The Cowboys are chasing a wild-card berth because they lost QB Tony Romo for three games to a broken finger. But if they miss the playoffs altogether, it'll probably be because of their December tradition of folding.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram pointed out last week that the Cowboys are 18-36 after Nov. 30, including five straight playoff losses, over the past 11 seasons. They haven't won a playoff game since 1996.
Their cakewalk over the Seahawks on Thanksgiving Day notwithstanding, the Cowboys have their work cut out if they're going to avoid another December swoon. The schedule has them at Pittsburgh, home against the Giants and Ravens, and finishing at Philadelphia.
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After a dreary round of Thanksgiving blowouts, maybe this is the game the NFL should have highlighted Thursday: 8-3 Steelers at 7-4 Patriots. They play today at 4:15 p.m. in a heavyweight bout. Pittsburgh has the No. 1 defense in the league, and its average yield of 66.5 rushing yards per game would break the Steelers' single-season record of 74.7 in 2001. On the other side, New England's offense is coming off consecutive 500-yard games, a first in franchise history. Since 2001, the Patriots are 48-9 in games played after Thanksgiving.
The Chargers are still alive in the AFC West at 4-7, but only because the Broncos (6-5) aren't pulling away from anyone. Here's how bad the division is: The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote about a scenario in which the Chargers would win just two more games - as long as one is against the visiting Broncos on Dec. 28 - and still take the division title. That banks heavily on a Denver collapse, which isn't out of the realm of possibility.
With the Cardinals' 48-20 loss in Philadelphia, West Coast teams (or teams that play in West Coast divisions) are 0-15 coming east to play this season. Only two, the Cardinals and Broncos, have winning records.
When Chiefs coach Herm Edwards was asked about speculation he is a candidate for the San Diego State job, he responded with the perfect answer: "I've got a college team right now, and I'm coaching it."
Is this a crazy season or what? There are four first-year head coaches, and each has a winning record through 11 games: the Ravens' John Harbaugh (7-4), the Falcons' Mike Smith (7-4), the Redskins' Jim Zorn (7-4) and the Dolphins' Tony Sparano (6-5). Harbaugh and Zorn meet in Week 14 when the Redskins visit the Ravens.
When RB Ahman Green went on injured reserve last week with a knee sprain, it put the exclamation point on the Texans' worst free-agent signing in their short history. Green made more than $11 million in two years but was hampered by knee, groin, thigh and hamstring injuries. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry for parts of two seasons and scored five touchdowns.
Former Chargers RB Michael Turner returns to San Diego with the Falcons today. Turner was the backup to LaDainian Tomlinson but has flourished in Atlanta. He has produced 1,099 yards from scrimmage on 255 touches this season for the Falcons, while Tomlinson has generated 1,099 yards from scrimmage on 242 touches.
When the Saints whipped the Packers, 51-29, on Monday, it gave the NFL its first 800-point weekend in history. Week 12 games delivered a total of 837 points, breaking the previous record of 788, set three times (2002, 2004, 2007).
Compiled from Sun news services and NFL beat reporters.