced one another in the final week also played in the wildcard round, the winners of the regular season games have 4-5 records in the playoff games.

This 4-5 statistic has been used to support the argument that it’s very tough to beat a team in back-to-back weeks. That may be the case, but the 4-5 number itself hardly proves anything. In four of those games, one of the teams had nothing to play for, while in several instances, one of the teams had to win to secure a playoff spot.

In no instance, though, has the home team blown out its opponent to win the division title and then returned home one week later to play the same team.

Here’s a look at those games. See if you can find anything that is similar to this week’s Dallas-Philadelphia game, other than the fact that the teams are playing in back-to-back weeks.

Chiefs vs. Raiders, 1991

Week 17: Kansas City 27, at L.A. Raiders 21

Wildcard: at Kansas City 10, L.A. Raiders 6

One year removed from a visit to the AFC Championship Game, the Raiders were 9-4 and tied with Denver for the lead in the old AFC West. Kansas City was one game behind at 8-5. The Raiders then lost two straight before hosting the Chiefs, who had improved to 9-6. The Chiefs beat L.A. 27-21 and then returned home to host the Raiders. Kansas City won the second game, 10-6.

Bills vs. Oilers, 1992

Week 17: at Houston 27, Buffalo 3

Wildcard: at Buffalo 41, Houston 38

Buffalo had nothing to play for in the final week of the 1992 season, and the Oilers destroyed the Bills. The second game is famous as the greatest comeback in NFL history, as the Bills overcame a 35-3 deficit to win, 41-38.

The Cowboys, of course, beat the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII that season.

Packers v. Lions, 1993

Week 18: at Detroit 30, Green Bay 20

Wildcard: Green Bay 28, at Detroit 24

At one point in the season (which featured two bye weeks, which is why the last game was held during Week 18), Detroit was 7-2. However, the Lions lost four of five and faced the Packers, who had won five of seven. The Lions pulled out the week 18 win, but the Packers came back in the playoffs thanks to a late touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Sterling Sharpe on what was nearly a Hail Mary play.

Green Bay lost to Dallas the following week.

Raiders vs. Broncos, 1993

Week 18: at L.A. Raiders 33, Denver 30

Wildcard: at L.A. Raiders 42, Denver 24

These games involved Wade Phillips during his first season as head coach with Denver. The Raiders had overcome a 6-5 start to hold a 9-6 record entering the final week of the season. The Broncos entered  the final week with the same 9-6 record.  The Raiders won the final game on a Jeff Jaegar field goal in overtime, then blew out the Broncos on the same field the following week.

Patriots vs. Dolphins, 1997

Week 17: New England 14, at Miami 12

Wildcard: at New England 17, Miami 3

In Pete Carroll’s first season with the Patriots, New England traveled to Miami and beat Jimmy Johnson’s Dolphins to take the AFC East. One week later, New England returned home and beat the Dolphins again, this time by a wider margin of 17-3.

Saints vs. Rams, 2000

Week 17: St. Louis 26, at New Orleans 21

Wildcard: at New Orleans 31, St. Louis 28

In between the Rams’ two Super Bowl appearances nearly a decade ago, there were the 2000 Rams. This team at one point was 8-2, but everything fell apart from there.  The Rams lost five of seven, and even a win over the Saints in the final regular season couldn’t give St. Louis the division title. New Orleans, in the meantime, had overcome a 1-3 start to take the division from the Rams. The teams played in the same stadium in the wildcard round, and New Orleans came away with a 31-28 win.

Raiders vs. Jets, 2001

Week 17: N.Y. Jets 24, at Oakland 22

Wildcard: at Oakland 38, N.Y. Jets 24

Oakland had already wrapped up the AFC West, while the Jets needed a win to make the playoffs in the team’s week 17 matchup. John Hall’s 53-yard field goal gave the Jets the win. One week later, though, the Raiders’ offense came to life, and Oakland beat the Jets by two touchdowns.

Eagles vs. Buccaneers, 2001

Week 17: Philadelphia 17, at Tampa Bay 13

Wildcard: at Philadelphia 31, Tampa Bay 9

The Eagles had already won the NFC East when they traveled to Tampa Bay in the final week of the 2001 season. Philadelphia scored twice in the fourth quarter on touchdown passes by A.J. Feeley, giving the Eagles a 17-13 win. When Donovan McNabb and other starters returned a week later at Philadelphia, the Eagles recorded a 31-9 blowout.

Colts vs. Broncos, 2004

Week 17: at Denver 33, Indianapolis 14

Wildcard: at Indianapolis 49, Denver 24

Indianapolis started Jim Sorsi at quarterback in a meaningless week 17 matchup with Denver, and the Broncos came away with a 33-14 win. One week later, Peyton Manning made quite a difference, as the Colts routed the Broncos, 49-24.

Cowboys Finish in Top 10 in Several Team Categories

Two weeks into the regular season, the Cowboys’ defense ranked 30th in the NFL in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed. As the season progressed, the team gradually climbed in the rankings. After allowing only 228 yards against the Eagles on Sunday, the Cowboys finished the regular season ranked 9th in the NFL in total defense and 2nd in points allowed. Here’s a look:

Defensive Rankings

Total Defense: 5054 yards (9th)
Total Passing Yards Allowed: 3606 (20th)
Total Rushing Yards Allowed: 1448 (4th)
Total Points Allowed: 250 (2nd)

The Cowboys have been strong all season in the rankings offense and finished the regular season ranked second in total offense. This is the team’s highest ranking in that category since 1979.

Offensive Rankings

Total Offense: 6390 (2nd)
Rushing Yards: 2103 (7th)
Passing Yards: 4287 (6th)
Points: 361 (14th)

As for individuals, Tony Romo finished 8th in the league with a passer rating of 97.6, marking his best rating for a season as a pro by surpassing his 97.4 rating of 2007. Romo’s 4,483 yards was also better than his previous team record of 4,211 yards.

Marion Barber finished the season with 932 rushing yards and 7 TDs. Barber ranked 17th in the league in rushing yards.

Felix Jones finished the season with 685 yards on 116 carries, for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. No player in team history has ever had such a high average with that many carries. Amos Marsh had a 5.6-yard average on 144 carries in 1962.

Miles Austin’s 1,320 yards is the 6th most for a season in team history. Only Michael Irvin (four times) and Terrell Owens (once) have had seasons with more yardage. Austin’s 11 TDs are the 7th most for a season in team history.

Mat McBriar finished the season with a 45.1-yard average, which was the fifth-best in team history. He had a higher average in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Sam Baker’s 45.4-yard average in 1962 ranks just ahead of McBriar’s 2009 performance.

Jason Witten finished the season with 1,030 yards, marking the second time he has surpassed 1,000 yards in a season. No other tight end in team history surpassed that mark.

Dallas 24, Philadelphia 0: Redemption Via a Division Title

You might have thought you were watching a much older version of the Cowboys in the team's 24-0 win over the Eagles.

With two minutes left in the first quarter and the Cowboys leading 7-0, Tony Romo tried to rifle a pass to Patrick Crayton. Asante Samuel stepped in front of the pass and knocked it up in the air. Joselio Hanson grabbed the ball to record a pick, ending the Cowboys’ drive.

For the past ten years, the Cowboys have folded in these situations. It was only natural to expect the Eagles to drive down and tie the game, killing the Cowboys’ early momentum.

Instead, Philadelphia was forced to punt after driving into Dallas territory. For the game, the Dallas defense held the Eagles to 228 yards and only allowed one drive into the red zone. For the first time in team history, the Cowboys shut out two opponents in a row. And for the second time in three seasons—but only the third time in the past 12 seasons—the Cowboys have won the NFC East.

The win sets up a rematch with the Eagles next weekend. With the Eagles’ loss to the Cowboys, the Packers’ win over the Cardinals, and the Vikings’ win over the Giants, Dallas takes the #3 seed and the Eagles take the #6 seed. Arizona will host Green Bay next weekend in another immediate rematch.

Sunday’s game was never really close. Dallas scored on its opening drive of the game by moving 80 yards in nine plays, thanks in large part to a 32-yard run by Marion Barber on the second play of the game. The drive was capped off by Jason Witten’s 10-yard touchdown reception (video).  The team nearly increased its lead on the next drive, but Hanson’s pick ended that drive.

In the second quarter, the Cowboys started a drive with 12:36 remaining from their own 10. A 30-yard pass to Patrick Crayton and a 40-yard pass to Miles Austin helped to set up the Cowboys’ second touchdown of the day, a 14-yard pass from Romo to Crayton (video).

The Eagles looked like they would get on the scoreboard with under five minutes left in the half, but Donovan McNabb fumbled a snap, and the ball was recovered by Jay Ratliff. That was the last time that the Eagles came close to scoring.

Dallas added three with 1:09 left when Shaun Suisham hit a 44-yard field goal. The Cowboys thus had reason to have confidence in Suisham, until he missed on a 30-yarder early in the fourth quarter. By that point, the Cowboys were already up 24-0 thanks to a 49-yard touchdown run by Felix Jones late in the third quarter (video).

