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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 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.
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.
This blog does not employ profanity, which severely limits the words that fit the Cowboys’ performance today. Here’s a word, though: Ignominious.
1 : marked with or characterized by disgrace or shame : dishonorable 2 : deserving of shame or infamy : despicable 3 : humiliating , degrading
Before the noon games today, the Eagles had to hope for two teams to win just to have a chance to make the playoffs. Philadelphia got that wish when the Raiders beat the Buccaneers and the Texans beat the Bears.
At that point, the Eagles just had to worry about their opponents from Dallas, who simply never showed up. Here’s a look:
Special Teams are Miserable
Nick Folk opened the game by promptly kicking the ball out of bounds, giving the Eagles the ball on the Dallas 40. Philadelphia drove into Dallas territory, but on a third down play, Brian Westbrook fumbled. The Dallas recovery was one of the few breaks in the game for the Cowboys.
The Eagles were back in good field position on their next drive thanks to a 21-yard return by DeSean Jackson. Philadelphia moved the ball to the Dallas 22 before settling for a field goal.
Bruce Read needs to be fired before he leaves Philadelphia. In fact, if Jerry Jones could somehow convince the Eagles to take him, all the better.
The Offense Looked Lost
The Dallas offense went three and out to start the game. On the Cowboys’ next possession, the team drove 61 yards in 14 plays, but on a 3rd-and-1 play, Jason Garrett decided to call a hitch pass to Roy Williams. After a moment of hesitation, Romo threw to Williams, who lost four yards.
The long drive in the first quarter was the only decent drive Dallas had in the first half. The Cowboys went three-and-out on two consecutive possessions in the second quarter as the game was starting to get away from Dallas.
The Defense Joins in and Looks Terrible
Why not have a complete breakdown? After bad special teams and bad offense, the defense starting showing cracks in the second quarter. It started when Donovan McNabb rolled to his right on a third down play and hit Correll Buckhalter, who weaved his way through Dallas defenders for a 59-yard play.
There has been quite a bit of talk about how the Eagles are having red-zone problems and how good Dallas has been in the red zone. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, as the Eagles scored a touchdown after Buckhalter’s catch-and-run.
After a Dallas three-and-out, the Eagles went on the move again. On a third-and-9 play from the Dallas 37, McNabb found Jackson on a seam route, and Terence Newman never saw the ball. Jackson took the ball down to the three. On third-and-goal from the four on the same drive, the Dallas defense was completely screwed up and allowed Buckhalter to score on a pass out in the flat, giving the Eagles a 17-3 lead.
The Complete Meltdown Begins at the End of the First Half
The Romo-to-Williams connection that the Cowboys wanted never happened today. After missing Williams on several passes in the first half, Romo tried again late in the first half. Throwing some sort of a toss-up pass off his back foot, Romo’s pass was short of Williams, who never turned to look for the ball. Sheldon Brown returned the ball to the Dallas 42 with 1:04 remaining in the half.
Field goal, perhaps? No. Newman was called for pass interference in the end zone, and the Eagles scored on the next play.
On the ensuing kickoff, Pacman Jones fumbled, and the Eagles recovered with three seconds left. It was enough time to allow the Eagles to kick a field goal.
This was essentially a playoff game, and Dallas was behind 27-3 at the half.
The Implosion Continues in the Second Half
The first half was bad. But what happened to start the second half defies words, even with the help of a combination dictionary/thesaurus.
1. Romo’s Fumble Returned for a Touchdown
Dallas looked like it had a bit of life when the Cowboys pulled off some sort of trick play. Romo rolled left, then threw the ball back to Jason Witten, who threw to Terrell Owens for a 42-yard gain.
Two plays later, Romo was sacked and fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Chris Clemons and returned for a touchdown.
Philadelphia 34, Dallas 3
2. Barber’s Fumble Returned for a Touchdown
On the next drive, Romo hit Owens deep and got back into Philadelphia territory. On a first down play from the Eagle 12, Romo dumped the ball off to Marion Barber, who looked as if he was going to score.
Then he was hit and stripped by Brian Dawkins. Joselio Hanson picked the ball up and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown.
Philadelphia 41, Dallas 3
The game was over before those fumbles, but it was obvious that everyone quit after that. The Eagles were playing soft defensively, but Dallas still had trouble moving the ball. The Eagles didn’t do anything fancy on offense, but Dallas didn’t want to tackle.
