More Historical Perspective on Witten’s Huge Day

We know now that Jason Witten broke Lance Rentzel’s record of 13 receptions in a game. The Dallas morning news provided a list of players with at least 12 receptions, which only includes four players: Witten, Rentzel, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin.

Few players have come even close to Rentzel’s record since he set it on November 19, 1967 in a game that Dallas lost to the Redskins. Had Dallas lost due to Witten’s mistake (a fumble at the goalline), he would also share something else in common with Rentzel: becoming a goat on the same day that he set the team record. From the Dallas Morning News:

Rentzel broke the Cowboy record for receptions, pulling in 13, and he got 223 yards. But what might have been the big one got away…the one that could have allowed the Cowboys to pick up winning momentum.

Meredith had just passed the locals on a 74-yard touchdown drive which terminated on a 7-yard toss to Rentzel 4:49 deep into the second period. Jerry Rhome fumbled the snap on the extra point and Dallas trailed 7-6. But with about five minutes left in the half, Reeves, who was to hit two of three for 78 yards on the halfback pass, lofted the ball toward Rentzel who was behind everybody. The play had a 54-yard touchdown written all over it. But Rentzel had to reach for the ball and juggled it backward. Rickie Harris caught it at his own eight. Rentzel tackled him but would have needed a sledge hammer to hit him as hard as he wanted to.

Very few of the big names that have come along since 1967 have come close to Rentzel’s record. Here is a look at the best games in terms of receptions from the most prolific wide receivers and tight ends (single game stats are only available since 1970).

Wide Receivers

Drew Pearson (1973-83)

Sept. 23, 1974 vs. Philadelphia: 10 rec., 161 yards

Pearson never had another game with 10 or more receptions.

Michael Irvin (1988-99)

Dec. 22, 1991 vs. Atlanta: 10 rec., 169 yards, TD
Oct. 17, 1993 vs. San Francisco: 12 rec., 168 yards, TD
Oct. 29, 1995 vs. Atlanta: 10 rec., 135 yards, TD
Nov. 23, 1995 vs. Kansas City: 11 rec., 121 yards, TD
Dec. 3, 1995 vs. Washington: 10 rec., 101 yards, TD
Oct. 27, 1996 vs. Miami: 12 rec., 186 yards, TD
Nov. 26, 1998 vs. Minnesota: 10 rec., 137 yards

Tony Hill (1977-86)

Sept. 15, 1985 vs. Detroit: 11 rec., 181 yards, 2 TD
Oct. 27, 1985 vs. Atlanta: 10 rec., 161 yards, 1 TD

Terrell Owens (2006-07)

Nov. 4, 2007 vs. Philadelphia: 10 rec., 174 yards, TD

Tight Ends

Billy Joe Dupree (1973-83)

Nov. 5, 1978 vs. Minnesota: 8 rec., 73 yards, TD

Doug Cosbie (1979-88)

Sept. 15, 1985 vs. Detroit: 11 rec., 159 yards

Jay Novacek (1990-96)

Oct. 6, 1991 vs. Green Bay: 11 rec., 121 yards, 1 TD
Oct. 27, 1991 vs. Detroit: 10 rec., 131 yards

Is one performance enough to put Witten ahead of Novacek (catching ability), Dupree (blocking), and Cosbie (both)? Yep. Dallas has never had such a complete package at tight end, someone who was not only a security blanket but also a primary weapon.

Video: The Final 2:26

If there were any doubt that this was a special season, there shouldn’t be now. Dallas played more than 57 minutes of below average football, giving the Lions plenty of chances to win. But in the end, Tony Romo’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten gave the Cowboys all they needed for the 28-27 win.

The final drive is well worth watching, even if you saw the game live. The clip below shows most of the final 2:26, starting with the Lions’ 3rd-and-9 in Dallas territory.

The play-by-play:

3-9-DET 37 (2:26) 8-J.Kitna pass incomplete short right to 84-S.McDonald (98-G.Ellis).
4-9-DET 37 (2:21) 2-N.Harris punts 46 yards to DAL 17, Center-48-D.Muhlbach, out of bounds.
Dallas Cowboys at 02:15
1-10-DAL 17 (2:15) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass short left to 24-M.Barber to DAL 23 for 6 yards (23-K.Smith).

Two-Minute Warning

2-4-DAL 23 (2:00) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass incomplete short left to 17-S.Hurd [95-J.DeVries].
3-4-DAL 23 (1:56) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass short right to 82-J.Witten to DAL 36 for 13 yards (24-G.Blue).
1-10-DAL 36 (1:36) (No Huddle, Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass short right to 82-J.Witten ran ob at DAL 40 for 4 yards (33-D.Edwards).
2-6-DAL 40 (1:31) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass incomplete short right to 81-T.Owens.
3-6-DAL 40 (1:28) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo sacked at DAL 40 for 0 yards (95-J.DeVries). FUMBLES (95-J.DeVries), touched at DAL 44, recovered by DAL-63-K.Kosier at DAL 40. 63-K.Kosier to DAL 40 for no gain (21-T.Fisher).
4-6-DAL 40 (:57) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass short left to 24-M.Barber to DET 47 for 13 yards (23-K.Smith; 24-G.Blue).
1-10-DET 47 (:45) (No Huddle) 9-T.Romo spiked the ball to stop the clock. PENALTY on DET, Defensive 12 On-field, 5 yards, enforced at DET 47 – No Play.
1-5-DET 42 (:43) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass short right to 82-J.Witten pushed ob at DET 36 for 6 yards (33-D.Edwards; 93-C.Smith).
1-10-DET 36 (:34) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass deep right to 17-S.Hurd pushed ob at DET 20 for 16 yards (33-D.Edwards). The Replay Assistant challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld.
1-10-DET 20 (:26) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass short right to 24-M.Barber pushed ob at DET 16 for 4 yards (33-D.Edwards).
2-6-DET 16 (:22) (Shotgun) 9-T.Romo pass deep middle to 82-J.Witten for 16 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
6-N.Folk extra point is GOOD, Center-91-L.Ladouceur, Holder-14-B.Johnson.
DAL 28 DET 27 Plays: 11 Possession: 1:57

And lastly, the quick take from

It was over when …
Tony Romo hit Jason Witten on a 16-yard TD strike with 18 seconds remaining in the game to cap an 11 play, 83-yard drive in 1:57. The extra point put Dallas up by one, and the Cowboys stopped Detroit’s final desperate attempts to score. With the win, Dallas clinched the NFC East Division title.

Game balls
Witten made up for his goal-line fumble by converting on a couple of crucial third downs in the fourth quarter and catching the game-winner. He finished with 15 receptions for 138 yards.

Key stat
Detroit’s pass-happy offensive coordiantor Mike Martz put together a much more balanced game plan against Dallas. In the Lions’ four-game losing streak, the team rushed for 164 yards combined. Against the Cowboys, Kevin Jones and T.J. Duckett rushed for a combined 152 yards and three touhdowns.

The Cowboys have scored at least 24 points in every game this season and have won seven straight games. Their last seven-game streak was in 1993-94. … Dallas QB Tony Romo has a TD pass in 17 straight games, breaking Troy Aikman’s record for the longest streak in franchise history. … The Lions have lost five straight since their 6-2 start.

I’ll have more tomorrow.

Cowboys-Lions Glog

It’s been a while since Dallas had a noon start time. Last minute news: Marc Columbo will start at right tackle today. There was some concern because he missed two practices this week with an ankle injury.

Other inactives: CB Evan Oglesby, RB Tyson Thompson, G Joe Berger, OT Doug Free, OT James Marten, WR Terry Glenn (knee), WR Isaiah Stanback, NT Remi Ayodele.

Preview: Cowboys vs. Lions, Week 14

Tomorrow’s game between the Cowboys and Lions should not have so many story lines. This game features the top team in the NFC against a team that is quickly falling out the playoff race. But thanks to comments made last January by Jon Kitna and response by Bradie James and Terence Newman, this game may draw some interest.

The Cowboys’ awful performance in the final regular season last year, won by Detroit 39-31, should provide enough incentive for the Cowboys to have a good performance. The NFC East title is even better.

Here is part of the preview from the Associated Press:

The Dallas Cowboys franchise has won five Super Bowls, made eight Super Bowl appearances, captured 19 division titles and advanced to the playoffs 28 times since it was founded in 1960.

This year’s team has gotten off to a better start than any of those other clubs.

After becoming the first NFC team to secure a playoff berth, the Cowboys look to clinch their first NFC East title since 1998 and improve their chances for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when they visit the reeling Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Dallas has won 11 of its first 12 games for the first time in franchise history, giving the Cowboys the best record in the NFC. They trail only undefeated New England in the league-wide standings and are also second behind the Patriots in total offense, averaging 390.9 yards per game.

