Title: 32 Teams in 32 Days: Dallas Cowboys
What to expect
Rookie Quarterback Dak Prescott was the surprise story of the season. The 4th round selection made the most of his opportunity and uprooted veteran QB Tony Romo as the leader of America’s team. Behind one of the best Offensive Lines in the NFL, Prescott – and fellow rookie Running Back Ezekiel Elliott – became a solid, productive tandem. The Cowboys secured the number 1 seed in the NFC, Prescott earned NFL Rookie of the Year, and Zeke led the league in rushing. The world – even outside of Texas – was asking the question:
How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?!
Despite the amazing season, the postseason experience was one-and-done. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went to Jerry World and ended the fairy tale season. In 2017, Prescott will not be looking over his shoulder as Romo will be watching games from the broadcast booth. Although Elliott is facing potential suspension, he should be available for most of the season. The sophomore duo will attempt to recreate what they started last season with different results. An inexperienced secondary will cause some panic, but Dallas has enough talent in the NFC East to come out on top, barely edging out the New York Giants. My prediction is Dallas will host and win a playoff game, but lose in the Divisional Round due to the secondary’s inexperience.
Schedule walk through
Week 1: VS./ NEW YORK GIANTS
Dallas opens the season facing the team that had their number twice last season. Elliot is absent for this game, and Prescott is forced to try to win with his arm and the legs of runners not named Zeke. Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard are just too much for the young secondary to contain.
Week 2: VS./ @ Denver Broncos
Prescott and company travel to Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Dallas benefits from instability at QB. With or without Elliott, the Cowboys rebound and get a win over a banged up Broncos team, who dealt with Joey Bosa a week prior.
Week 3. VS./ @ Arizona Cardinals
Elliott is available for this game, and he doesn’t skip a beat. Both Zeke and David Johnson have big games on the ground. Prescott edges out Palmer with the better day through the air, which proves to be the difference. Dallas leaves the desert on a two game winning streak on the road.
Week 4. VS./ LOS ANGELES RAMS
Dallas returns to Texas. The Offensive Line contains Aaron Donald and the Cowboys use his momentum to his disadvantage. Elliott finds holes on the opposite side of Donald, and Prescott has a big day through the air. Goff throws a pick 6 and turns the ball over in Cowboy territory.
Week 5. VS./ GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Cowboys have this game marked on their calendar. They want revenge, but it won’t be easy. The game is a mirror image of the last time the two teams met. Except the Cowboys leave Lambeau with a cheesy grin following a long Dan Bailey Field Goal near the end of regulation. They head into their BYE week getting a confidence building win over a tough Packers team. They’ll meet up again in the post season.
Week 6. BYE
Week 7. VS./ @San Francisco 49ers
Fresh off the BYE, the Cowboys travel to San Francisco to face a impressive 49ers defense. Reuben Foster leads the charge, and the Niners defense makes the Cowboys work for this win. A lack of offensive firepower benefits Dallas, and they leave San Francisco bruised, but victorious.
Week 8. VS./ @ Washington Redskins
Dallas heads to Washington still feeling the aches and pains compliments of the 49ers defense. The Redskins come out hot, and the Cowboys make it interesting in the 4th Quarter, but the effort is too late. Redskins with the division upset.
Week 9. VS./ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
After dropping another division game, the Cowboys know they have to win. The Chiefs jump ahead, but collapse in the second half. Cowboys win after a late Elliott touchdown. The ‘Boys stay hot – almost as hot as Alex Smith’s seat following the loss.
Week 10. VS./ @ Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons offensive weapons is too much for the Cowboys secondary. Julio Jones has a big game and Devonta Freeman has a big game on the ground. Falcons win by double digits.
Week 11. VS./ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Cowboys host the division rival Eagles knowing they have to defend home turf. Dallas benefits from a sloppy Philly showing. Barnett struggles to get pressure, and Dez Bryant comes through big.
Week 12. VS./ LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Prescott thanks the Offensive Line for keeping Joey Bosa helmet out of his chest. The game is closer than expected, as Rivers makes the most of the receivers he has available. The difference, once again, is Elliott. He finds a rhythm on the ground and as a receiving target. The ‘Boys beat the Bolts at home.
