The Dallas Cowboys will be playing on Wild Card Weekend for the second straight season and second under coach Mike McCarthy.
Last season, the Cowboys lost a heartbreaker to the 49ers at home 23-17 in the first round. A slight favorite heading into the game, Dallas failed to execute their game plan and come out on top.
Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard only had a combined 16 carries for 45 yards in the game and CeeDee Lamb caught just one ball for 21 yards. Dak Prescott also threw for just 254 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
But what Prescott and the team will most remember in that matchup was how they lost. With Dallas failing to spike the ball on a quarterback draw as the clock expired, the Cowboys were sent home without a chance to try and win the game.
This year, the Cowboys are hoping for a different result and they’ll have their hands full against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on the road. Tampa Bay has surely gotten the better of the Cowboys over the past two seasons, losing their most recent meetings in Week 1 in 2021 & 2022.
However, America’s Team comes into this meeting as the better all-around team.
In Week 1, Dallas did not look like a playoff team after scoring just three points. But since Prescott’s return from injury, the Cowboys’ offense has been lethal. They rank second in points per game (28.8) and the team has scored 40-plus points in five of their last nine games.
The matchup against Brady is one the Cowboys probably wanted to avoid in the first round. He is 7-0 in his career against Dallas.
But, the Cowboys have what it takes to send the Bucs home. Their offense has been red-hot and their defense has been one of the best this season. Both those sides of the ball have the potential to carry the team deep into the playoffs.
Dallas has shown glimpses of that in the regular season this year. They’ve beaten playoff teams like the Eagles, Vikings, Giants, and Bengals en route to a 13-win season. But the Cowboys will need certain players to step up big-time and help the team make a deep playoff run.
Here are three players that need to play their best in the playoffs.
These Cowboys will be vital to a potential deep playoff run
3. Micah Parsons
There’s no doubt that Parsons is an elite defender and one of the best pass rushers in the game. His presence on the football field is literally unmatched.
Remember late in the Jacksonville game, the Jaguars left tackle got flagged twice for a false start on back-to-back plays with Parsons lined up on his side. His ability to impact games whenever on the field makes him a superstar in the league.
But in the postseason, Parsons has to step up on a whole new level for the defense. Recently, the second-year edge rusher has been quiet in terms of his production on the field as he deals with injuries.
Parsons has just one sack, one tackle for loss, 13 tackles, and five quarterback hits over his last five games. In the five games before that from Week 7 to Week 12, he had six sacks, five tackles for loss, 24 tackles, two forced fumbles, and nine quarterbacks hits.
At 245 pounds, Parsons is extremely undersized on the edge and talked about that in a podcast episode with Von Miller last month. Despite his size though, his athleticism makes him almost unguardable at the line.
The former Penn State star ranks top five in sacks (13), pressures (40) and QB hurries (13). But the Cowboys are going to need Parsons to be a star in the playoffs, especially to help a Dallas defense that has just three sacks over its last five contests before the Washington game.
If Parsons can come out and have a two or three-sack game against the Buccaneers in the Wild Card Round, that is going to be big for the Cowboys.