Crunch time arrives for 'Boys

The flashpoint for the Cowboys' season has arrived.

It comes Sunday against the 4-1 Falcons. The Cowboys (3-2) need to win this game to establish some real credibility as a possible playoff contender.

They are at home. They are coming off a bye week so they should be fresh and ready to go following two weeks of preparation. They are even getting three players back that missed the Chiefs game with injury: wide receiver Roy Williams, running back Felix Jones and safety Gerald Sensabaugh.

The time is now for the Cowboys to put it all together. There should be no more excuses.

Even owner Jerry Jones acknowledges as much.

"Coming off this bye, I think we'll be fresh and certainly we all recognize we've got an opportunity here to really create some perceived - by our fans and by other people - some real credibility if we could come in here and beat the Falcons," Jones said. "We should be prepared and we need to win it."

Jones also understands if they don't win, the season is all but over.

No, the Cowboys won't be mathematically eliminated, but with the tough part of the schedule yet to come there is little hope the Cowboys can get things together if they can't take care of business at home.

They need to establish Cowboys Stadium as a home field advantage. They need to prove they can win back-to-back games. They need to prove they can beat a quality team. The Cowboys' three wins have come against the 0-6 Buccaneers, 1-5 Chiefs and 2-3 Panthers. All were winless at the time they played the Cowboys.

This game also is the beginning of an important six-game stretch. The Cowboys play Seattle next then are on the road against the Eagles and Packers before home games against the Redskins and Raiders on Thanksgiving Day.

The Cowboys need to come out of this stretch with at least a 4-2 mark so they can head into the month of December with at least a 7-4 record.

The Seahawks, Redskins and Raiders are teams the Cowboys are supposed to beat. The other three are a little more in doubt. But they would obviously have a better chance against the Falcons at home than the Eagles and Packers on the road.

That's another reason why they need to win this game.

Not to mention the fact that the Cowboys could use the tie-breaker edge on the Falcons in case the two are jockeying for a playoff spot.

What's also true is that the Cowboys need to get on some sort of winning streak. A loss puts them at 3-3 and has them in that win-one-lose-one spot that will likely end up with an 8-8 or 9-7 record.

A 9-7 mark will not be good enough to make the playoffs. A 10-6 record might not be good enough considering the number of quality contenders in the NFC.

But to even have a chance the Cowboys must show they can beat a good team at home. It starts Sunday against Atlanta.

SERIES HISTORY: 22nd regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead the series 13-8. The Cowboys have won four of the last six meetings, including 38-28 in the last game between the two teams in 2006.

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