"Go Get Your Ring" - Emmit Smith, The Players' Tribune
Smith looks at parallels between the 2016 and the 1992 Cowboys teams, shares how he got to know Dak Prescott, and ends a highly readable article with a little pep talk.
Just remember, boys….
You deserve to be here.
You deserve to win.
And you can become champions.
So put your blinders on and focus on each other. Don’t worry about the Cowboys’ history. Go make your own history. This is your moment. Go out there and do what you do, and do it your way. Trust in what has gotten you here.
And go get your ring.
Prescott unsurpassed among rookie passers - Eric Goska, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Can Prescott pick up against the Packers where he left off in the regular season?
Prescott is that rarest of rare. He’s just the third rookie quarterback to earn a passer rating of 100 or more. He hit triple digits in 10 games (minimum 20 attempts), a number second only to the 12 of Matt Ryan. Doing so 10 times established a rookie record. The previous best had been seven by Russell Wilson and Robbert Griffin.
Dallas also had some memorable matchups with the Packers. It defeated Green Bay three times in the 1990s alone. Troy Aikman was their quarterback then. In victories by 10, 26 and 11 points, Aikman posted passer ratings of 103.7, 121.1 and 107.5.
Duplicating those types of numbers may be too much to ask of Prescott. Only one rookie — Wilson, with a rating of 109.1 in a 30-28 loss in Atlanta — ever earned a rating of 100 or more in a playoff game (minimum 20 attempts).
However, if anyone is up to the task, it’s Prescott. Based on his play, he’s a rookie in name only.
Packers need new plan vs. Elliott - Pete Dougherty, Oshkosh Northwestern
Ezekiel Elliott carried the Cowboys in their last meeting with the Packers, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers is looking for answer in Sunday's rematch.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers had no answer for the rookie running back. He tried the familiar and the new, but nothing worked. Elliott ran for 157 yards and the Cowboys won going away, 30-16.
So what is Capers to do? You have to think that whatever his plan, Matthews will be in the thick of it. Maybe Capers will scrap the unusual stuff and just play Matthews at inside linebacker on most downs, like he did for half of 2014 and all '15. Maybe Datone Jones and Nick Perry will play together more on early downs. Or maybe Capers has a new tweak.
But keep in mind that Elliott will be as fresh and healthy as he could hope at this time of year. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter of Week 16 against Detroit, didn’t even dress in Week 17 because the Cowboys had clinched the No. 1 seeding, and was off last week because of the first-round bye.
"He’s going to ratchet it up," a scout from an NFC team told me this week. "I wouldn’t be surprised if they just keep handing him the football. They don’t want Aaron Rodgers on that field at all."
You Can’t Break Sean Lee - Robert Mays, The Ringer
While Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have been the stories of the Dallas season, no one has worked harder than Lee for a shot at Super Bowl glory, May explains.
At nearly every turn, a body bent on betrayal has robbed Lee of the biggest moments of his football life. And that, he says, is what has made this 2016 season so special. Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott have been the faces of the Cowboys’ magical run to a 13–3 record and the top seed in the NFC, but on the other side of ball, Lee has quietly put together his first All-Pro effort: 145 tackles, including 12 for loss, to go with a league-leading 28 defeats as part of an overachieving Dallas defense. Heading into Sunday’s showdown with the scalding hot Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Lee will be the maestro of a unit that may hold the key to the Cowboys’ Super Bowl hopes. It’s the sort of moment he’s waited on for more than a decade.
From disaster to dominance, how the Cowboys built the next Great Wall of Dallas - Jared Dubin, CBSSports.com
Dubin walks us through the history of the current Dallas O-line, ccomplete with detailed profiles of each lineman, and concludes:
It took six years, three first-round picks, two undrafted free-agent signings and several injuries for the Cowboys to slowly but surely build themselves not just the best offensive line, but arguably the single best position group in the NFL. Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones and Will McClay and Jason Garrett made a decision at a certain point to value the offensive front more highly than the team had in the history of Jones' ownership and that decision has paid off in spades.
It paid off for DeMarco Murray. It paid off for Darren McFadden. And it really, really paid off for Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott -- two rookies that have thrived like no pair of rookies ever has before, thanks in large part to the men up front clearing the way for them to put their considerable skill sets to use.
The Cowboys have by no means accomplished everything they've set out for just yet. They have bigger goals in sight, both this season and beyond. But they're also arguably as well set up for immediate and future contention as any team in the NFL, and their decision to build their team around a position group that many agree is the most important in football -- and yet is still often ignored or undervalued despite that fact -- is the biggest reason why.
Jason Witten's title quest transcends Dallas - David Fleming, ESPN
On a team driven by rookies Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott, future Hall of Famer Jason Witten is driven to deliver a title for the Cowboys, and also his benched best friend Tony Romo, who might not play a role.
