They may all be right. After all, the defense is last in the league in yards given up. And the offense is only 10th in yards gained, and 14th in yards per game, since we haven't had our bye yet.
My thought about the season at this point is that THE REGULAR SEASON PERFORMANCE DOESN'T MATTER.
It's really all about the playoffs.
And, as bad as Dallas has been for stretches of this season, they are going to make the playoffs. 8 wins is a lock to win the NFC East with the in-division record Dallas has at this point. We are going to win the tiebreaker with every NFC competitor, which means if we can get to 8-8, they'd have to get to 9-7 to pass us. That's not going to happen.
We only have to go 4-4 and we're in, with a home playoff game. With home games against Minnesota, Oakland, Green Bay and Philly, that looks like at least 3 wins right there. That means we need to win a road game against the woeful Giants after the bye, and we should be good to go.
And if the regular season doesn't matter -- except having to win those 4 games -- then it's all about where Dallas might be when the playoffs roll around. And on that score, I think there are several reasons for optimism.
First, Dallas could be healthier in some key spots come playoff time. Ware and Murray could be healthy. Austin could be good to go. The offensive line has lost Brian Waters -- and everyone knows how much I valued him -- but Mackenzy Bernardeau has played better than last year, and the line could be better than it has been, if it figures out how to run block and create a semblance of a running game. Wilcox and Church could be healthy. Our linebackers might be deeper.
Second, the team has a huge opening to improve and put things together offensively in ways where we've only seen flashes so far. We've seen the Denver game offense. But even there, we didn't see an effective running game. We also haven't seen Lance Dunbar's speed used out of the backfield, or much use of Escobar as another outlet to defeat blitzes. I think there is a lot of untapped potential in our offense. Will it come together? Maybe; maybe not. But that doesn't mean it can't. I think all the adversity we've faced so far is pushing the team to double down and work harder, rather than throw in the towel and give up. As long as that's happening, there's reason for optimism.
Third, even though the defense has been torched, it continues to excel at creating turnovers. We are tied with Seattle for #1 in the NFC with a +9, and behind only KC's +12. Any team that can get turnovers in the playoffs can win games.
Fourth, the defense has even more room for improvement than the offense does. And with the coaches we have, I refuse to believe that they are overmatched. I think by the end of the year, the defense will just be better.
Fifth, despite all the yards we've given up, we haven't been blown out yet. We've lost 3 games by a total of 5 points. And had Williams not fumbled on the goal line in SD, our 4 losses would have been by a total of 8 points. Two of those losses to teams that are a combined 15-1. We seem to play well enough to lose those close ones, but what if we suddenly find the secret elixer that allows us to win those close games? We may not be as far from that as most people think.
The biggest problem of being 8-8 and on top in the NFC East, is we'd get the 5th seed in the first round, which looks like SF at the moment. And that doesn't look too promising of a matchup for us. But, it would be in Dallas, where the team has played much better than in recent years.
My conclusion? Don't freak out so much about these regular season games. Have confidence that the pitiful play of our NFC East competitors has afforded us a solid path to the NFC East title without having to put up a lot of regular season wins. Start looking for signs that Dallas might be able to play much better when it reaches the playoffs than it has played so far, and know that if we can keep winning the turnover battle there, we've got a chance to win those games.
I'm not thrilled with the bumpy ride we've been on. But I'm also not ready to give up on the potential this team still has to create the best year it's had in a very long time.