The Cowboys had quite an offense in 2014, when Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Dez Bryant were an unstoppable trio.
Romo led the NFL in passer rating (113.2), completion percentage (69.9), and yards per attempt (8.5) despite fracturing bones in his back; Murray broke Emmitt Smith's franchise record for rushing yards in a season (1,845) and led the league by a spectacular margin; Bryant caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and a league-high 16 touchdowns.
Care to guess how often three teammates lead the league in passer rating, rushing yards, and receiving TDs in the same year? Happened only once in pro football when the pre-merger Houston Oilers from the AFL managed that feat in 1961.
The 2014 Cowboys scored 467 points, the second highest total in franchise history, for a cool 29.2 points per game average. Yet despite putting the pedal to the metal down the stretch of the 2014 season (they outscored their opponents 165-79 in the final four games), the Cowboys didn't quite reach the 30-point per game threshold.
Since realignment in 2002, and after the Greatest Show on Turf averaged more than 30 points per game for three consecutive years from 1999-2001, only 17 teams have averaged more than 30 points per game (which translates to 480 points per season).
|Year||Team||Points Scored||W/L Record
Of note, 16 of those 17 teams made the playoffs and their W/L records average out to about 13-3. If you're looking for a quick way to the playoffs, history suggests that consistently scoring 30 points would be a good place to start looking.
With Romo and Bryant back healthy, Ezekiel Elliott brought in with the number four overall pick, and the O-line arguably even better in 2016 than it was in 2014, 30 points per game should be entirely within reach for the 2016 Cowboys.
If the offense can get it together and perform up to its potential, there are not that many teams in the NFL that can keep pace with a team that consistently puts up 30 points.
Will the 2016 Cowboys be able to average 30+ points per game for the first time in franchise history in 2016? If they do, a playoff berth is a given.
And you know what doesn't matter when you score 30 points per game? Your defense.
The 17 teams above averaged 337 points allowed per year, or 21 points per game. The 2015 Cowboys defense allowed 374 points over 16 games, or 23.3 points per game.
Think about that.
The defense of the 4-12 Cowboys allowed a little less than a field goal more in points than the defenses of the teams above that averaged a 13-3 record. The difference is that the 17 teams above scored prolifically while the 2015 Cowboys only managed a ridiculously low 17.2 points per game.
Earlier today, Jim Scott made two key observations about potent offenses in a detailed post comparing drive stats for the 2014 and 2015 Cowboys teams.
The offense doesn't protect the defense as much by running the clock or limiting opponents' plays, but by scoring points. This forces the opponent to play from behind.
A more potent offense, and particularly a better scoring offense, does in fact protect the defense and enables it to perform better.
The Cowboys are built to be a team that wins by outscoring you. You may not like hearing this, but the Cowboys are a team that defines itself by its offense, not by its defense. If the Cowboys have a core belief, it is that they will win with their offense. The defense in turn works best when the offense has established a lead and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can deploy his physical, opportunistic defense, a scheme that has been Marinelli’s modus operandi since he became a defensive coach in the NFL.
Every year in Dallas, there will be fans waiting for a return of the Doomsday Defense, or at least a reasonable facsimile of that defense. But today's Cowboys are about as far removed from a Doomsday Defense as they can be, and that's not an indictment in any form, it's simply a fact. Every team in the NFL has to figure out which side of the ball it wants to emphasize more, and in Dallas it's offense first, second, and third.
The question is, can the 2016 offense live up to those expectations?
This year, the Cowboys are stacked on offense like seldom before: they have easily one of the top O-lines in the NFL; they have Pro Bowlers at WR and TE; Tony Romo is finally healthy; and Ezekiel Elliott is supposed to be something like the uber-Demarco. Unless you're playing Madden franchise mode, this is about as good as the offense can get.
So why not expect them to average 30 points per game in 2016? They were specifically built to do just that, and barring injuries, there is no reason why the 2016 team should not be one of the top scoring offenses in the league.
Frankly, if the Cowboys don't finish at least among the Top 5 in points scored, I'd consider that a big disappointment. The offense is playing with seven Pro Bowlers (Romo, Witten, Bryant, Morris, Frederick, Martin, Smith) and six former first-round picks (Bryant, Smith, Frederick, Martin, McFadden, Elliott). If that isn't enough, the Cowboys will have to do some serious soul-searching about why they can't get it done despite such a pedigreed and potent offensive roster.