Week 13. VS./ WASHINGTON REDSKINS
The Redskins cannot complete the sweep. Cousins makes Dallas young secondary look like seasoned vets. He has a horrible day through the air, and the Cowboys convert turnovers to points. Big division win in Big D.
Week 14. VS./ @ New York Giants
Dallas knows they can’t be swept by the Giants in back-to-back seasons. Elliott won’t allow it. This game is a shoot-out and is close all the way to the finish line. A late Eli Manning turnover put the Cowboys in position to kick a Field Goal and even the division series 1-1.
Week 15 VS./ @ Oakland Raiders
Dallas goes coast to coast, but they are drained after an emotional win in the Big Apple. Oakland is peaking at this point and Beast Mode is looking like his ol’ beastly self. The Silver and Black get the W.
Week 16 VS./ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Another close game, but the Cowboys won’t send the fans home happy. Late game heroics by Russel Wilson highlights the inexperience of the Cowboys secondary – which has happened a few times in the season. Dallas loses. Improving the secondary will be a point of focus heading into the post season. The Cowboys realize it is shaping up for them to face either the Falcons, Seahawks, Packers – and possibly even the Giants.
Week 17 VS./ @ Philadelphia Eagles
Philly is trying to play the spoiler role. If they beat Dallas, the Giants will win the NFC East. A hostile environment can’t slow down Zeke – he puts the team on his back. Prescott plays smart, error-free football and the Cowboys win the East for the second consecutive season. By the skin of their teeth, Dallas wins a nail-biter.
Dak Prescott – Prescott proves last season wasn’t a fluke and avoids the sophomore slump. He finishes the season with 3887 Yards 27 Touchdowns 9 Interceptions.
Ezekiel Elliott – Elliott has a solid year, but the first few games affected his season numbers. 1489 Yards 13 Touchdowns
Dez Bryant – 847 Yards 8 Touchdowns
Cole Beasley – 983 Yards 7 Touchdowns
Taco Charlton – Taco becomes a fan favorite. He helps the pass rush and the fans develop a “Taco” chant on big defensive plays. He finishes the season with 8.5 Sacks
Jaylon Smith – the linebacker’s intelligence helps him dissect the game. His agility isn’t what it was, but he’s still a difference maker on defense. He’ll have 2 picks on the season and 3.5 sacks.
Ryan Switzer – Switzer scores a handful of points and shows off his crafty play-style. He finishes with 489 Yards Receiving, 4 Receiving Touchdowns, 2 Returned Punt Touchdowns, and Averages over 22 Yards per return.
La’el Collins – Collins – a projected top 10 pick turned undrafted star – keeps the Offensive Line solid. He’s stable, and helps clear the way for Zeke and keep Dak upright throughout the season.
Chidobe Awuzie – Look for Awuzie to draw some “oohs and ahhs” throughout the season. The linebacker in corner-clothing with be a very effective tackler. He’ll have his fair share of momentum changing moments. 2 picks on the year for Awuzie.
The Cowboys make the playoffs and win a game, but they’re still too young and inexperienced on the defensive side of the ball to make a deep playoff push. They’ll face a receiver heavy team in the second round of the playoffs and Dak & Zeke won’t be able to produce enough offense to outscore their opponent. They’ll head into the 2018 season looking to build off the secondary’s 2017 experience. If a veteran free agent defensive back is available, look for Dallas to take a look and sign at the right price.
Ceiling 12-4 – If the Offensive Line doesn’t suffer with some personnel changes, and Elliott runs wild – the Cowboys could turn a lot of the close game losses mentioned above into W’s. The potential is there, they just have to maximize it. It’s very possible for them to win 12 games and secure the number one seed in the NFC for a second consecutive year.
Floor 9-7 – If Zeke is suspended and can’t get in the groove early, Prescott will be forced to win with his arm. He’s proven he can do so, but the team functions best when he and Elliott are at their best. If they can’t establish a steady rhythm or the unfortunate injury bugs finds a home in Dallas, QB depth is very thin. Even a call to Tony Romo may not be able to help. Just like with any team, and injury to the most important position would derail the Cowboys. 9-7 will not be good enough to make the post season.
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Stats referenced at NFL.com