For the last twelve years, the Cowboys have hovered around .500 play most seasons. They have three 8-8 season to their credit in that time, and three 9-7 seasons. Occasionally, they’ve managed a few more wins – 11, 12, 13, and 13 – when things have gone particularly well and, in the years Tony Romo got injured, they’ve gotten less.
Dallas went 6-10 in 2010 with Kitna in charge, 4-12 in 2015 with Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassell in the pocket. Most of those .500 years, the Cowboys came towards the end of the season with a clean shot at the playoffs, and most of those years they had late games with the Philadelphia Eagles to determine who actually did make it.
So, for example, in 2008, they lost 44-6 to the Eagles in the last game of the season, and missed the playoffs despite going 9-7. In 2009, they beat the Eagles the last game of the season, and then again in the first round of the playoffs. In 2011, they were 8-6 with two weeks to go, then lost to the Eagles AND Giants and missed the playoffs. In 2013, they lost to the Eagles in the last game, ended 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
Even in 2016, when they were a lock to make the playoffs, they played the Eagles in the last game of the season and more or less conceded by benching their starters after a drive. Romo, it’s worth saying, threw what was probably his last ever touchdown pass.
All this is to say that, I hate to tell you but, this season might well come down to late season games against the Philadelphia Eagles which is certainly the most consistent Cowboys trend over the last many years. The Cowboys are 3-3, the Eagles 6-1, but as much as the Cowboys have struggled they could easily be 5-1 themselves. And they’ve generally played better teams.
Three of the Iggles wins are against Washington or New York – no one’s really impressed. The rest are a close win over a Carolina team that just lost to a Bears team that completed seven total passes in their contest, a big win over Arizona, whom the Cowboys beat too, and a two point win against the Los Angeles Chargers, currently, 3-4.
The Cowboys play the Eagles for the first time on November 19th, and who knows what their records will look like by then. I expect the Boys are still better than the Redskins, and everyone’s beat up on last year’s almost Super Bowl champion Atlanta, but that week and against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 5 are both dangerous games.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have a probably easy game against SF next week, then a tough one against Denver, then a bye, and then Dallas. So if I’m betting, the Boys will be something like 5-4 and the Eagles 7-2 by then. But of course, even that means a Cowboys win would make it 6-4 and 7-3, with one more matchup to go.
So, it’s no good being a prognosticator in this day and age for any reason really but the fact of the matter is it looks awfully like we’ll be reviving that tradition of a matchup with the Eagles in the last game of the season with a lot at stake. Maybe that won’t happen. A few more losses and the Cowboys might be out of options. A few more wins, and maybe the loser will get a wild card berth, since the NFC still seems a bit weak. Maybe the Eagles will blow up, or maybe someone else will make some noise.
Just eyeballing it from here, however, nothing seems as clear as the fact that the Eagles and the Cowboys are the best teams in the NFC East, that, despite appearances they’re probably pretty similarly good, and they’re playing in the last game of the season again. So just, you know, be aware of all that.
How do you see the rest of the season shaking out for the Cowboys? Share your predictions with Andy on Twitter @andytobo.