It has not exactly been the best year to talk about Roger Goodell’s “master plan,” or to even suggest that such a plan exists. If we restrict the conversation to on-field issues, however, we can at least acknowledge that his decision to stack the final three weeks of the schedule with intra-division rivalry games has not been totally disastrous or tone deaf. We might even go as far as to say that we kind of like it — maybe even more than a little. So, yes, it is possible to not completely loathe everything the commish has been involved with in 2014.

 

Given the current standings, this final three week sprint is full of intrigue, as playoff scenarios will certainly be shifting from week to week. Every game will feel like a must-win for that core group of teams who are lingering near the top of their divisions, and we’re delighted to see them play each other. We don’t waste any time digging in to these December divisional tussles, as the Eagles host the Cowboys in the highest stakes matchup of Week 15. The winner will almost assuredly secure a playoff spot and division title, while the loser will be wearing outside-looking-in glasses for the remainder of the season, which is never a good look.

 

While it is inherently enjoyable to see the Cowboys in their annual must-win-to-get-in desperation mode, they continue to be a very rootable squad. Unlike many years, we might not even feel like celebrating their demise. This, of course, leads us to one of the most enduring themes of the 2014 season: are the Cowboys destined for a demise, or can they claw their way into the playoffs? Since Tony Romo’s back injury and the unconscionable loss to the Redskins, every week has been a high wire act for Dallas. It will all culminate on Sunday night in Philly.

 

An objective observation of the Cowboys would suggest that they, once again, feel like a team that is not quite good enough for the playoffs. That sentiment was faint praise the past few seasons when 9 wins would have earned them a ticket. In 2014, though, the playoff bar will be set higher — all the way to 11. Perhaps that’s just a roundabout way of saying that the Cowboys really do deserve credit for being fundamentally sound, displaying legitimate toughness and strategically developing young talent at the right positions. These are all novel concepts in the Metroplex. But, ultimately, it seems like they will need something more.

 

A win on Sunday would rank as the Cowboys’ most impressive accomplishments of the past five years. It is also something that we could talk ourselves into believing, especially since Dallas has DeMarco Murray on its side, and the Eagles have Mark Sanchez on theirs. The Cowboys have become experts at not living up to the hype. Let’s hope we can’t say the same for Sunday’s game.

 

Here’s what else we’re hyping for Week 15.

 

This Guy again?: Have we ever talked more about somebody who has yet to start his first NFL game? It feels like Johnny Manziel has already been in our lives forever, but this week really is his first crack at the starting job. Our day will undoubtedly be filled with lots of Johnny goodness, and, by the way, this will be FOX’s feature 1 PM on Sunday, meaning it will be broadcast to nearly half the country. That’s not something that typically happens when the Browns are involved. So, yea, Johnny’s kind of a big deal. Also, the Browns and Bengals are both desperate for a win.

 

What’s Your Deal?: For my money, nothing beats the irrational hatred between John Harbaugh and Pete Carroll. It is pure lunacy and absolute magic. The Niners and Seahawks meet in Seattle, and this could be the final nail in the SF coffin, which I’m sure is fully compostable. The Seahawks may be the best team in football right now, which is nothing to laugh at. It is safe to say that the Niners are not. This could get very ugly.

 

The Insufferable South: Can we please make the NFC South go away? The answer, unfortunately, is that no one will ever go away in this division, but we may be able to mathematically eliminate Tamp Bay from title contention if they lose this week. Could anything make us happier? On a serious note, we do wish Cam Newton a full and speedy recovery after his surprisingly harrowing car crash on Tuesday.

 

The Dolphin Flop: Look out, Dallas! Miami is eager to steal your crown for worst and most inexplicable late season collapses. Losing to the Patriots, in Foxboro, would actually fall into the explainable category, but the Dolphins are doing everything possible to play their way out of the post-season discussion. Dolphin fans may not have playoff football in January, but at least Pitbull will be playing in Miami on New Year’s Eve. That has to count for something.

 

Did your team make it to the home stretch? Let’s talk here or find me on Twitter @endbadly