FRISCO, Texas— I spent all Sunday afternoon trying to figure out how to make sense of this nonsensical 2022 NFL season, knowing the ramifications of the day in Week 18 and leaving so much unexpectedly at stake.
Then Tony Romo came to my rescue while doing the late afternoon CBS game between Green Bay and Minnesota, he himself tried to put this upside down NFL in perspective by saying the following:
“The history of the world is written every Monday.”
So many come to all these hasty conclusions that seem to get slammed weekly. When will we ever learn?
Think about it. Like four weeks ago, who would have given the 4-8 Green Bay Packers a shot at winning the final game of the season to finish 9-8 and win the Finals of the NFC with three wildcard finishes? Who would have thought that the once-4-7 Detroit Lions could claim that same final wildcard spot if they beat the Packers 9-8 on Sunday and if the 5-11 Rams somehow beat Seattle 8-8?
Or take Seattle, with a shot at that elusive final NFC wildcard spot if Detroit beats the Packers and Seahawks beat the Rams.
And sure, if we go back three weeks ago, where the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting there 13-1, the best record in the entire NFL, and only need one more win to clinch the NFC East title and the most coveted #1 in the NFC Playoffs, accompanied by a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout.
Also, late in the afternoon of December 18, not a soul was out there after the Cowboys were beaten by the former 5-8 Jaguars, 40-34, on a walk-off, tipped-pass interception return for an overtime touchdown they should have a good chance not only to win the NFC East in the final game of the season this Sunday, but also a long shot at becoming the No. 1 spot in the NFC playoffs.
Ha, welcome to the NFL 2022, as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”
Though the Eagles were still looking for that elusive 14th win, who would have thought the 6-9 Saints would hit the road and beat the Eagles 20-10. And even if the Eagles used their backup quarterback Gardner Minshew again, the same guy who put 355 passing yards on the Cowboys, all of which caused the drama of the NFL’s week 18.
Yes, you better take it from 11-year Cowboys veteran TY Hilton, who has certainly seen a lot during his last 10-year career with the Colts.
“You have to keep playing the way you play,” Hilton says from experience, knowing that very little is safe in this league. “What if you play around and lose and then (another team) wins? It will drive you crazy.
“Just play and drop the chips as they will.”
So welcome to the Cowboys’ final game of the season Sunday afternoon at 3:25 pm in Washington when the chips have a chance to fall their way. But first and foremost they have to win at the gates of the state capital. As most already know, the Cowboys will become the first team since the Eagles if the Cowboys beat Washington and the 9-6-1 Giants, who already won the #6 NFC wildcard playoff seed, who are now 13- 3 Eagles batting from 2001-04 to win consecutive division titles 13-4, beating the then 13-4 Eagles on the basis of a better division record of 5-1 to 3-3.
That after that loss in Jacksonville it would be a miracle if the Cowboys won their last three games by beating the Eagles, Titans and Commanders and the Eagles lost their last three games by beating the Cowboys, Saints and Giants, By the way, the Eagles have already hit once this year.
However, as Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy says, trying to make this game more practical: “This is about winning. It’s a division game.”
But not just that, winning a game and the NFC East, and those chances are probably longer for the Cowboys, that chance to win the NFC East, than when the Arizona Cardinals are down 4-12 and have their fourth quarterback this one Season start – now 27-year-old David Blough has a second straight game after arriving a few weeks ago – can go to San Francisco and beat the 49ers, well, voila, the NFC no. 1 seed goes to your Dallas Cowboys.
A whole lot of ifs, sure. But, you know what? This 2022 NFL season, don’t take anything for granted by using common sense.
“In terms of focus, we have to focus on this week,” said veteran linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who now believes he will be ready to return from the pinched nerve in his shoulder to start the playoffs. “You never know what’s going to happen.”
Boy did he get that right, and why the Cowboys, who’ve already secured fifth place in the NFC playoffs and a first-round rematch with the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, can’t send it to the Commanders on Sunday. Because how bad would they feel if all those “ifs” came to fruition and they didn’t keep their end of the bargain.
Even if all those chips didn’t fall in their way, say the Cowboys win, the Eagles lose and San Francisco wins, the Cowboys would earn the #2 NFC seed accompanied by a first-round home game and playing the Still seventh place to be won either Green Bay if the Packers beat Detroit, or Detroit if the Lions beat the Packers and the Rams beat the Seahawks, or Seattle if the Seahawks win and the Lions win.
But you never know, right? I mean, those in their right minds there in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Saints-Eagles game, as the Saints held onto a precarious 13-10 lead, thought the Eagles were going to lose one last time with the ball in their hands of the game , Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore intercepting Minshew for a game-determining pick-six.
After the 12-4 Cowboys defeated the Titans 27-13 on Thursday night, just four days after beating the Eagles 40-34, Dak Prescott pointed to the importance of this final game of the season. Regardless of the once-7-5 Commanders going 0-3-1 in their last four games to be eliminated from the playoffs, Dak said so when asked if he’d become a Saints fan on Sunday.
“I’m a Saints fan,” Prescott said, before adding cutely, “I was born in Louisiana. The league wanted that by putting the division games at the end. And I think it’s great. They’re looking around the league and, you know, I’m looking forward to watching football this weekend. I’m looking forward to the game on Monday night. That’s how it should be.
“We just have to keep playing. The biggest thing, you know, and of course we want the Saints to win, but we want to line up and play as much as we can. We’re going to line up in Washington and I think that’s going to be the best situation for us.”
Certainly, especially now and there are no scoreboards as all these games are played at the same time on Sunday afternoon. Because until Monday morning, you’ll never know for sure what the history of the 2022 NFL season will be like.