FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys are playoff-bound for the first time since 2018 and will host a familiar old foe, the San Francisco 49ers, in the Wild Card round in front of an expected energetic crowd on Sunday afternoon.
The Cowboys are fresh off one of their better offensive performances in Saturday's 51-26 win at Philadelphia. Dallas clinched its playoff spot and NFC East title before Week 16. Dallas finished with 12 wins, their most since 2016 when they went 13-3 and earned a first-round bye.
The 49ers' path to the playoffs was more dramatic. San Francisco didn’t lock up the playoff spot until the final day of the season with an impressive comeback win over the Los Angeles Rams.
Will the Cowboys opportunistic defense be able to handle Swiss Army knife Deebo Samuel? Is Dallas' balanced offense, which ranks first in points and total yards in the NFL, going to come together for a postseason push? And what about this "bully ball'' baloney?
The NFL casting department couldn't have come up with a more must-watch, nostalgia-inducing scenario.
FUN FACT: Sunday marks the eighth time these franchises have met in the postseason, tied for the second most of any matchup in the Super Bowl era to the nine games between the Rams and Cowboys. Here is a history lesson of the top-10 memorable matchups of this storied rivalry.
FLASHBACK: Cowboys Coach Mike McCarthy holds an all-time playoff record of 10-8, with one Super Bowl title and four conference championship appearances. It is his first playoff appearance as Dallas' head coach.
IMPORTANT INJURY UPDATE: Last week, the Cowboys were without several more key players due to COVID, including Micah Parsons, Tyron Smith, Anthony Brown and Jayron Kearse. McCarthy said, "Right now we're really in good shape." He also pointed out that he reminded his players on Monday of the option to stay in the team hotel near the facility as precaution.
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“The toughest call that I had to make was to Erin Andrews and tell her that I was leaving,” Aikman said. “She's like a sister to both of us."
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RECORDS: Dallas Cowboys (12-5) vs. San Francisco 49ers (10-7)
WHEN: Sunday, January 16, 2022 at 3:30 p.m. CT
LOCATION: AT&T Stadium - Arlington, Texas
TV/RADIO: CBS, Paramount+ Amazon Prime and Nickelodeon, 105.3 The Fan
ODDS: The Cowboys are 3-point favorites vs. the Niners. The over/under total is 51 points.
FINAL WORD: McCarthy has high hopes for Sunday's atmosphere:
"I just don’t want to see a lot of the other fans. Our crowd has been great, just the energy... AT&T’s been rocking, and frankly, we have a big responsibility in that ourselves. We need to get out there and get going fast and get the crowd into the game. This is going to be a great afternoon.”