Tony Romo became the first QB in team history to take every snap during a season (though, to be sure, he should have been taken out at the end of the game, especially after hurting his back). He went 24 of 34 for 311 yards with 2 TDs and the one pick.  Barber and Jones both had 91 rushing yards, and Crayton finished just one yard shy of 100 yards.

***

The Cowboys face the Eagles in the playoff for the first time since 1995. Dallas beat Philadelphia in 1992 and 1995 en route to Super Bowl titles. The Eagles beat the Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game.

***

I’m going to have to do more homework, but at least four teams have faced each other in the wildcard round of the playoffs after playing during the final weeks of the regular season.

2000: New Orleans vs. St. Louis

The Saints lost the defending Super Bowl champion Rams in the final week of the 2000 season before beating St. Louis one week later in the same location.

2001: Oakland vs. N.Y. Jets

Oakland lost the Jets 22-20 in week 17 at Oakland. However, the Raiders turned around one week later and beat the Jets in a 38-24 win at home.

2001: Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay

The Eagles closed out the 2001 season at Tampa Bay, winning 17-13. Philadelphia hosted Tampa Bay the following week and won again, 31-9.

2004: Indianapolis vs. Denver

The Colts had nothing play for in the final week of the 2004 season and lost the Broncos, 33-14 with Jim Sorgi starting at QB. One week later, Peyton Manning  returned and let the Colts to a 49-24 rout over Denver.

Cowboys are Slight Favorites to Beat Eagles

The Cowboys enter Sunday’s game as 2.5-point favorites over the Eagles. The game is getting plenty of attention from the commentators, and there is a fairly even split regarding who will win and take the NFC East. At ESPN, for instance, four commentators took Dallas, while the other four took Philadelphia.

Here are the playoff possibilities once again:

(1) Wins by Dallas, N.Y. Giants, and Green Bay: Dallas is the #2 seed and gets a bye.

(2) Wins by Dallas, N.Y. Giants, and Arizona: Dallas is the #3 seed and hosts Green Bay next week.

(3) Wins by Dallas, Minnesota, and Green Bay: Dallas is the #3 seed and hosts Philadelphia next week.

(4) Wins by Dallas, Minnesota, and Arizona: Dallas is the #4 seed and hosts Philadelphia next week.

(5) Wins by Philadelphia and Minnesota: Dallas is the #6 seed and plays at Minnesota next week.

(6) Wins by Philadelphia, N.Y. Giants, and Green Bay: Dallas is the #6 seed and plays at Minnesota next week.

(7) Wins by Philadelphia, N.Y. Giants, and Arizona: Dallas is the #6 seed and plays at Arizona next week.

Yahoo has a pretty cool tool that let’s you play around with the various playoff scenarios. The AFC’s picture is much more complex, of course, but the NFC has a number of different possibilities. For the best case scenario for the Cowboys, click here.

The Cowboys are holding out hope for a #2 seed and a bye next week.

AccuScore: Dallas 28, Philadelphia 23

Rather surprisingly, Dallas won 61% of the AccuScore simulations by an average score of 28-23.

The Cowboys are playing very well and the defense has only allowed one team since Week 8 to score more than 20 points. The Eagles have scored over 20 points every week since Week 9 when they lost to Dallas. The Cowboys are favored because they are holding the Eagles to 22 points per simulation. If DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek have 125+ yards and at least 1 TD between them the Eagles are projected for 30 points and win 48 percent of simulations. If the Eagles get big games out of their top 2 receivers and protect Donovan McNabb and allow under 2 sacks the Eagles have a 67 percent chance of winning.

WhatIfSports: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 21

Dallas won 63.7 percent of WhatIfSports’ simulations, as the Cowboys successfully limited the Philadelphia running game. The Cowboys averaged 164 rushing yards in the simulations, while Tony Romo averaged just under 207 passing yards.

My Guess (9-6 based on win-loss)

Last week was easily my best in terms of predictions, as I guessed that the Cowboys would shut out the Redskins.

I have a hunch that the Cowboys will dismantle the Redskins on Sunday night. The Dallas offense will move the ball well early in the game, and the defense will suffocate the struggling Washington offense.

My prediction (and don’t shoot me for this): Dallas 31, Washington 0

My score might have been more accurate had two Dallas drives not failed in the second half. But the result was satisfactory nevertheless.

