The Dallas Cowboys are nothing if not dramatic. Dallas began last season alternating wins and losses through the first handful of games before turning on the jets after their bye in Week 8. The Cowboys started the year 3-4, and the bye was bookended by underwhelming losses against the Redskins and Titans. However, the Cowboys caught fire after that calamitous Monday night showing against Tennessee, as they would go on to win seven of their next eight to take control of the NFC East.
Dallas’ win streak included impressive triumphs over heavyweights like the Saints and Eagles, which proved that their run was no fluke. Things were briefly interrupted by a 23-0 shutout in Indianapolis in Week 15, but the Cowboys won back-to-back games to close out the season strong. Jason Garrett’s team went 10-6 overall, including a 5-1 mark against their divisional opponents.
The Dallas Cowboys would go on to topple Seattle at home in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs before falling 30-22 at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round. While the team ultimately fell well short of finally making it back to the Super Bowl, the 2018 campaign had to be considered a success all in all. Garrett’s job looked like it was going to be on the ropes after the season, but the team’s dramatic turnaround helped him keep his gig for at least another season. The team ultimately decided against extending his contract, though, which means his future may be in question if the team falters in ‘19.
The NFC East has been one of the toughest divisions in football for years, but it’s looking thin on paper heading into the new season. Dallas and Philadelphia look primed to compete for playoff spots, but it would be a surprise if either Washington or New York come close to the .500 mark. The Eagles are listed at +100 favorites to win the division, while the Cowboys aren’t far behind (+130).
Is this the year the Cowboys finally win the NFC for the first time since the mid-1990s? Or will “America’s Team” see its championship drought inch closer to the 25-year mark?
While the Cowboys decided to keep Garrett around, they did decide to pull the plug on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Dallas’ offense was rather unimaginative last season, and Jerry Jones is hoping that a switch will help improve the team’s offensive production. Kellen Moore, who served as the team’s quarterbacks coach last season, was promoted into the O.C. position. Moore has zero play-calling experience at any level as a coach, so it remains to be seen whether the 30-year-old will be an upgrade over a more seasoned coach in Linehan.
Jones has a flair for the dramatic, but the Dallas Cowboys didn’t make any splashy moves this offseason. The plan was to keep the roster largely intact while attempting to upgrade at a few spots. The team’s midseason trade for Amari Cooper last season cost them a 2019 first-rounder, but Cooper looked so good after joining the team last year that Jones would surely do that same trade again if given the opportunity for a do-over. Cooper’s emergence as well as the impressive rookie campaign of Michael Gallup made longtime slot man Cole Beasley expendable. Beasley inked a deal with the Bills as a free agent. Dallas signed former Packer Randall Cobb to fill Beasley’s vacated spot in the offense.
Clearly, the Cowboys wanted to try and upgrade the defensive line. Former first-rounder Robert Quinn and former Texan Christian Covington were brought in as free agents. Star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was signed to a lucrative new contract extension. Former Central Florida D-tackle Trysten Hill was also the team’s highest draft choice. Randy Gregory was suspended again, but the Dallas Cowboys have faith that the new reinforcements will help fill the void.
Blocking tight end Geoff Swaim was another departure, but he was easily replaced when Jason Witten decided to come out of retirement. Witten’s performance in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth last season was widely panned, which was certainly part of the reason the future Hall of Famer decided to put the pads back on. Witten surely won’t be as productive as he was during his heyday, but he should still serve as a nice safety valve for Dak Prescott.
The biggest question mark looming over training camp is the contract situation of star running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott has been arguably the most-productive back in the league since coming out of Ohio State, and he wants his money. The Dallas Cowboys’ entire offense is centered around the 24-year-old, so I would imagine Jones will pony up and get him into uniform before the regular season begins in September. Dallas doesn’t have enough depth at the position to let Elliott miss an entire season like Le’Veon Bell did in Pittsburgh, so I’d expect a deal to get done sooner than later.
