Dallas Cowboys star quarterback Dak Prescott capped off his regular season with a much-needed laugher, throwing for 295 yards and five touchdowns in the team's 51-26 road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles' second-stringers last Saturday. Call it a tune-up game for the NFC East champions.
But Prescott's stellar performance against a defense full of backups doesn't guarantee similar results this Sunday, when Dallas hosts the San Francisco 49ers in a marquee wild-card matchup at AT&T Stadium. It's been three years since he last played in a postseason game, and local radio host Shan Shariff harbors some doubts about Prescott's preparedness and mentality.
"Whenever anyone ever talks about Dak Prescott, the first thing that we talk about is his leadership and his mental state," Shariff told The Zach Gelb Show on Thursday. "And this is the first time that I've ever questioned him, upstairs, in terms of confidence, what he's seeing on the field, whether he has a seed of doubt in his mind... I don't know if two performances against Washington and Philadelphia get that doubt of his mind or out of my mind.
"Something's off, in terms of reading coverages. Vic Fangio with the Broncos kind of set the blueprint, and then Vance Joseph -- who worked in Denver -- kind of copied that blueprint with Arizona with what they did to us. It was an ugly stretch around here. And that had the magical word 'slump' being used, which ticked Dak, McCarthy, everybody off. But it was legit, it was accurate."
Although the Cowboys have long operated under a championship-or-bust standard, Prescott doesn't seem the least bit afraid of big-game pressure. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he said that high expectations usually yield high results, and the opportunity isn't being taken for granted. In 16 games this season, Prescott racked up 4,449 yards with a career-high 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Dallas (12-5) and San Francisco (10-7), which haven't faced each other in the playoffs since the 1994 NFC championship game, are scheduled to kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET. According to FiveThirtyEight's projections, the Cowboys have a 69-percent chance to reach the divisional round and a 13-percent chance to punch a ticket to Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles.
The entire Cowboys conversation between Shariff and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.