For the season:

Key—
Week: My Prediction (Actual Result)
Week 1: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 24 (actual: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21)
Week 2: N.Y. Giants 17, Dallas 14 (actual: N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31)
Week 3: Dallas 31, Carolina 21 (actual: Dallas 21, Carolina 7)
Week 4: Dallas 24, Denver 14 (actual: Denver 17, Dallas 10)
Week 5: Dallas 31, Kansas City 14 (actual: Dallas 26, Kansas City 20)
Week 7: Atlanta 28, Dallas 17 (actual: Dallas 37, Atlanta 21)
Week 8: Dallas 31, Seattle 17 (actual Dallas 38, Seattle 17)
Week 9: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17 (actual: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16)
Week 10: Dallas 31, Green Bay 20 (actual: Green Bay 17, Dallas 7)
Week 11: Dallas 20, Washington 6 (actual: Dallas 7, Washington 6)
Week 12: Dallas 30, Oakland 13 (actual: Dallas 24, Oakland 7)
Week 13: Dallas 21, N.Y. Giants 12 (actual: N.Y. Giants 31, Dallas 24)
Week 14: Dallas 27, San Diego 20 (actual: San Diego 20, Dallas 17)
Week 15: New Orleans 30, Dallas 18 (actual: Dallas 24, New Orleans 17)
Week 16: Dallas 31, Washington 0 (actual: Dallas 17, Washington 0)

I’ve had mixed feelings about tomorrow’s game all week. Part of me thought that Dallas might lose to the Eagles but then turn around and win a couple of playoff games as the #6 seed. However, I’ve since become convinced that the Cowboys will pull this one out. The teams will be tied 10-10 at the half thanks to a late score by the Cowboys. The Eagles will take a lead, but a Dallas touchdown in the fourth quarter will be enough to give the Cowboys their second NFC East title in the past three seasons.

My (homer) prediction:

personalized greetings

Dallas 17, Philadelphia 13

Cowboys’ Frustrating Decade Comes to an End

There are a few ways we might describe the decade of the 2000s for the Dallas Cowboys. Just a few stabs at it:

Doomed Era
Decade of Disgrace
Decade of Disappointment
Decade in Disarray
Decennium of Mediocrity

And so forth.

The decade itself mercifully comes to an end tonight, so hopefully we can turn the page on ten mostly forgettable years in this franchise’s history.

Time is running out on the decade of the 2000s, during which the Cowboys have had an overall record of 81-78.

Here’s a question, though: was the decade of the 2000s truly the worst in franchise history? The answer, ironically, might depend on how the Cowboys perform during the first month of the new decade.

The game between Cowboys and Eagles is, of course, part of the 2009 season. Thus, the result of that game along with the results of any playoff game should be counted as part of the decade of the 2000s rather than the decade of the 2010s. Here is why this has any significance:

Between the 2000 and 2009 seasons, the Cowboys have had an overall record of 81-78, giving the team a winning percentage of .5094. This is the second-worst winning percentage for a decade in team history behind the team’s 67-65-6 (.5076) record during the 1960s. A win against the Eagles gives the Cowboys a winning percentage of .5125. Should Dallas lose to Philadelphia next Sunday, though, the Cowboys’ record will drop the winning percentage to .5063, which would be the worst of any decade.

Also consider this: Dallas had only one playoff win during the 1960s and an overall record of 1-4 in the playoffs during that decade. The only worse decade was the current one, during which Dallas has gone 0-4. However, the Cowboys could at least tie the 1960s’ mark with one playoff win, and the team could even surpass the record from the 1960s with two wins.

Though the decade of the 2000s did not see a dreadful season such as the 0-11-1 season of the 1960 team or the 1-15 season in 1989, this decade marked the first time that the team has given up more points than it has scored.

Below is a list of the team’s record per decade, not including Sunday’s game against the Eagles.

Winning Percentage

1970s: .7292 (105-39)
1990s: .6313 (101-59)
1980s: .5197 (79-73)
2000s: .5094 (81-78)
1960s: .5076 (67-65-6)

Playoff Wins

1970s: 14
1990s: 12
1980s: 5
1960s: 1
2000s: 0

Point Differential

1970s: +1133
1990s: +799
1960s: +264
1980s: +153
2000s: -48

What was the worst decade in the history of the Cowboys?

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* * *

Incidentally, the decade of the 2000s (in calendar terms) started and ended on good notes for the Cowboys.

Ten years ago at this time, the Cowboys thought they were out of the playoffs. Dallas stood at 7-8 and needed a bunch of help to make the playoffs. That help came in the form of a complex tiebreaking scenario, and all the Cowboys needed on January 2, 2000 was a win over the Giants to secure a playoff berth. Troy Aikman threw two touchdown passes, including a 90-yarder to Jason Tucker, to help the Cowboys to a 26-18 win.

