After a two-year absence, the Dallas Cowboys are back in the playoffs. By virtue of the 49ers' loss to the Titans on Thursday night, the Cowboys officially punched their ticket to the postseason and will compete for the franchise's sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy when the playoffs begin on Jan. 15.
The Cowboys have checked off the first box on their holiday wish list. The next goal for the Cowboys is capturing the NFC East division crown, which they can achieve this Sunday with a win over Washington. Dallas (10-4) is also in the hunt to capture the NFC's only playoff bye, along with the defending champion Buccaneers, Rams and Cardinals.
Currently No. 2 in the NFC standings, the Cowboys are just one game back of Green Bay (11-3) with three games remaining. The Cowboys finish the regular season with a home game against Arizona (10-4) and a road game against Philadelphia (7-7). The Packers have upcoming home games against Cleveland (7-7) and Minnesota (7-7) before closing out the regular season in Detroit (2-11-1).
The Cowboys have been buoyed by the NFL's second-ranked scoring offense and seventh-ranked scoring defense. Dallas' offense has been led by quarterback Dak Prescott, who will likely run away with the Comeback Player of the Year award. While CeeDee Lamb has emerged as his favorite target, Prescott has spread the wealth to his teammates, as seven different Cowboys have caught at least 30 passes. The Cowboys' running game has relied on Ezekiel Elliott and the emergence of Tony Pollard, as the two have combined to run for 1,538 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Cowboys' skill players have benefitted from the blocking of Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, who on Wednesday were selected to their eighth and seventh Pro Bowls, respectively.
The Cowboys have two more Pro Bowlers on the defensive side in second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs and rookie linebacker Micah Parsons. Diggs has pulled down a league-high 10 interceptions, while Parsons has all but locked up Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and 17 tackles for loss in his first 14 games. The duo power a Cowboys defense that leads the NFL in interceptions (23) and turnovers forced (31).
The Cowboys' ultimate goal is getting back to the Super Bowl for the first time since Super Bowl XXX, when Dallas defeated Pittsburgh to win the franchise's fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy. It would be the fourth Super Bowl win for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who won three Super Bowls during his first seven years with the franchise.
Speaking of the Cowboys' championship teams, Jones recently compared the depth of Dallas' current defensive line -- led by eight-time Pro Bowler Demarcus Lawrence and veteran Randy Gregory -- to the one that won three Super Bowls in a four-year span during the 1990s.
"We had (Jason) Hatcher, we had (DeMarcus) Ware, we had (Jay) Ratliff, we had those guys back here. I thought that was arguably a combination of some of the best players we've had on the interior," Jones recently said on 105.3 The Fan, via NFL.com. "Beyond that, I'd have to go back to the 90s when we had such a rotation on the defensive line, and we really had fresh guys out there all the time. This group has the potential to have that kind of talent, without exaggeration."