America’s Team is heading into the 2018 season with one thing on their mind: resurgence.
The Cowboys need this resurgence after a lackluster 2017 season, which had them at 9-7 and second place in the NFC East. This charge in 2018 will be led by some unfamiliar leaders as the dominant faces of the 2000s, Jason Witten and Tony Romo, have both ridden off into the sunset in the past two offseasons.
The retirement of Witten this offseason will leave a Texas-sized hole in the offense and locker room as he was one of the most productive players to ever don the star on his helmet.
The Cowboy faithful have plenty to look forward too, however, as this team has what it takes to do well in the NFC East this year.
History is on Dallas’ side as they have dominated this division in the past with their 22 NFC East titles. This feat is especially impressive due to the amount of parity of this division in the last 15 years. Since 2003, only one team has won the NFC East in consecutive years (Philadelphia Eagles 2003 and 2004).
Speaking of Philadelphia, the only team that can logically knock them off of their pedestal is none other than the Dallas Cowboys.
Look for Dallas to return to their 2016 form on offense as Ezekiel Elliott, who had a distraction-filled 2017 campaign in which he played just 10 games, will finally come back to peak form and dominate the NFC in rushing. Despite his limited playing time last season, Zeke was still on pace to beat his 2016 league-leading rushing yards (1,631) as he still had an astounding 983 through just 10 games. Look for much of the offense to run through Elliot as he will look to fill the void that the Jason Witten loss will leave.
Quarterback Dak Prescott will also look to put up the same numbers he did his rookie season as he had a bit of a drop off last year. In 2017, Prescott had 3324 yards, which is 343 less than he had the previous year. Prescott will also progress in his clutch stats this year and lead his team to many late game victories. Dak did a great job in this last year as he was tied for first place in the league in game winning drives with 4.
In order to return to optimal form, Prescott will have to look for another elusive receiver target as long-time Cowboy, Dez Bryant, was released from the team this offseason.
The Cowboys’ WR corps will need to work extremely hard as a cohesive unit if they want to have great production this year. It is unlikely that Dallas will have a “No. 1 option” at receiver due to the style that Dak Prescott likes to play. Prescott will look to spread out the offense and will do so with targets such as: 2018 draftee Michael Gallup, newly-acquired Allen Hurns, and Cole Beasley.
Of these 3 receivers, I believe Allen Hurns will have a breakout year if he can stay healthy. Hurns put up solid numbers in 2015, putting up 1031 receiving yards in his only 15 + game season.
Dallas’ defense is returning some very young and promising pieces in 2018. The biggest concern for the Cowboys is the issues they had in the secondary last season. Their defense ranked 8th in the league last year in yards allowed and was tied for 13th in points allowed, which was a key reason they went a mediocre 9-7.
If Dallas wants to return to glory they simply need more production from their young corners. Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are both entering their sophomore season and both played well as rookies last year. The potential of these two is very high as they are both seeming to learn well together and will look to put up better numbers this season.
One Cowboy who has momentum coming into this year is young defensive end, Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence exploded for a team leading 14.5 sacks last year along with 4 forced fumbles. Lawrence is making a name for himself as one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL and will develop along with the rest of this young defense.
The Cowboys also made defense their priority on draft day as they picked up an exciting young linebacker in the form of Leighton Vander Esch. Vander Esch was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 for the Boise State Broncos and ranked 5th in the FBS in tackles (141).
Game By Game Predictions
Week 1 @ Carolina Panther
In the past 6 seasons, the Cowboys have won 4 out of their last 6 season openers. This notion will remain here as Dak and Zeke carry the Boys over the Panthers in Carolina.
Pick: Cowboys (1-0)
Week 2 vs. New York Giants
An early rivalry game ends in victory for the Cowboys over the Giants. Zeke completely outperforms Saquon Barkley and the national media has their eyes set on 2-0 Dallas.
Pick: Cowboys (2-0)
Week 3 @ Seattle Seahawks
The Cowboys come into Seattle and defeat a Seahawks team that is searching for a new defensive identity. R.I.P. Legion of Boom.
Pick: Cowboys (3-0)
Week 4 vs. Detroit Lions
Matt Patricia does a great job in evolving the Detroit defense as the Lions defeat Dallas in a low-scoring affair.
Cowboys record: (3-1)
Week 5 @ Houston Texans
This Lone Star State rivalry ends with the Cowboys completely dismantling the Texans. Many pundits call for the firing of Bill O’Brien.
Pick: Cowboys (4-1)
Week 6 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville made the AFC championship game last year as a very young and inexperienced team. They will dominate their division and the Cowboys in this game.
Cowboys record: (4-2)
Week 7 @ Washington Redskins
Washington made some questionable moves this offseason and doesn’t seem to have a direction as a team right now. Look for Dallas to avenge their loss last week with an easy win over Alex Smith and the Redskins.
Pick: Cowboys (5-2)
Week 8: BYE
Week 9 vs. Tennessee Titans
The Cowboys lose yet another game to a promising AFC South opponent. Tennessee not only updated their uniforms this year, they updated their roster and head coaching situation as well. The Titans defeats Dalla in a close matchup.
Cowboys record: (5-3)
Week 10 @ Philadelphia Eagles
A bloodbath of a game ends in a game winning drive by Dak Prescott as the Cowboys go into Philly and defeat the defending champs by a close margin.
Pick: Cowboys (6-3)
Week 11 @ Atlanta Falcons
The Cowboys let momentum carry them to victory over the Falcons in week 11. This allows them to take the division lead over the Eagles.
Pick: Cowboys (7-3)
Week 12 vs. Washington Redskins
This game will end much like the week 7 matchup did: in Cowboy domination.
Pick: Cowboys (8-3)
Week 13 vs. New Orleans Saints
The Saints were one miracle play away from the NFC Championship and, like Dallas, have some great defensive and offensive pieces returning. The deciding factor of this game however will be the experience of Drew Brees as the Saints defeat the Cowboys in Jerry World.
Cowboys record: (8-4)
Week 14 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
I predict that this game will decide the division winner, but not who makes the playoffs… The Eagles will be victorious over Dallas this week but the Cowboys will recover and may see Philly once again this year in the postseason.
Cowboys record: (8-5)
Week 15: @ Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck is a formidable opponent but the Cowboys will start a win streak here by defeating Indianapolis by a large margin.
Pick: Cowboys (9-5)
Week 16: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The lack of talent and Jameis Winston drama that the Bucs have had this offseason cause them to have a horrible season. Dallas by a million.
Pick: Cowboys (10-5)
Week 17 @ New York Giants
As much as the gods of football chaos love the NFC East, the Cowboys will once again defeat the Giants and clinch a wildcard berth in week 17 of the NFL season.
Pick: Cowboys (11-5)