The Dallas Cowboys are NFC East champions for the third time in five years. They’ve gotten so used to taking down the East that it’s almost like it’s their winter time share. When the season began, we weren’t so sure what to expect. Would the Cowboys be able to stay with the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles? Could Dallas regain some of that magic that helped them go 13-3 in 2016? As it turned out, the Cowboys swept the Eagles and have clinched the division with a game to spare. They won’t enter the playoffs with the same gusto they did a couple years ago as they’ll have to take the scenic route starting with a Wild Card game coming in a couple weeks. But there are a lot of reasons to be thankful as we enjoy the holiday season.
The Cowboys took a big risk when they released Dez Bryant in the offseason. The team felt like they could get by with newcomers Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Deonte Thompson, but it just wasn’t panning out. So the front office decided to make a big move and trade next year’s first-round draft pick to acquire Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders. It’s worked out. In just eight games with Dallas, Cooper has 48 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns.
The Cowboys made a couple controversial draft picks when they selected Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Smith was the 34th overall pick in 2016 who fell in the draft due to a serious knee injury he suffered during his last collegiate game. The Cowboys took a chance that his knee would heal and he’d be the player he was at Notre Dame. What a good decision that was. Smith has 117 tackles, four sacks, and just returned a fumble for the team’s first defensive score of the season.
As good as Smith has been this year, the rookie from Boise State has been even better. Vander Esch leads the team in tackles with 132. He also has two interceptions this season. Sean Lee missed five games last year and the defense fell apart. He’s missed nine so far this year, and the defense hasn’t blinked. The emergence of Smith and Vander Esch is a big reason why.
It’s fun watching the Cowboys play 16 games during the regular season, but it’s even better to watch them play in the postseason. With the playoffs comes hope. Hope that the team can make a deep run, hope that a quest for title number six is still alive, hope for some additional weeks of Cowboys goodness.
A Super Bowl victory is always the end goal, but it’s also fun to enjoy the journey. The Cowboys are NFC East champions and right now we should take in the excitement.