Contributions from every part of the team.
Dallas doesn't have the best offense in the NFL. Year after year, (or more recently because of Peyton Manning), that honor has gone to New England (34.8 ppg 2012, 32.1 ppg 2011), New Orleans (34.2 ppg 2011, 28.8 last year w/o Payton), Green Bay (35 ppg 2011, 27.1 ppg 2012), and Denver (30.1 ppg 2012) have. Those are the only teams in the last two years to crack the 30 ppg threshold.
In contrast, Dallas put up only 23.5 ppg in 2012, good for 15th in the league, despite throwing for the third most yards per game. The last time Dallas's offense was really good was 2007, when they reached 28.4 ppg, good for 2nd in the NFL.
Can Dallas get back into that range? 28+ ppg in 2013? I think so. We still have Tony Romo. Dez Bryant is on a complete tear, and I seem to recall the Real Dirk Gently posting that Dallas's ppg numbers when Dez was on his second half tear were 28.5 ppg over the last 8 games. Miles Austin is healthy. Terrence Williams is a rookie, but is likely to be a bigger deep threat than Kevin Ogletree was. We still have Jason Witten, and now have an even taller TE to serve as a red-zone threat. D. Murray is healthy. The backups like Dunbar and Randle have more upside. The offensive line is revamped -- again -- but this time with much higher quality guys inside. And the biggest boost of all could be provided in the turnover department, where we might double our 16 takeaways, and also cut Romo's 19 INTs by getting some leads and running the ball.
As we can see from last night's 47-27 blowout of Baltimore, this is a high scoring league. Especially in the playoffs. You have to be able to put up 30 points or more to keep up with the top teams. Can Dallas do that? They are going to have to try.
I think Dallas could match it's 2007 number of 28+ ppg. That won't top the league, but it will keep us within stricking distance.
Dallas doesn't have the best defense in the NFL. I won't even look at last year's numbers, because they were BAD. You can blame a lot of it on injuries. You can also blame a lot of it on Rob Ryan, who's coached a top-10 D in his career. Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli, playing the 4-3 and focusing on turnovers are going to play huge dividends. But I doubt anyone thinks that Kiffin/Marinelli can move us from giving up 25 ppg to matching the top teams like Seattle, SF, and Chicago which gave up less than 18 ppg.
To get into the top 10, Dallas will have to lower its ppg by around 5 points. Is that doable? It's being made harder by the injuries Dallas has already suffered on the DLine -- Spencer, Ratliff, Crawford, Bass. Fortunately, 3 of those guys are slated to return, so maybe the D will get better as the season goes on rather than falling apart as has been more typically the case.
Because Monte Kiffin's Ds in Tampa made the top 10 in points and yards in 12 of 13 years, I'm confident he'll get the Cowboys to that level this year. Not top-5, but top-10. It will still be a HUGE improvement.
Dallas doesn't have the best special teams in the NFL. I'm not sure who does. But Dallas did find a very good punt returner in Dwayne Harris, a very reliable kicker in Dan Bailey, and a decent punter in Chris Jones. The blocking and coaching has changed this year for Harris, so we'll have to see if he can repeat or improve on last year's totals given a whole year to try (Harris wasn't used until mid-way last year). And Dallas has to do a LOT better covering punts and kickoffs.
Since Dallas isn't the best at anything, it needs to have the best combination in the league -- or be close enough and then figure out how to peak at the end of the year.
That's the "Secret Sauce."
One final note: If this doesn't appear in Game 1 against the Giants, it's not time to panic. Super Bowl winning teams in recent years have seldom been the #1 seed in the playoffs. You have to get in the dance to have a chance, but it's better to dominate late than early. Similarly, if Dallas looks fantastic out of the box, it's time to check in on reality. Hot starts are no guarantee of hot finishes. Dallas has to find ways to keep getting better so it is playing its best at the end. As it begins to get more and more comfortable with Kiffin's scheme on D, with Callahan's play calling and offensive line cohesion on O, and with Bisaccia's plan on ST, that's entirely possible.
LET'S GO COWBOYS!!