Despite the dismal performance last week - every other week so far the season, really - the Dallas Cowboys are only one game out of the lead for the NFC East going into Sunday. And a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars would ensure they were not worse than a half game out. From a purely mathematical stance, Dallas has a legitimate shot at the division title.
But we are not talking about math, we are talking about football games. Winning those has been a difficult task so far, and it doesn’t get any easier in the next few games. Still, they have not been blown out yet, and if they can just get something clicking on offense, they could be in the thick of things all the way to the end of the season. Tom Ryle and Michael Strawn take sides in their weekly debate on Cowboys things.
Tom: Can the Cowboys win the NFCE? Well, of course they can. The division is in something of a state of disarray this season. Just getting to .500 is turning into a difficult task for all four teams in the conference. And they already have one conference win over the New York Giants in the bank. The problem right now is the malaise on offense, and while the challenges there are certainly real, they still have Ezekiel Elliott. Just a little more out of the passing game, plus some continued good play on defense, and they can get some more games in the win column. In a division where everyone is currently on pace to be .500 or worse, you simply can’t count them out.
Michael: Yes, everything you say is true. But it’s safe to assume that some team from the East will get their act together and win 10-11 games. The Eagles are the most likely but there’s other candidates as well. It’s just hard for me to envision the Cowboys being that team. The offensive woes are persistent, systemic and well-documented. And recently the defense hasn’t looked any better than the mediocre unit we’ve become accustomed to under the entire Garrett regime. I just don’t see Dallas being the team that puts the pieces together.
Tom: There isn’t a lot of faith in the team right now, but is that really justified? They did seem to put things together a bit against the Detroit Lions. And something that has been largely unnoticed is that they are playing better at home than on the road for a change. That should give us some hope against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Stepping back a bit, we are seeing a lot of panic over another disappointing performance, but a win will restore at least some of that. A lot of it depends on whether you believe Dak Prescott can play better, and I am one who think he is capable of doing so. As far as another team getting it together, the Dallas fan base is a bit unusual in that we seem to see just about every other team being better at, well, everything than our own. It may be just an optimism that will be shattered soon, but I think this team can gut things out and start getting more right and be in contention with the other teams in the division, who are all also having some up and down swings.
Michael: The word that springs to mind is “faith”. The Cowboys definitely could be the team that’s figured it out. The OL could stop forgetting to block the MLB. The WRs could start catching the relatively few balls that hit them in the hands. Dak Prescott could remember his fundamentals and start throwing an accurate ball.
Any one of those things happening isn’t far-fetched. But all or nearly all of them happening requires, well, a whole lot of faith that I just don’t have.
Tom: That is one way I see things differently, because if one of those things happen, it will help the others. The team needs to improve a lot of things, but just one or two would improve the chances of winning. I think they will find a solution to one of those problems, and that will lead to another a bit afterwards. And in a division where everyone is having issues, that could be enough. This is just one year where you can’t count anyone out until they are eliminated - and that includes the Cowboys.
Michael: As always, very valid points. I’m just not sure even that’s enough. The offense needs to improve significantly just to become a top 20 offense . . . and that’s not very good. So even if the team can improve on the offensive side of the ball it doesn’t mean they’re “good”, just that they’re not “terrible”. Add the fact the defense has been revealed as more like past mediocre units than the allegedly “top five” unit some believed it was earlier in the year and I feel the obstacles are simply too great to overcome.
There are our takes. You probably have your own.
Do the Cowboys still have a realistic chance to win the NFC East?
This poll is closed
Playoffs? We’re talking playoffs???