The 2016 Dallas Cowboys entered the weekend having done almost everything possible for themselves, with 11 straight wins on the way to an 11-1 record … but needing a little assistance to immediately guarantee a return to the playoffs.
And along came a clinch.
And along came a flex.
It’s only the first weekend of December but Dallas — 17-15 winners in Minnesota on Thursday and then observers of Arizona defeating Washington 31-23 on Sunday — are in, giving Dallas a second playoff berth in the last three years.
“We’re dealing with something that’s way much more bigger than records and all that kind of stuff,” Dez Bryant said after the Minnesota win. “We’re a football team, and that’s the most beautiful thing that we got. We stick with one another throughout the good and the bad.''
That good bond (see our "All Smiles'' story from inside The Star in Frisco for more) may be preventing much "bad'' from occurring with the Cowboys, who received another feather in the cap Sunday, as on top of that clinching news came another acknowledgement of the power of “America’s Team’’ — especially when America’s Team is this powerful: The Dec. 18 home game against Tampa Bay, originally scheduled to be a noon start on FOX, is flexed to that Sunday night on NBC, a 7:30 p.m. start that puts the Cowboys on the national TV stage for five straight weeks and the prime-time stage for four straight weeks.
Cowboys at Giants next Sunday night.
Cowboys host Bucs the Sunday night after that.
Cowboys host Lions the Monday night after that.
All three of those games loom large in the NFC playoff picture. But Dallas is in control, and enjoyed not only a Redskins loss but also losses by East divisional foes the Eagles (to Green Bay) and the Giants (to Pittsburgh). The Giants are 8-4 but their six-game winning streak is over … and they are three games behind Dallas with four to play. New York is, of course, the only team that’s downed Dallas, way back in Week 1, by a 20-19 score. The Cowboys would like to return that favor this week. In doing so, Dallas can lock up the division, can move closer to home-field advantage and a first-round bye, and can guarantee gigantic viewing audiences on what it hopes will be a Super Bowl run.
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