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16 Weeks Of Armageddon: Why One Game Can Change Everything In The NFL

The NFL's uniquely short season gives each game an importance that you don't find in many other sports. One game can change everything.

Ronald Martinez

As a football fan, I watch every single Cowboys game. For the last couple of years, that's usually meant 16 games per season, though I dimly remember a time when the Cowboys played 19 games in a year.

I watch every single NFL game because every NFL single game is important. This is not the case in most other sports. In baseball, I find it hard to imagine that anybody could watch all 162 regular season games of their favorite team. Even the 82 games played in the NBA and the NHL are such a large number that watching every one of them seems like a tall order. And while every game is mathematically important in every league, those games simply don't carry the same weight and life-or-death quality that an NFL game does.

In the NFL, we start calculating the playoff odds just two games into a season. And in the NFL, we overreact to everything. If our team wins two games in a row, we start clearing our calenders for the playoff weekends. If our team loses two games in a row, we start scouting college prospects for the draft because the season is "definitely over".

Overreaction Monday is an actual thing in the NFL, where a win produces unbridled optimism garnered with rainbows and unicorns, and where a loss results in a state of apocalyptic panic. And these Overreaction Mondays can linger. Case in point: As Cowboys fans we are collectively still stuck in Overreaction Monday, even though we're more than a week removed from the loss to the Saints.

Outside of its religious context, Armageddon is a term used to describe a large-scale, decisive or catastrophic conflict. And that is exactly what the NFL offers: Every Sunday is Armageddon. Because with a 16-game schedule, every single game is vital.

It's why the result of every game has a life-and-death finalty to it that is vastly larger than that of any other regular season game in pro sports.

It's why the game is played with a maximum of physical violence with almost complete disregard for injuries.

It's why we talk about gladiators and warriors, about battles and blood, and why we have developed a martial vocabulary to go along with the game: When we NFL fans go shopping for groceries, we go hunting and gathering; when we talk about our wives and grilfriends, we talk about our warrior queens; when we order a three-course menu, we first devise a battle plan.

It's why, as dumb as it sounds, a win is a win and a loss is a loss: Nobody cares that the Cowboys lost against the number two-ranked offense and number five-ranked defense in New Orleans last week, just like nobody cares that the Giants got their last win against UDFA Scott Tolzien in his first NFL start.

In the NFL, one game can change everything.

For the Cowboys, that one game is on Sunday in New York. From Jason Garrett's inaugural press conference as the interim head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 2010:

"The Giants are going to be at the Meadowlands at 4:15 on Sunday. They’re an awfully good football team in all areas – we’ve got to get ready for them."

Of course, after the game against the Giants, that one game will be the game against the Raiders on Thanksgiving.

Armageddon. 16 times in a row.


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