It wouldn’t be hard to look past this week’s game against the Chicago Bears. With a disparity in their overall records and the Cowboys focused on staying among the conference leaders, Dallas could easily be thinking about some of the bigger fish on their remaining schedule. But just ahead of the bye week and with potential playoff implications, this game could be far more significant to the Cowboys’ season than you’d think.
Sure, this is just one of 17 regular-season games. But when you’re at home facing a fellow NFC team, and especially while looking down the barrel of chasing a wild card spot over a division championship, these conference games take on even greater meaning.
Despite their impressive 5-2 start to the year, Dallas is still only third in the NFC East behind the 6-0 Eagles and 6-1 Giants. There’s still plenty of time to catch either, and they already have a win over New York, but the Cowboys may not be able to claim a playoff spot through a division title this season.
Both of Dallas’ losses so far are within the conference; Week 6 to the Eagles and the season opener against Tampa Bay. While the Cowboys are now 4-2 against the NFC, they can’t afford too many slip-ups before both their overall and in-conference records could start threatening postseason goals.
Losing at home to the 3-4 Bears, who barely qualify as a middling team, would be a bad blow. Aside from just the standings and playoff positioning, it would be an ugly look for a team trying to legitimize its contender status and maintain momentum since QB Dak Prescott’s return.
Dallas’ Week 9 bye means whatever taste this game leaves lasts for two weeks. A win, moving the team to 6-2, maintains their perch among the conference leaders. Dropping to 5-3, while still respectable in the grand scheme, just doesn’t feel nearly as inspiring.
Chicago isn’t a bad team, but they’re much closer to the likes of Detroit or Washington than some of the tougher teams Dallas has faced so far this year. If the Cowboys can’t handle their business this week, it’s going to create a wave of doubt and criticism that they’ll have to stew on for longer than normal.
Taking momentum into the bye is also big given what’s on the other side. Dallas comes out of the break with tough back-to-back road games in Green Bay and Minnesota, then hosts the Giants on Thanksgiving. Picking up this relatively easier victory over the Bears helps alleviate pressure going into the second half of the season.
Sure, we’re already salivating over those rematches with the Eagles and Giants or the big showdown against the Vikings. But a win or loss this Sunday can still have a tremendous impact on the Cowboys’ bottom line in 2022. It may be just another game, but we’ve seen far too often how that one game makes all the difference come January.