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Cowboys vs. Panthers: Five bold predictions

Let’s party.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes I like to measure time in a really weird way.

For example, the 2008 NFL season was 10 years ago, right? That was an awful season for the Cowboys. Terrell Owens had his drama, Tony Romo broke a pinky, and the team spent a first-round pick on Felix Jones. It wasn’t fun.

As awful as that year was, it doesn’t feel that long ago, right? When you think about that season and the final game ever to be played at Texas Stadium (again, not a fun year), it doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. It was a while back, but it wasn’t forever ago, right?

This is the weird part. While 2008 doesn’t feel like forever ago, 10 years before it (so the same distance of time between now and what doesn’t feel like forever ago) felt like FOREVER AGO in 2008. If you had asked me how long it had been since 1998 during the 2008 season I would’ve told you 50 years had gone by. John Elway winning the Super Bowl for the second time was centuries before we saw the Steelers win number six against Kurt Warner’s Cardinals. For whatever reason, 2008 doesn’t feel as distant from now as 1998 did to it.

It’s been a long time since a lot of things. Did you know it’s been six seasons since the Cowboys traveled to play the Panthers? That’s right. The last Dallas visit to Carolina was back in 2012 and at the time we were just as far removed from Tony Romo initially entering our lives as a starter as we are from that game now. ISN’T THAT WILD?!

I’m not sure what to make of this unique measurement of time. I’m not even sure if anybody else feels this way. What I am sure of is that football is back, regardless of how long it’s been since it was in our lives, and we’re all grateful for it. Welcome to the first edition of BTB’s bold predictions for the season. Let’s party.

Ezekiel Elliott will have 200 all-purpose yards

Zeke has crossed the double century mark twice in his short career, on the road against Pittsburgh (2016) and San Francisco (2017). It’s certainly something he’s extremely capable of.

We’ve been saying it for the entire offseason, but the Cowboys are going to go as Zeke goes this season. He is the heartbeat, pulse, and aortic pump of the offense. It all runs through him, and he typically runs through everyone.

I tweeted about this tweet (how meta is that?), but it feels like people don’t realize how insane this stat is. The Cowboys have lost SIX GAMES IN TWO YEARS when Ezekiel Elliott is on the field for them and EZEKIEL ELLIOTT IS GOING TO BE ON THE FIELD FOR THEM ON SUNDAY AND BEYOND.

For all of the talk about taking a running back at fourth overall and blah blah blah, this is incredible. Read it again, the Cowboys have lost six (SIX!) games in two seasons when Zeke has played. That is absolutely astonishing.

It feels like it’s time for Zeke to re-claim his spot as the NFL’s top running back, and 200 yards ought to do it. An interesting wrinkle here is that the times he’s done it previously he’s housed a long screen pass for a touchdown. Consider that a bold prediction within a bold prediction. We’re upping the ante this season, gang.

Chidobe Awuzie will record his first interception while wearing #24

You’ll note that second-year cornerback Chidobe Awuzie switched jersey numbers over the offseason. He wore #33 as a rookie and is now appropriately swag’d out in a number more suitable to his game.

I mentioned the last Cowboys visit to Carolina in our intro, do you know what happened that day (among many things)? Then-rookie Morris Claiborne recorded the first interception of his career. He was rocking the navy #24 when he did it.

We’ve known for some time that the Cowboys will wear navy on Sunday in Carolina, and Chido will be wearing #24 amongst them. It would be poetic if Cam Newton made it a tradition to throw a pass into the arms of he who wears the navy #24 for the Cowboys, wouldn’t it?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Anything is possible.

The Cowboys will win the toss and defer... yes really

Death, taxes, and the Cowboys electing to receive after winning the toss. Not anymore, friends.

A lot of who the Cowboys are and have been changed significantly over the offseason. Gone are some pretty important figures and influential personalities. Holdovers like the men heading the coaching staff remain, and likely so do certain philosophies.

While the Cowboys aren’t going to change their total DNA it makes sense that they’ve done some homework and have thought about doing some things differently. Something that would make sense to handle differently would be the way they handle coin tosses. Dallas is notoriously known for always electing to receive when most teams like to defer.

There is no science, no evidence, no data to support this notion. Sometimes bold predictions simply come from the ‘ol gut. I had tacos for lunch so maybe that’s what’s happening here, but let’s see the Cowboys elect to kick off the foot of Brett Maher (which is already a level of weirdness) to start the game.

Jeff Heath will record two interceptions

It wouldn’t be the first bold predictions of the season without a nod to the GOAT himself, Jeff Heath.

We know that Xavier Woods is out. We know that Kavon Frazier is ailing a bit. We also know that Earl Thomas is playing for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Jeff Heath is the hero that’s always been there for us, and he has a knack for making big plays when the moment (in this case the state of the safety position) calls for it most.

Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Jeff Heath will save us.

Dak Prescott will finish the game with more rushing yards than Cam Newton

This is going to be the first time Dak squares off with the former Heisman Winner and NFL MVP, and it’s been a long time coming. Both quarterbacks are very physical and can make you pay with their scrambling abilities, but only one of them has to play the Hot Boyz.

The Cowboys pass rush is really good. It has the potential to be extremely special. DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, Tyrone Crawford, Antwaun Woods, and the whole rest of the crew are going to make Sunday not a whole lot of fun for Cam. This we know.

It doesn’t feel like this is going to be a game where Dak is necessarily setting his own sort of rushing record, but we know that the Cowboys offensive line isn’t its normal self. For crying out loud they’re going to play a game with a center not named Travis Frederick for the first time since the 2012 season finale in Washington. Things will definitely not be the same.

Look for Dak to have to make a play and be capable of doing so outside of the pocket on Sunday. Even if he only has 30 rushing yards that’s likely going to be enough to trump the Hot Boyz nemesis of the week.

So ends our bold predictions for the first week of the 2018 season. Which ones will hit? Which ones are totally absurd? We’ll find out on Sunday.

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