It’s just three games into the 2021 NFL season, but for the Dallas Cowboys, this is the start of a run of games that could not only let them gain ground on making the playoffs, but build an all but insurmountable lead in the NFC East. With the rest of the East teams struggling mightily, this stretch could get the Cowboys the division crown and and automatic playoff berth.
The Cowboys sit at 2-1, which gives them as many wins as the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Football team combined. And those two wins are one by the Eagles over an equally struggling Atlanta Falcons team, and the intra-divisional win by the Football Team over the Giants. One of Dallas’ wins came against the Los Angeles Chargers, who look to be in real contention in the strong AFC West. There is no doubt that so far the Cowboys have looked to be the clear class of their division. Kellen Moore has been masterful in his game-planning and play designs. His offensive players are almost all playing as well as could be hoped, with only center Tyler Biadasz showing signs of floundering at times. In his defense, he has had something of a murderers’ row of defensive tackles to contend with.
I did say grade him all 65 plays. https://t.co/6BbbQPIKuH— BryanBroaddus (@BryanBroaddus) September 29, 2021
Even the two notable losses so far this season, Michael Gallup and La’el Collins, have not been a problem as Cedrick Wilson and Terence Steele have both been very good in filling in. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott has been surgical in his passing. He leads the league in completion percentage with an outstanding 77.5%, has thrown six touchdowns with only two interceptions, and has avoided the fumbling issues of last year outside of the one against the Eagles that involved one of Moore’s few really questionable play calls. The running game has been great when not facing a stone wall like that of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as Moore has found an excellent formula for using both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The synergy between the two is real.
Dan Quinn has simply worked wonders with his defense despite having as many as five projected starters off the field. He has instilled an attitude the defense has sorely lacked the past few seasons. Players are ball-hawking and punching out fumbles. Dallas leads the league in overall takeaways and interceptions, plus their own improved ball security also has them tied for the best turnover margin in the young season. Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa have come in as rookies and look like top-shelf veterans on the field. The herd of free agent acquisitions have all contributed, none more than the trio of safeties, Damontae Kazee, Jayron Kearse, and Malik Hooker. They kept things close against the Buccaneers and Tom Brady, did more than enough to help get the win over the Chargers, and just obliterated the Eagles’ offense. And they have very few top-tier quarterbacks to face the rest of the way.
But a team is really only as good as its last performance. The Cowboys next face a Carolina Panthers team that is a surprising 3-0. Sam Darnold is not a statistically impressive quarterback, but he has certainly been getting the job done. They lead the NFL in yards allowed, that has come against the New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, and Houston Texans, who did not do much offensively in their other games, either. Still, this is going to be a game of strength against strength, and Moore and his players will have to have another very good showing to get the win.
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It is a home contest for Dallas. Against the Eagles, we saw that turn into a real advantage. It must be remembered that the home opener was Prescott’s return to AT&T Stadium after his devastating injury last year. It also was facing the most hated rival in the division. We will have to see if the home crowd again brings the obvious energy we saw on Monday night, or if once again ticket holders cash in by selling a lot to Carolina fans. That could lead to much more vocal support for the visitors and the unpleasant loss of the advantage we have seen far too often in the past. We can only hope that the growing excitement over this year’s edition of the Cowboys will keep their fans holding onto their tickets and cheering wildly.
If the Cowboys take care of business, things could be on the verge of getting out of hand for their division rivals. All evidence points to the Cowboys being the class of the NFCE. They should win all of their remaining divisional contests. They also have teams coming up like the New England Patriots and Falcons that are having their own struggles. What is required is to find more performances such as the one that got them the win in Los Angeles. If they do so, they should be able to take command of their division and develop into a legitimate contender to make a run in the playoffs.
We always have to guard against becoming too optimistic about things. That has long been a fault for this fan base. Still, this year just feels different. There has been real depth shown so far, and all of the players that have missed time are expected to return. If the Cowboys can get to their bye in Week 7 at 5-1 or even 4-2, this could be a year when our hopes are not dashed.