Dallas Cowboys still have hope, if they can defeat December

ARLINGTON -- It feels more like early October than early December. Sunscreen, sandals and sunglasses are more in order than jackets, gloves and beanies.

But even the mild temperatures can't warm the hopes of Dallas Cowboys fans.

It's December, traditionally the month Cowboys' playoff dreams die.

The Cowboys are 23-39 the past 15 Decembers combined, and they are 3-3 in regular-season January games over that span. Even a sterling month from Tony Romo, who threw eight touchdown passes and no interceptions last December, couldn't change their late-season fortunes in 2011. Dallas blew a one-game lead in the NFC East by going 1-3 in December, including a loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals, and 0-1 in January.

The Cowboys have not had a winning December since 2001, when they went 3-2 in a 5-11 season.

"It must be we got a curse of the Bambino or something," Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears said. "I really don't know, man."

As Spears pointed out, the Cowboys have been "struggling a little bit already" this season. They are 5-6, the worst rushing team in football, 29th in turnover margin at minus-11, 26th in red-zone efficiency, second-most penalties with 90, and they have four defensive starters on injured reserve.

Yet, the Cowboys aren't out of it yet.

The sad state of the NFC East -- a combined four games under .500, second-worst in the NFL -- as well as losses last week by the four NFC wild-card contenders with better records has kept the Cowboys alive. The Cowboys are two games behind the New York Giants (7-4) in the division and only one game from the final wild-card berth. (Tiebreakers could hurt, though, since Dallas is 2-2 in the division and 4-5 in the conference.)

"I'm going to ...think about anything that will hopefully give us an advantage or help us get better to get to where we're trying to go," Romo said. "This time of year, we are in a position to where we have a chance. That's something that not every team can say at this point. Obviously, we would like to be in a better position, but I like the feeling that at least your team has a chance to do something special at the end of this season. It's going to take great effort and great commitment and everybody doing their job a little better than what we've done at this point. I think our team can do that, and we just need to start that off this week."

The Cowboys' bandwagon has plenty of room. Their odds to win Super Bowl XLVII went from 28-1 to 66-1 after last week's loss to the Washington Redskins. ESPN's Playoffs Predictor gives Dallas only a 14.7 percent chance of making the playoffs.

The Cowboys are running out of time.

"As frustrating as it's been, you've got to be able to put that behind you and try to get it switched," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "That's the mind-set, and it has to be that way. You've got to make that change happen. You just can't expect to go out there and do it. We know what to do, and now it's got to be time to go do it and have that one-game mentality and get it fixed. It's been disappointing to have to come from behind like we've had to really all season."

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFL Charean

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram