The Dallas Cowboys are a playoff team. The Cowboys are not. The Cowboys are a playoff team. The Cowboys are not.
Some weeks, it seems the Cowboys are good enough to get into the postseason. Other weeks, it seems like the same ol', same ol'.
Dallas has missed the postseason in two of the past three seasons. It is 3-4 so far this season.
"I think we understand the urgency you've got to have right now," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "Obviously, [the 34-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles] was a disappointing game for us, but I feel like this team believes we're a good team. But we've got to go out there and do it. We can't talk about it. Your play has got to show it. ...I think we've got a good plan and good approach through the remainder of the season. But we've got to take it one week at a time. That urgency has to show up this Sunday."
The Cowboys have three home games this month, though they are only 11-9 in two-plus seasons in Cowboys Stadium. Their only road game is against the Washington Redskins, who have been outscored 76-33 in losing three in a row.
"There is a sense of urgency," said Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is 15-2 in his career in November games. "It's time for us to go and get started."
The Cowboys have not allowed themselves to look ahead, buying into Jason Garrett's one-game-at-a-time mantra. All they know is a win over Seattle will get them back to .500.
"We certainly feel like we just have to control our own business," Garrett said. "...Certainly our focus is on doing our best to get ourselves ready to play Seattle. It'll be a great challenge for us."
Then, they can look ahead... to Buffalo.
They've got a shot
Why the Cowboys have a chance at a playoff berth:
1 The schedule. Have you looked at it? The Cowboys' first seven opponents are 28-22. Their next nine opponents are 23-33 (they play the Giants twice). Only three of their remaining opponents have a winning record. The Cowboys should be favored in most of the rest of their remaining games. The Giants, who lead the division with a 5-2 record, are at New England, at San Francisco, at home against Philadelphia, at New Orleans and host Green Bay in their next five before traveling to Cowboys Stadium.
2 The defense. Rob Ryan has been everything advertised, turning himself into a head coaching prospect with the league's ninth-rated defense. The Eagles are the only team that has been able to exploit the Cowboys' defense, gaining 495 yards on 70 plays last week. Dallas held Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady to sub-300-yard games, and the Cowboys have allowed only one 100-yard rusher (Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy). The defense should keep the Cowboys in every game the rest of the way, though they do play the Eagles again on Christmas Eve.
3 Running game. The Cowboys have found one the past two games. Rookie DeMarco Murray has rushed for 327 yards and scored a touchdown on 33 carries the past two weeks in Felix Jones' absence. He now is tied for 21st in the NFL with 400 yards on 58 carries. In the first five games, Jones gained 253 yards and scored a touchdown on 63 carries. If the Cowboys can run the ball consistently -- Seattle hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in more than a year -- it should open up the offense and help the defense.
No they don't
Why the Cowboys might be home the day after New Year's:
1 No room for error. The Cowboys already have four losses. Since the league went to its current 12-team playoff format in 1990, the winner of the NFC East has never had worse than a 10-6 record. That means the Cowboys have to go 7-2 the rest of the way. The final four games could decide their playoff fate, with two games against the Giants sandwiched between a game at Tampa and a home game against the Eagles. Nine wins might not even get a wild-card berth as five NFC teams already have five victories, and three others have four wins. No 9-7 team has earned a wild-card berth in the NFC since 2007.
2 Inconsistency. The Cowboys can't win for losing. They blew fourth-quarter leads against the New York Jets, the Detroit Lions and the New England Patriots. Those teams beat Dallas by a total of 11 points. Quarterback Tony Romo had costly second-half turnovers against the Jets and the Lions. He lost a fumble and threw an interception against the Jets and threw three interceptions against the Lions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
3 Injuries. The Cowboys have had their quarterback, their starting running back and both receivers injured this season. Their top three cornerbacks, too, have missed or will miss games this season. Even their punter and kickoff specialist haven't escaped the injury bug. In all, Dallas has had seven starters miss a total of 14 games. Three starters -- cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring), linebacker Sean Lee (wrist) and running back Felix Jones (ankle) -- are expected to be out today. Lee, if he is out for any length of time with a dislocated wrist, will be the biggest loss. He leads the Cowboys in tackles with 73.