Why Saturday's Cowboys Game Is the Most Important Game Ever (This Week, Anyway)

[Editor's note: For those who might have forgotten, Michael Corcoran is formerly of the Austin American-Statesman and Dallas Morning News, a one-time Observer contributor and one of my favorite writers in the history of ink. This morning, he dispatches this preview of Saturday night's Cowboys-Eagles match-up and what it could mean come New Year's Day. Happy Early Christmas.]

Suddenly, the Dallas Cowboys' game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday means something. Before the New York Giants lost to the Redskins yesterday, the Cowboys could've tanked to the Eagles and still won the NFC East by beating the Giants at the Meadowlands January 1. But now the 6-8 Eagles can make the playoffs if they beat Dallas and Washington, and the Giants beat the Cowboys.

New Year's Day is looming as the biggest date in recent Cowboys history, but it won't mean a thing after Saturday if Dallas beats Philadelphia and the Jets beat the Giants. That clinches the division for field marshal Romo and Co. Breathe out.

As fun as it is to watch Jerry Jones lose it every other week, this has been a hard season for fans of the Cowboys who are not fans of chest pains and tingling.

I had a girlfriend once who couldn't watch Cowboys games because it brought back painful memories of her father becoming mentally and physically abusive after the Cowboys lost. She was a pretty girl with a cute cleft chin. During that hideous 37-34 defeat to Eli Elite and Big Blue last week, I thought about her dad for a second. "Shut up and get me a beer, assface!" I wasn't there, but I could almost understand the brute.

Being a Dallas Cowboys fan this year is a little like vacationing in Nuevo Laredo. Even when things are going well, there's always the potential of being taken to a deeply dark and dangerous place.

Especially painful were those back-to-back heartbreakers against the Arizona Cardinals and the Giants. In that first game, Coach Jason Garrett's clock management turned a Princeton education into a GED. Against the Giants, the Cowboys (who stink on Sunday nights like the garbage after a weekend crawfish boil) blew a 12-point lead with five minutes to go. Those Dallas DBs couldn't cover "Louie Louie," so 9-4 became 7-6.

Saturday's win 31-15 win against Tampa Bay was a nice walk-through for the Cowboys. Everything works, and a rested Felix Jones has picked up where DeMarco Murray's ankle left off. Meanwhile, the Bigger Lebowski's defense seems ready, this time, to handle Michael Vick, who beat the Cowboys so badly last month that he almost violated his probation.

As much as this season deserves a big Jan. 1, winner-take-all (before marching to a certain defeat against the Packers) contest, I think we've all gone through enough this season. Go, Cowboys. Go, Jets.

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