Fresh off an embarrassing 26-6 loss to the Washington Commanders on Sunday, the Cowboys face daunting realities.
Firstly, fifth-seeded Dallas has a difficult road to the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys, who have a 4-4 road record, must beat Tom Brady at Tampa Bay on Monday and win at the 14-3 Philadelphia Eagles to advance to the NFC title game.
On the opposite side of the bracket, the 49ers are heavy favorites to reach the NFC title game. If the Cowboys win two difficult road games, they could find themselves playing on the road against the 49ers, who have won 10 straight.
Making matters worse, the Cowboys must be feeling the pressure of a rapidly closing window.
Key offensive and defensive components will be free agents in the offseason, including tight end Dalton Schultz, RB Tony Pollard, OT Terence Steele, RG Connor McGovern, WR T.Y. Hilton, WR Noah Brown, QB Cooper Rush, kicker Brett Maher, safety Donovan Wilson, cornerback Anthony Brown, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., linebacker Anthony Barr and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
Of the 22 impending free agents, 18 are making less than $2 million per year, per Overthecap.com, which will make replacing their production and/or value a tough task with limited cash coming off the books.
In addition to two of their starting five offensive lineman entering free agency, the other three are also on expiring contracts. Center Tyler Biadasz and left tackle Tyron Smith both have one year left, and right guard Zack Martin has two remaining.
Dallas is also on the hook for $52.9 million over the next four years for declining RB Ezekiel Elliott, $25 million over the next two years for a declining DE Demarcus Lawrence, and $40.5 million over the next four years for disappointing and unproductive WR Michael Gallup.
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are also expected to draw head-coaching interest.
Unless the Giants or Seahawks pull off improbable upsets, Dallas is looking at three difficult road games to get to the Super Bowl.
Another early playoff exit would have an added sting in the offseason when the Cowboys are facing many roster decisions and limitations.