Dallas’ success so far bodes well for the final four weeks of the regular season and beyond. The Cowboys, though, will judge their season on what happens between now and Feb. 3, 2008, when Super Bowl XLII will be played in Arizona.

“What have we really accomplished at 11-1? We’ve got off to a great start, but 11-1 doesn’t crown a champion,” center Andre Gurode said.

While the Cowboys’ goals extend far beyond the first 12 games of the season, they won’t deny that they’ve looked good so far. In the highly anticipated matchup between the top teams in the NFC last Thursday, Tony Romo threw for 309 yards, four touchdowns and one interception to lead Dallas to a 37-27 victory over Green Bay.

“This win doesn’t put us in the Super Bowl, and a loss wouldn’t have knocked us out of it,” said Romo, who has set a franchise record with 33 touchdown passes. “I don’t think this does anything else except say, ‘You know what? We’re a pretty good football team and we’re playing pretty good football right now.'”

With its sixth straight win, Dallas clinched a postseason berth and moved a game ahead of Green Bay for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We’ve got ourselves in the driver’s seat,” said wide receiver Terrell Owens, who had seven catches for 156 yards and a touchdown. “Now we’ve got to stay there.”

Owens’ touchdown catch was his 14th of the season, matching the team record set by Frank Clarke in 1962. Owens also tied Bob Hayes and Clarke as the only Dallas receivers with scoring catches in seven straight games.

“It’s a continuation of the way he’s been playing,” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. “He continues to get open, he continues to make plays.”

Owens will try to break both records as the Cowboys go for their first seven-game win streak since 1993. They had two runs of at least seven games that season, including an eight-game streak capped by a win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII.

The video preview from NFL Films:


Dallas won 83% of AccuScore’s simulations against the Lions. Here is the preview:

The Cowboys have been consistently winning by double digits… on the road. With the Lions reeling and losing Roy Williams for the year, Dallas has a 60 percent chance of winning by double digits again. Tony Romo has a passer rating over 100 with Terrell Owens having another huge 6 rec, 100+ yds, 1+ TD performance. The Cowboys dominate on the ground as well with over 120 yards on 4.5 ypc compared to just 75 yards on under 4 ypc by the Lions.

What If Sports

As for What If Sports, Dallas won 85.2 percent of the simulations by an average score of 27.7 to 14.2. We’ll take it.

Pigskin Pick’em: Dallas Favored by 10 1/2

All of the members of the ESPN Talent picked Dallas to win. Moreover, 72.7% of ESPN users picked Dallas to cover the 10 1/2-point spread.

The Cowboys pegged themselves as the kings of the NFC with their win over the Packers. The skidding Lions are trying to keep their postseason hopes alive. The Cowboys have won all five of their away games. Detroit has dropped four games in a row. The Lions scored a 39-31 victory over Dallas on Dec. 31, 2006.

A Look Back: 1970 NFC Playoffs

During the first season after the merger of the NFL and the AFL, the Cowboys pulled out a division title with a 10-4 record. The team featured a three-headed monster at the running back position, with rookie Duane Thomas joining Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison in the backfield.

The Cowboys entered the playoffs in 1970 having won only one playoff game in franchise history. This was still very much “The Team That Couldn’t Win the Big One” and was coming off of two consecutive years of losing in the divisional round. Dallas faced the 10-4 Detroit Lions, a wildcard team that had not made the playoffs since winning the NFL Championship Game in 1957.

Fair to say, this game was about the Dallas defense and the Dallas running game. Detroit managed only 156 net yards, as quarterbacks Greg Landry and Bill Munson (pictured above) combined to go 7 of 20 for 92 yards. Running back Mel Farr did not fare better, gaining 31 yards on 12 carries.

The Cowboys passing game was hardly an attack, as Craig Morton completed just 4 of 18 passes for 38 yards and a pick. Thomas had 135 yards on 30 carries to lead Dallas, which was unable to punch the ball in the end zone. Garrison added another 72 yards on the ground.

The Dallas defense had held opponents without a touchdown for 17 quarters prior to the game, and the Lions did no better. Nevertheless, the Lions had a chance late in the game, as Munson drove Detroit to the Dallas 29 with less than a minute to play. But a pass on 3rd-and-10 with 35 seconds remaining was tipped and picked off by Mel Renfro, giving the Cowboys a berth in the first-ever NFC Championship Game against San Francisco.

