Dallas Cowboys

Why Troy Aikman believes Cowboys can beat Rams, end 23-year NFC title game drought

It’s been 23 years since the Dallas Cowboys last won two playoff games or qualified for the NFC conference title game.

Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman led that 1995 team to the last of three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s and acknowledges “it’s been a long time.”

But it’s a drought he believes is about to come to an end with a win in Saturday’s NFC Divisional playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams (13-3).

“I believe they can do it,” said Aikman at a photo shoot at Children’s Medical Center to promote the 31st annual Children’s Cancer Fund Gala, set for April 26 at the Hilton Anatole. “I definitely think they can do it. I think the Rams got some weaknesses on their team that can be exploited. I believe if Dallas plays to the level that they are capable of playing they can win the game for sure.”

Doing so would put the Cowboys (11-6) back in the NFC title game for the time since 1995 and put them one win away from playing in the Super Bowl for the first time since... 1995.

That was the last of the Aikman-led title teams of the 1990s. They won in 1992 and 1993.

The 1992 team was a young team that actually won the title a year earlier than expected.

And he said this Cowboys team, which opened the season as the youngest team in NFL and has the youngest roster of the remaining playoff teams, reminds him of the 1992 team.

“Yeah, I think this year for them it does remind me a lot of our run in ‘92 in a way,” Aikman said. “Now, they are having to go one more game than we did, and we were a No. 2 seed and all. But I just think with their youth, kind of doing it even though they went to the playoffs a couple years ago. This team has a much better feel to it.”

Aikman is not predicting a Super Bowl victory but he believes the Cowboys are riding the momentum of a strong finish and a wild-card playoff win against the Seattle Seahawks after an up and down start to the season.

He believes the pressure is on the top seeds in the divisional round and all the wild-card winners can go into this weekend playing a little looser and feeling good about their chances of winning it all, including Dallas.

“I do believe these teams, these wild-card winners going into the divisional round, go into the game early with less pressure on them,” Aikman said. “I think the pressure is on the 1 and 2 seeds. And for Dallas, even though internally I’m sure they have very high expectations of going all the way, I think externally anything they do from here on out is kind of just icing on the cake. They’re able to go out and play a little looser and it’s a good time right now.

“You go through a season and there are a lot of ups and downs, but right now, all of these teams feel real good about what they’ve accomplished, where they’re at, and probabilities of them going on and winning it all.”

Aikman saved his best praise for quarterback Dak Prescott.

While he lauded Prescott as a player and his ability to inspire his teammates and play his best when it matters most, Aikman gave him the highest marks for his leadership and how he represents the team as the face of the franchise.

“I’ve said often I think sometimes when you start with the amount of money that’s involved in paying these guys as franchise quarterbacks, I think you have to take a step back and really evaluate how they’re going to do, how they’re going to represent, be the face of the club,” said Aikman in rubber stamping a possible long-term contract extension for Prescott. “And Dak is one guy you just simply don’t have to worry about. He’s a great leader. He’s everything you want him to be. I don’t know that there’s a more solid individual in the National Football League. He’s been awesome in every sense in that way, and everybody says that.

“And then when what he’s done on the field. I think that he has shown an ability to win games late. And that’s a quality not everybody has, and he’s shown to have that even in games where he has shown not to have played his best. I think that’s the greatest quality as it inspires teammates. It lets him know that no matter what, no matter what’s happened in the game, they can come back and win.”

Clarence E. Hill Jr. :@clarencehilljr
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