The child in the picture was four days old and "watching" his first Cowboys game, a 26-18 win over the Giants on Jan. 2, 2000.

Ten seasons later, on December 27, 2009, the Cowboys needed a win over a division rival to make the playoffs. The team came through, giving us hope that the new decade will bring better times.

Same child, different height; same dad, even less hair; same number, different jersey; same team, simliar result.

Relative Value Rankings After Week 17

The Dallas offense looked solid against Washington, but it was the defense that shined last Sunday night. Accordingly, a few players on the defensive side of the ball moved up a couple of spots.

With Martellus Bennett returning to the active roster, rookie safety Michael Hamlin returned to the inactive list.

Inactives vs. San Diego: QB Stephen McGee, S Pat Watkins, S Michael Hamlin (#43 last week), CB Cletis Gordon, G Montrae Holland, C Duke Preston, T Marc Colombo, LB Curtis Johnson

45. Cory Procter, C/G

Last week: 45

vs. Washington: Procter showed up on television several times, but it was never for a play that he made. He blocks on special teams.

44. Pat McQuistan, T

Last week: 42

vs. Washington: McQuistan doesn’t do much more than Procter.

43. Jon Kitna, QB

Last week: 39

vs. Washington: Kitna is tough to rank, given that he has not played all year. One shot showed him wearing leg warmers and sitting on the bench. Good insurance, but that’s about it.

42. Steve Octavien, LB

Last week: 41

vs. Washington: Octavien did not record a tackle, but he was around the ball several times on special teams.

41. Jason Williams, LB

Last week: 40

vs. Washington: Williams played on special teams but did not record a tackle.

40. Victor Butler, LB

Last week: 38

vs. Washington: Butler’s last big play came against the Eagles. He didn’t do anything noteworthy against the Redskins.

39. Junior Siavii, DT

Last week: 37

vs. Washington: Siavii has not made any significant plays lately. He did not record a tackle against the Redskins.

38. Shaun Suisham, K

Last week: 44

vs. Washington: Suisham will get his chance, but the fact that the team wouldn’t let him try a field goal from about 48 or 49 yards didn’t help his cause as far as the value rankings.

37. Jason Hatcher, DE

Last week: 36

vs. Washington: Hatcher was active, recording tackle, a hurry, and a pass deflection.

36. L.P. Ladouceur, LS

Last week: 35

vs. Washington: For the 17th week in a row, Ladouceur did his job. Well.

35. David Buehler, K

Last week: 34

vs. Washington: Two of his four kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks. That’s his job.

34. Sam Hurd, WR

Last week: 30

vs. Washington: Hurd wasn’t able to hang on to the ball that came in his direction. He also didn’t record a tackle on special teams.

33. Deon Anderson, FB

Last week: 32

vs. Washington: Given Anderson’s job as a blocking back, it doesn’t help him that the team is having trouble on short yardage (even if there’s nothing suggesting that Anderson is a problem).

32. Stephen Bowen, DE

Last week: 33

vs. Washington: Bowen got a little bit of pressure on Jason Campbell early in the game on a play where Terence Newman picked Campbell off after a deflection. Bowen finished the game with two assists.

31. Kevin Ogletree, WR

Last week: 31

vs. Washington: It looked like Ogletree was going to get some chances at receiver, but only one pass came in his direction. He had a nice kickoff return to open the second half.

30. Roy Williams, WR

Last week: 28

vs. Washington: Last week’s poll asked whether Williams was ranked too high, too low, or just right at #28. A total of 55% of the 132 response said that he was ranked too high. Then came the Washington game. He caught a touchdown pass, which is the only thing that is preventing me from dropping him to 39th. He dropped a pass that hit him right in the hands, and he was responsible for Tony Romo’s interception.

29. John Phillips, TE

Last week: 29

vs. Washington: Phillips didn’t get involved in the passing game as he did last week. However, he made a nice tackle on the opening kickoff.

28. Martellus Bennett, TE

Last week: Injured.

vs. Washington: Bennett was targeted twice but did not record a reception.

27. Tashard Choice, RB

Last week: 27

vs. Washington: Choice had one carry for one yard. Out of the Razorback

26. Alan Ball, S

Last week: 26

vs. Washington: Ball had one special teams tackle against the Redskins.

25. Orlando Scandrick, CB

Last week: 25

vs. Washington: Scandrick is still something of a weak link in the secondary. Teams seem to have some success throwing to slot receivers that Scandrick is covering. That said, Scandrick came through on a blitz, hitting Jason Campbell and ending a Washington drive.

