INDIANAPOLIS – It's December and the Dallas Cowboys have once again positioned themselves in the thick of the NFC East race.
After missing the playoffs in season finale losses the last three years, the Cowboys took a major step in avoiding such late season drama on Sunday night.
Just two weeks after losing a home, Thanksgiving contest to the Eagles 33-10, the Cowboys went into Philadelphia in Week 15 and left with an 11-point victory.
It was a statement victory for a Cowboys team that has put together arguably the most balanced offensive attack in the NFL.
Dallas comes into Week 16, winners in four of its last five games (the lone loss to the Eagles on Thanksgiving), with all of those victories coming on the road.
Quarterback Tony Romo has returned from a back injury to throw for 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions in that stretch. During those four Cowboys wins, Romo has recorded a quarterback rating of at least 120.5 in each victory.
Of course, the Cowboys have continued to learn on running back DeMarco Murray and his record-setting campaign.
Murray (351 carries for 1,687 yards and 11 touchdowns) has been the ultimate workhorse at a position that typically employs so many multiple back looks.
He has 76 more rushing attempts than any other running back and has 411 more rushing yards than any other player.
When Romo needs a check down in the passing game, Murray is normally his guy with 54 catches on the season.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant torched the Eagles secondary on Sunday night and his 13 touchdown catches lead the NFL.
The offense ranks second in third-down conversions and, just like the Colts, they posses the ball at a high rate.
Dallas' defense has struggled for most of 2014, giving up an average of 25 points per game in the last nine weeks (6-3 during that stretch).
For the Colts, they still have an outside chance at securing a bye but would need to win their last two games and have Denver and/or New England lose both of their final games.
2014 Record: 10-4, 1st in the NFC East
*Head Coach: *Jason Garrett, 5th season as Cowboys head coach and 5th season as NFL head coach (39-31 overall in the regular season).
*2014 NFL Rankings: *Offense – Overall, 9th (377.7); Rushing, 3rd (146.6); Passing, 16th (231.1). Defense – Overall, 22nd (359.9); Rushing, 15th (110.4); Passing, 23rd (249.6).
2014 Leading Passer: Tony Romo (264-of-381 comp., 3,188 yards, 69.3 pct., 28 TDs, 8 INTs).
*2014 Leading Rusher: *DeMarco Murray (351 carries, 1,687 yards, 11 TDs).
*2014 Leading Receiver: *Dez Bryant (79 receptions, 1,148 yards, 13 TDs).
2014 Leading Sacker: Jeremy Mincey and Henry Melton (5.0)
2014 Turnover Breakdown: Plus 2 (tied for 13th in the NFL).
2014 NFL Draft Results: When the Cowboys went on the clock with the 16th overall pick back in May, Johnny Manziel was the popular choice. Dallas resisted the urge though and instead chose a versatile offensive lineman that has proven to be an All-Pro type player in his rookie campaign. Zack Martin (Notre Dame) has started every game at right guard, fortifying one of the league's best rushing attacks. In their next two picks, the Cowboys selected hybrid end/linebacker DeMarcus Lawrence (Boise State) and linebacker Anthony Hitchens (Iowa).
*2013 Review: *The always entertaining Cowboys saw their playoff hopes dashed in the final game of the 2013 season for the third straight year. Dallas entered the month of December sitting at 7-5 and on the right side of the playoff picture. However, they dropped three of their final four games including losing to the Eagles, 24-22, at home in Week 17. The Cowboys did have five Pro Bowlers last year, four on the offensive side of the ball.
Last time in Playoffs: 2009 season. Lost in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs, 34-3, to the Minnesota Vikings.
*Last time in Super Bowl: *1995. Won Super Bowl XXX, 27-17, over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
*Super Bowl Championships: *Five. 1971 (VI), 1977 (XII), 1992 (XXVII), 1993 (XXVIII) and 1995 (XXX).
2014 Pro Bowl Selections: WR-Dez Bryant, DT-Jason Hatcher, RB-DeMarco Murray, OT-Tyron Smith and TE-Jason Witten.