It's Saturday Night Football Fever in Big D, and even though the Jets (8-5) and the Cowboys (4-9) appear to be on different tracks, they're in somewhat similar boats. Both are in playoff hunts and not in control of their destinies.
As it stands this week, the Jets need to finish with one more win than Kansas City or Pittsburgh to squeeze into the AFC playoff grid. If all three were to win out and don't win division titles, the Chiefs would be in and the Green & White would be bumped by the Steelers' better common-opponents record.
Dallas, meanwhile, is fighting not for an NFC Wild Card but for the division title in the underwater NFC East. They're two games behind everyone else and so conceivably could join the 2014 Panthers and the 2010 Seahawks as the only 16-game sub-.500 playoff teams.
"I think our team is battling and fighting and scratching and clawing and playing with the right kind of relentless spirit," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, "but we haven't done the things necessary to win a lot of these games."
Which of course makes them dangerous in their own building and reinforces the Jets' tried and true approach to this primetime meeting.
"We know we have to win out and we're trying to win," Bowles said today. "As long as we win and take care of ourselves, what happens on Sunday happens on Sunday. But we have to play Dallas on Saturday and that's all we're concerned about."
Here are seven more points about the Jets' first visit ever to AT&T Stadium to play the Cowboys:
1. Infrequent Rivals
The Jets trail Dallas all-time, 7-3, but they've split the last six since 1990 and won the most recent meeting, an inspiring Sunday night 27-24 comeback on Sept. 11, 2011, at two-year-old, newly renamed MetLife Stadium.
Now they make their first trip ever to Jerry Jones' pleasure dome in Arlington, TX. Certainly AT&T can be an intimidating venue, except for one thing ...
2. No Home Cooking?
The Cowboys aren't winning there this year. They beat the Giants by a point on opening night on a Tony Romo-to-Jason Witten TD with 7 seconds to play. Since then, it's been five losses, large (New England, 30-6, and Carolina, 33-14) and small (Seattle, 13-12, and Philadelphia, 33-27 in OT). The injuries to Romo (collarbone) and WR Dez Bryant (foot) have something to do with it, but the 'Pokes at home have a minus-9 turnover margin and one takeaway, both the worst marks in the NFL.
3. Saddling Up
DC Kacy Rodgers says watching video of the Dallas offense, "We see a team that's really making a great emphasis to get their running game started." In theory, they should. The pass game is struggling, the run game is 11th in the NFL in yards/game, ninth in yards/carry, and Darren McFadden and Robert Turbin led a 171-yard attack at Green Bay last week. But the Jets run defense, with Damon Harrison and David Harris leading the charge, is first in yards/game and third in yards/carry. If the Jets win this battle then their pass rush gets to ...
4. Storm the Cassel
The Green & White have run into Matt Cassel only twice, both times in 2008 when he was a tough out while filling in for the injured Tom Brady (winning in the Meadowlands, losing in OT at New England). Now, not as much. Playing for Tony Romo, he's 1-5 as a starter and his TD drive rate of 12.0% is third-worst among qualifying QBs. And he'll be under the gun from Mo Wilkerson and a Jets rush that has turned it on with 22 sacks since Jacksonville, the Jets' most in a six-game span in the last seven seasons.
5. Darrelle vs. Dez
When Cassel does throw, the matchup of Darrelle Revis on Bryant could be the game's highlight matchup. Revis, back from his concussion, played "really well," said Rodgers, vs. Tennessee. The numbers say Bryant (8 games, 27 catches, 351 yards, 13.0 yards/catch, 2 TDs) is still bothered by his surgical foot. S Calvin Pryor said this week, "I don't think he has the same speed" as before the injury, but Bowles was unconvinced: 'Dez being slow is like LeBron being slow. ... We expect the best Dez Bryant we're going to see."
6. Homecoming of Sorts
Neither Bowles nor OC Chan Gailey ever called AT&T their home office, but both were employed by Jones' Cowboys, Gailey as head coach in 1998-99 and Bowles as secondary coach from 2005-07. Both spoke well of their former boss. Gailey, fired after going 18-14 with two playoff berths, said, "Those horror stories that you heard, those are not true. He treated us very well. ... I don't have any animosity. Zero." But as far as game-planning a victory and continuing Jones' anxiety this season, that's another story.
7. Fitz and Brandon
We could go through the accomplishments of the Jets' QB and one of his favorite WR targets again. We'll just mention that if Ryan Fitzpatrick finds Brandon Marshall with five passes, Marshall will break the Jets' season receptions record of 93 set by Al Toon in 1988. And forget about 11 catches. But most important is that before this season the two combined to play 19 seasons for eight teams and so far have not played in one playoff game. "They work hard anyway and they work towards those things," Bowles said, "so hopefully we can get that done." One more win will possibly get them closer to that goal.