|Points per Game||Passing Yards per Game||Rushing Yards per Game|
|21.2 (22nd)||221.1 (23rd)||122.7 (10th)|
|Points Allowed per Game||Passing Yards Allowed per Game||Rushing Yards Allowed per Game|
|20.2 (7th)||234.7 (13th)||94.6 (5th)|
|1||Sun, Sep. 8||vs. New York Giants||4:25pm||FOX|
|2||Sun, Sep. 15||at Washington Redskins||1:00pm||FOX|
|3||Sun, Sep. 22||vs. Miami Dolphins||1:00pm||FOX|
|4||Sun, Sep. 29||at New Orleans Saints||8:20pm||NBC|
|5||Sun, Oct. 6||vs. Green Bay Packers||4:25pm||FOX|
|6||Sun, Oct. 13||at New York Jets||4:25pm||CBS|
|7||Sun, Oct. 20||vs. Philadelphia Eagles||8:20pm||NBC|
|9||Mon, Nov. 4||at New York Giants||8:15pm||ESPN|
|10||Sun, Nov. 10||vs. Minnesota Vikings||8:20pm||NBC|
|11||Sun, Nov. 17||at Detroit Lions||1:00pm||FOX|
|12||Sun, Nov. 24||at New England Patriots||4:25pm||FOX|
|13||Thu, Nov. 28||vs. Buffalo Bills||4:30pm||CBS|
|14||Thu, Dec. 5||at Chicago Bears||8:20pm||FOX/NFL Net.|
|15||Sun, Dec. 15||vs. Los Angeles Rams||4:25pm||FOX|
|16||Sun, Dec. 22||at Philadelphia Eagles||4:25pm||FOX|
|17||Sun, Dec. 29||vs. Washington Redskins||1:00pm||FOX|
The Dallas Cowboys will certainly be tested in the first half of the season. The campaign kicks off with back-to-back divisional games against New York and Washington. Neither team is expected to be good, but these divisional rivalries tend to be more competitive than your standard run-of-the-mill affair. I do like the Dallas Cowboys’ chances of starting 3-0 with a terrible Miami team coming to Texas in Week 3, but a Saints-Packers-Jets-Eagles run before the bye in Week 8 is a daunting stretch. The “easiest” game on the schedule is the Jets matchup, but that game will take place in New Jersey.
The second half of the schedule features matchups with four of last year’s playoff teams in New England, Chicago, the LA Rams, and Philly, with just one of those games coming at home. It will help that the Cowboys will get an extended off period between Weeks 14 and 15 thanks to a Thursday game in Chicago in Week 14, though. That will come in handy amid a tough stretch of the schedule.
I wouldn’t necessarily expect the Dallas Cowboys to repeat their 5-1 performance against their NFC East rivals again, but 4-2 certainly isn’t out of the question either. Fixtures against the AFC East and NFC North make for difficult games to predict as well. The Jets and Bills should be improved this season, while the Packers, Bears, and Vikings should all be in the mix for NFC playoff spots.
The Cowboys will have major expectations this season with Dak Prescott entering his fourth NFL season. He’s led the team to two playoff appearances in three years to this point. And for the first time, he appears to have some legitimate weaponry at his disposal. Assuming Elliott signs and gets onto the field heading into Week 1, this looks like the most well-rounded offense Dallas will have had in several years.
It also helps that All Pro center Travis Frederick, who missed all of last year with a rare illness, should be back and ready to roll. The Dallas Cowboys have arguably the most talented offensive line in all of football. So, if Prescott can continue to show improvement, there aren’t many obvious weaknesses on this side of the football.
While the offense was passable last season, the defense surprisingly carried the load. The additions of Covington and Quinn to the front-7 should help improve the pass-rush, while keeping Lawrence in the fold was an absolute necessity. Dallas was middle-of-the-pack (16th) in terms of sacks last season, and they ranked near the bottom of the league with just nine interceptions. This was one of the best run-stopping units in the NFL a season ago, and there is no real reason to believe it won’t be near the top in that department once again in 2019.
This version of the Cowboys doesn’t look much different on paper than the one that won the division a year ago. That said, oddsmakers are a bit more bearish than I would’ve expected:
Odds via MyBookie
The Dallas Cowboys’ win prop is set at 9. This is due in part to what should be a deep and competitive NFC, as well as a fairly difficult out-of-division schedule for the ‘Boys. Oddsmakers don’t seem to be buying Prescott as one of the better starting quarterbacks in the league, nor do they seem to think the defense will rank among the league’s best once again.
The question marks surrounding Elliott may also be scaring oddsmakers. If Zeke’s holdout extends into the regular season, the Dallas Cowboys’ rushing attack goes from one of the more prolific in the game to one massive unknown. Behind Elliott on the depth chart are Alfred Morris, Tony Pollard, Jamize Olawale, and Mike Weber. Obviously, those names don’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence.
However, I said that I expect the Dallas Cowboys to get a deal done in time for the regular season. The former top-5 pick has topped 1,400 rushing yards in two of his three seasons as a pro. With Frederick back healthy, I would expect another monster season out of him if he’s able to suit up for all 16 games.
Dallas is going to have to make the most of the soft spots on the schedule. That means going 4-0 against the Giants and Redskins while also beating inferior teams like the Dolphins, Jets, Lions, and Bills. Taking care of business with those teams gets the Cowboys to 8 wins, while they would have to win just 2 combined against the Eagles, Patriots, Saints, Vikings, Packers and Rams in order to get over 9.
There is clear downside here if Dallas struggles to beat some of the better opponents on the schedule, but it’s hard to picture this team not winding up near the top of the division. As a result, I think 9 wins is a pretty low mark, and I think the Cowboys should be able to top it.
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