Mike McCarthy repeated the phrase three times Saturday night in the Cowboys’ postgame locker room: “starting line.”

“It starts right now,” he told his NFC East champion team after a 51-26 win in Philadelphia. “Our starting line starts when we (expletive) touch down. It’s going to get real. And we’re ready.”

The No. 3 seed Cowboys (12-5) will host the No. 6 San Francisco 49ers (10-7) in an NFC wild card matchup Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET. The game will air on CBS, Paramount+, Nickelodeon and Amazon Prime Video. It will feature a contest between two teams with a storied playoff rivalry. But neither franchise advanced to the postseason last year.

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“Win to keep going and we plan to keep doing that regardless of who we play or who we line up against,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. “Line ’em up, we’re ready to go. Going to look forward to making a run.”

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) passes the ball under pressure from Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Raequan Williams (61) and Eagles defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (90).

The Cowboys arrive at the postseason averaging an NFL-best 31.2 points and 407 offensive yards per game. But an offense anchored by a high-performing lineup of homegrown talent – including Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb – no longer need carry games on its shoulder alone. Dallas’ defense improved drastically from 2020 to 2021, and the Niners best beware young stars in cornerback Trevon Diggs and rookie chess piece Micah Parsons. Diggs intercepted a league-high 11 passes in 16 games; Parsons’ impact ranged from 13 sacks and three forced fumbles to 84 total tackles including 20 tackles for loss.

The 49ers arrive with late-season momentum to the tune of seven wins in their last nine games. They advanced to the postseason after an upset comeback to beat the Rams 27-24 in overtime Sunday. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has…



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