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Can The Cowboys Capitalize On The Chaos Of The NFL?

It's only two weeks into the season, but already there are indications of some major changes in the power structure of the league.

Hard to figure out what will happen in the NFL these days.
Hard to figure out what will happen in the NFL these days.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in very strange territory in the still-young 2015 NFL season. They already are dealing with a severe list of injuries, the biggest that of Tony Romo, followed closely by those of Dez Bryant and Randy Gregory. But despite that, they sit at 2-0, with both victories in the division. Oddest of all is that in some ways they dominated both the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles while making huge mistakes in both games. Turnovers almost doomed them the first week, and a team record number of penalties threatened to hamstring them the second. The offensive line is not playing the way we all expect it to, again partly due to injury in the form of Ronald Leary. And yet they are among the undefeated.

It is still so early that things can change greatly, but the entire league is seeing so many unexpected results. This sums up some of the most surprising.

That is not at all how things were supposed to go this season. Preseason predictions are often wildly inaccurate, of course, but just to check, I pulled up a random example of a preseason forecast of the playoff teams for the league. Except for the Giants, every one of the teams in that list of the winless was mentioned as expected to make the playoffs, some several times. And Andrew Luck, who looked terrible against the New York Jets, was mentioned more than once as the league MVP. Of course, the towering genius that is Chip Kelly also was listed as coach of the year. But instead of getting off to a good start, those seven listed teams are still seeking their first victory, which has already been accomplished by teams expected to struggle mightily like the Raiders, Browns, Jaguars, Titans, Buccaneers, 49ers, and those guys in Washington with the racially insensitive name. And the Jets are undefeated.

Maybe it is just me, but this seems like an unusual amount of chaos for the start of the season. Among the usual suspects, only the Packers, Patriots, and Broncos seem to be living up to expectations. The NFL usually sees about six new teams make the playoffs this year, but it could be even higher in 2015 unless normalcy begins to reassert itself soon.

There is a satisfaction in seeing so many forecasters look so lost. This is colored by what seems to be a continuing underestimation of the Cowboys in many quarters. But even that is being eroded by how strangely things have gone already. Still, it is hard to be sure just how well Dallas can do given the strange situations of both victories.

For now, at least, things look exceptionally wide open as far as getting into the postseason. And as the Cowboys seek to overcome the sizable issues they are having to deal with, it may be a sign that there is indeed hope for them to surmount everything and make it back to the playoffs where with hopefully better health they may be dangerous indeed.

It doesn't hurt to have the rest of the division facing their own issues. Only Washington does not seem to be the usual dumpster fire, and they have plenty of opportunities ahead to regress to their normal self. Dallas will not face them until the last half of the season, when many of the current wounded should be back in action.

For now, the Cowboys have the Falcons, themselves a 2-0 team, and the Saints to deal with before the more daunting challenge of the Patriots. Atlanta has benefited from the horrendous starts of the Giants and Eagles. They seem to be weak on both the offensive and defensive lines. Dallas' defensive line has been pounding the guys across from them despite not having many sacks to show for it. If their offensive line can recover some of its mojo, they may be able to get more out of the running game. That may be a winnable contest even with Brandon Weeden at quarterback, especially if the secondary can find an answer for Julio Jones. This season, that does not look nearly as ridiculous an idea as in the past.

The Saints already have huge problems, and that game is at the Superdome, where they have been remarkably inept of late. Drew Brees is also having some shoulder issues. They are denying that those are serious, but the final evaluation is still pending. That game looks very winnable if Dallas can avoid turning the ball over to them.

But we can't get ahead of ourselves. One game at a time is part of the mantra. The defense and special teams are reasons to have some hope, but every contest is going to be a challenge. Any given Sunday seems to be especially true this season. Chaos is the state of the NFL through the first two weeks. For the Cowboys, that may just be an opportunity to ride out the rough times and keep the playoff hopes alive.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB


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