Witten knows these are likely his last few weeks playing on the same team as Romo. He falls silent for a moment inside the empty, half-lit training room, then continues speaking, almost to himself. "People ask me, 'Would you go chase it with some other team?'" he says. "Well, I don't know what happens down the road, but if you did you'd be losing the relationship part of this, and, for me, that's what it's all about, the relationships, the shared commitment and, in the end, the winning. I hope."
The Cowboys’ (Draft) Class Is Showing - Albert Breer, The MMQB
Breer explains that the Cowboys' rookie class goes beyond Dak and Zeke, and as Dallas opens its playoffs with as promising a group of rookies as it’s had in years, their championship window once more is wide open.
"Obviously the fans are fired up about now, that we’re having success right now—but a big part of it too is our future," said Stephen Jones, as he ran through the group. "When you look at a draft class like this and a draft class like last year, the offensive line, they’re young by most standards in terms of linemen, and we’re getting them all signed up, there’s a lot to look forward to in terms of the future of this football team.
And don’t worry about jumping the gun, if you’re thinking about where Dallas’s Class of 2016 fits into the best groups we’ve seen. Fact is, the way things have played out, the team’s decision-makers haven’t been able to resist either. "You think about it," Jones said. "One of the best draft classes I still think about was the one with Bill [Parcells], when we took DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, and [Jay] Ratliff, and [Kevin] Burnett, [Chris] Canty, and [Marion] Barber—I mean, that was an all-timer. Now, does this draft have a chance to challenge all the great drafts we’ve had? Of course it does.
"But I think it’s too early to give a grade to this class. They’re off to an amazing start but there’s still a lot of work to be done."
The 'Boys Are Back: How the Cowboys rescued this NFL season just in time - Jack Dickey, SI.com
Why did the Cowboys rescue the NFL season? Because they are America's Team, that's why.
It was 1979 when an NFL Films producer tossed that phrase into John Facenda’s voice-over script for the previous season’s highlights tape. The ’78 Cowboys, defending champions, had made it to a then NFL-record fifth Super Bowl, and though they lost to the Steelers, Dallas’s prospects still seemed brighter than those of any other team.
Sportswriters and announcers took the term and ran with it. Perhaps the appellation stuck because it wasn’t such an overstatement. A 1979 Washington Post story reported that the Cowboys that year accounted for 29% of all teams’ merchandise sales (Pittsburgh was No. 2 at 8%), and Dallas Cowboys Weekly was the second-largest weekly sports publication in America (behind, ahem, this one). In the 15 Harris Polls since 1998 asking fans to pick their favorite NFL team, Dallas has been voted No. 1 10 times, including in the most recently released edition, in 2015.
That’s some feat, because until this year the youngest generation of football fans knew the Cowboys as nothing other than a stupendously wealthy franchise (Forbes ranks them No. 1 in sports at $4 billion) with a preposterously big stadium. After winning three Super Bowls in four seasons in the mid-1990s, Dallas followed up with 19 seasons, starting in 1997, in which it won all of two playoff games. The Cowboys’ .500 winning percentage from ’97 through 2015 ranked 16th in the sport, worse than the Jets and barely better than the Chargers. America’s Team? No, no, that had to be the peerless Patriots, on-the-nose symbolism be damned. Or maybe the Seahawks, who have risen through the league with outspoken stars playing a loud game. Or the storied Packers, working on a string of eight straight playoff appearances.
This year, however, the Cowboys have been as potent as they are popular, leading the NFL in rushing yards and TV ratings, attendance and merchandise sales too.
Home teams are doing a lot better in the divisional round - Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
The trend is your friend.
Already as good as it gets, Cowboys' Dan Bailey has another edge this postseason - SportsDay Staff
All of Dan Bailey's kicks will be indoors this postseason both in the home games at AT&T Stadium as well as inside Houston's NRG Stadium in Super Bowl LI.
"You're taking variables out of it that you don't have to account for. It makes your job a little easier," Bailey said. "You can be a little more aggressive, probably, with your game plan as far as the kicking game goes."
WR Jordy Nelson Officially Ruled Out Of Game - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys
The Packers' chances on Sunday took a big blow with Nelson's injury.
This is obviously a huge blow for the Packers. Nelson is their number one wide receiver, and on a team that depends on the passing game to cover for an anemic running game, that is a massive hole. The Packers do have competent receiver depth; Randall Cobb is a very good receiver and Davante Adams can explode at any time. Jared Cook can also do damage from the tight end position.
But Nelson is a huge piece of the puzzle.
Cowlishaw: If the Cowboys can do this, I'll finally consider Jerry Jones Hall of Fame-worthy - Tim Cowlishaw, SportsDay
This works both ways, Tim. If you consider Jerry Jones Hall of Fame-worthy, we'll start considering you a real journalist.