IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys will play the only undefeated team left in the NFL on Sunday. They will play in a dome on Sunday. They will pay against an NFC South team.
What is this 2009 again?
The Cowboys hope so.
In 2009, the Cowboys beat 13-0 New Orleans inside the Superdome, 24-17.
"Going down to New Orleans I think will have a similar type feel in that you know you’re going against a great opponent that does a lot of things well and creates a lot of problems,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “You can draw on the fact of what you did as a team and individually to beat that opponent that day. What were some of the things that you were successful with, whether that was your approach, whether it was a certain fundamental thought that gave you a chance to do something … I don’t want to give away too much, but that allowed you have a chance to be a little better."
A fast start is a must.
“I can remember playing against New Orleans down there I think when they were undefeated and I think we scored pretty early in that game and that helped out a lot so …,” Romo said.
The Cowboys scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the game for a 14-0 lead with 5:15 left in the opening quarter. Romo hit Miles Austin for a 49-yard score to open the game and Marion Barber followed it with a 3-yard TD run as the Cowboys went on their way to a 24-17 win against the Saints.
That win propelled the Cowboys to the playoffs. At 3-4, the Cowboys could use a similar boost with a win Sunday at Atlanta.
“I just think we know we have to go up there and play our best game,” Romo said, “and do the little things right that give you a chance to win football games.”
IRVING, Texas — Seems some fans are ticked that the Dallas Cowboys tied for the 11th-toughest schedule based on 2011 records while last year’s top playoff seeds, the Packers and Patriots, supposedly have it easy.
Bottom line is this: nobody in the National Football League gets a weak slate. "Schedule strength" applies to all 32 times. That’s parity, folks.
The Cowboys tied for the 15th-toughest schedule in 2011, but some of their so-called "easier" games — San Francisco (6-10 in 2010) and Detroit (6-10 in 2010) — weren’t so simple. Sure, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia played well below expectations, but the Eagles certainly didn’t show it in two blowout wins over Dallas. And no NFC East game is a cakewalk, anyway.
This year the Cowboys have another third-place schedule, but the entire division plays the NFC South and the AFC North. The only difference is the Giants get fellow division champs Green Bay and San Francisco, while the Cowboys play fellow third-placers Chicago and Seattle.
Even then, both those opponents could compete for a playoff spot. The Bears will be better if they get protection for Jay Cutler, and the Seahawks were a team on the rise by the end of 2011.
No matter what the computer says, the Cowboys always have to claw and scratch to get back to the postseason. December/January probably will include multiple division and primetime matchups — great for ratings, but not for Dallas. That’s the price of being America’s Team.
Twelve of the Cowboys’ 24 games under Jason Garrett have been decided by a field goal or less. No one said winning would be easy in 2012, either.
Dallas Cowboys Regular-Season Schedule (All times ET)
Week 1: Wednesday, Sept. 5, at NY Giants, 8:30 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Seattle, 4:05 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 1, Chicago, 8:30 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, NY Giants, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, at Atlanta, 8:20 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Philadelphia, 4:15 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 22, Washington, 4:15 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, Philadelphia, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, Pittsburgh, 4:15 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Washington, 1:00 PM
At the risk of looking infinitely past this week’s showdown for the NFC East championship, Monday night’s Saints-Falcons game did shed more light on a potential first-round matchup for the Cowboys or Giants.
Sunday’s winner at the Meadowlands will earn the No. 4 overall seed and a Wild Card home game against either the Lions (10-5) or Falcons (9-6).
The Lions get the No. 5 seed with a win Sunday over the Packers.
The Falcons get the No. 5 seed with a win Sunday over the struggling Bucs and a Lions loss to the Packers. Both teams would finish 10-6, and the Falcons own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.
The Cowboys didn’t play the Falcons this year. They blew a double-digit fourth quarter lead to the Lions in October and lost at Cowboys Stadium, 34-30.
Same thing happened against the Giants three weeks ago. Needless to say, the Wild Card round isn’t (and can’t be) on their minds yet.
