All season long, everything has pointed to this moment. With every win the Cowboys stacked up this year, it seemed to be the overall narrative pointed towards the playoffs.
Sure they can win now, 12 games in the regular season for the second year in a row. But what about the playoffs? Can they get it done in the postseason when it really counts?
Well, we're about to find out and to do so, they'll have to be Tom Brady for the first time in his career.
Check out what our staff writers think will happen this Monday night in Tampa.
Patrik Walker: Resiliency. That's what Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys coaching staff has been ministering to the players for months now and, to this point, they've demonstrated there's been nothing strong enough to knock them into a tailspin. Having now been embarrassed in Week 18 by their own disjointed performance in Week 18, it's not momentum, hubris or a higher seed they carry into Raymond James Stadium on Monday night — it's a fractured mirror. In other words, the Cowboys know who they want to be and what they believe they should look like, but the image they see looking back at them isn't the one they like. Enter Tom Brady, undefeated against the franchise (7-0), playing at home and with weapons that threaten Dallas' biggest question mark: their secondary. That said, I predicted a 12-5 season, even after losing Dak Prescott in Week 1, so get ready to call me crazy again. I think the Cowboys are furious (at themselves) right now, and that they're tired of hearing about their impotence against Brady. The team you saw in Minnesota shows up in Tampa, even if the final score doesn't reflect it, and Brady can thank the Commanders for ending his season. Cowboys 30-24
Nick Eatman: The Cowboys are a better team. That's the one thing I consistently keeping going back to time and time again this week. No, I don't feel great about this game at all. And just like the fans, it's pretty much for the same reason. We've seen these movies before. Yes, plural movies because we've seen the one where no matter the game, location, uniform colors or records, Tom Brady is like the hero that always wins in the end. We've seen that one over and over. Plus, we've also seen the one where the Cowboys go on the road in the playoffs, and it's never really a fun outcome. I've been around this team for a long time and I was in high school when they last won a road playoff game. But then again, that has nothing to do with this THIS TEAM. In fact both teams. I keep saying this as well and it needs to be pointed out. Not only are the Cowboys (12-5) four games better than your (8-9) Bucs, but when you compare the divisions and the schedules for both, the Cowboys are probably 5-6 wins better than this team on paper. But paper never won a playoff game. I don't know if I'm buying the 2-4-2-4-2-4 theory (look it up) just yet, but I do think the Cowboys will bounce back from a loss with at least this game. Give me Dallas 29-20 because it can't be a one-score game. If it's close at the end, that's not good for the Cowboys.
Hailey Sutton: To any other team, making the playoffs is a huge accomplishment; but to this team, it's not enough. The guys have been asked all week about what they're taking from last year's disappointing finish to San Fran, or how they're using that experience as motivation and everyone's answer was basically the same: this is a new year and a new opponent and that's what the focus is on. But when your first-round opponent has the greatest of all time behind center, it adds to the pressure of picking up that elusive playoff win. That being said, the confidence coming out of that locker room is almost palpable, so much so that it has me believing a little more than I did at the beginning of the week. Remember – this is a team that responds well to adversity (and has yet to drop back-to-back games this season). I know it'll be a tight one, and Dak will have to play his best to beat the best, so give me the Cowboys winning by four – 28-24; Dallas snaps the streak!
Kyle Youmans: Here we go. One year to the day that Dallas suffered a heartbreaker to San Francisco, they can finally erase those demons. The matchups are tough. A team that can stop the run and get after Dak Prescott, and the most decorated quarterback of all time facing an inexperienced secondary. But the message is clear, don't let it happen again. After a second-straight 12-5 season, this version of the Cowboys feels much more prepared than last year. They'll jump out early on Tampa in the opening quarter and never look back. Give me the Cowboys, 31-17.