Last week we knew the Cowboys were back in the playoffs for the first time in two years. Now we know the opponent and where.
With a win over the Eagles, the Cowboys win the NFC East and get a first round home game and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. The problem is, the first round opponent for Dallas is Philadelphia.
I guess that is why I am not as excited about the playoffs as I probably should be. It is not even about the whole "you can't beat a team three times in one season." I don't buy into that theory. It only gets talked about when it doesn't happen. No one keeps track of the times someone has beaten a team three times in one season.
What makes me nervous is Philly. The recent history between the two has not been kind. Yes the Cowboys took both games this season, but you don't have to look far to find a 44-6 beating at the hand of the Eagles to keep Dallas out of the playoffs last season. Andy Reid and Donavan McNabb have been a thorn in the side of the Cowboys for a long time which is one reason why I despise them so.
Two years ago I thought it was the year. Dallas had a great season end after the first playoff game in a loss to the Giants. The aftermath of that game was not pretty and spawned the creation of this blog. But that year they went into the playoffs losers of two of their last three and couldn't turn it back on after playing so well all season long.
2006 was much the same. Dallas backed into the playoffs losing three of the last four after an 8-4 start to the season. They ended up having to go on the road for the first round of the playoffs and lost a heart-breaker to Seattle.
That is why I am hoping this year is different. Dallas has won three straight including two wins against playoff teams (New Orleans and Philly). They are peaking at the right time which is something they have not been able to do the last three years.
They started the run with a win on the road at New Orleans against an undefeated Saints squad no one thought Dallas would beat. They then knocked off Washington on the road followed by today's win against Philly.
The best part about the last two games is they have done it with a stifling defense. By blanking both Washington and Philly, the Cowboys recorded the first back-to-back shutouts in franchise history. Take a moment to let that sink in -- first time EVER. That is not just the JJ era, but Tom's boys as well. The Doomsday Defense never had consecutive games like Dallas just did.
When you look at the playoff picture, there is reason for hope. Just like the Cowboys last two trips to the playoffs, the top contenders are not going in on a high note. Top-seeded New Orleans is riding a three-game losing streak after having visions of a perfect season. Minnesota is not playing much better. Sure they thumped New York today, but it was a lame-duck Giant squad that had nothing to play for. The previous four weeks, Minnesota has just one win to show for its efforts. Even the fourth seeded Cardinals are just 2-2 in their last four.
That is why there is reason to be optimistic about a playoff run. That is also what makes Saturday's playoff game even more nerve racking. In a year when things look like they might be setting up for the Cowboys, you have the Eagles standing in the way. Today's result really means nothing as far as how the playoff game will be played. You can't expect the Cowboys to shut out the Eagles again, and you can't expect Philly to play this bad again. I never felt comfortable about the game this week and I won't ever feel comfortable about next week's game until it is over.