DALLAS —

Dallas Cowboys did themselves no favors by beginning the second half of their season with a 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings as they are about to embark on the season’s toughest stretch before ending the season with an oasis of divisional games.

Over the course of the next five weeks, the Cowboys will travel to Detroit, New England and Chicago. They will also be hosting the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills. 

  • @ Lions 11/17

  • @ Patriots 11/24

  • vs Bills 11/28

  • @ Bears 12/5

  • vs Rams 12/15

Dallas will face three teams who currently hold winning records, with the games against teams with losing records set to be played away from Arlington.

With how Dallas has performed against teams with winning records, and those away from home outside of the division, they have allowed themselves little to no wiggle room as they attempt to stay ahead of a Philadelphia Eagles team that shares the same 5-4 record as the Cowboys but trails Dallas only via the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Even with the deck stacked against them, the Cowboys need a positive stretch to set themselves up for what they are hoping will be their third division championship in four years. For the Cowboys to do so, they need to go 3-2 over this five-game stretch at the very least. Three wins in five games is not exactly something that is impossible for this team, but is it probable?

To reach at least three wins, Dallas will have to beat one of the teams on their schedule with a winning record. This year, the Cowboys have failed to beat a team with a winning record at the time they played them. The team will need to steal a game from Los Angeles, New England or Buffalo while taking care of business in the other games to accomplish the feat with at least an 8-6 record before heading into a Week 15 showdown with the Eagles in Philadelphia. 

Of course, that’s not to say that Detroit or Chicago are automatic wins, especially since each contest will be on the road for the Cowboys, but they are the lesser opponents of the five listed.

Detroit will likely be without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford who sat out last week’s game with broken bones in his back. With Stafford, the Lions are a much more difficult assignment on game days. The injury should give Dallas an edge but they also recently lost to a 2-7 New York Jets team so expectations of an easy win have to be tossed out of the window.

A must-win game isn’t something you want to hear about for a contest in the middle of the season, but Week 11 in Detroit certainly looks the part for Dallas. After the heartbreaking loss to the Vikings at home, the Cowboys can ill afford to suffer another loss with what’s ahead of them on the docket. A loss to Detroit with New England looming the following Sunday could send this season into a downward spiral from which there may be no return.

The odd thing about these next five games for Dallas is no one would be terribly surprised if they went undefeated or if they went winless. That is the type of year that this team is having. Some of the games that many expected to see Dallas pull off a runaway victory ended in defeat. 

Likewise, the largest margin of defeat for Dallas was a 10 point loss to Green Bay in Week 5. Otherwise, Dallas’ remaining three losses have come by a combined total of 8 points. 

Luckily, the Cowboys are facing a team with a sub .500 record who could be missing their franchise quarterback. Seeing as though they haven’t been able to beat a team with a winning record this year, they need all the help they can get. Dallas is 0-3 in three attempts at beating a winner this season. In fact, not including the playoffs, the Cowboys haven’t beaten a team with a winning record since Week 13 of last season when they bested the New Orleans Saints.

The untrustworthy expectations and close losses signal that Dallas needs consistent contributions from their teams across the board. If they are unable to fix the issues that continue to stymie them, Sunday’s game in Detroit may very well set the tone for how this season ends. Dallas is hoping for a bang, but another loss could mean going out with a whimper in 2019.

Do you think the Cowboys can survive their tough second-half schedule to claim a second consecutive NFC East crown? Share your predictions with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.