* * *
Three years of blogging, and three big season-ending disappointments.
2008: Ignominious Defeat, Ignominious Season
The Eagles today needed wins by the Raiders and either the Texans or the Giants for Philadelphia to have a chance to make the playoffs.
No way Tampa Bay would lose to Oakland with a playoff spot on the line? Oakland just won, 28-24. Tampa Bay led 24-14 in the fourth quarter, but Oakland’s offense suddenly has a spark to it, and Tampa’s defense had no answer.
The Vikings came back to beat the Giants, but the Bears fell to the Texans. With Carolina and Atlanta both winning, Carolina takes the #2 seed while the Falcons take the #5 wildcard spot.
Here are the standings now:
1. N.Y. Giants 13-3
2. Carolina Panthers 12-4
3. Minnesota Vikings 10-6
4. Arizona Cardinals 8-7 (playing Seattle)
5. Atlanta Falcons 11-5
6. Winner of Dallas-Philadelphia game
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-7
Chicago Bears 9-7
Washington Redskins 8-7 (playing San Francisco)
The Cowboys’ game against the Philadelphia Eagles is in reality a playoff game, for a win means the Cowboys move forward while a loss means we start an even longer offseason than we’ve seen in quite a while.
The Cowboys have faced must-win situations in the final weeks of previous seasons, and usually with good results. Here is a summary.
1970: Win Over Houston Clinches the East
The Cowboys and Giants entered week 14 of the 1970 season with identical 9-4 records. A loss by the Cowboys to the Houston Oilers could have ended the season for Dallas, but the Cowboys routed Houston, 52-10. A win by the L.A. Rams over the Giants gave the Cowboys the Eastern Division title in the NFC, en route to the Cowboys’ first Super Bowl appearance.
1973: Cowboys Handle St. Louis To Pull Out Tiebreaker Over Washington
The 1973 Cowboys started the season 4-3 but rallied to post a 9-4 record heading into the final season. Dallas was tied with Washington, but a 30-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals secured the NFC East for Dallas.
1979: Roger Makes His Last Comeback Against Washington
Perhaps the most famous game on this list was the season finale between the Cowboys and Redskins, when Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to a come-from-behind 35-34 win to secure another NFC East title for the Cowboys of the 1970s.
1980: Cowboys Can’t Beat the Eagles Badly Enough
The Cowboys could have won the NFC East title in 1980 had they beaten the Eagles by at least 25 points in the season finale, thanks to the NFL tiebreaker rules at the time. The Cowboys only won by eight, giving the title to Philadelphia.
1984: Cowboys Miss the Playoffs Thanks to a Loss in Miami
The Cowboys had a 9-6 record heading into the final game in 1984 on Monday Night Football. A win would give the Cowboys yet another playoff berth, but thanks to a late touchdown pass from Dan Marino to Mark Clayton, the Dolphins ended the Cowboys’ season. It was the first time in the history of the Cowboys that they had to win to make the playoffs, but the result was a disappointing end to the 25th anniversary season (sound a bit familiar?)
1990: Babe Was Laughable in Finale Loss to the Falcons
The 7-8 Cowboys could have snuck into the 1990 playoffs with a win over Atlanta, but they were forced to start backup Babe Laufenberg due to an injury to Troy Aikman. Laufenberg was awful, and the playoff spot ended up going to New Orleans.
1993: Emmitt’s Heroism Helps Dallas to a Win at New York
The 1993 Cowboys would have made the playoffs with a loss to the Giants, but the road to Super Bowl XXVIII would have been much more difficult. Emmitt Smith overcame a dislocated shoulder to help Dallas pull out a 16-13 win.
1995: Cowboys Wrap Up Home Field Advantage with Win at Arizona
The Cowboys in 1995 were stalling as they headed into the stretch, but a big 37-13 win at Arizona gave Dallas momentum heading into the playoffs. It also clinched home field advantage over the San Francisco 49ers.
1999: Cowboys Beat Giants to Sneak Into the Playoffs
The 1999 Cowboys went from 3-0 front-runners to a 7-8 disappointment, but thanks to a series of losses by Green Bay and Carolina, the Cowboys were able to secure the final playoff spot with a 26-17 win over the Giants.