For more: Renfro Theft Clinches 5-0 Thriller

Questions Waiting for Answers: Week 14

60%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Welcome to the “Terence Newman Sound Bite Counters Jon Kitna’s Dumb Comments from Last January” edition of Questions Waiting for Answers. If you are unaware of what this means, here is a blurb from the Cowboys’ official site:

Terence Newman’s reaction to Jon Kitna’s now-infamous January comments roused more than just the local media or maybe the Detroit Lions. The league office took notice, too.

Hanging from Newman’s locker Thursday was a detailed letter of admonishment signed by Raymond E. Anderson, NFL executive vice president of football operations, reprimanding the Cowboys cornerback for his remarks in a Sirius NFL Radio interview.

Newman was uncharacteristically candid Tuesday when asked about Kitna’s verbal jabs towards himself, inside linebacker Bradie James and the rest of the Cowboys’ defense following last December’s 39-31 loss to Detroit.

“Basically what it boils down to is, you’ve got to watch what you say,” Newman told Sirius hosts Adam Schein and Solomon Wilcots. “Your mouth can’t write checks that your (butt) can’t cash; that’s what it comes down to. Everybody’s going to see those quotes.

“He better just hope I don’t blitz off the edge because I’ve got 15, 25, 30 (thousand) – however much it would be for a fine. I’ve got that much for one fine. Revenge will be sweet, definitely.”

Personally, as much as I’d like to see the bulletin board stuff inspire the defense, I would much prefer to avoid 15-yard penalties if we can avoid them. And if we are talking about committing them on Wednesday, I’d say that’s a bit of a problem. Wade?

“We’re going to play a clean game – I don’t have any doubt about that,” Phillips said. “And they were fine with that. They’re going to play like they’re always going to play. They’re going to play hard. They got a little riled up about what was said about them last year, but it’s just motivation and that’s OK.”

We’ll see. Just win.

On to the questions:

Way Too Much Information Wednesday: Week 14

We are three-quarters of the way through the season, meaning that it’s time for the last installment of the stat projections. The table below shows the projections for team and individual statistics as well as the stat totals from 2006.

Category 2006 2007 (proj. after 4
2007 (proj. after
8 games)
2007 (proj.
after 12 games)
First Downs 336 356 344 339
3rd Down Conversions 100/205 92/204 102/208 96/197
Offensive Yards 5772 7052 6496 6239
Offensive Plays 1025 1004 996 975
Ave. Per Play 5.7 7.0 6.5 6.4
Rushing Yards 1936 2440 2046 1938
Rushing Att. 472 496 446 446
Rushing Ave. 4.1 4.9 4.6 4.3
Passing Yards 3836 4612 4450 4301
Comp.-Att. 310-506 288-484 340-528 335-508
Comp. % 61.30% 59.50% 64.40% 65.9%
Int. Thrown 21 12 20 19
Sacks Allowed 37 24 22 21
Field Goals 20/28 24/28 28/32 27/31
Field Goal % 71.40% 85.70% 87.50% 87.10%
Touchdowns 52 76 64 64
Time of Possession 31:02 32:47 31:09 31:07
Opp. First Down 294 284 290 299
Yards Allowed 5165 4792 4774 4851
Rushing Yards Allowed 1659 1288 1350 1366
Passing Yards Allowed 3506 3504 3424 3485
Sacks Recorded 34 36 42 44
Int. 18 36 24 24

Here are the updates for the individuals:

Tony Romo

2006: 337 att., 220 comp., 65.3% comp., 2903 yards, 19 TD, 13 Int., 95.1 rating
2007 (projected after 4 games): 484 att., 288 comp., 59.5% comp., 4796 yards, 44 TD, 12 Int., 112.9 rating
2007 (projected after 8 games): 528 att., 340 comp., 64.4% comp., 4616 yards, 38 TD, 20 Int., 100.4 rating
2007 (projected after 12 games): 508 att., 335 comp., 66.0% comp., 4458 yards, 44 TD, 19 Int., 107.1 rating

Marion Barber

2006: 135 att., 654 yards, 4.8 ave., 14 TD
2007 (projected after 4 games): 192 att., 1224 yards, 6.4 ave., 16 TD
2007 (projected after 8 games): 200 att., 1070 yards, 5.4 ave., 12 TD
2007 (projected after 12 games): 215 att., 1059 yards, 4.9 ave., 9 TD

Julius Jones

2006: 267 att., 1084 yards, 4.1 ave., 4 TD
2007 (projected after 4 games): 204 att., 704 yards, 3.5 ave., 4 TD
2007 (projected after 8 games): 182 att., 706 yards, 3.9 ave., 4 TD
2007 (projected after 12 games): 177 att., 693 yards, 3.9 ave., 3 TD

