Six weeks ago, the season was on the brink. Sunday, the Cowboys (8-5) can clinch the NFC East by extending their win streak to six games.
Standing in their way: the Indianapolis Colts (7-6), who have won six of seven to stay in the AFC playoff picture.
Who wins Sunday? The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their 'gut feelings' for the noon (Central) matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium:
Nick Eatman: I've been burned by some of these AFC teams before. I didn't really think the Texans would be able to beat the Cowboys. I certainly didn't expect the Titans to do what they did. So I write this Gut Feeling with some caution, knowing that there is a reason the Colts have won six of seven games. Still, I'm going to say six of eight games. Yeah, I just feel like the Cowboys are too hot right now. We can sit here all day and say the Cowboys are on cruise control because they're almost in the playoffs. But have you met Jason Garrett? Don't you remember he didn't rest his starters a couple of years ago because there was an outside shot of getting a first-round bye if two teams actually tied? He takes no chances. He's probably harder on this team this week than any other. So I'm not buying that the Colts have more to play for. They actually don't because there won't be big boxes of hats on their sideline if they win. That will be the case for the Cowboys, and I expect them to be wearing those NFC East caps on the way home Sunday. Give me Dallas 20-10.
David Helman: This game scares me to death. It's a road game against a talented quarterback and a stingy defense, and the Colts absolutely need a win as they fight for their playoff lives. But I'm big on the "seeing is believing" mantra, and this Cowboys team has shown me plenty in the last month. They're certainly deserving of the benefit of the doubt. This Colts team feels a bit one-dimensional, and I think the Dallas defense is good enough to limit Andrew Luck. After all, they've managed to do that against Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees in the last month. It's going to be tough sledding on offense, but running games travel and I think 120 rushing yards from Ezekiel Elliott would go a long way in this game. Like all of these games, it's not going to be easy. I think scoring will be hard to come by, and I think both Brett Maher and Adam Vinatieri will be busy. At the end of the day, I trust the Cowboys to figure it out and scrap their way to the NFC East title – something like 20-16.
Rob Phillips: Should be an interesting chess match between Scott Linehan and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, the Cowboys' former linebackers coach/passing game coordinator. But to me, the key Sunday is the Dallas defense. The most impressive part of the Cowboys' victory over the Eagles? Well, Amari Cooper … and the defense limiting Zach Ertz to five catches for 38 yards. Indy's Eric Ebron is the latest challenge at tight end, and he's got 12 touchdowns this season. If the defense can limit big plays from Ebron and T.Y. Hilton, I've got faith in Dak Prescott, Elliott and Cooper to build a lead. Gut feeling: Cowboys clinch the East.
Lindsay Draper: Of all the games to watch out for – this may be the one. The Colts are sneakily surging, and the Cowboys have expended a ton of energy in their last game alone. Not going to lie to any of you right now – my gut is a little nervous! Don't know if it's because the Colts are so under-the-radar solid, but I think the Cowboys can win, ONLY if they continue playing with their 'backs against the wall.' The locker room felt loose this week; confident, relaxed, full of laughs. Cowboys win on the road for their sixth straight, because of Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. Playoffs secured. See you guys Monday.
Bryan Broaddus: It's been playoff football since the middle of the season for both of these clubs. Poor starts to the season have been turned around into potential playoff spots. The Cowboys have done it with defense and a significant trade. The Colts, on the other hand, have been riding a hot quarterback and a defense that doesn't give up big plays. The Cowboys run the ball better while the Colts rely more on their passing game. As equal as these two teams are, it's going to come down to which defense can create the more uncomfortable situation for the opposing quarterback. And that's where I think the Colts have the advantage. No Zack Martin has me nervous in this game due to how important the front of the pocket is for Dak Prescott. Eberflus attacks that area, forcing the Cowboys to have to wait on their division-winning gear. Colts 26, Cowboys 23.
Mickey Spagnola: Said last Sunday wasn't going to be easy against Philly. And it wasn't. Cowboys needed overtime to win. This one will be even harder, having to play a Colts team on the road having won six of their last seven, and those guys know their wild-card chances are on the brink. But as good as the Colts are, the Cowboys are better, one of the top four teams in the NFC at this point. Play like they've been. Win like it like they've been. Defense doesn't need to get lost on the way to Indiana. Pressure the heck out of Andrew Luck. Offense needs to sharpen up, especially in the red zone. Just keep riding Zeke and Amari. Cowboys 26, Colts 23, it ain't easy I'm telling you.