The win over the Giants was the last win that Dallas has had in a season finale. Since then…
2000: Lost to Tennessee, 31-0
2001: Lost to Detroit, 15-10
2002: Lost to Washington, 20-14 (Emmitt’s last game in Dallas)
2003: Lost to New Orleans, 13-7
2004: Lost to N.Y. Giants, 28-24
2005: Lost to St. Louis Rams, 20-10
2006: Lost to Detroit, 39-31
2007: Lost to Washington, 27-6
Annual Showing of the 1986 Christmas Video
It has been a couple of years since I posted the infamous 1986 Dallas Cowboys Christmas Video, but it continues to pop up now and then. Here is one of the clips featuring some classic players.
Here was the original post from September 23, 2006.
As much as they don’t deserve to smell the playoffs, the Cowboys will clinch at least the #6 seed with a win over the Eagles next week at Philadelphia. The Cowboys can thank the San Diego Chargers for giving Dallas one last hope to make the playoffs.
A Dallas win improves the Cowboys’ final regular season record to 10-6, and Dallas will either have a better record or will win all tiebreakers against the remaining NFC playoff contenders other than Atlanta. The Cowboys could clinch the #5 seed if the Falcons somehow lost to the Rams, which isn’t going to happen.
Here is a look at the NFC playoff race as of right now:
1. N.Y. Giants (currently 12-3): Clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
2. Carolina (currently 11-4): The Panthers could still lose the NFC South with a loss next week to the Saints coupled with an Atlanta win. A win by Carolina means that the Panthers have clinched a first-round bye with the second seed.
3. Minnesota (currently 9-6): The Vikings will clinch the NFC North with a Chicago loss in the Bears’ final two games (including a Monday night game vs. Green Bay) or a Vikings win over the Giants.
4. Arizona (8-7): The Cardinals will be the #4 seed no matter what.
5. Atlanta (10-5): The Falcons could win the NFC South, but they have at least wrapped up a wildcard spot.
6. Dallas (9-6): Dallas either gets in with a win or ends the season with a loss.
7. Tampa Bay (9-6): The Buccaneers get in with a win and a Philadelphia loss. Tampa Bay beat both Chicago and Minnesota, so the Buccaneers will beat either team for a playoff spot if they are tied.
8. Philadelphia (8-6-1): The Eagles need to beat the Cowboys had hope for losses by Tampa Bay and Chicago (assuming the Bears beat the Packers on Sunday).
Thus, if Dallas, Atlanta, and Carolina win, the Panthers would be #2 at 12-4, the Falcons would be #5 at 11-5, and the Cowboys would be #6 at 10-6.
If the Panthers lost but the Cowboys and Falcons won, then Atlanta would be #2 at 11-5, the Panthers would be #5 at 11-5, and the Cowboys would be #6 at 10-6.
If the Panthers and Falcons lost but Dallas won, then Carolina would be #2 at 11-5, Dallas would be #5 at 10-6, and Atlanta would be #6 at 10-6.
A Dallas loss means that the #6 spot could go to Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, or Chicago. The only other possibility would be if Dallas tied Philadelphia and Tampa Bay and Chicago both lost. In that circumstance, Dallas would take the #6 seed.
If the season ended today, Dallas would have the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs and would travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals. NFL.com has a page that shows the playoff brackets as of now.
The Cowboys can clinch a playoff spot this weekend if one of the following scenarios takes place.
[Note–12/21: Check out the comments section for updates to the playoff race, factoring in the Cowboys’ loss to the Ravens on Saturday]
Dallas (9-5) beats Baltimore
Minnesota beats Atlanta (9-5)
Washington beats Philadelphia (8-5-1)
Green Bay beats Chicago (8-6)
In this scenario, the Cowboys would be guaranteed to have a better record than Philadelphia and Chicago. Atlanta’s conference record would fall to 6-5, meaning that the Falcons would have a tough time finishing ahead of Tampa Bay.
Dallas (9-5) beats Baltimore
San Diego beats Tampa Bay (9-5)
Washington beats Philadelphia (8-5-1)
Green Bay beats Chicago (8-6)
Same result as above, except that there would be no way the Buccaneers could finish ahead of the Cowboys since Dallas won the head-to-head matchup.