Terrell Owens

2006: 85 rec., 1180 yards, 13.9 ave., 13 TD
2007 (projected after 4 games): 76 rec., 1448 yards, 19.1 ave., 12 TD
2007 (projected after 8 games): 88 rec., 1460 yards, 16.6 ave., 12 TD
2007 (projected after 12 games): 94 rec., 1661 yards, 17.6 ave., 19 TD

Patrick Crayton

2006: 36 rec., 516 yards, 14.3 ave., 4 TD
2007 (projected after 4 games): 52 rec., 1048 yards, 20.2 ave., 8 TD
2007 (projected after 8 games): 52 rec., 800 yards, 15.4 ave., 8 TD
2007 (projected after 12 games): 48 rec., 697 yards, 14.6 ave., 9 TD

Jason Witten

2006: 64 rec., 754 yards, 11.8 ave., 1 TD
2007 (projected after 4 games): 80 rec., 1216 yards, 15.2 ave., 12 TD
2007 (projected after 8 games): 90 rec., 1234 yards, 13.7 ave., 10 TD
2007 (projected after 12 games): 86 rec., 1087 yards, 12.6 ave., 8 TD

Sack Leader

2006: DeMarcus Ware: 12 sacks
2007 (projected after 4 games): DeMarcus Ware: 12 sacks
2007 (projected after 8 games): DeMarcus Ware: 14 sacks
2007 (projected after 12 games): DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis (tied): 13 sacks

Interception Leader

2006: Roy Williams: 5 int.
2007 (projected after 4 games): Anthony Henry: 16 int.
2007 (projected after 8 games): Anthony Henry: 10 int.
2007 (projected after 12 games): Anthony Henry and Ken Hamlin (tied): 7 int.

* * *

Thurman’s Thieves (8-5)

I needed 34 points from Randy Moss to overtake America’s Team and win my division in fantasy football. Instead, I got 9.4 points and did not come close. I am now in the first round of the playoffs against a team to which I lost two weeks ago, so these fantasy updates may soon come to an end. Not that they will be missed, I’m sure.

* * *

Pigskin Pick’em

Much better week on the Pick’em front, as I got 10 of 16 correct.

Week 13: 10/16
Season: 98/192
Average: 92.3/192
Best: 121/192

The one slight problem these days is that the Golden Rule– don’t ever pick against New England, no matter what the spread– hasn’t been so helpful lately. An addendum to the Golden Rule: 20 point spreads are 20 points spreads, no matter if New England is the favorite.

A Better Final Quarter Is Vital ran a story today about recent woes that the team has faced in December during recent seasons. A short blurb:

Standing on the brink of the greatest regular-season finish in franchise history, the Cowboys had little reason to cringe as the calendar page flipped to December.

A single victory clinches their first NFC East title in nine years. A victory Sunday and some help from Tampa Bay and Seattle secures a first-round bye for the first time since 1995. There’s too much incentive to look forward instead of backward.

“The great days are ahead of us,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Monday.

Yet a tiny part of their collective conscience, from Jones to the players – maybe not head coach Wade Phillips, since he didn’t arrive until February – centers on their recent December struggles that included 2-3 finishes in all four seasons under Bill Parcells.

That’s a combined 8-12 record down the stretch, with most of those games played in December.

Historically, the Cowboys’ best seasons have featured strong finishes. Consider the Cowboys’ record in the final four games of the five seasons during which they made the Super Bowl in the 1970s:

1970: 4-0 (10-4 overall)
1971: 4-0 (11-3 overall)
1975: 3-1 (10-4 overall)
1977: 4-0 (12-2 overall)
1978: 4-0 (12-4 overall)

This trend continued in the 1990s, but Dallas has not had late season success in quite some time. Here are the records of the final four games in each season since 1990.

1990: 2-2 (7-9 overall)
1991: 4-0 (11-5 overall)
1992: 3-1 (13-3 overall)
1993: 4-0 (12-4 overall)
1994: 2-2 (12-4 overall)
1995: 2-2 (12-4 overall)
1996: 3-1 (10-6 overall)
1997: 0-4 (6-10 overall)
1998: 2-2 (10-6 overall)
1999: 2-2 (8-8 overall)
2000: 1-3 (5-11 overall)
2001: 1-3 (5-11 overall)
2002: 0-4 (5-11 overall)
2003: 2-2 (10-6 overall)
2004: 1-3 (6-10 overall)
2005: 2-2 (9-7 overall)
2006: 1-3 (9-7 overall)

I’m certainly not saying that the 11-1 record and the prospect of home-field advantage isn’t great even if we should not play terribly well down the stretch. However, is it merely coincidence that the last time that Dallas won a playoff game was the last time that Dallas went better than .500 in the final quarter of the season?

