In three days the Dallas Cowboys will play their first game of the 2016 season. Their opening day opponent is a familiar foe, especially in the last handful of years, and hopefully by the end of the game we’ll see a 1-0 team.
We should have a better sense of how good this team will be and if rookie Dak Prescott is just preseason hype.
So now’s the time to bring the predictions for the Cowboys’ season. A week from now we could be on the right track or heading down a dark path…let’s shoot for the former. Let’s begin:
This is a flawed football team, but not necessarily a bad one. Here’s what we know; the offense is going to carry these Cowboys. The line has been built up to establish their dominance on opposing defenses and they brought in the best running back in the draft to run behind them.
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On a team where a knucklehead like Joseph Randle and scheme misfit Darren McFadden thrived last year, expect Ezekiel Elliott to run wild. Many of those long runs in the past few years that were 40 or 50-yard gains will now become touchdowns because of Elliott’s special talent. It was the best fit of player and team all offseason, including free agency, now the Cowboys will ride his young legs.
The quarterback situation is more unsettled, but there is hope in Dak Prescott. The inexperienced quarterback just needs to follow the script to help the team succeed; take the snap, hand it off most of the time, and occasionally make a throw to Dez Bryant for a big play or a timely throw to Cole Beasley or Jason Witten to keep the chains moving.
That game plan is easier when you have Tony Romo to execute it, but we know that won’t be the case early on. However, I believe that even though he’ll have some growing pains, Prescott will be fine. Dak brings the temperament and leadership the team likes and he will be able to play well enough to keep Dallas’ head above water until Romo returns.
What we don’t know as much about is the defense, except that they are short on pass rushers. Welcome to the last three years with this team. As we have been saying all off-season, there is potential for the young pressure players to surprise us all, but no one knows for sure.
I think this is the year we see defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli get a little more creative with his blitzes to jump start the pass rush. The Cowboys have an improved secondary with Orlando Scandrick back, Morris Claiborne is playing his best football and they are finally employing a coverage safety in Byron Jones; this should allow a more aggressive game plan.
The key on defense is to force turnovers, which the Cowboys were woefully bad at last year. Sometimes getting them isn’t just about skill level, but getting a little lucky. Expect them to get luckier this season and cause more turnovers, especially with the offense helping control the time of possession.
There is too much doom and gloom for the Dallas Cowboys right now. They have too much talent on offense to be a bad football team and losing Tony Romo before the season is much different than losing him during it, like they did last year. Dak Prescott will be an upgrade over anyone they started behind Romo last season and you’ll see a different team with Prescott than you saw with Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel or Kellen Moore. A creative, more aggressive offensive approach.
Dallas will also have a better defense than most people think. They won’t lead the league in sacks, but they’ll get enough pressure to help cause turnovers and give the offense more opportunities to bludgeon opposing defenses to death.
Last year I had a sinking feeling about the Cowboys while predicting a 10-6 record. This season, I feel a lot better about a team many don’t believe in. The division isn’t great, the schedule is soft and I think Prescott can play a little bit.
I’m not sure where it leads in the end but I’m going with my gut; pencil me in for predicting a 10-6 record again for the Dallas Cowboys. They will be a playoff team and if Romo can come back and stay healthy, they could make a run with their defensive players returning to pitch in as well.
Even if Tony Romo doesn’t return to health, I think Dak Prescott and the running game can lead to a successful year.
I’ve been wrong before, though.
Five Bold Predictions:
Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL rushing with over 1,600 yards and scores double digit touchdowns.
Tony Romo returns after the bye week and plays the remaining 10 games, plus the playoffs, healthy.
Jason Witten, although still really good, returns to dominance: over 80 catches, 900 yards and eight touchdowns.
The defense will cause at least 25 turnovers and Byron Jones accounts for five on his own (interceptions, forced fumbles, etc…).
Dan Bailey will miss the first extra point of his career.
You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi