By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Two options in the wake of horribly predicting the Cowboys would make it to the Super Bowl last season: 1. Apologize. 2. Tee it up again and swing harder.
As much as I like a good mulligan ...
at New York Jets, September 11
With his Meadowlands Stadium locker still somehow submerged by Hurricane Irene and his overmatched secondary swamped by Plaxico Burress, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan drops a record number of obscenities as his cornerbacks allow a record number of touchdown passes in an embarrassing prime-time loss to his brother, Rex. Jets 45, Cowboys 24. 0-1.
Week 2 at San Francisco 49ers, September 18
Dez Bryant compares talent, debt and diamond pendants with receiver soul mate Michael Crabtree and — sure enough — is bigger at each. But just barely. Cowboys 20, 49ers 17. 1-1.
Week 3 at Washington Redskins, September 26
Motivated by the highly anticipated return of Stephen Bowen to Dallas, the hated rivals keep it close until owner Dan Snyder is escorted out of Cowboys Stadium by security guards who mistake him for Lady Gaga's "Joe Calderone." Cowboys 30, Redskins 20. 2-1.
Week 4 vs. Detroit Lions, October 2
With his $1.2 billion roof stuck open (whoops), conniving owner Jerry Jones gives his acclimated team a decisive edge on yet another 107-degree day in the metroplex. Cowboys 27, Lions 7. 3-1.
Week 5 Bye, October 9
In a bizarre joint press conference at Valley Ranch, Tony Romo announces he will not — despite public persuasion — take paternity leave to attend the birth of his and wife Candice's son to be born in November, and Wisconsin rookie left guard Bill Nagy details his curious and immediate five-week leave to adopt an orphan son in Central America.
Week 6 at New England Patriots, October 16
After his worst performance of the season, Standard & Poor's downgrades Jason Garrett's credit rating from AAA to F-. The focused, defiant head coach responds by saying the word "football" over and over again as if we forgot which sport he coaches. Patriots 41, Cowboys 17. 3-2.
Week 7 vs. St. Louis Rams, October 23
Licking their wounds in the wake of an ugly blowout, desperate Cowboys promote Fourth and Long reality star Jesse Holley to first team and take a long-shot flier on Most Eligible Dallas' aging hunk Jody Dean as the team's new mascot, "Ego." Shockingly, both fail. Rams 24, Cowboys 21. 3-3.
Week 8 at Philadelphia Eagles, October 30
NFC East showdown seriously shoved from the spotlight by the Rangers' World Series visit to the City of Brotherly Love. Nonetheless, Cowboys-Eagles attracts four times the TV viewers as Rangers-Phillies. Eagles 30, Cowboys 14. 3-4.
Week 9 vs. Seattle Seahawks, November 6
Hoping to capitalize on Jones' relaxed standards in the wake of Drew Pearson's Ring of Honor induction, former Cowboy No. 88s Reggie Rucker, Ron Sellers, Jackie Harris and Antonio Bryant show up in Arlington along with a drunk and cussin' Charlie Sheen in a lame play for attention, if not immortality. Cowboys 20, Seahawks 13. 4-4.
Week 10 vs. Buffalo Bills, November 13
Winless heading into the game, the Bills say fuck it and stay home, and are replaced by an SEC-bound, lame-duck Texas A&M squad desperate for one last meaningful game inside the state's borders. Cowboys 31, Bills (Aggies) 28. 5-4.
Week 11 at Washington Redskins, November 20
In a wacky inspirational ploy, the Cowboys are led out of the tunnel and onto FedEx Field by jogging Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. But the Texas governor trips on the grass and inadvertently shoots Romo in the collarbone with his ever-present pistol. The bullet somehow ricochets into Jon Kitna, prompting a conspiracy theory and, even more controversially, forcing an emergency start by Stephen McGee. Redskins 17, Cowboys 0. 5-5.
Week 12 vs. Miami Dolphins, Thanksgiving Day
In a new Thanksgiving tradition, Jones teams with UFC grand poobah Dana White to organize a turkey fight between Michael Irvin and former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, preceded by an intriguing undercard of John Wiley Price vs. Brett Shipp. Cowboys win in the Octagon and on the field. Cowboys 28, Dolphins 13. 6-5.
Week 13 at Arizona Cardinals, December 4
Still locked out by the NBA, Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki offers his services as a gangly tight end and quickly reveals himself to be better than Martellus Bennett. Cowboys 34, Cardinals 14. 7-5.
Week 14 vs. New York Giants, December 11
Perplexed fans arrive at Cowboys Stadium for an NFC East showdown only to realize they have no seats to match their tickets. At fault ... dunh-dunh-DUNH! ... Contagion. Giants 21, Cowboys 20. 7-6.
Week 14 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, December 17
Seemingly headed for the playoffs, Jones' eclectic post-game party aboard Raymond James Stadium's pirate ship includes Rebecca Black, Jimmy Johnson, Brad Johnson, Wiz Khalifa and Muammar Gaddafi. Dwaine Caraway is not invited, but he shows up anyway and presents each with a key to the City of Dallas. Cowboys 30, Buccaneers 24. 8-6.
Week 16 vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Christmas Eve
Hoping for a playoff berth in his Christmas stocking, Romo instead gets a lump of coal and three interceptions by almost Cowboy Nnamdi Asomugha. Eagles 31, Cowboys 13. 8-7.
Week 17 at New York Giants, New Year's Day
Mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and emotionally gutted, the offensive line totally craters in a humiliating New Year's Day loss lowlighted by 11 sacks and 93 aspirin. Giants 16, Cowboys 0. 8-8.