Anything less than at least representing the NFC in the Super Bowl will be a dissappointment for the Dallas Cowboys. Their final year in Texas Stadium before they relocate a few miles to the west in nearby Arlington to a new bigger version of Texas Stadium should at least end with a pair of wins in January. But let's put this thing in proper perspective. Tony Romo has been magnificent overall in the regular season and should already have at least two wins(Seattle in 2006) and the Giants AT HOME this past season, in the playoffs. But still zero playoff wins for Romo yet, and zero playoff wins for this storied franchise since a 40-15 romp over Minnesota in the 1996 playoffs. There are a few instances where Dallas should have won in the playoffs since then but didn't. Their previous divisional championship to 2007, back in 1998, had the Cowboys hosting a playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, a very playoff STARVED franchise. And much like this past year against the hated Giants, the Cardinals, still an NFC East Divisional foe at the time in '98, came into Dallas as a significant underdog, and had lost twice to the Cowboys in the regular season. And the Cowboys barely bothered to show up. The loss last season to the Giants is the most dissappointing in Cowboys playoff history, but the 1998 loss at home to the Cardinals was the most embarrassing playoff defeat. There is no excuse for losing a playoff game to the Cardinals. None whatsover. The Arizona Cardinals are the Clippers of the NFL historically speaking. That label belonged to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the longest time but now it's the Arizona Cardinals, although they aren't like the Clippers have been as far as being the butt of Leno's or Letterman's or Conan Obrien's jokes. There were two playoff losses to the Carolina Panthers both on the road, once in 1996, and the other in 2003. The Cowboys have otherwise OWNED the Panthers in the regular season series, winning 7 of 8 (losing only a 1997 reg season game) In the 1996 game at Carolina (a 26-17 setback)HOF to be receiver Michael Irvin broke his collarbone on the initial series, the Cowboys only got one TD in five trips to the red zone, settling for three field goals. And also Emmitt Smith was maybe 60 percent. It turned out that he was already inching past his prime. The 2003 game was Bill Parcells first season with the Cowboys and he had coaxed a 10-6 record and a wildcard berth out of a mediocre cast that had gone 5-11 the previous year. One of the season's highlights had been an emotional 24-20 win in Dallas over the Carolina Panthers the sunday before Thanksgiving. Now just a little over a month later, the two teams squared off again, this time down in Charlotte(since the panthers had won their division and the Cowboys didn't win theirs) and the Cowboys were listless in a dreary 29-10 loss. And ofcourse, the Cowboys lost several close games in 2005, while winning several close ones as well, in just missing the playoffs at 9-7 (a lot of it came down to kicking woes-where was Nick Folk then for crying out loud????????) And ofcourse the loss at Seattle on the botched hold by Romo(but give Tony credit, he's turned THAT page at least in his mind)
The Cowboys are the favorites to at least represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. It's going to be hard to beat the 13-3 mark of last year but this IS still at least a 12-4 club not only on paper but on the field in spite of a bit tougher schedule. Plus they don't see the Giants at all until the second half of the season. As recent history shows, the records aside, it's still a parity sticken NFL. Or wide open I should say. You have the Steelers go from being on the brink of missing the playoffs in 2005 to winning it all. The 2006 Colts were playing some lackluster football heading into the playoffs despite finishing at 12-4 (after starting 9-0)and looked offensively lethargic in wins at home against Kansas City and on the road against the Baltimore Ravens. But thanks to the Patriots, they didn't have to go to San Diego for the AFC Championship game(the Chargers of 2006 were similar in a lot of ways to the 2007 Cowboys when they went 14-2 and choked in their first playoff game to New England)Then the Colts came back from dead in the water to beat the Patriots and then soundly defeat the Bears in the SuperBowl. In 2007 we have the classic case of someone coming out of nowhere when mentioning the Giants. Twice losers to Dallas during the regular season and an abysmal 3-5 record at HOME! Yet they lost ONCE all year on the road! The opener at Dallas. There were times when they should've lost on the road but somehow didn't. The bottom line is: Each season here comes some team OUT OF NOWHERE that has no business doing any kind of damage whatsoever in the playoffs. The Cowboys need to just concentrate on the regular season first, and take care of business. They're not going 16-0, NO. But matching last years record is not unlikely. And they need to be relatively healthy and playing the kind of ball they're capable of in December and January. Their record over the previous three years is 31-17 (bolstered mainly by last year's gaudy 13-3) BUT in December of those three seasons, bad news: 6-8. THAT has to change. It has a LOT to do with how they're playing HEADING into the playoffs. Last year, the Cowboys were rolling at 12-1 and what happened next, is still hard to figure out.