We don’t need to re-hash how bad things have gone for the Dallas Cowboys over the past three games. Dallas was once a 6-4 team that had issues, but were still firmly seen as contenders in the NFC. Those days are gone.
At 6-7 and riding a three-game losing streak, almost everyone has written off the Cowboys. Even if they somehow manage to win the NFC East, they are considered a sacrificial lamb in the first-round of the playoffs. At this moment, all of that rings true. Confidence is very low and the rumor train to replace Jason Garrett as coach has left the station.
But what if the Cowboys go out on Sunday and absolutely destroy the Los Angeles Rams? What if they play a complete game on both sides of the ball and win by 17 points or so?
Granted, it’s almost impossible to foresee that happening, but it could.
The Cowboys players seem to be hanging their hopes on getting that one win to get back on track.
“Luckily for us, we’re still in the hunt,” Cowboys center Travis Frederick said. “It’s not very often that you’re 6-7 and got a shot at the playoffs. It’s important for us to go back and work as hard as we can this next week and be able to come out with a win.”
“A win is so huge in this league,” [Amari] Cooper said. “They’re not easy to come by. Even if a team is 15-1, those 15 wins, not many of them are going to be easy to come by. So I think one [win] will definitely get us back on track. And we just have to go out there and get it.”
This isn’t some kind of plea to still believe or anything, instead it is an examination of one possible outcome, no matter how remote. Everyone knows how the NFL is a “what happened last week” league. Perception is heavily influenced by the results of the previous game.
So would a win over the Rams change anything? Los Angeles is 8-5 and coming off an impressive win over the Seattle Seahawks. They are firmly in the wild card hunt, currently residing in seventh place in the NFC playoff seeding, one spot out of the tournament. Would a win over a team like that suddenly propel the Cowboys in a new direction?
Consider that the Cowboys appear broken as a team, but statistically this team ranks in the top third of the league in many categories, both individually and collectively. Dak Prescott leads the league in passing yards, Ezekiel Elliot is fifth in rushing yards, Amari Cooper is fifth in receiving yards. As a team the are ninth in scoring, they lead the league in total first downs and third-down conversion percentage.
Even on defense, it’s not as bad as it seems. They are ninth in total yards allowed, 12th in points allowed per game, and fifth in third-down percentage. Of course, these are mostly volume stats and their advanced stats standing has slipped recently, but the point is this team has been able to produce at different points of the season. Yes, some of this production has come in garbage time, but it’s not like they are unable to do anything on offense and defense, they just can’t seem to do it at the right times and in complement with each other.
Before you get out the pitchforks, I will confess that I, too, believe this team is broken, and at this point I am ready to jettison Jason Garrett and start over. The preponderance of evidence says that is the right course of action. There is seemingly no redeeming this edition of the Cowboys.
Still, let’s pose the question. If the Cowboys come out on Sunday and beat the Rams by a score of something like 35-17, would that change perspectives at all? If the Cowboys showed the form of when they beat some of those inferior teams earlier in the year, but did it against the 8-5 Rams who are fighting for a playoff berth, could that create a confidence for the team that would have them start to believe again?
This isn’t a prediction - in all likelihood the Cowboys will lose to the Rams and the season will continue to wobble along until somebody mercifully ends it. Either the Eagles will do it, or a first-round playoff team will do it. That’s the rational course.
But in a game of what-if: what if the Cowboys annihilate the Rams on Sunday? Would that change your mind any, or at least let you entertain possibilities that don’t include a total Cowboys implosion?