Dallas (9-5) beats Baltimore
San Diego beats Tampa Bay (9-5)
Minnesota beats Atlanta (9-5)
Green Bay beats Chicago (8-6)
In this scenario, an Eagles’ win would put them in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. An Eagles’ win over Dallas would mean that Dallas would fall to the #6 seed, while a Dallas win would likely knock Philadelphia out of the playoffs if the Cowboys won.
Best Case Scenario for Dallas
Dallas (9-5) beats Baltimore
San Diego beats Tampa Bay (9-5)
Minnesota beats Atlanta (9-5)
Washington beats Philadelphia (8-5-1)
Green Bay beats Chicago (8-6)
If by some miracle this could happen, Dallas would clinch the #5 spot because the Cowboys would win all of the tiebreakers even if Dallas lost to Philadelphia. If the Cowboys lost to the Eagles and the Falcons beat St. Louis, then the Cowboys and Falcons would have identical conference records of 7-5, and both teams would have records of 3-2 in common games against the Buccaneers, Packers, Eagles, and Rams. The tiebreaker would likely come down to strength of victory, which the Cowboys would win.
Strength of victory is determined by calculating the combined winning percentages of opponents that a team has beaten. As of right now, the Cowboys’ opponents that Dallas has beaten have a combined record of 54-70-2, and in the scenario described above, Baltimore’s record (currently with nine wins) would also be added to the mix. The overall record of Atlanta’s opponents is 51-75, but the Falcons would have to add the Rams’ record (currently two wins) to the calculation. Based on the matchups in weeks 16 and 17, it appears (to me, at least) that in a best-case scenario for Atlanta, the Falcons could end up with a strength of victory percentage of .405 (64-94). Even in a worst-case scenario for Dallas, the opponents that the Cowboys have beaten would necessarily have more than 64 wins, meaning that Dallas would necessarily beat the Falcons on strength of victory.
Cowboys-Related Odds, Week 16
Here are some odds related to the Cowboys, thanks go BodogLife.
DeMarcus Ware’s Chase of the Sack Record
Will DeMarcus Ware beat the NFL single season sack record of 22.5 held by Michael Strahan?
Super Bowl Matchup
Dallas Cowboys vs. Baltimore Ravens 45/1
Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos 100/1
Dallas Cowboys vs. Indianapolis Colts 25/1
Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins 40/1
Dallas Cowboys vs. New England Patriots 55/1
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Jets 35/1
Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 17/2
Dallas Cowboys vs. San Diego Chargers 175/1
Dallas Cowboys vs. Tennessee Titans 10/1
Odds to Win Super Bowl XLIII
New York Giants 7/2
Pittsburgh Steelers 7/2
Carolina Panthers 11/2
Tennessee Titans 8/1
Dallas Cowboys 8/1
Indianapolis Colts 9/1
Minnesota Vikings 18/1
Philadelphia Eagles 18/1
New York Jets 22/1
Miami Dolphins 25/1
New England Patriots 25/1
Baltimore Ravens 30/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30/1
Arizona Cardinals 35/1
Atlanta Falcons 35/1
Denver Broncos 40/1
San Diego Chargers 65/1
Chicago Bears 70/1
Odds to win the 2009 NFC Championship
New York Giants 7/4
Carolina Panthers 9/4
Dallas Cowboys 5/1
Minnesota Vikings 13/2
Philadelphia Eagles 7/1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11/1
Arizona Cardinals 15/1
Atlanta Falcons 18/1
Chicago Bears 28/1
Tony Romo (DAL) 10/1
DeMarcus Ware (DAL) 25/1
In two of the past three games, the Cowboys managed to avenge their past two playoff losses. Dallas lost 21-20 to Seattle in the wildcard round of the 2006 playoffs but did not get a chance to beat the Seahawks in 2007. Although few mentioned it at the time, thanks to a dismal season by Seattle, the Cowboys were able to avenge the loss by beating the Seahawks 34-9 on Thanksgiving Day.
On Sunday, Dallas beat Giants, who had knocked the Cowboys out of the 2007 playoffs with a 21-17 at Texas Stadium in January. The win doesn’t quite erase the disappointment from last year, but it doesn’t hurt.
Here is a look at how the Cowboys have responded to playoff losses in the past.
