It all comes down to this.
One title. One playoff berth. One game. One winner.
As the Cowboys head to Giants Stadium for the final game of the regular season this Sunday evening, the entire season is on the line. For both of them.
After suffering a bruised hand against the Eagles on his second pass attempt of the game, Tony Romo has indicated that he will be “good to go.”
Felix Jones, who was used sparingly against the Eagles with a tight hamstring, is expected to be ready to take the field.
Sean Lee, also suffering a hamstring injury, has told the media that he too will be ready.
DeMarcus Ware, who has been battling a neck injury the past few weeks, played against the Eagles, gaining two sacks, and is expected to take the field against the Giants as well.
Sure, there are some injury concerns for the Cowboys, including Montrae Holland, who is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, but for the most part, the Cowboys will have most of their playmakers for their NFC East “championship game.”
The importance of each of these players taking the field for the Cowboys cannot be understated, however, nothing is as important as the team’s mental toughness heading into the NFC East showdown.
The fact that the Cowboys, without some epic meltdowns, should have already captured the title cannot matter on Sunday.
The fact that this same team has blown 5 fourth quarter leads this season cannot matter either.
The fact that there have been games this season when Dallas simply failed to show up cannot matter.
They cannot focus on missed opportunities or what could have, and should have, been.
Instead, they must focus solely on the task at hand, block out past mistakes, and leave everything they have on the field.
The question is, do the Cowboys have the mental toughness do just that?
Do they have what it takes to march into onto the Giants’ homefield and capture the win, the NFC East title, and a trip to the playoffs?
Having spent the past couple of days listening to fans and reading their comments on the Web, most Cowboy fans feel that they’ve been burned one too many times to put their faith in this Dallas team with everything on the line.
Some of the things I’ve read:
“I’ve been a Cowboys fan all my life but I don’t see anyway that Dallas wins this game. I’ve seen it happen way too much to the Cowboys in the past. They have a chance to do something good and all they can do is shoot themselves in the foot.”
“They will probably tease us all by staying in the game until late in the 4th and either blow a lead or miss a last second field goal to lose. I feel like Charlie Brown and Jerry is the Lucy character.”
“It’s December. The Cowboys fold. It’s like the sunrise and the sunset.”
To be perfectly honest, I can’t say I disagree with these jaded fans. We haven’t seen much of the the Cowboys of late to show us that they do, in fact, possess the mental toughness and the inner fire that it will probably take to walk away with the NFC East title.
Fortunately for Cowboy fans, there is a bit of hope. Fans of the New York Giants are likely saying the exact same things.
They’ve blown some games they shouldn’t have blown this season as well.
Much like the Cowboys, the Giants have hardly looked like champions these last couple of months.
They too have a history of folding.
Yes, both teams are inconsistent. Both find ways to shoot themselves in the foot.
But none of that can matter on Sunday.
Talent-wise, I think these teams are quite evenly matched.
As important it is for the Cowboys to have all of their key playmakers on the field this Sunday night, and as much talent as both teams possess, this game will simply boil down to one thing.
Which team wants it more?