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Cowboys wasting golden opportunities, but the terrible NFC East is allowing them to stay relevant

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If only the Cowboys could take advantage of what is in front of them.

Dallas Cowboys v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

There is a game tonight between Washington and New Orleans. If Washington can pull off the upset, they will move to 3-1 on the season and would make most of this article moot. But they are heavy underdogs to the Saints. They have to go on the road and so far their record of 2-1 is still, shall we say, questionable. They have beaten a very poor Cardinals team, lost to a bad Colts team, and their signature win so far is against a 2-2-1 Packers team that doesn’t look quite as good as recent editions of that franchise. The shorthand of all that is Washington still needs to prove itself. If they win tonight, then we have to take them seriously. If they lose to the Saints and go to 2-2, as is expected, then we have a situation where the NFC East stinks and Dallas is wasting a golden opportunity.

Let’s dispense with something right now: even though this article discusses the current playoff situation and how the Cowboys are still in it despite their recent play, it is in no way an endorsement of the team. Before anyone says “have you seen the way this team is playing?” the answer is “yes, I’ve seen it.” Right now, they are a failing football team.

In the NFL, though, things can change quickly. Teams can suddenly find themselves and change their fortunes. So while we can’t say this is what will happen to Dallas, it can’t be ruled out. The good news is that they still have an opportunity to do something, especially if Washington loses tonight. The bad news is they have been wasting a wide open opportunity in the NFC East, and the NFC in general.

At this point, the Cowboys are in second place in the NFC East. Their record is tied at 2-3 with Philadelphia, but Dallas holds the tiebreaker because of their division win over New York. If Washington loses, Dallas will only be a half game out of first place. In the NFC, they are in 10th position. The teams ahead of them are the 2-2 Bucs, the 2-2-1 Packers and Vikings, and the 2-3 Seahawks. They are still firmly in contention in the NFC East and the NFC wild card race.

That is what is so thoroughly frustrating about the current Cowboys. Other teams are also struggling and Dallas could be in so much better of a position if they could have just beat either the Seahawks or the Texans.

In the NFC East, things are getting weird. The Eagles have run into a rough patch, and now their running back is starting to question the coaching.

“Obviously we want to be able to run the ball early and start that rhythm early in the beginning of the game. If I remember correctly, we had maybe three carries at the end of the first quarter,” [Jay Ajayi] told reporters afterwards.

“With the offensive line we have on this team, running the ball like that, that doesn’t make sense to me.”

The Eagles certainly aren’t the team they were last year. Now, they might find themselves and Carson Wentz might rediscover his magic, their line might start playing better and they might start playing with better efficiency in the redzone, but right now, they are as frustrating as Dallas, if not more so. Plus, the Eagles still have to go on the road to the Rams and the Saints, they host the Panthers in two weeks, and they have to travel to London to play the Jaguars. Their schedule is tough.

In New York, the Giants are coming off a loss by a 63-yard last-second field goal. If that doesn’t say things aren’t going your way, nothing does. They have lost to Dallas and currently are dead last in the NFC. They are also having some internal strife with their 1-4 record.

The Cowboys aren’t the only team imploding in the NFC East. It’s contagious.

So who will right themselves first and take charge? Washington has the first opportunity tonight, but face a tall task in the potent Saints. If they fall to 2-2, it’s still anybody’s game in the NFC East.

The Cowboys recognize the situation.

“The time is now,” [Dak] Prescott said. “You can’t sit around and bank on that in this league, or else you lose games like we’ve been doing. We’ve got to get it together and get it together fast.

Indeed. The question is - can they get it together? They’ve wasted opportunities so far, but thanks to a mediocre run by other NFC teams, they still have a chance.