The 2022 Dallas Cowboys are heading down a familiar path. We’ve seen this story before. A promising regular season with Super Bowl aspirations come winter. Sadly for the Cowboys, in the last 20 years there’s been an unfortunate trend of the story ending more like a nightmare than a fairytale.
In 2007, the Cowboys had the second-best record in football and had 10 players selected for the Pro Bowl. In 2014, Dallas had the best rushing attack in the league and ended the regular season playing as well as any team in football. In 2016, the Cowboys had one of the best rookie duos in NFL history and won 13 games. And finally, just last season, the Cowboys started 6-1, won 12 games, and had one of their best overall teams in recent memory.
What do all these seasons have in common? A disappointing loss in the playoffs before reaching the NFC Championship game.
So, with the Cowboys sitting at 9-3 heading into their final five-game stretch of the regular season we’re in for more heartbreak, right? Well, not so fast. Let’s look at this Cowboys team as a whole. First, we’ll start with the defense, the group that has been the driving force behind Dallas’ 9-3 start.
Dallas’ defense currently leads the league in...
- Total DVOA (-20.1%)
- Weighted DVOA (-19.8%)
- Pass DVOA (-25.2%)
- Team Sacks (58)
- Team Pass Rush Grade (85.2)
- Team Fumbles Forced (11)
The Cowboys also are top-five in the league in…
- Takeaways (21)
- PPG Allowed (17/G)
- Yards Allowed (309/G)
- Coverage Grade (85.0)
Safe to say this Cowboys’ defense is special. Dallas has the best defensive player in football. and soon-to-be Defensive Player Of The Year, Micah Parsons, leading the way. Parsons hasn’t been the only guy who has gone above and beyond expectations this season.
Trevon Diggs, who was the subject of plenty of skepticism this summer, has proved the offseason doubters wrong and had another All-Pro-caliber year. DeMarcus Lawrence, back healthy and ready to go, has been dominant against the run and the pass and is on pace to record his most sacks since 2018. Dorance Armstrong, who ended the 2021 season red hot, has carried his solid play into 2022 and has the seventh-most sacks in the NFC. And the three-headed monster of Kearse, Hooker, and Wilson, two of which Dallas made the decision to re-sign this offseason, have been nothing short of fantastic.
There’s a lot to love about the Dallas defense, and plenty to make you believe this team can be different. Not convinced yet? We’ll let’s take a look at the offense and see how you feel.
Since Dak Prescott returned from his injury in Week 7, here are some stats about Dallas’ offense as a whole.
- PPG = 37.2 (1st in NFL)
- YPG = 411.0 (2nd in NFL)
- 3rd Down Percentage = 57& (1st in NFL)
- TD Drive Percentage = 42.4% (1st in NFL)
- Points Per Drive (1st in NFL)
While we’re on the topic of Dallas’ signal-caller, here’s where Dak Prescott ranks in some prominent quarterback categories since his return.
- EPA + CPOE = 0.204 (1st in NFL)
- Adjusted EPA/Play = 0.348 (2nd in NFL)
- EPA/Play = 0.344 (2nd in NFL)
- Success Rate = 55.7% (2nd in NFL)
- TD Passes = 13 (Tied for 2nd)
- CPOE = 5.9 (4th in NFL)
Dak isn’t the only one on Dallas’ offense playing at an extremely high level. The Cowboys have two running backs, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, both playing at an A-level since Dak’s return to the lineup. Elliott and Pollard both rank top 10 in the league in advanced rushing statistics including, DYAR, DVOA, and VOA.
What about the Cowboys’ receiving corps? CeeDee Lamb has the fifth-most receiving yards (546) in the NFC and is PFF’s third-highest-rated receiver (90.7) since Dak’s return. Michael Gallup, who got off to a slow start recovering from his ACL tear, has caught nine passes for 86 yards and scored two touchdowns in the past two games, looking like he’s closer to 100%. And Dalton Schultz, who looked like a shell of himself with Cooper Rush at quarterback, has caught 26 passes for 263 yards (74% Ctch%) and scored three touchdowns since Week 7.
That’s all without mentioning Dallas’ offensive line, which has given up the fewest sacks (15) in football this season and is about to get eight-time Pro Bowl tackle, Tyron Smith, back in the next few weeks.
The Cowboys are playing great football, and that’s not the only thing going their way right now. If the playoff started today, here are the quarterbacks that would be representing the NFC teams currently in the playoff picture.
- Jalen Hurts
- Kirk Cousins
- Brock Purdy
- Tom Brady
- Dak Prescott
- Daniel Jones
- Geno Smith
While Jalen Hurts has played outstanding this season and you never can count on Tom Brady, the Cowboys have to feel pretty darn good about their guy compared to this group. You could make a very solid argument Dak Prescott, at this moment, is playing as well as any quarterback in the league, and is playing at a level equal or better than anyone in this group.
Another bonus for Dallas is their boogeyman, Aaron Rodgers, barring a Christmas miracle, won’t be in the playoffs this year. Sure the Packers aren’t very good, but not having to potentially face No. 12 in the postseason has to make the Cowboys collectively breathe a sigh of relief.
I know, I know. So what about all these stats, right? As Stephen A Smith and the talking heads on ESPN would say, they are still the “same old Cowboys”. They’ll end the season hot like they did last year, but eventually break our hearts and come up short in the playoffs once again.
Could this end up being Dallas’ eventual fate this season? Sure. The Cowboys have their flaws, as does every team in the NFL. Dallas could no-show in the playoffs like they did last year and face their second-straight early exit in the postseason.
But you know what, they also could go out and win the whole dang thing.
Micah Parsons could continue to play like the best defensive player in football and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Dak Prescott could carry his stellar season into the playoffs and be the best signal-caller representing the NFC. The duo of Elliot and Pollard could run their way through opposing defenses in January while Diggs, Lawrence, and the rest of Dallas’ defense make game-changing plays.
This Cowboys team has a chance to be special. Just like the 2007, 2014, 2016, and 2021 teams did. But you know what’s the great part about sports? All it takes is one team to finish the job to forget about all the rest.
The 2022 Dallas Cowboys are fully capable of being that team. They are capable of bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Dallas for the first time since 1996.
So fellow Cowboys fans, remember this Ted Lasso quote as we head into the final stretch of the 2022 season.
“So I’ve been hearing this phrase y’all got over here that I ain’t too crazy about. ‘It’s the hope that kills you.’ Y’all know that? I disagree, you know? I think it’s the lack of hope that comes and gets you. See, I believe in hope. I believe in belief.”
Believe. Have hope. This team is ready to rewrite the story we have all become so familiar with and they are capable of bringing us a fairytale ending.
It’s the season of believing, and the 2022 Dallas Cowboys are a team to believe in.