1966 and 1967 Losses to Green Bay, NFL Championship Games
The Cowboys lost the 1966 NFL Championship Game to the Packers and then lost the rematch in 1967 in the Ice Bowl. The Cowboys lost again to Green Bay in 1968 before finally recording a 16-3 win over the Packers in 1970.
1968 and 1969 Losses to Cleveland, NFL Playoffs
The Browns gave the Cowboys all sorts of trouble in the late 1960s. After losing to Cleveland 31-20 in 1968, the Browns destroyed the Cowboys 42-10 during the regular season. The playoffs in 1969 were no better for Dallas, as the Cowboys lost 38-14. The Cowboys finally beat the Browns 6-2 in 1970.
1970 Loss to the Baltimore Colts, Super Bowl V
The Cowboys lost 16-13 to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V. In their next matchup in 1972, the Cowboys routed Baltimore, 21-0.
1972 Loss to Washington, NFC Championship Game
The Cowboys lost the NFC Championship Game in 1972 to the Redskins. In 1973, the Cowboys lost to Washington in their first matchup, but the Cowboys beat the Redskins 27-7 later in the season.
1973 Loss to Minnesota, NFC Championship Game
The Cowboys lost their bid to return to the Super Bowl in 1973 when they lost 27-10 to the Vikings. Dallas avenged the loss by beating the Vikings with the Hail Mary in 1975.
1975 and 1978 Losses to Pittsburgh, Super Bowls X and XIII
The Cowboys lost to the Steelers five consecutive times during the 1970s and early 1980s, including Super Bowls X and XIII. Dallas did not finally beat Pittsburgh again until 1985.
1970s Losses to the Rams
The Cowboys lost to the L.A. Rams in the 1976 and 1979 playoffs. Dallas avenged the 1976 loss by beating the Rams in the 1978 NFC Championship Game. The Cowboys also avenged the 1979 loss by beating the Rams in the Wildcard Round of the 1980 playoffs.
1980 Loss to Philadelphia, NFC Championship Game
After losing 20-7 in the 1980 NFC title game, Dallas swept the Eagles in 1981.
1981 Loss to San Francisco, NFC Championship Game
Dallas had to wait 11 years to beat the 49ers after losing to San Francisco in 1981. The next Dallas win came in the 1992 NFC Championship Game.
1982 Loss to Washington, NFC Championship Game
The Cowboys faced the Redskins at Washington to open the 1983 season. Dallas came from behind to pull out a 31-30 win.
1983 Loss to the L.A. Rams, NFC Wildcard Round
The Cowboys opened the 1984 season by traveling to L.A. to face the Rams. The Cowboys avenged the playoff loss by beating the Rams, 20-13.
1985 Loss to the L.A. Rams, NFC Divisional Round
The Cowboys were shut out by the Rams in 1985. The next Dallas win over Los Angeles came at the end of the 1987 season when the Cowboys won 29-21.
1991 Loss to Detroit, NFC Divisional Round
The Cowboys were blown out 38-6 in the 1991 playoffs by the Lions, but Dallas responded the next year by beating the Lions 37-3.
1994 Loss to San Francisco, NFC Championship Game
The Cowboys lost to the 49ers to end Dallas’ bid to win three straight Super Bowls. Dallas finally beat the 49ers in 1996.
1996 Loss to Carolina, NFC Divisional Round
The Cowboys began their current streak of playoff losses by losing to the Panthers, 26-17. Dallas avenged the loss by beating Carolina 27-20 in 1998.
1998 Loss to Arizona, NFC Wildcard Round
The Cowboys flopped in a 20-7 loss to Arizona in the 1998 playoffs. Dallas handed the Cardinals a 35-7 loss the following season.
1999 Loss to Minnesota, NFC Wildcard Round
At 8-8, Dallas had little business playing in the 1999 playoffs and lost the Vikings, 27-10. Dallas did not beat Minnesota again until 2007.
2003 Loss to Carolina, NFC Wildcard Round
The Cowboys were torched 29-10 in the 2003 playoffs by a Panther team that Dallas had beaten earlier in the season. Dallas avenged the loss in 2005 by beating Carolina on the road late in the season.
2006 Loss to Seattle, NFC Wildcard Round
Dallas lost to the Seahawks 21-20 thanks to Tony Romo’s botched snap on the go-ahead field goal. Dallas beat Seattle 34-9 on Thanksgiving Day in 2008.