24. Bobby Carpenter, LB

Last week: 24

vs. Washington: Carpenter had three tackles against Washington. He isn’t spectacular, but he’s been solid.

23. Doug Free, T

Last week: 21

vs. Washington: The defense had a better game than the Dallas line, which is why Spears and Hamlin moved up a bit. Free appeared to have a pretty good game against Washington.

22. Flozell Adams, T

Last week: 20

vs. Washington: No penalties this week for Adams. That’s always good.

21. Marcus Spears, DE

Last week: 22

vs. Washington: Spears had two tackles and a QB hurry. He’s been around the ball more frequently in the past couple of games.

20. Ken Hamlin, S

Last week: 23

vs. Washington: Hamlin had four tackles and an assist. He hasn’t missed any tackles in the past two games since his return from an ankle injury. Hamlin was burned by TE Fred Davis in the first quarter, getting sucked in a run fake and allowing Davis to catch an out for an 18-yard gain.

19. Patrick Crayton, WR

Last week: 19

vs. Washington: Crayton’s 16-yard reception gave the Cowboys a first down on the team’s opening offensive drive following Newman’s interception. Crayton has become a fair-catching machine on punt returns, though.

18. Mat McBriar, P

Last week: 18

vs. Washington: All three of McBriar’s punts were downed inside the 20. McBriar didn’t have the numbers to support a Pro Bowl selection, but he has had a great year.

17. Gerald Sensabaugh, S

Last week: 14

vs. Washington: Sensabaugh didn’t record a single tackle against the Redskins, which was a bit of a surprise.

16. Kyle Kosier, G

Last week: 17

vs. Washington: Kosier made some nice blocks, but not on short yardage plays. Albert Haynesworth gave Kosier fits on a couple of plays.

15. Leonard Davis, G

Last week: 16

vs. Washington: Davis made his third consecutive Pro Bowl, and the line in general had a pretty good game against Washington. Then there’s this matter of short yardage.

14. Andre Gurode, C

Last week: 15

vs. Washington: Gurode earned his fourth Pro Bowl selection this week. But like Kosier and Davis, the short yardage problems hurt the line’s reputation a bit.

13. Igor Olshansky, DE

Last week: 13

vs. Washington: Olshansky had one tackle, two assists, a half-sack, and a QB hurry. Pretty good for an end in a 3-4 system.

12. Terence Newman, CB

Last week: 12

vs. Washington: Newman won’t drop this week thanks to his interception. However, he would have had trouble grabbing a flag from Santana Moss, let alone tackling Moss.

11. Felix Jones, RB

Last week: 11

vs. Washington: Jones may be emerging at just the right time. He had 58 yards on 10 carries, giving him 594 yards this year on only 101 carries.

10. Marion Barber, RB

Last week: 8

vs. Washington: It’s so tempting to move Jones ahead of Barber, who had 17 carries for 63 yards with one touchdown. Barber also struggled in the area where he has always been strongest: short yardage. However, until Jones shows that he can take over the load from Barber rather than just complement Barber, I think Barber should be a bit ahead of Jones.

9. Jason Witten, TE

Last week: 10

vs. Washington: Witten had the play of the game, hauling in a pass and racing for a 69-yard gain. The play set up the Cowboys’ second touchdown, which effectively put the game out of reach. Witten is starting to look like the weapon he’s been in the past.

8. Mike Jenkins, CB

Last week: 6

vs. Washington: Jenkins had four tackles and did not allow a significant reception. He’ll be on the Pro Bowl roster soon (maybe not this year, but down the road).

7. Jay Ratliff, NT

Last week: 7

vs. Washington: Ratliff demolished Campbell on one of Ratliff’s two sacks. He also had two tackles and two hurries in a solid game.

6. Anthony Spencer, LB

Last week: 4

vs. Washington: Spencer helped to set the tone of the game, dropping Quinton Ganther for a loss on the first play of the game. Spencer finished with three solos, two assists, a half-sack, and two hurries in another solid game.

5. Keith Brooking, LB

Last week: 5

vs. Washington: Brooking is getting publicity (and getting mocked) for his pregame rant. Say what you want, he’s given this team some heart.

4. Bradie James, LB

Last week: 9

vs. Washington: James had a monster game with 12 tackles and a pass deflection. Given that the Cowboys recorded their first shutout in six years, we have to give James credit.

