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Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Door to the East is Open

Well, you think maybe you should write more about the Longhorns season-ending loss Saturday then realize it's only football so the five stages of grief were complete in about 12 hours. I've accepted the run is over.

Then, you consider writing about the Cowboys game and realize there's a consistent script taking shape with only two options each week: 1)Romo is great and the team screwed it up, or 2)Romo is great and carried the team to victory. That'd get boring every week.

So we take a look at the NFC East and consider the Cowboys chances of winning the thing. Sitting at 5-4 with a game against the undefeated Indianapolis Colts appears to be too big an obstacle to overcome. But take another look.

Indianapolis has found itself playing close games every week against teams that over the long run don't appear much better than the Cowboys. Seriously, other than the Broncos, none of their opponents really strike a fear in me. But the Colts receivers against the Dallas secondary may be painful to watch.

Also, consider the Cowboys have posted a better than .500 record while playing six of the first nine games on the road. Take into account that Drew Bledsoe started the first three of the road games and that Romo is a much better road QB, and things could have been even better. Do the math. The Cowboys now play 5 of 7 at home to close the season. The schedule isn't a gimme, but it is a recipe for success.

Finally, consider the opportunity the other teams have had to put distance between themselves and Dallas. Philadelphia defeated Dallas in the Linc to post a two game lead in the East only to lose the next three. Washington stole a game from Dallas to get within a game of da' Boys only to get blown out by the Eagles. The Giants took a mauling at the paws of the overrated Chicago Bears to allow Dallas to get back within a game of the East. The Giants are battling a swath of injuries have 4 of 7 on the road and a tough remaining home schedule. In short, Dallas' NFC Eastern opponents have opened the door to the division the way John Hay did the door to China.

But enough cheerleader talk. Remember this is a team embattled by penalties and other mental miscues. A team that posted a record of just one game above even despite being one of the NFL's healthiest clubs. Remember that label took a shot when Terry Glenn was unable to play today and Greg Ellis went down with ana chilles injury. Remember that Romo, as great as he is, has never played football in December with the playoffs on the line.

So the door is open, but the journey through it will be daunting.


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