ability to get off the field. Opponents had only a 35.0-percent third down conversion rate.
Consider that the Steelers were gritty and resourceful on offense, but not as gifted or versatile, and it's logical to assume the Cowboys are capable of winning every game they play as long as their defense can keep them in it. That will require guys to stay healthy, the front seven to make life miserable for quarterbacks and for young starters Anthony Spencer and Mike Jenkins to maintain their productivity.
For me, the magic number is 21. The Cowboys won all 11 of their games when teams scored 21 or fewer, and lost only twice.
The Cowboys' roster is stable but not completely certain. Projected new starters Doug Free (left tackle) and Alan Ball (free safety) must be solid. The franchise can't afford for David Buehler, if he wins the job, to endure the same field goal inconsistencies as predecessors Nick Folk and Mike Vanderjagt.
Sure, Tony Romo and Co. must put points on the board, but points don't come easily in the playoffs, and they're at a premium against regular-season foes like the ones in front of them.
As long as Phillips' defense keeps cooking at a level similar to late last year, the Cowboys have a shot at 10-plus wins and another division crown.
Then, who knows? We won't have to wait much longer to find out.