Hope, sincerely, that this is all moot.

Tony Romo vs. Danny White vs. Don Meredith vs. . . .

There have been a few posts in Classic Cowboys on the Dallas Cowboys Fan Zone about Danny White. Typically the discussion alternates from (1) he couldn’t win the big one to (2) he was underappreciated. I fall in the latter camp. Here are a couple of those posts:

Danny White, Where is he?

Danny White.. I Know… but STILL!

Now that Tony Romo has surpassed White in touchdown passes in a season and is approaching White’s record for yards in a season, I think it’s fair to say that he is on his way to surpassing White (read: at some point in his career…). Some will think that Romo already has, but I would never say that until Romo at least gets Dallas into the Super Bowl, given that the only legitimate knock on White was his shortcomings in three NFC Championship games.

Which leads us to the poll question below, which asks who is the third best quarterback in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, behind Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. If you are not familiar with all of these quarterbacks, here is a primer:

Eddie LaBaron: First starting quarterback in the history of the franchise. He was a former member of the Redskins who came out of retirement to join the new Dallas franchise.

Don Meredith: Strong-armed and tough quarterback that led the Cowboys to the brink of a title in 1966 and 1967.

Craig Morton: The only quarterback not named Staubach or Aikman to lead Dallas to the Super Bowl.

Danny White: Long-time punter took over for Roger Staubach and led Dallas to three straight NFC Championship Game appearances.

Tony Romo: You probably know who he is.

Behind Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, who is the third best quarterback in the history of the Dallas Cowboys?
Eddie LaBaron
Don Meredith
Craig Morton
Danny White
Tony Romo

View Results

There are a few other starters (Steve Pelleur, Gary Hogeboom, Quincy Carter, and so forth), but we’ll stick with these five. Here is a great video showing all of the Dallas quarterbacks in history:

* * *

Bit of news from the Cowboys blogs: The blogger formerly at Dallas Cowboys 24/7 is now part of the network. The new blog is The Landry Hat. Best of luck.

NFC East Not Quite Our’s

It looked as if we were going to get to celebrate an NFC East title tonight, given that the Bears entered into the fourth quarter with a 16-7 lead over the Giants. But New York rallied and now stand at 8-4. The good news: a single Dallas win or a single Giant loss in the final four weeks of the season gives the Cowboys a divisional title.

Below is a look at the Cowboys’ playoff picture.

Remaining Games

Three of the Cowboys’ four remaining opponents (Washington, Philadelphia, and Carolina) have 5-7 records and are just about out of the playoff picture altogether. Detroit stands at 6-6 but has lost four straight after routing Denver about a month ago. I don’t think anyone has forgotten last year’s debacle against the Lions, so Dallas should not have a letdown.

NFC East Title

The Giants are 8-4 and very nearly a lock for a playoff spot after today’s win. Losses by the Eagles and Redskins virtually eliminated both of them from the playoffs, absent a miracle.

First Round Bye

If the Cowboys win two of their final four games, they will at least receive a first-round bye and will host one of the playoff games. Both Seattle and Tampa Bay have 8-4 records with 7-2 conference records. It is possible that Dallas could go 1-3 or 0-4 and lose the first-round bye. Seattle holds the tiebreaker over Tampa based on the Seahawks’ opening day win over the Buccaneers.

Home Field Advantage

The Cowboys’ magic number to earn home field advantage in the NFC playoffs is three, meaning that any combination of three Dallas wins and/or Green Bay losses will give Dallas the best record in the conference.

* * *

The big fantasy matchup is very nearly a blowout. Thurman’s Thieves (my team) is tied for first in its division (8-4) with the league’s organizer (America’s Team), and the two of us are facing off this week for division title. As it stands right now, the Thieves are trailing 126.7-97.5, and only one player remains for either team. The player?

Moss has had more than 20 points in seven games this year. However, he has had 30 or more only once (42, vs. Buffalo two weeks ago). I need 30. Hear me, Randy? 30.

Update: It’s getting worse. After some recalcuations, I am now behind 130-95.8. So Randy, I need 34.

That is, of course, assuming no further recalcuations.