The Dallas Cowboys are playoff-bound for consecutive seasons for the first time since the 2006-2007 seasons thanks to their first back-to-back 12-win seasons (12-5 in 2021 and 2022) since their run of four in a row from 1992-1995 -- when they won three Super Bowls in that span. However, those 2006-2007 seasons -- led by quarterback Tony Romo, running back Marion Barber, wide receiver Terrell Owens, tight end Jason Witten, and linebacker DeMarcus Ware -- ended with zero playoff wins.
Even though the Dallas Cowboys were listed as Forbes' most valuable team, worth $8 billion, playoff heartbreak is something Cowboys fans have experienced time and time again since 1996. Asking neutral or casual football fans to root for the Cowboys isn't easy -- it's like asking someone to root for the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, or Duke Blue Devils. However, if you don't have a visceral reaction when someone brings up Cowboys owner Jerry Jones or the franchise at large, perhaps you may be open to adopting them for the playoffs.
Dallas will face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9) in Florida on Super Wild Card Weekend. Even though they're currently 2.5-point road favorites, the Cowboys are psychologically underdogs since Brady has the best record by any quarterback against the Cowboys all time at 7-0. Here are a few reasons to be cheering for the Silver and Blue when that game rolls around on Monday night.
The Cowboys have the playoff curse
Hopping on the the Dallas Cowboys bandwagon isn't even close to the same thing as rooting for Brady. In fact, it's quite the opposite since they've played like upstart underdogs who can't quite get over the hump in the playoffs since 1996.
Dallas has 11 straight playoff appearances without a conference championship trip, which is the longest streak in NFL history. They are currently on an eight-game road playoff losing streak, tied for the second-longest streak in playoff history behind the Detroit Lions' 11 straight. The Cowboys are one of six teams without a conference championship game appearance since 1996 along with five other long-suffering squads: the Lions, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins and Washington Commanders. Their last road playoff win came when Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin were leading their offense in the 1992 NFC Championship Game at the San Francisco 49ers.
Essentially, you're adopting a team that has been a Charlie Brown-like franchise when it comes to playoff football: almost but not quite.
An exciting, close-knit defense
The Dallas Cowboys of yesteryears have been defined by high-flying offenses and porous defenses. That's not the case with these Cowboys. They're a stingy unit in 2022: allowing 20.1 points per game (fifth-fewest in the NFL) while leading the league in takeaways (33) and quarterback pressure rate (43.3%). Dallas actually led the NFL in takeaways in 2021 as well (34), making them the second defense since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger to lead the league in takeaways in back-to-back seasons, joining the 1972-1974 "Steel Curtain" Pittsburgh Steelers defenses.
In addition to productivity, the Cowboys defense is led by a cast characters. Multiple players refer to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is a father-like figure, but Quinn thinks of himself as the "crazy uncle." Linebacker Micah Parsons will talk trash with anyone at any time, unafraid to call out any big-time opponent. He also co-led the NFL in quarterback pressures (90) with San Francisco 49ers defensive end and likely Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. Parsons also has more in common with a former elite 49ers pass rusher, becoming one of two players, along with Aldon Smith, with at least 13.5 sacks in each of their first two seasons since sacks became an official stat in 1982. On the back end, there's Trevon Diggs, last season's interceptions leader who has become better in coverage despite fewer picks.
If you like the adage of "defense wins championships," the Cowboys have a championship-caliber defense.
If you're tired of Tom Brady
Brady has done it all, he's beaten the game of football. He has the most passing attempts, completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and wins in both the regular and postseason. At 45 years old and in his 23rd NFL season, Brady is only stat-padding at this point with his legacy secured.
If you're looking for fresh faces across the league, a deflating playoff defeat could potentially be enough to send Brady into a second -- and final -- retirement. Brady has 35 playoff wins, the same amount as the Cowboys do as a team, tied for the fourth-most in NFL history. He only needs three more playoff wins, reaching the Super Bowl, this season to have more than any team ever as his former team of 20 years, the New England Patriots, have 37 postseason victories.
However, Brady's weakness is the same as it's always been: he's not nearly as good under pressure because of his lack of mobility. He's this season's least pressured quarterback -- under pressure only 19.6 percent of the time -- but when he gets flustered by an opposing pass rush, he melts: his 44.4 passer rating when pressured is the fourth-worst in the NFL among 33 qualified quarterbacks ahead of only Patriots' Mac Jones (35.1), Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray (33.6), and New York Jets' Zach Wilson (18.6). When these two teams played in Week 1, a 19-3 Buccaneers win, Brady was pressured at his highest clip of the season (31%), including two sacks by Parsons on third down in the red zone.
On paper, if there's a team equipped to frustrate Brady and end his season, it's the Dallas Cowboys.