I've seen some people putting up season "previews" where they actually go through the coming season game-by-game and try to predict the outcomes. Some even come with stats-"Week 4 against the Chargers, the Romo will go 23 for 34 with 226 yards!" More power to those posters, but not only would I never try to predict to such detail, I do NOT have that time available anyways!
What I like to do is break the season into groups of games and try to envision how the Boys will generally do in that group of games. These groups are: Obviously, 6 division games; 4 AFC West games this year; and 6 NFC games determined by standings last year-Rams, Lions, Vikings, Saints, Bears, and Packers. I try and predict how they'll do within each group, then total the results. Tonight I'm going to project a best- and worst-case scenario within each of these groups, then see what range the Cowboys fall in.
Two things-I'm not expecting any surprises, I think in the end what I see is what most of you see. Also, this is all of course excluding things like serious injuries, the rhythms of the long season, etc. I know this is all actually really useless at this point. Who knows how the Bears' season will be going week 14??? But this is what we do, right?
Division: Best possible record, 4-2. Worst, 2-4. Even if everything clicks for Dallas, they lose 2 games. These are division games-nothing comes easily. On the other hand, I could easily see them getting swept by Wash., and losing 2 others, whether it's one each to NY/Philly or not.
AFC West: Best, 3-1. Worst, 2-2. We lucked out this year. KC is no pushover but we should beat them, Oakland could---honestly---go 0-16 (the local NorCal station here was talking about an all-time awful offense-then pointing out they're not good on D either!), San Diego's talent has dropped. Now I get that, if they can upset Denver, there's an argument they could go 4-0-but I just don't think this team is that consistently good. If they beat Denver I'm sure they'll find a way to lose to KC, or SD!
NFC: These 6 games are a real problem. Not only are ALL of these teams competitive, the two "weaker" teams, Detroit and St. Louis, could both be surprises this year. Make fun of them if you want-then watch as one of them maybe ends with a better record. The other issue is, all of these teams will be competing for WC sposts, so head-head matchups become important.
But then, on any given day, if the Cowboys play an "A" game, have only a few penalties (big one!), win turnovers.....they could be favored to beat everyone here except GB and maybe the Bears. The Saints are a huge unknown-at this point, most think they're going to be playing Arena football, giving up and scoring tons of points. Can the Boys stay on the field with them? I don't know at this point.
Notice, I don't even bother with who we play at home vs. who's on the road. I don't think the new stadium offers any home field advantage. Also, for the first time in a while, we can't really complain about the schedule. Bye Week at a good time? Check! No crazy runs of road games? Check. Ending the year at home? Check, 2 out of 3.
SO: Best record in these games....4-2. I mean , chalk up the Packers as a loss, then figure even if they are doing well, they lose to at least one of the other five.
Worst Record in these games.... 2-4. I almost put 1-5, but even if the season is spiraling downward, given no huge injuries, say to Romo especially, they still squeak out a couple of tight wins.
Conclusion: That leaves me with a best-case scenario of a season at 11-5. They prove they deserve to be in the playoffs by winning division games, feasting on the AFC West, and beating the direct competition in the NFC. The OL becomes reliable and average (that's all we want!), Bryant and Austin stay healthy and the passing offense takes off, the running game actually returns to 'not-horrible', the new playcaller makes a difference. If the offense can get its act together, I can see them scoring 25+ points a game. I don't expect much from the D-just don't suck! Just get 2 turnovers a game. Just don't let teams go right-down-the-field when we just took the lead with 3 minutes to go. Just put some pressure up the middle on the QB! My feeling is, they'd better do this (go 11-5 or better) and win the division, because while the good teams in the AFC can coast, the NFC WC's are going to be a a Vickish dogfight, and come down to half the teams fighting it out week 17.
And it leaves me with a possible season, if our Dallas Cowboys don't keep it together, if penalties continue to short circuit the offense, if the DL crumbles like coffee cake, if the OL is as bad as some of us are pretending we don't think it could possibly be, right???......of 6-10. Romo plays, the team is fairly healthy, but the OL falls like a young Chevy Chase, even Dirty Harry Callahan can't make our day with a running game, the DL shows it's thinness and the Cover-2 shows it's gaps like a couple of runway models, and we relive the 2010 season, listening every week to how Romo can't get it done, and ESPN starts a Jason Garrett Fired Countdown scroll.
Can't happen, you say?? This team is too good to go 6-10?? How many of us saw 1-7/6-10 coming that year? Not me, that's for sure. If you don't think it could happen, check out some other sites. The Rams feel they have to step it up a notch to compete w/Seattle and SF-and they went 5-1 in division last year! I hear they have a great DL (No idea who plays for them) and so could overwhelm our OL. Vikings? The Cowboys' DL is thin-If Peterson gets rolling they could run right over Big D. Packers? Just better. Saints? Maybe they beat us 45-42, but a loss is a loss. Bears? Well, they stomped us last year.
But what do I actually see happening? Not surprisingly, somewhere in between, right? Just like the last 2 years I see a team fighting to stay above .500, win one/lose one, in the hunt, but not safe-----going into the last 2 game 7-7 or maybe 8-6, and needing to beat the teams that count--Redskins/Eagles are the last 2 games, right after Bears/Packers.
I predict 9-7 and probably (Ouch-sorry!) not quite getting in the playoffs again. There are too many good teams in the NFC to get in the playoffs with that record. And as I always repeat, the problem is, the Cowboy's weaknesses are JUST where you don't want them: OL and DL. I won't argue why, drafting, etc. It just is TRUE. Add in what is at best an average secondary, and the skill players can only take you so far.