The playoff picture is starting to come into focus on this happy note: Win and you are in as a division champion.
That’s the easy scenario for the Broncos and either the Cowboys or Giants. And while Baltimore already owns at least a wild-card spot, a victory for the Ravens will earn them the AFC North and a first-round bye.
Denver is tied atop the AFC North with Oakland at 8-7, with the Broncos hosting the Chiefs on Sunday, and the Raiders at home for San Diego. Denver has the tiebreaker, but if it loses and the Raiders win, the Broncos can’t get a wild card. The Raiders can get a wild card if both they and Denver win, as long as Cincinnati and Tennessee lose, or Cincinnati loses and the New York Jets win. Got it?
In first place in the woeful NFC East are the Cowboys and the Giants, who meet at the Meadowlands. A win or a tie will give New York (8-7) the East title; neither team can be a wild card.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The only way the Cowboys reach the postseason is to beat the New York Giants on New Year’s Day at Met Life Stadium. If the Cowboys tie the Giants, they don’t make the postseason.
Whoever wins Cowboys-Giants is the No. 4 seed in the NFC and will host the fifth seed in the wild card round.
Now the No. 4 seed could face either Atlanta or Detroit.
If Atlanta defeats New Orleans Monday night here’s where things get interesting.
In the regular season finale, if Atlanta beats Tampa Bay and Green Bay defeats Detroit, the Falcons become the No. 5 seed.
In another scenario, if Detroit beats Green Bay and Tampa Bay beats Atlanta, the Lions are the No. 5 seed.
Should Detroit and Atlanta win their final regular season games and each finish 11-5, the Falcons win the tie-breaker because Atlanta beat Detroit earlier in the season.
For a comprehensive look at the 2011 NFL Playoffs, check out the new PLAYOFFS page on The Boys Are Back blog … or click HERE.
Keep up with the ever-changing NFL Playoff race right here, on The Boys Are Back blog.
x-clinched playoff berth
y-denotes division winner
z-denotes first-round bye
*-clinched home-field advantage
During the regular season, the seeds reflect how the playoffs would stand if the season ended up to that point. The NFL playoffs are not based on a pure bracket system. In the divisional playoffs, the No. 1 seed is assured of playing the lowest-seeded Wild Card survivor. There are no restrictions on intra-division games and the higher seed of any matchup will have home-field advantage.
• Baltimore is the AFC North leader ahead of Pittsburgh based on head to head (2-0).
• Houston is the No. 1 seed ahead of Baltimore and New England based on conference record (8-2 to the Ravens’ 7-2 and the Patriots’ 7-2).
• Baltimore is the No. 2 seed ahead of New England based on common games (4-0 to the Patriots’ 3-1).
• Denver is the AFC West leader ahead of Oakland based on division record (3-2 to the Raiders’ 2-2).
• Cincinnati finishes ahead of Tennessee based on head to head (1-0).
• San Diego finishes ahead of Buffalo based on conference record (4-5 to the Bills’ 3-5).
• Cleveland finishes ahead of Miami and Jacksonville based on head to head sweep (2-0).
• Miami finishes ahead of Jacksonville based on conference record (3-6 to the Jaguars’ 3-7).
• Atlanta is the No. 5 seed ahead of Detroit based on head to head (1-0).
• Seattle finishes ahead of Arizona based on head to head (1-0).
• Carolina finishes ahead of Tampa Bay based on head to head (1-0).
• Carolina finishes ahead of Washington based on head to head (1-0).
• Washington finishes ahead of Tampa Bay based on conference record (4-5 to the Buccaneers’ 3-6).
• Indianapolis (Week 12), Jacksonville (Week 13), Cleveland (Week 14), Miami (Week 14).
• Minnesota (Week 12), St. Louis (Week 12), Carolina (Week 14), Tampa Bay (Week 14), Washington (Week 14).
NFL Playoff Tracker courtesy: CBS Sports