Can the Cowboys keep smiling?

Cowboys outside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (55) claps after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 24-22 in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at AT&T Stadium.Shane Roper-USA TODAY Sports

Conventional wisdom suggests Dallas has maxed out, but defiant Cowboys will get their say versus Rams.

The playoffs hit full volume this week with the top seeds hosting last week’s victors in the Divisional round.

Dallas travels to Los Angeles to play the Rams. Los Angeles is a 7-point favorite and ESPN’s Matchup Predictor gives the Rams a 78.7-percent chance to win.

Here are the optimistic and pessimistic views of the Cowboys’ chances this weekend, along with my pick.

Glass half-empty:

The Cowboys have maxed out for this season. Winning the NFC East and then picking up a home win against Seattle in the Wild Card round of the playoffs are the best Dallas could have hoped for this season. The Cowboys’ offense has been inconsistent and it’s bound to catch up with them sooner or later, most likely on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Glass half-full:

The Cowboys have gained momentum throughout the season and the process is working. Dallas is playing its best football and, considering the talent it has in key places (defensive end, linebacker, running back), makes it as good as any team in the NFL. The Cowboys trip to Los Angeles is ideal as they have a fan base in Southern California due to its longtime training camp location in the area. Dallas has a better-than-average chance to string together back-to-back playoff wins for the first time since 1996, the last time the Cowboys won a Super Bowl.

My take:

It really does seem like winning a road playoff game and reaching the NFC Championship game is beyond reasonable expectations for this Cowboys team. However, if there’s one defining personality trait of this Dallas squad, it’s the pleasure it takes in defying expectations (and then making sure to stick it to those who said they couldn’t do it). HOWEVER, I’m not going to fall into the trap of picking Dallas out of bandwagon momentum.

Rams 31, Cowboys 24

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