Jason Garrett's future employment as coach of the Dallas Cowboys is likely dependent on a strong December.
Garrett and the Cowboys look to snap a two-game slide and begin a successful finishing kick when they visit the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
Dallas (6-6) holds a one-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East despite scoring just 24 points over the past two games.
A 26-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving Day was particularly ugly and led to further speculation over Garrett's job status, though owner Jerry Jones reiterated after the contest that Garrett's job is safe for now.
Five days later, Jones reflected on his team's situation and said he would have been pleased if told three months ago that his team would be leading the division at the start of December.
"If I were leaving training camp today, I'd like to have this run that I've got right now -- four games to get to the playoffs," Jones told 105.3 FM The Fan. "As healthy as we are, get our act together relative to what we're doing on both sides of the ball and let's go. I feel pretty good about it."
Of course, Jones and everybody else were feeling much better when the team jumped out of the gates with three straight wins.
Now the Cowboys are being viewed as a talented team that is once again underachieving.
Quarterback Dak Prescott, who leads the NFL with 3,788 passing yards, thinks a more silent approach might be the way to go.
"When it's times like this, it's more lead by example. Talk is cheap, right?" Prescott told reporters. "We've talked a lot. We've talked a bunch and got ourselves right to where we are. In a moment like this, I say hell with the talking and I'm going to do more. I'm going to work harder.
"And if you're a young guy looking for somebody to figure it out, how to do it, yeah, look at me and some of these other guys because that's exactly what we're doing -- putting our head down focusing and doubling down on ourselves."
The Bears (6-6) also are in a must-win mode entering the contest.
Chicago, though, has won three times in four games to get back into the NFC wild-card picture. The Bears are one game behind the Los Angeles Rams and two behind the Minnesota Vikings in the battle for the final spot.
"It's just understanding that this week is a big week,"" Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack told reporters. "Every game from here on out is going to be a big game. We're just looking forward to the challenge."
Chicago's rise occurred right after its fortunes looked bleak with four consecutive setbacks.
Two of the defeats were by three points or less -- home losses to the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers -- but the Bears didn't splinter, and the turnaround began with the first of two wins over the Detroit Lions. The first came on Nov. 10, the second on Thanksgiving.
"It speaks to the direction of where we could've went in that four-game slide," Chicago coach Matt Nagy told reporters. "No one, not one time, started pointing fingers. No one started blaming. I hate blamers. Hate's a strong word, but I dislike blamers. We never did that.
"Coaches, players, anybody -- we just tried to come up with solutions. It put us in a position where we are playing some meaningful games. That's a credit to our players for battling through that. It makes you proud to be their coach."
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky stood out in last Thursday's 24-20 win over the Lions as he passed for a season-best 338 yards and matched a season high of three touchdowns. More importantly, he guided Chicago on the decisive nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive in which he connected on a 3-yard scoring throw to David Montgomery with 2:17 left.
Among the Bears who could miss the game are cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (elbow). Both players missed practice on Monday and Tuesday, and Trevathan has sat out the last three games.
Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) will miss his third consecutive game. Receiver Amari Cooper (knee) was banged up against the Bills but is expected to play after practicing both days.
Cooper is 29 yards away from his third career 1,000-yard receiving season, while running Ezekiel Elliott is 10 yards away from his third 1,000-yard rushing season.
--Field Level Media