3. Miles Austin, WR

Last week: 3

vs. Washington: Austin wasn’t spectacular, but his 9 receptions for 92 yards were crucial in keeping several drives alive. Austin most deservedly made his first Pro Bowl.

2. DeMarcus Ware, LB

Last week: 2

vs. Washington: Ware wasn’t the monster he was against the Saints, but the Redskins certainly had to account for him. Ware finished with one solo tackle and two assists (and a penalty for defensive holding, but it hardly mattered).

1. Tony Romo, QB

Last week: 1

vs. Washington: The Cowboys are only going to go as far as Romo takes them. If he keeps up his performance from the past month, the playoff-win drought may very well end, no matter what seed the Cowboys have.

Note: The poll below initially asked which of the Pro Bowl selections is the most valuable. I inexplicably included Tony Romo instead of Jay Ratliff, which is what happens when one works on posts at 1 a.m. I added Ratliff but left Romo on the list.

[polldaddy poll=2444721]

Learning from Last Year’s Mistakes: A Reminder from 1990-1991

In 1990, the Cowboys were one year removed from a 1-15 record. After 14 games, the Cowboys were 7-7 and needed to win just one of their last two games to clinch a playoff berth.

Dallas was coming off of a 41-10 rout of the Phoenix Cardinals when the team traveled to Philadelphia. But in the first quarter, Troy Aikman separated his shoulder. Backup quarterback Babe Laufenberg completed only 13 of 36 passes for 140 yards and four interceptions in a 17-3 loss.

In the final game of the season, Dallas merely needed a win at Atlanta, which entered the game at 4-11. Laufenberg was no better than he was the previous week, completing only 10 of 24 passes in a 26-7 loss. When New Orleans beat the L.A. Rams, the Saints earned a trip to Chicago for the playoffs rather than the Cowboys.

The 1991 season was slightly better than the 1990 season, but the Cowboys were merely 6-5 when they traveled to Washington to face the unbeaten Redskins. Aikman injured his knee in the game and would be lost for the rest of the regular season. Dallas’ new backup in 1991 was Steve Beuerlein, who had thrown only five passes all year prior to Aikman’s injury. But Beuerlein quickly proved he could do what Laufenberg couldn’t: win. Dallas beat Washington in a great 24-21 game, and the Cowboys followed by winning four straight.

The Cowboys’ final two opponents in 1991 were again Philadelphia and Atlanta, as was the case in 1990. Wins in either game meant that Dallas would return to the playoffs for the first time since 1985. Beuerlein came through in both games, leading Dallas to a 25-13 win over Philadelphia and a 31-27 win over Atlanta. Dallas won a playoff game that season for the first time since 1982 by beating Chicago on the road.

There are certainly some differences between 1991 and 2009. Most notably, the 1991 squad was two years removed from a 1-15 season, while the 2009 Cowboys are two years removed from a 13-3 record. Moreover, the 1991 squad won its last five in a row, while the current Cowboys only have a two-game streak heading into next Sunday’s game against Philadelphia.

But the 2009 Cowboys have an opportunity at season’s end that is much like the opportunity that the 1991 squad had: to erase a bad memory from last season.

Nobody has forgotten that the 2008 Cowboys needed only one win in its final two games, including the final game played at Texas Stadium, to clinch a playoff berth. The defense failed the team against the Ravens before the whole team fell apart in a 44-6 loss at Philadelphia.

During the entire offseason, nobody could forget that loss to the Eagles. Pull up just about any website focusing on the Cowboys, and one of the first things you would likely see was that score.

One year after last season’s collapse, and the Cowboys needed one win in the final two weeks to clinch. The team went out a dominated the Redskins. A win against the Eagles may come  close to eradicating the effects that last year’s collapse had on many people’s opinions of the heart of this team.

How the Cowboys Could Take the #2 Seed

Note: I updated this post after the Bears beat the Vikings in overtime on Monday night.

Thanks to the Bears win over the Vikings on Monday night, the Cowboys still have a chance to earn the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs. The chance is fairly remote, but it’s still a chance.

A few rules:

First, under NFL tiebreaker procedures, “To determine home-field priority among division titlists, apply Wild-Card tie breakers.”

The second criteria for Wild-Card tie breakers, after head-to-head record, is: “Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.”

Dallas is currently 8-3 in the NFC. A win over the Eagles would give Dallas an 11-5 record overall and a 9-3 record in the NFC.

Minnesota is also currently 8-3 in the NFC. A loss to the Giants next week would leave the Vikings at  11-5 overall with an 8-4 record in the NFC.

