For a while, it looked so good. The Detroit Lions had a lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in the blizzard. But then LeSean McCoy got loose, and now the Dallas Cowboys have to win against the Chicago Bears tonight to keep pace in the NFC East.
From a strictly mathematical viewpoint, it is not a must win game for the Cowboys. Even if they should lose, they could still win the division by winning the last three games. If they win two of the next three games they will represent the NFC East in the playoffs as long as they win the final game at home against the Eagles, no matter what Philadelphia does in the next couple of weeks.
But that is hardly a good approach to take. The Cowboys need to maintain some momentum. And the margin of error for them is exactly one game. It would be far better to keep winning. The Green Bay Packers may have Aaron Rodgers back at the helm since the loss by the Lions and the narrow win by the Pack over the sagging Atlanta Falcons keeps Green Bay very much alive in their own division.
A win tonight would also offer some support for the belief that the team has a much better attitude this year going into the final stretch. The players, the executives, and even some of the media writers are saying that things are different this year. A victory in the cold of Soldier Field would go a long way to confirming that and showing that Jason Garrett's approach is finally getting some traction.
The team is getting back to full strength with Sean Lee slated to return. Morris Claiborne is out for the game and Dwayne Harris does not look likely to be able to play. If he isn't able to go, Harris is the most significant loss. His contributions on special teams have been major and the team misses him.
The Cowboys will not have to face Jay Cutler but that is not necessarily to their advantage because Josh McCown has been playing very well in relief. He has two excellent receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, perhaps the best one-two punch in the league. With the weather conditions, however, the biggest problem for Dallas defensively may be running back Matt Forte. That certainly seems to be the consensus from the players and coaching staff.
One good thing so far is that the Jeremiah Ratliff and Martellus Bennett stories seem to be nothing more than media distractions. Dallas needs to stay focused on the really important thing and that is the score at the end of the game.
One other consideration for the Cowboys is that there will only be two teams ahead of them for the wild card slots if they win, and one team (besides the Eagles) tied with them. Keep winning and it is possible that the last game of the season could be to determine who is the division champion and who gets a wild card berth.
But that is still in the future, and not something to worry about now. The objective is to win over the Bears. Keep putting those wins up, and things will take care of themselves.