Imagine the frustration the head office of the Dallas Cowboys must be feeling. Two consecutive playoff appearances under superstar quarterback Tony Romo with two consecutive losses, first to the Seattle Seahawks and then to the New York Giants.
Once again, the pressure is on Dallas to make it to the Super Bowl, or at the very least collect Romo's first playoff victory.
Heavy favorites as the NFC's No. 1 contender this year, the Cowboys are coming off a 13-3 season where they pulled off multiple impressive victories. Unfortunately, as the season went on, you watched this team slump all the way to the division round of the playoffs.
Romo threw 520 passes, completing 335 of them and scoring 36 touchdowns with 19 interceptions. He even rushed for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. He ended the season with a 97.4 quarterback rating.
With the exception of weapons in Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton, and tight end Jason Witten, Romo even had an All-Star supporting cast.
The Dallas defense even managed to pull off 19 interceptions and outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Gregg Ellis combined for 26 1/2 sacks, making them both Pro Bowl selections.
This year, Dallas will enter the fray with all 13 of its Pro Bowlers still on the roster. Speculation is that Tony Romo should only get better and the offense will continue to bloom and dominate.
During the offseason, Dallas added Zach Thomas, Adam Jones, RB Felix Jones, and cornerback Mike Jenkins. With picks like that, it's clear that Jerry Jones has his eye on another Lombardi Trophy, as does all of Dallas.
Marion Barber should keep the running game consistent, but the Cowboys' real threat will come from the passing game.
Their only true opposition this year comes from playing in a competitive division. Another 13-3 record seems plausible if not probable, but if distractions or a late season slump start affecting them, expect something closer to 11-5. Either way, a division title is likely.
Their main priorities this year should be to minimize the distractions, help incorporate Zach Thomas into the team, and ensure that they get more out of outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. If they manage to accomplish this and keep Romo's head in the game, they should be serious contenders heading toward the Super Bowl.
It all hinges on that elusive first playoff win.