Arizona is also currently 10-5 with a conference record of 8-3. If the Cardinals beat the Packers next week and the Cowboys beat the Eagles, both teams would be tied at 11-5 with conference records of 9-3.

If Dallas, Arizona, and Minnesota all finish at 11-5, the Vikings would lose out based on conference record (Minnesota also lost to Arizona).

Between Dallas and Arizona, the third tiebreaker would apply: “Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.”

Common opponents between the Cowboys and Cardinals: Seattle, N.Y. Giants, Carolina, and Green Bay.

The Cowboys’ record against these opponents: 2-3. Arizona’s record: 4-1 (assuming a win over the Packers).

So… for the Cowboys to take the #2 seed, Dallas must hope for a Minnesota loss to the Giants and an Arizona loss to the Packers.

The Eagles would have an easier time taking the #2 seed because Philadelphia would win the tiebreaker with the Vikings based on conference record, even if Minnesota beat the Giants next week. The Eagles currently have a conference record of 9-2, which is tied with the Saints for the best among NFC teams.

If the Eagles do win, Dallas will necessarily be the #6 seed. That’s because Dallas would be 10-6 and would lose any tiebreaker to the Packers based on Green Bay’s win over Dallas earlier this year.

Dallas 17, Washington 0: With Thanks to Carolina, Hello Playoffs

The Carolina Panthers gave the Cowboys a nice present by destroying the New York Giants in the Giants’ final game at the Meadowlands. The Cowboys turned around and shut out the Redskins 17-0. With the win, Dallas has clinched its fourth playoff berth during the current decade.

The Cowboys' shutout win secured a playoff berth for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys could finish as high as the #2 seed with a win over the Eagles and two Minnesota losses. At the worst, the Cowboys could be a #6 seed. Most of us will happily worry about that later.

Dallas took control of the game on Sunday night early in the first quarter. On the Redskins’ opening drive, Terence Newman picked off a pass that had deflected off of Washington tight end Fred Davis. Seven plays later, Tony Romo dodged the rush and found Roy Williams in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

(It marked the only time that Dallas fans didn’t boo Roy all evening, but that’s also a matter for later discussion.)

The Dallas offense struggled for the rest of the first quarter, but the defense suffocated a struggling Washington offense. The Redskins didn’t manage to move into Dallas territory until the second quarter, and even then, Dallas held Washington at the Dallas 49.

After a Washington punt, Dallas was pinned deep in its own end. After moving the ball to the Dallas 28, though, Romo hit Jason Witten, who raced 69 yards to the Washington 3. The play was the longest of Witten’s career and helped him to have a 117-yard evening.

Jason Witten hauls in a pass and races 69 yards.

Marion Barber scored on the next play, giving Dallas a 14-0 lead.

From that point, the Dallas offense found ways to shoot itself in the foot, while the defense continued to dominate the Redskins.

Dallas drove to the Washington 42 with just over four minutes left in the first half, but then the Cowboys tried to run a reverse out of the Razorback. It was horrible, as Miles Austin lost 14 yards. On the next play, a Romo pass bounced off Williams’ hands, and Reed Doughty caught the pick off the deflection.

On the next play, the defense sacked Jason Campbell, leading to a three-and-out. The Dallas offense nearly moved into field goal range, but Romo’s final pass of the half went to Miles Austin, who didn’t get out of bounds.

On the opening drive of the second half, Dallas moved to the Washington 35 but failed to convert either a 3rd-and-1 or a 4th-and-1. Washington stuffed Marion Barber twice.

Ten minutes later, Dallas drove to the Washington 30 and faced another 4th-and-1. Another Marion Barber run. Another stuff.

Okay, then, the Cowboys moved the ball to the Washington 5 with about eight minutes remaining. Third and one. Marion Barber ran up the middle, and Washington stuffed him.

Fortunately, the Cowboys were close enough to trust Shaun Suisham to kick a 23 yarder, which gave Dallas a 17-0 lead. Washington managed to move into Dallas territory late, but the Cowboys held.

My predictions have left something to be desired all season, but I can proudly say I predicted the shutout. The team’s last shutout was also against the Redskins at Washington, as Dallas beat Washington 27-0 in 2003.

Romo finished 25 of 38 for 286 yards with 1 TD and 1 Int. Witten caught 6 for 117, while Austin caught 9 for 92.

The real heroes were on the defensive side of the ball, as Dallas held Washington to 218 yards in total offense, including 43 rushing yards. That marks the best defensive performance of the season.

A Dallas win over the Eagles gives the Cowboys the NFC East title. A loss means that Dallas will have the #6 seed, because Dallas then could not finish ahead of the Packers.