The Cowboys managed to take the Saints down to the wire but the end result was still another loss. And it was a big one in terms of any playoff hopes. The Cowboys didn't have much of a chance before losing to the Saints but there was still a slim chance. But with this loss the best the Cowboys can hope to finish is 8-8. The only realistic shot the Cowboys had was to win the NFC East. But now they are sitting four games back with five games to play. For all practical purposes the playoff hopes are toast.
So now the team is playing for pride. There are a lot of guys playing for their jobs right now. Several players along the offensive line may not be back next season. Marc Colombo, Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis could realistically be sent packing in the offseason. I'm sure not all of them will be gone but I don't think all of them will return.
Alan Ball may not be playing for a roster spot but he is playing for a starting job. He has most likely lost any hope of starting next season but if the light suddenly turns on and he starts making plays over the last five games you never know. And Gerald Sensabaugh's contract is up after the season. He has a chance to return since he has played decently but the Cowboys will definitely upgrade at both safety spots if they get the chance this offseason.
And David Buehler will be given every opportunity to prove that he is the long term answer at kicker. I have not been impressed but I'm sure the coaches would love to see him find his confidence and start nailing his field goals down the stretch. He seems to have solved his kickoff distance issues so now the field goal accuracy has to improve. Buehler's job is definitely on the line in the last five weeks.
And there are more players than I have listed playing for their jobs. But a lot of the veterans will be back next season regardless of their performances over the last five games. So what are they going to play for now?
The most important answer to that question is pride. A true competitor gives everything they have each game regardless of what is on the line. You don't have to worry about guys like Keith Brooking or Jason Witten packing it in.
What I think is vitally important to play for over the next five games is continuing to establish the changes that Jason Garrett has demanded from the team. Attention to detail and playing with heart and desire will help take the Cowboys into the offseason with some momentum and hope for next season. The offseason is going to be very, very long after a wasted season but a strong finish could give the team a glimmer of hope for next year.