2007 Loss to the N.Y. Giants, NFC Divisional Round
The Cowboys suffered their most disappointing playoff loss in year by falling to the Giants in 2007. The Cowboys on Sunday beat New York in the next-to-last game at Texas Stadium.
I received an email this week asking about the current wildcard situation. Here is the question:
I am trying to learn more about the NFL and how it works. I am Cowboys fan and I’m trying to figure out if we are going to be a wild card this year. What game(s) is necessary to win? I know last week’s game didn’t really mean we’re out. Can you explain to me when we will know?
Below is what we would like to see from this weekend’s game:
Dallas Must Beat the Giants
A Dallas win over the Giants improves the Cowboys’ record to 9-5 and improves Dallas’ conference record to 7-4. The conference record will be important for tiebreaker purposes if the Falcons remain in the race.
A Dallas loss to the Giants puts the Cowboys in a bad position. At 8-6, Dallas could be passed up by both the Eagles and the Falcons with two games remaining. The Cowboys’ conference record will be 6-5 with only one conference game to go.
Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta
The Cowboys could benefit either way in the Tampa Bay-Atlanta game. If Tampa Bay wins, Atlanta would drop to 8-6 with a 5-5 conference record. A Tampa Bay win coupled with a Dallas win puts Atlanta one step closer to elimination.
Tampa Bay, by the way, clinches a playoff spot with a win over Atlanta and a loss by the Cowboys.
On the other hand, an Atlanta win coupled with a Dallas win puts Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta in a three-way tie in the NFC Wildcard race. Tampa Bay would hold the edge over Atlanta because: (a) Tampa Bay and Atlanta would split the head-to-head; (b) Tampa Bay and Atlanta would both have 3-3 division records; and (c) Tampa Bay would have an 8-4 conference record compared with a 6-4 record for Atlanta. Under the tiebreaker rules for the wildcard, Dallas would be the fifth seed and Tampa Bay would be the sixth seed under this scenario.
Which would we prefer? I’d say we should hope for an Atlanta win.
Philadelphia vs. Cleveland
The Eagles are scary. They appeared to be out of it, but at this point, the Eagles could make a December run and sneak into the playoffs. It would be great for Dallas if the Eagles would lose to the Browns, though that does not seem likely.
A win by Philadelphia improves the Eagles to 8-5-1. The Eagles would be either a half-game ahead or a half-game behind the Cowboys should the Cowboys win over the Giants.
Other Teams in the Mix
At 8-6, the Bears are not out of the mix. The NFC North will be especially interesting of the Cardinals beat the Vikings on Sunday.
The Vikings are in a good position to win the NFC North, but Minnesota could also factor into the wildcard mix if the Bears could pull out a division title.
The Redskins are on the outside looking in, but a win over the Bengals in week 15 improves Washington’s record to 8-6. Losses by the Cowboys, Falcons, and Eagles could help the Redskins’ chances.
Games in the Final Two Weeks
Here is a look ahead to some games of interest in the last two weeks:
Dallas vs. Baltimore: The final game at Texas Stadium could be critical to keep the Cowboys in the wildcard hunt.
Washington vs. Philadelphia: The winner of this game most likely will still be in the wildcard race. The loser has almost no chance to capture the final spot.
Minnesota vs. Atlanta: The Cowboys will likely be rooting for the Vikings to beat the Falcons here. An Atlanta loss could eliminate the Falcons from contention, while the Vikings will be one step closer to the NFC North title (which does not affect Dallas).
Tampa Bay at San Diego: The Chargers have been a huge disappointment this year, but a San Diego win over the Buccaneers would likely help the Cowboys.
Dallas at Philadelphia: This could be a game where the winner advances and the loser stays home. We should hope it does not come to that.
Tampa Bay vs. Oakland: The Raiders could help the Cowboys by beating Oakland’s old coach in Jon Gruden.
St. Louis at Atlanta: Too bad the Rams couldn’t face the Falcons in October when St. Louis was playing better.
There were four parts to the “dream scenario” for the Cowboys during week 14. Three of those four parts came true. The part that the Cowboys could control didn’t. Here was that scenario:
The dream scenario for the Cowboys:
(1) Dallas beats Pittsburgh to improve to 9-4.
