Saturday night's the thing for the Cowboys. Put together a solid performance — nothing out of line with what they've done over the last couple of months — and they'll get a shot at making 2018 a truly special season. Succumb to history, their worst impulses or the turnover monster, however, and it could be the end of the road for head coach Jason Garrett and the end of the honeymoon for 2016's wunderkinds, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
The 2018 Seahawks are a flawed team. They've got holes along the offensive line and in the secondary. Their best offensive weapon of the last couple of seasons, wide receiver Doug Baldwin, has battled injuries all season. This year's Seattle team is not the one that was one Malcolm Butler interception away from a dynasty in February 2015.
This year's Cowboys aren't perfect either, of course, but they match up well with Seattle. Dallas' defensive line is capable of punishing any team that can't pass block, and the Seahawks have given up 51 sacks this season — eighth most in the NFL — despite having Russell Wilson, one of the NFL's most mobile quarterbacks.
Seattle has attempted to take some of the pressure off Wilson by running the ball 534 times — more than anyone but the Ravens — but, as good as the Cowboys' pass rush has been, their Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith-led run defense has been even better. The Cowboys' linebacking duo has true sideline-to-sideline speed and has proved capable of cleaning up the defensive line's mistakes.
The Seahawks offense should struggle against the Cowboys defense.
Assuming that happens — if it doesn't, the Cowboys could be in for a long night — all Prescott and Elliott need to do is hold on to the football and put up somewhere between 17 and 21 points to send the Cowboys to the divisional round. While Prescott has struggled to avoid sacks and hold onto the ball in recent weeks, his passing performance in an otherwise meaningless game against the Giants on Sunday is encouraging.
Prescott threw for 387 yards on 44 attempts in New Jersey, racking up four touchdowns against zero interceptions. He found tight end Blake Jarwin for three scores and tossed a 32-yard touchdown to Cole Beasley on fourth-and-15 to complete the Cowboys' fourth-quarter comeback. Prescott looked confident, more like the 2016 MVP candidate than the shell-shocked player he's been at times in 2017 and 2018.
Mix in NFL rushing leader Elliott — who sat out last Sunday — and there is no reason the Cowboys' offense can't be successful against Seattle's defense.
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Garrett doesn't need to coax a miracle out of his team tomorrow night. He needs them to play to the same level they have since their early November loss to the Titans dropped them to 3-5. If Garrett fails again in a big game, he risks Cowboys owner Jerry Jones losing the patience he's maintained since 2010.
The Cowboys are at a crossroads. Win Saturday, and they'll have a chance at returning to the big time. Let's not think about what might happen if they don't.
The Cowboys take on the Seahawks in a wild-card playoff at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium. Fox is televising. Tickets $63 and up