The NFC East Is Mediocre, Yet We Can’t Turn Away From the Cowboys-Redskins Thanksgiving Game

Marky Billson, host of Tri-Cities Sports NOW

With the Dallas Cowboys playing their annual Thanksgiving Day game this season against the Washington Redskins, it’s a chance to watch a Turkey Day football game that is actually relevant.

Or is it?

Okay, traditionally when the Detroit Lions host the game it isn’t all that memorable because the Lions generally lose, so there isn’t that much riding on the game. There are exceptions but generally they are historical, such as Detroit’s dominant 26–14 victory against the Lombardi Packers in 1962; the only loss Green Bay suffered that season.

Imagine having a 26–0 third quarter lead against Vince Lombardi’s best team to get within one game of the standings. There’s a reason that game has become so memorable and researched.

Has any picture ever so fully captured the story line line of a game? Roger Brown sacks Bart Starr on Thanksgiving Day, 1962 with Alex Karras (71), Joe Schmidt (56), Darris McCord (78) and Carl Brettschneider (57) there to help.

But the Lions probably haven’t had a better team since that ’62 Playoff Bowl champion squad.

When it comes to Thanksgiving football; in modern times the Dallas Cowboys are the team to watch.

Part of that is because the Cowboys are part of the most glamorous division in football historically; the NFC East.

It’s the only division where every team has won the Super Bowl. The franchises have been around the longest; even longer than the NFC North since the Cowboys started a year before the Minnesota Vikings did. It has a geographic scope that doesn’t limit itself to just the east, but perhaps the entire country because of the Cowboys national following and Washington Redskins’ regional following.

Today the Redskins will play the Cowboys in for the eighth time on Thanksgiving. Dallas has a 6–1 record against Washington on Thanksgiving, the most memorable of their victories probably occurring in 1974 when Clint Longley rallied Dallas from a 23–3 second half deficit to beat Washington 24–23.

Not since Harry Truman had anyone enjoyed being photographed with a newspaper as much.

It was a time when the Cowboys and Redskins had been to three of the previous four Super Bowls. The loss literally prevented Washington from winning their division and having home field advantage in the playoffs and kept the Cowboys, 5–5 coming in to the game, alive in the postseason chase.

The stakes are similar this year. Dallas is again 5–5. First place Washington is again fighting for a division title.

And, just like in 1974, neither of these teams are going to win the National Football Conference.

The winner of this afternoon’s game will likely be the NFC East champ, but also likely the fourth seed in the NFC Playoffs.

That means they’ll probably play a team like the Carolina Panthers at home in the first round of the playoffs, lose, and the season will be forgotten.

It’s not that this afternoon’s Redskins-Cowboys game is unwatchable. It’s a historic rivalry and first place is on the line.

There are plenty of story lines. How will Colt McCoy do? Can the Cowboys win three straight or will the Redskins put the race to rest?

One gets the feeling McCoy’s parents were Lee Majors fans.

It’s just that a year after the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl, the NFC East, perhaps the only division in professional sports with an identity similar to that of a college conference, has become the most “blah” in the NFL. An 8–8 or 9–7 record will most likely win it.

The Redskins and Cowboys aren’t part of the NFL elite this season. But still, there’s a big game aspect to this game- first place on the line and a great rivalry- that makes one want to watch.

And maybe that’s why football still has a regular season appeal other sports lack.

Marky Billson hosts Tri-Cities Sports NOW weekdays- INCLUDING THANKSGIVING- 12–2 p.m. ET on 1420 NBC Sports Radio Tri-Cities. Watch his show live and archived here and here.

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