The Cowboys playoff game is inching ever closer. On Sunday, they will take on the Green Bay Packers in a divisional round clash for the right to move on to the conference championship. As the game gets closer, everyone is trying to figure out just what will matter and what won’t. Here are three key questions to be asked and answered.
Does ‘Playoff Experience’ Really Matter?
It would be very easy to say “Yes, it does!”, but upon further reflection on the situation one could conclude there are more important factors, things that will play a bigger role in success.
The biggest argument about playoff experience being important revolves around dealing with the pressure to win. But the ability to persevere and win under “pressure situations” is more important than ‘playoff experience’. Last week we saw four teams win in convincing fashion during Wild Card Weekend. I would be willing to wager that each of the victors had multiple contests this season that taught them more about winning than what they learned in their opening round match-ups.
Not to discount that playoff exposure can benefit a team, but it is overrated. More can be learned in an overtime win against the Cleveland Browns during the regular season than can be learned in a playoff blow out. Champions must adapt, improvise, and overcome when things are not going their way. That experience is gained where you find it, be it in regular or postseason action.
Will Sean Lee Bee The Difference Maker This Time Around?
Looking back at the team that fell to the Packers in the divisional round two years ago, the biggest difference is that Sean Lee was not on the field in 2014. The Dallas Cowboys linebacker is the undisputed heart and soul of the defense; the unit simply performs better when he is on the field. For this reason alone, you can expect more out of the Cowboys defense.
In addition, Lee will be making his first playoff appearance, and you know that after missing out on the 2014 playoffs, he is going to be well motivated to get the job done. The biggest difference between Lee and the former Alabama linebacker who filled his shoes during the 2014 season is that one played the game to make a living, the other would be out there cracking heads if Jerry Jones paid him with a couple cheeseburgers and a Coke.
The guy that plays with a passion for the game is going to leave it all on the field this weekend.
How Will The Rookies Respond?
This is a pretty fair question, and one that a lot of people are asking. This is one of those situations where the above question about playoff experience raises its head again. Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott have delivered thus far, so expect nothing less than the same thing this time around.
Both of these guys have been there and done that. Zeke and Dak have played on the biggest stages that college football has to offer. The have excelled in pressure games, both at home and in some very unfriendly road environments, and they have delivered. There is very little that is new under the sun, as far as the ‘kids’ are concerned. Both have been schemed against by the best coaches in the game, both are experienced under pressure, and both know how to get the job done. They have not been rookies for quite some time; they are men among men. Expect nothing less that their best in the playoffs.
The Cowboys have proven, week in and week out, that they are the team to beat in the National Football Conference. They have equaled or bettered many team marks set by others who have paved the way for what it means to play football in Dallas. Jason Garrett has assembled a team that stacks up well to the squads assembled by Jimmy Johnson, and dare I say it, Tom Landry. They may win, they may lose; but this is a damned good football team and they are starting to look a bit like a team of destiny.