For the first time all year, the Cowboys have a losing record. They sit at 6-7 after losing to the Bears in Chicago on Thursday night, yet somehow still lead the NFC East. Due to the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles earlier in the year, they’ll hold that lead even if Philadelphia wins Monday night.
It is entirely possible, and frankly the most probable outcome as of right now, that Dallas becomes only the second team this century to win the NFC East in consecutive years, yet it’s also increasingly likely that they will fire their head coach. Who could have predicted that a year ago?
While the Cowboys find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing streak - their second such streak this year - it was an entirely predictable string of events. They lost on the road in New England against the NFL’s best defense is terrible weather conditions and then lost on the road in Chicago in the first week of December, a difficult environment for any team not accustomed to the cold weather. And the Bills are a good team that’s only getting better, as evidenced by them going toe-to-toe with the Ravens on Sunday.
Now the Cowboys will host the Rams, who have rattled off three wins in their last four games while getting their mojo back and starting to look more like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. After that, it’s a trip to Philly for a game that will almost definitely decide the NFC East. Not an easy stretch at all for a Dallas team that’s reeling.
The most frustrating part about all of this? Everyone knew this was coming. Pretty much since the moment the schedules were released, everyone took note of how lopsided the two halves of the Cowboys’ schedule were. Over the first eight games, only two were against teams that made the playoffs last year (the Saints and Eagles), and three games were against teams with first-year head coaches (Dolphins, Packers, and Jets).
The second half got considerably tougher. It started at home against a Vikings team everyone expected to improve dramatically, then on the road against a dark horse Lions team (who actually looked really good before everyone got injured), and then the three games the Cowboys went on to lose consecutively before the Rams, Eagles, and Redskins finish things off.
Most people looking at this schedule realized that Dallas would need to take advantage of the easy first half to stack up wins before things got really tough. And three weeks in, it looked like they were doing just that, winning their first three games by a combined margin of 97-44. Losing on the road to the Saints is understandable, but the game itself was marked by poor offensive play-calling that limited Dallas to a measly 10 points. Furthermore, New Orleans was playing without Drew Brees, something the Cowboys absolutely needed to take advantage of.
The home loss to the Packers is similarly understandable considering how good Green Bay has been all year, but imagine if Amari Cooper hadn’t dropped that opening drive pass that turned into a pick, and it’s very possible that Dallas ends up winning that game, too. But the Jets loss - which was Gang Green’s first win of the year - was completely and totally unacceptable. That should have been an easy win for the Cowboys at the least, and this team should have finished the first half of the schedule no worse than 6-2, but realistically they had a shot at 8-0.
For the sake of argument, let’s say Dallas wins against the Jets and everything else goes exactly as it did (even though all three of their most recent losses were games that definitely should’ve been victories). That puts them at 7-6, which is only slightly better, but at least they’re above .500. That would also give them a buffer if the Rams game goes how many expect it to go.
Instead they’re 6-7 and one more loss guarantees that the most talented roster the Cowboys have fielded in years won’t finish with a record above .500. Dallas has nobody to blame but themselves for failing to capitalize on a weak first half of the schedule. Just like many of their individual games, a slow start set the tone for a disappointing result.