(2) New Orleans defeats Atlanta. Atlanta falls to 8-5. New Orleans would still only be 7-6.
(3) Carolina beats Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers fall to 9-4. Dallas has the tiebreaker advantage.
(4) Baltimore beats Washington so that the Redskins fall to 7-6.
Under this scenario, it didn’t matter if the Eagles or Giants won. In fact, had Dallas improved to 9-4, the Cowboys would still have an outside shot at catching the Giants. Instead, the Eagles pulled themselves back into contention by beating the Giants and improving to 7-5-1.
Here are the new playoff standings:
1. N.Y. Giants, 11-2
2. Carolina Panthers, 10-3
3. Minnesota Vikings, 8-5
4. Arizona Cardinals, 8-5
The Vikings and Cardinals play on Sunday, so the winner will be in a good position to be the third seed. Minnesota beat Carolina, so if Minnesota finishes with the same record as the Panthers, Carolina will prevail. On the other hand, Arizona lost to Carolina, so the Panthers have the edge there. The Giants beat the Cardinals and face the Panthers in week 16.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 9-4.
Notes: Tampa Bay’s conference record is 8-3. Key loss: vs. Dallas. Tampa Bay faces Atlanta (#7) next week.
6. Dallas Cowboys, 8-5.
Notes: The Cowboys’ conference record is 6-4. Key win: vs. Tampa Bay. Dallas must still face Philadelphia (#8) in week 17.
7. Atlanta Falcons, 8-5.
Notes: The Falcons’ conference record is 5-4. Atlanta faces Tampa Bay (#5) next week.
8. Philadelphia Eagles, 7-5-1.
Notes: If the Eagles sweep the rest of their games, including the week 17 matchup with the Cowboys, they will be in a good position to take the final wildcard spot. The tie may work to their advantage.
9. Washington Redskins, 7-6
Note: The Redskins have a relatively easy schedule, with San Francisco and Cincinnati, but Washington has quite a bit of ground to make up.
10. Chicago Bears, 7-6.
Note: The Bears don’t have much of a chance but are not out of it yet.
11. New Orleans Saints, 7-6.
Note: Same position as the Bears.
Strength of Remaining Schedule
If you watched the broadcast of Monday Night Football, you might have noticed that three of the Cowboys’ final four opponents are among the teams with the best records in the league. Baltimore is a surprise at 9-4, but hopefully the Steelers can beat up on the Ravens next week in time for Baltimore’s trip to Dallas.
Reminders of Playoff Futility for the Cowboys
If the Cowboys are able to make it to the playoff this season, how is this for possible matchups?
a.) At Minnesota? The Vikings were the last team to lose to the Cowboys in 1996. However, Minnesota beat Dallas at home in 1999.
b.) At Arizona? The Cowboys lost to the Cardinals in the 1998 playoffs, marking the first time that the Cardinals had won a playoff game since 1947. Arizona’s first-round game will be the first home playoff game for the Cardinals since the same year.
c.) At Carolina? We might remember the playoff losses to Carolina in 1996 and 2003.
d.) At N.Y. Giants? We might remember last January, even if prefer to forget it.
We’ve Got Answers
Last week I posted a few open-ended questions about the Giants game. Here are the answers.
1. Can the Cowboys’ offensive line, along with tight ends and backs, slow down the Steelers’ pass rush?
Barber isn’t the greatest blocker in the backfield, but he is pretty solid. Tashard Choice is going to have to assume those duties, which puts more pressure on him and more pressure on the linemen.
Answer: Romo generally had plenty of time to throw. Choice made a nice block on James Harrison in the first half, so his play did not appear to be an issue.
2. Can Greg Ellis and Anthony Spencer generate pressure, especially if DeMarcus Ware is slowed by his injury or out altogether?
In 11 years with the Cowboys, Ellis has played in very few of these big games. And the team really needs him. If he and Anthony Spencer can cause concerns for the Steelers, it would certainly help with Ware at less than 100%.
Answer: Ellis was called for offsides in the second half on a 3rd-and-6 play. The penalty negated a stop by the Cowboys. Ellis and Spencer combined for one tackle and four assists, with no sacks.
