The Dallas Cowboys are the No. 1 seed in their conference, and the good times are rolling in Cowboy Nation.
Along with the run of success for America’s Team has come an influx of fans hopping aboard this bandwagon, which is bound for a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Are you one of the “new” Cowboys fans who got their Prescott jersey under the Christmas tree this year and setting up your playoff watch party? It’s OK, bandwagoners won’t be judged here at WFAA.
In fact, we’ll give you a beginner’s guide to the team, which will make it look like you’ve been rooting for the blue and silver for years.
First, the basics
Team: Dallas Cowboys
Record: 13-3 through 17 weeks
Next game: Sunday, Jan. 15 at 3:40 p.m. CST vs. Green Bay
Stadium: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX
Quarterback: Not Tony Romo -- there’s this new kid in town named Dak, who, in our expert opinion, is quite good at football. More on him later.
Super Bowl Championships: 5 (1971, 1977, 1992, 1993, 1995)
In jest, the folks of News 8 Daybreak, our esteemed morning show, posted this “official” bandwagon form to Facebook midway through November… And, as it turned out, the people wanted it to be seen -- it was shared over 22,000 times. So, if it’s just now reaching your eyeballs, maybe fill it out [wink emoji].
The Cowboys released their own "bandwagon application" on Facebook ahead of their first playoff game, too.
Players to know
If you want to look like a real Cowboys fan, you have to be able to hold a conversation about the most impactful performers on the field:
• Dak Prescott: The Cowboys’ rookie starting quarterback, mature beyond his years, with an uncanny ability to keep possession of the football. He’s quite good, and only getting better. Even after 11 straight wins, some were doubting the guy when he struggled in the team's first loss in three months. He shut them up with back-to-back stellar performances against Tampa Bay and Detroit.
• Ezekiel Elliott: The team’s rookie running back who’s leading the NFL in rushing and holds the record for most rushing touchdowns by a Cowboys rookie. He’s also quite good.
• The Offensive Line: Heralded by many as the best O-line in the league. They’re a juggernaut.
• Dez Bryant: One of the league’s elite receivers, who is finally healthy and playing inspired since the passing of his father. He even recorded a passing touchdown in Week 16.
• Jason Witten: The epitome of durability, and class. Despite his streak of 130 games with a reception coming to an end, he's still started 160 in a row and is a leader for this team.
• Sean Lee: Slowed by injuries the last few years, Lee is healthy again and anchoring the defense at middle linebacker. He's been lighting the world on fire in recent weeks.
• Cole Beasley: The 5-foot-8 receiver from SMU has arguably become Prescott’s favorite target.
• Dan Bailey: Only the most accurate kicker in NFL history. The certainties in life are death, taxes and Dan Bailey.
• David Irving: A new addition to this list, Irving dominated against Tampa Bay in Week 15. He recorded two sacks and a pass deflection while disrupting Bucs QB Jameis Winston throughout the game. The Cowboys picked him up off of Kansas City's practice squad before the 2015 season and his playing time has been limited. He's shown flashes of brilliance of late.
• Byron Jones: The Cowboys' first-round pick in 2015 who set the scouting on fire with his athleticism. He played as a safety last year, and has almost seamlessly moved to cornerback this season.
• Other members of the secondary: They're unheralded, but have quietly been a strength for the 2016 Cowboys. Morris Claiborne, who is expected to return in some capacity after missing significant time with a groin injury, has broken out this year after four mostly-disappointing seasons. If you don't know what to say during a conversation about the team's defense, say you're impressed by the secondary. Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick have also played well, along with sixth-round pick Anthony Brown.
Click here to see the Cowboys' full roster.
Why this season has been so special
Here’s the sobering reality for longtime Cowboys fans: The team has just three playoff wins since its 1995 Super Bowl win.
That’s not ideal.
We won’t jinx the wonderful run they’re on this year, but the 2016 team is looking like this franchise’s first legitimate championship contender in a long time. The Cowboys tied the franchise record with 13 wins in the regular season -- and very well could've set the record if they didn't bench their star players in a meaningless Week 17 loss in Philadelphia.
Its offense is one of the most electric in the league, and its defense has been serviceable in stopping teams when it needs to and keeping the team afloat when the offense struggles.
And, the best part? There’s SO MUCH HOPE for the future. If the Cowboys don’t win Super Bowl 51, it’s OK -- they could easily make a run next year. Or the year after. Or the year after. Or the year after that. You get it.
Why? Because rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has supplanted 36-year-old Tony Romo as the team’s starter with an impressive run in his place. (For the truly uninitiated, Romo went down with a back injury in the preseason, then backup Kellen Moore got hurt, opening the door for Prescott -- the team’s fourth-round pick in 2016.)
Among Prescott’s highlights:
• An NFL record 176 passes without an interception to start his career (better than Tom Brady!)
• Second-best completion percentage in a single game in history (minimum 30 passes thrown) in Week 15 (88.9%)
• Only four interceptions through the entire regular season. (Cowboys QBs combined for 22 last year)
• Five fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives (Weeks 2, 8, 10, 13 and 15)
The good news for Prescott is that, when he doesn’t feel like putting the team on his back, he can turn around and hand it off to the Cowboys’ other phenomenal rookie, Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott was lauded as a “generational talent” when he was taken No. 4 overall in this year’s draft. And he’s given no reason to think that’s not true. All he did in the regular season is lead the NFL in rushing yards, carries, first downs and rushes of 20+ yards, and finished third in touchdowns -- and he didn't play in Week 17.
That’s impressive stuff!
Hardware coming to Dallas
Cowboys fans want a Super Bowl trophy. If you want to fit in with the diehards, you have to think every year is the year they’ll bring the Lombardi back to Dallas.
But even if it’s not the year just yet, the Cowboys will very likely be taking home some awards when it’s all said and done.
With Elliott and Prescott both taking the league by storm, the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award is all but guaranteed to come to Dallas.
Elliott has the edge, sitting atop the NFL in several rushing categories -- most importantly, rushing yards.
The last Dallas Cowboy to win Offensive Rookie of the Year? Emmitt Smith in 1990 (and before that, Tony Dorsett in 1976).
Both of the stud rookies have had their names come up in MVP discussions, too. The worry here is that the two rookies will cancel each other out and the award will go to a quarterback like Tom Brady or Matt Ryan.
Lebron James, who knows a thing or two about MVP awards, gave an early vote to Elliott on Twitter.
Head Coach Jason Garrett is also a strong candidate for Coach of the Year.
Copyright 2016 WFAA