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Seven Things We're Thinking: Cowboys Need To Start Shopping In The Big Play Department

Can the Cowboys find the way back to their winning formula? Will nine wins win the NFC East this year? Can the team shake off 2015? Just three of the things we've been thinking about recently.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Random musings, misgivings, and wildly hyperbolic postulations from the BTB writers.

Start shopping in the Big Play Department

Danny Phantom: I'm still trying to embrace the idea that every day that I wake up, there is a Cowboys football game right around the corner. These next four months are going to be intoxicating.

Of course, the season opener left me with a bad hangover. Watching the offense drive the ball was like opening a bunch of presents only to have them all be socks. Each time was exciting, but ended in disappointment. Teams that dominate the time of possession and get so many first downs typically win football games so it was disheartening to see things play out the way they did.

Dallas has to do a better job in the "big-play" department on both sides of the ball. That's a very important thing if you want to be a winning football team and hopefully the Cowboys make improvements in this area.

I have seen the promised land

Tom Ryle: Lost in all the drama over Tony Romo's injury and Dak Prescott's wildly exciting preseason is this simple fact: At QB2, which was supposed to be Prescott's role before Romo's injury in the Seahawks preseason game, the Dallas Cowboys are in much, much better shape than they have been since at least the days of Jon Kitna, and maybe even since Jason Garrett was the backup.

Now we are all focused on whether Dak can become the eventual starter, and things are admittedly much more encouraging than anyone had reason to expect when he was drafted, but if Romo can play past this season, we know that there is still some hope with Prescott available to come off the bench if Romo is out for a limited number of games. Hopefully, Prescott is going to show that he can lead the team to some wins in the next few weeks. If he does, then the best thing is to Romo get back on the field so the rookie can continue to learn and mature. But given what the real need was at the moment he was drafted, he looks like a great pick, even if it's not yet clear that he's the long-term solution as a starter.

Make no mistake, however. I am hoping most earnestly that he is the future at QB. I am just saying that we should be very pleased with what he is already.

Ground and pound in Washington

Dawn Macelli: An early trip to Washington translates into an opportunity for Dallas. The Redskins have issues stopping the run thanks to the departure of Jason Hatcher and a couple other starters from last season. That plays into the Cowboys hands.

Throw in the fact that Zeke should be motivated by his experience in his debut plus Alfred Morris has something to prove to his old team and we have a recipe for a Cowboys breakout performance on the ground.

Michael Sisemore: This is not that same bunch from 2015 for sure. This is a team on the verge of finding themselves and it starts with their running game. They had a tough outing against the New York Giants but this isn't the first time we've seen the Cowboys start slow. When you look at their matchup this week against the Washington Redskins, I think you come away with some confidence that Dak Prescott can lead this team to his first victory in the NFL. Dallas did some good things by controlling the time of possession, converting nearly 60% on third down, and having more first downs than the opponent. Where this team needs to get better at is finishing the game and putting the ball in the end zone.

Washington was beat up by the Steelers on the ground and though this is a divisional foe, Dallas has to follow the tracks laid by Pittsburgh. This offensive line was more than embarrassed by their lack of success on the ground against the Giants. What better way to fix that than with a match against a team that gave up 143 yards to the 33-year-old De'Angelo Williams? With Alfred Morris and Ezekiel Elliott, I expect the running game to cause some serious damage. If that happens, the Cowboys can open up their playbook.

2015? Shake it off!

VAFan: The Cowboys aren't like 2015? Maybe not, but they have to prove it first by winning winnable games. Recall that the Cowboys finished 8-8 three years in a row, by relying on Tony Romo to throw them to victory. In 2014, they finally broke that mold by hiring a new offensive coordinator and handing the ball off over and over again to DeMarco Murray. Instead of using a two-minute passing offense to try to win, the Cowboys bullied opponents behind their touted offensive line.

In 2015, the new formula failed because the passing attack could not hold up its end with Romo and Bryant out most of the year.

This year, the Cowboys are without Romo again, but now at least have a promising rookie QB. Yet the results were disappointingly similar in the season opener. They still lost the game despite holding a fourth-quarter lead. For the Cowboys to start winning games again, they need to revive their dominant ground game.

Great expectations?

OCC: It's easy to overlook this in the general hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth after the loss against the Giants, but there is a subtle but important difference to this year's team compared to 2015.

The general sense I get from the team is that they feel the should have won this game, where last year they felt they could have won some of the games they lost. Again, it's a subtle difference in wording, but it is a critical difference in the team's mindset. Despite starting a rookie QB, they expect to win games this year, where last year they were hoping they could win a few games in Romo's absence.

It speaks volumes to the confidence the team and the players have in Dak Prescott - and in themselves. And that confidence should pay off over the coming few games.

Playoff math

Joseph.Hatz: Assuming Romo misses only the first six games and comes back after the bye (which would be almost a full 10 weeks from his injury), and is able to play the rest of the year without incident, I think a 3-3 record over the first six games would make the Cowboys the favorites for the division, while 2-4 would still have them in contention.

If you look at the last 10 games of the schedule you have Philadelphia, at Cleveland, at Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, at Minnesota, at NY Giants, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and at Philadelphia.

With a healthy Romo, and if they can avoid any other major injuries to significant players, I'd have them as the favorites in every game except at Pittsburgh. Going 7-3 over that stretch is certainly feasible, while 8-2 isn't out of the realm of possibility. The East is still a weak division despite the Eagles victory over the hapless Browns and the Giants defeating the Cowboys by a single point with a rookie QB making his first start. Nine wins could very well win the NFC East again. A 2-4 record over the first six games with a 7-3 finish would have them right there. If the team can somehow manage three victories over the first six games I think there is a very strong chance that they get to double-digit wins.

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