3. If Dallas loses to the Steelers, what happens to the Cowboys’ playoff chances?
Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta are all in a very tight race in the NFC South. Carolina and Tampa Bay play on Sunday, while Atlanta plays at New Orleans. The Cowboys could lose to the Steelers but not lose any ground if the Buccaneers and Falcons lose. It would also help if the Ravens could beat the Redskins.
Wins by Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Washington tomorrow, along with a Dallas loss, would make things appear pretty bleak.
Answer: See the first part of this post.
4. What happens if Dallas wins?
The Cowboys can improve their position in the NFC with a win. If Tampa Bay loses to Carolina, the Cowboys and Buccaneers would be tied with 9-4 records. Dallas holds the tiebreaker advantage due to the head-to-head win earlier this season. An Atlanta win also puts the Falcons at 9-4 but with a better conference record than Dallas (6-3 to 6-4). Nevertheless, since Atlanta and Tampa Bay are in the same division, Atlanta would be the odd team out according to the tiebreaker rules for three or more teams.
Answer: Dallas didn’t win. It’s uphill from here.
As Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News wrote today, the Cowboys could have used wins on Sunday by the Giants, Packers, Saints, and Chargers. Dallas got no such luck, as three of those four teams lost. Moreover, even though the Giants’ win over Washington helped Dallas in the wildcard, it meant that the NFC East is all but out of reach.
Here are the new NFC rankings (not counting tonight’s game between Chicago and Minnesota):
NFC East leader: N.Y. Giants (11-1). The Giants are pretty much a shoe-in for the NFC East and are probably for the top seed in the NFC for the playoffs.
NFC South leader: Tampa Bay (9-3). The Buccaneers beat the Panthers in week 6 and face Carolina next week. The Cowboys, of course, hold the tiebreaker over the Buccaneers thanks to a week 8 win over Tampa Bay.
NFC West leader: Arizona (7-5): The Cardinals’ loss to the Eagles seriously hurt Arizona’s chance to get the second bye in the NFC.
NFC North leader: Chicago (6-5): The Bears play the Vikings on Sunday evening for the division lead. The second place team in this division has almost no chance of making the playoffs.
Teams in the wildcard hunt:
Current #5 Seed: Carolina (9-3): The Panthers came from behind to beat the Packers to stay even with Tampa Bay. Carolina has a 6-3 conference record, so if the Panthers lose to the Buccaneers next week and the Cowboys beat the Steelers, both teams would be 9-4 with 6-4 conference records.
Current #6 Seed: Atlanta (8-4): The Falcons traveled to San Diego and knocked off the Chargers, improving Atlanta’s record to 8-4. Atlanta has a 5-3 conference record compared with the Cowboys’ 6-4 record, giving Atlanta the slight edge there. The Cowboys have a 2-1 record against common opponents, though, so Dallas still has a chance to beat Atlanta in a tiebreaker.
Dallas (8-4): Forget looking for help from other teams– the Cowboys have to win to make the playoffs. The Cowboys’ hold a head-to-head advantage over the Buccaneers but will have a tough time beating other teams in tiebreakers.
Washington (7-5): The Redskins have started sliding at a bad time for them. Their conference record is now 6-4, with a division record of 2-3. The Redskins have to travel to Baltimore in a tough game next week, but they finish the season with games against the Bengals, Eagles, and 49ers.
Philadelphia (6-5-1): The Eagles are all but out of the race, but with games against Washington and Dallas, Philly could play the role of spoiler. It would be nice for Dallas if the Eagles could beat up a little bit on the Giants next week, but that is doubtful.
* * *
Here are the tiebreaker procedures for determining the wildcard teams:
TO BREAK A TIE FOR THE WILD-CARD TEAM
If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.
1. If the tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie breaker.
2. If the tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps.
1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
4. Strength of victory.
5. Strength of schedule.
6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
8. Best net points in conference games.
9. Best net points in all games.
10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
11. Coin toss.
Three or More Clubs
(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)
1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
5. Strength of victory.
6. Strength of schedule.
7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
9. Best net points in conference games.
10. Best net points in all games.
11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
12. Coin toss
When the first Wild-Card team has been identified, the procedure is repeated to name the second Wild-Card, i.e., eliminate all but the highest-ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. In situations where three or more teams from the same division are involved in the procedure, the original seeding of the teams remains the same for subsequent applications of the tie breaker if the top-ranked team in that division qualifies for a Wild-Card berth.