After back-to-back disappointing seasons, the Dallas Cowboys are NFC East champions and in the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Can America’s Team bring owner Jerry Jones his first Super Bowl title since the 1995 season? Let’s break down the Cowboys’ odds, including their game Sunday vs. San Francisco.
Dallas Cowboys Postseason NFL
The Cowboys and 49ers haven’t played this season – San Francisco hasn’t beaten Dallas since 2014, but, again, they don’t play every year. This will be the eighth time these franchises have met in the postseason, tied for the second most of any matchup in the Super Bowl era to the nine games between the Rams and Cowboys. It’s the first playoff matchup between them since the 1994 season when the Niners beat the Cowboys in the NFC title game.
Dallas closed the regular season with a confidence-building 51-26 win over Philadelphia. At 12-5, the Cowboys moved up to the No. 3 seed with losses by the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals.
Dak Prescott completed 21-of-27 passes for 295 yards and five touchdowns. Prescott threw four of his five touchdowns in the first half. It’s the second time in the last three weeks Prescott needed only a half to clear the mark, throwing for 330 yards and four TDs in Dallas’ Week 16 blowout of Washington. He finished the year completing 69% of his passes for 4,449 yards and a 37:10 TD/INT ratio. Prescott will win NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
While Ezekiel Elliott remains the top running back with Dallas, Tony Pollard is one of the best backups in the NFL. Pollard was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. He has been laboring through a plantar fascia injury for over a month and was held out of Week 18 because of the issue but will be good to go Sunday.
The Cowboys set a franchise mark for points in a season (530). They set an NFL record with 22 different players scoring a touchdown. A season after allowing a franchise-record 473 points, they gave up 358 points. The Cowboys became the first team in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard passer (Prescott), 1,000-yard rusher (Ezekiel Elliott), 1,000-yard receiver (CeeDee Lamb) and defenders with 10-plus sacks (linebacker Micah Parsons) and 10-plus interceptions (cornerback Trevon Diggs).
Parsons is going to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Early this week, the Cowboys activated Micah Parsons from the reserve/COVID-19 list. Parsons was one of the most dominant pass-rushers the NFL has ever seen. Parsons, listed as a linebacker, split time between edge defender and off-ball linebacker in Dan Quinn’s defense — and he excelled at both positions. He finished fourth in pass rush win rate in the league (24.8%) and had 13 sacks and three forced fumbles in 16 games. Parsons had lunch this week with future Hall of Famer pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, a former Cowboy, to get some playoff tips.
Parsons was told the 49ers offense likes to play “bully ball” and his answer was: “I’m from Harrisburg where the bullies get bullied. There’s a bully in every gym. … At one point, it’s going to take somebody to stand up and fight. I ain’t ever back down from a challenge.”
Left tackle Tyron Smith also was activated from the COVID list. Smith missed six games during the regular season and only played one of the final four games, so the practice time should be a positive for him to get back into the swing of things.
The Cowboys have not won a Super Bowl or advanced to an NFC Championship Game since 1995. They have won all three of the wild-card round playoff games they have played at AT&T Stadium (2009, 2014, 2018).
If there’s one concern, it’s with kicker Greg Zuerlein. Jerry Jones said Zuerlein’s recent struggles have “absolutely” altered the team’s game plan. Zuerlein made 82.9 percent of his field goals in the regular season, which is actually higher than his career conversion rate (he’s made 16 of his past 18 attempts). He’s also missed on six extra points this season, including one last week against the Eagles.
“He’s a sound kicker, experienced kicker, our guys are all sensitive about how to approach the game,” Jones said. “If a better alternative was out there, we’d be using it. Everything is at stake.”
- Cowboys win Sunday, lose in divisional round
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