Can the Dallas Cowboys run an unprecedented 5-team Bird Gauntlet?

The Dallas Cowboys will face all five NFL teams with bird nicknames this year. Can “America’s Team” do the impossible and run the Bird Gauntlet?

With the birds, the Dallas Cowboys will share this lonely view.

Not since the Cleveland Browns relocated to become the Baltimore Ravens in 1996 has any NFL team run the “Bird Gauntlet”. Five games vs. teams with bird mascots, netting five victories over teams named after vicious egg-laying beasts. Running the “Bird Gauntlet” is almost as impressive as winning the Egg Bowl, but don’t tell Mississippians this. It is that rare of an accomplishment.

Only a handful of NFC teams ever have a shot at going 5-0 vs. the birds. To do so, an NFC team must play the NFC West in its entirety to face the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks, as well as the entire AFC North, but only needing the Baltimore Ravens.

From there, you’d need the competitive balance part of your schedule to get land the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles, if you aren’t already a rival team of theirs. Unless beating yourself counts, only 12 franchises can ever be chosen to run the “Bird Gauntlet”. They are as follows:

The “Bird Gauntlet” Dirty Dozen

  • Carolina Panthers
  • Chicago Bears
  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Detroit Lions
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Los Angeles Rams
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • New Orleans Saints
  • New York Giants
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Washington Redskins

Not since 1992 has an NFL team run the “Bird Gauntlet”. The Cowboys and the Washington Redskins did it, as “America’s Team” went on to beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. Not including the playoffs, running the “Bird Gauntlet” requires five wins out of NFC North teams, six out of NFC East/NFC South teams and an unlucky seven out of NFC West teams.

For the Cowboys to be champions of wings, feathers and football, they must go 6-0 in these half-dozen regular-season games. Will they run the Gaunlet or will they let us down? Here is their season schedule.

Dallas Cowboys “Bird Gauntlet”

  • Sept. 20: vs. Atlanta Falcons (AT&T Stadium)
  • Sept. 27: at Seattle Seahawks (CenturyLink Field)
  • Oct. 19: vs. Arizona Cardinals (AT&T Stadium)***
  • Nov. 1: at Philadelphia Eagles (Lincoln Financial Field)**
  • Dec. 3: at Baltimore Ravens (M&T Bank Stadium)*
  • Dec. 27: vs. Philadelphia Eagles (AT&T Stadium)

*= Thursday Night Football
**= Sunday Night Football
***= Monday Night Football

As a self-proclaimed “Bird Gauntlet” expert, this looks incredibly daunting. Dallas also has a home preseason game vs. the Ravens, which only adds pressure to accomplish this feat. Beating the Ravens in the preseason won’t count towards running the “Bird Gauntlet” during the season, but it would certainly be a bad omen to drop this one at home.

What hurts the Cowboys’ chances of pulling this off besides having an extra sixth game vs. a bitter rival like Philadelphia is all five of these bird teams will fight for playoff spots. No team of this aviary quintet looks to be a complete and total pushover.

Arizona and Atlanta may not be playoff teams, but have plenty of offensive firepower to keep the Cowboys on their toes. Having them both at home this year helps Dallas’ chances. Completing a season sweep of the hated Eagles is difficult, but not impossible. However, parlaying all that into beating Seattle and Baltimore on the road when they are playoff locks is clearly pushing it.

If Dallas goes 6-0 vs. these taloned talents, then the Cowboys could be in the discussion for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They’d have to win the NFC East over Philadelphia should the Cowboys run the “Bird Gauntlet”, right? With the way the rest of their schedule shakes out, Dallas would have to be somewhere around a 12-4 team to theoretically pull this whole thing off.

For the sake of argument, how can we make this “Bird Gauntlet” look even more impressive? Let’s say a 12-4 or 11-5 regular-season record, assuming 6-0 vs. the birds, gets the Cowboys the No. 2 seed in the NFC. They could theoretically play four more bird teams en route to a Super Bowl 55 victory down in Tampa. What would that even look like?

As 2020 regular season “Bird Gauntlet” champions, the No. 2-seed Cowboys would need to face a flying flock of formidable foes in all of their four playoff games in succession to become champions of the birds.

In the NFC Wild Card, Divisional and Championship rounds, the Cowboys must face three of these four teams in a row: Cardinals, Eagles, Falcons, Seahawks. All four of those teams could make the playoffs this year, especially with an expanded field. These four franchises have all played in NFC Championship games since 2014. Dallas hasn’t been to one since 1995…

What makes this even crazier is the Ravens might be the best team in the AFC this year. Baltimore went 14-2 last season but didn’t get out of the divisional round. Though they lost to the Tennessee Titans in January, their biggest threat in the AFC has to be the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. In short, Baltimore can undoubtedly win the AFC and get to Tampa.

If the No. 2-seeded Cowboys not only runs the regular-season “Bird Gauntlet”, but knocks four more of them on its way to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, we’re talking about “America’s Team” becoming double “Bird Gauntlet” champions! If they lose to the Ravens in the preseason, it will be a discussion point, but hopefully not an asterisk. Running the “Bird Gauntlet” is almost impossible.

Next: 5 NFL coordinators poised to be first-time head coaches

Of course, it would be so incredibly Cowboys for them to lose at home in Week 2 to Atlanta and bring a swift end to all this frivolous bird talk. Regardless, it’s the Cowboys’ time to fly.

Hopefully, they don’t lay an egg.

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