It's the offseason, so there are going to be a wide range of stories predicting the outcome of the 2016 season. Football Outsiders is one site that annually predicts the outcome of the upcoming season using their vast array of advanced statistics. We don't always agree with their predictions, especially if they see a bad outcome, because at this point every team, and its fanbase, is optimistic that the upcoming season has to be better than the previous one. But for the Cowboys, this year that feeling is especially true. The dramatic fall off from 12-4 in 2014 to 4-12 in 2015 can be partially attributed to two major injuries - Tony Romo's collarbone and Dez Bryant's foot. Sure, there were other problems, but those two injuries, for all intents and purposes, torpedoed the season.
So a plethora of particularly good predictions for the Cowboys in 2016 is not unexpected. Football Outsiders follows suit by predicting the Cowboys will go 10-6 and win the NFC East.
1. Dallas Cowboys: 10-6 (9.6 mean wins, SOS: 30)
2. New York Giants: 6-10 (6.3 mean wins, SOS: 17)
3. Philadelphia Eagles: 6-10 (6.3 mean wins, SOS: 11)
4. Washington Redskins: 6-10 (6.0 mean wins, SOS: 9)
Without Tony Romo, the Cowboys finished 31st last year in offensive DVOA, suffering one of the 10 largest year-to-year drops in offensive DVOA since 1989. With Romo back and a healthier Dez Bryant on the field, they're almost guaranteed to rebound in 2016. Meanwhile, the Dallas defense ended just 6.0 percent of opposing drives with takeaways last season. That was dead last in the NFL and the fourth-lowest rate of any team since 1998. There's a lot of year-to-year regression in turnovers, so there's a strong chance that improves in 2016. (In 2014, the lowest teams in this stat were the Jets and Chiefs, who both turned their defenses around significantly in 2015.)
For the Cowboys, I don't think there is anything truly shocking about the prediction. 10-6 may be a little higher than some will predict, although that's exactly what I came up with in my decidedly unscientific prediction made after the schedule came out.
I think what is more interesting is how down FO is on the rest of the NFC East, especially the team from Washington. They expect the returning NFC East champs to bottom out, even with the addition of Josh Norman and a widely-praised draft. What they see is that Washington wasn't actually that good last year, it was just the rest of the East was terrible. In subsequent interviews about their predictions, they noted that Kirk Cousins had an especially good year, but they don't see that as a repeatable occurrence. They also noted Washington had great success with turnovers, but that they will likely regress in that stat in 2016.
The Giants get dinged for an inexperienced offensive line with questionable depth and the Eagles are starting over and learning a new system. Across the board, predictions for the Eagles in 2016 have been pretty grim.
Your turn BTB, is this a reasonable prediction for the NFC East?