Why The Cowboys Should Be Favored To Win The NFC East
If there’s one infallible line of reasoning that Cowboys fans should adhere to in their offseason speculating, it’s that intense preseason hype stemming from glitzy personnel doesn’t automatically translate into playoff success. All NFL teams weave talk of high expectations into sales letters to fans and comments to the media. But in Dallas, the combination of vibrant franchise history, robust financial health and colorful characters running the show breeds preseason swagger that, too often, fails to measure up on the field. How many times have we seen it in recent years?
Give credit to Jerry Jones for making good on his promise of change forthcoming, because 2013 has been different … mainly because it’s been quieter. But, ironically enough, that only seems to have elevated the optimism of the fans’ outlook. There is some sentiment that this year’s roster boasts the best mix of young and old talent since the 13-3 team of 2007, making it ripe for the kind of optimistic extrapolating that comes so naturally with the Cowboys.
It may not be the best since 2007, but it’s good enough to establish the ‘Boys as NFC East preseason favorites.
With a few exceptions — free safety, strongside linebacker and offensive guard — the starters are entrenched. There’s enough film and scouting evidence on this group to confidently discuss their performance as a unit, and the inescapable conclusion is that a potent mixture really is brewing in Dallas.
Key veterans like Tony Romo, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware are still in the wheelhouse of prime performance years for the positions they play. Young players tagged as franchise staples, like Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Morris Claiborne, now have the benefit of experience in Jason Garrett’s system to facilitate their improvement. Despite episodes like the play-calling squabble, the front office has clearly put together a top-to-bottom plan for building identity on both sides of the ball and taken overt measures to stick to it.
The offense is loaded, versatile and polished. Depth is still a concern on defense, but you’d have to be blind or cynical not to acknowledge the unit’s raw playmaking abilities. Whatever this group of players and coaches has failed to accomplish in the past and however they’ve come up short in crucial situations means nothing now. The Cowboys have enough proven pieces in place this year, and no end result will change the fact that they are (and should be) the preseason pick to win their division.
As always, health is the kicker. The Cowboys are one bad injury away from losing their edge in division play, which represents the only set of standings that’s going to matter this year. No NFC East title, no playoffs, no more Garrett.
The West Coast arms race between Seattle and San Francisco, the NFC’s top up-and-comers, should take one wild card spot. And with Sean Payton back in New Orleans, expect both the Saints and Falcons to survive the season with postseason berths. It simplifies things for Jason Garrett: his job status starts and ends with his success relative to New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
Finally, the logic-defying, grand-prize question: why will this season be any different? Because Jerry Jones has publicly decreed that it will be, and he recognizes the importance of honoring that promise at this nadir of franchise morale. While this isn’t the first year in recent memory that Dallas has had a talented cast assembled, it is the first time that expectations surrounding them aren’t running rampant. It’s almost like a new beginning; if only it hadn’t been born from so many tough endings.