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Cowboys expect closer games this season, but dominated NFC East competition in ‘21

Are the Cowboys prepared to hold off their NFC East rivals this season?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

By relying on their defense and running game more this season, the Cowboys are inviting themselves into close games. The Cowboys were 5-3 in one-score games last season, and paired this with a perfect 6-0 divisional record to run away with the NFC East.

Not only did the Cowboys sweep the Eagles, Giants, and Commanders, but outscored them 240-107, an average of over 22 points per victory. Of course, there is no reward for style points in the NFL, and the Cowboys failed to score more than 22 points in two of their final four non-NFC East games. They managed just 17 in a Wild Card playoff exit to the 49ers, and have lost much more on offense this offseason compared to the strong defense they’ve kept under Dan Quinn.

Their current injury situation has made issues worse, but they’ve managed the roster this offseason with the expectation they’re still miles ahead of their division competition. Having Dak Prescott over Jalen Hurts, Carson Wentz, and Daniel Jones is a great starting point here, but the Cowboys should have a much better supporting cast around Prescott with the season opener a week away.

When the Cowboys won the East in 2018, they only outscored the division 160-134, losing at Washington in week seven. If the Cowboys were never as good as the 50-point outputs they hung on the Eagles and Commanders last year, or as bad as the 30-16 loss to the Broncos, it’s even harder to predict what they’ll be this season.

Their division foes weren’t just active in free agency, but drafted directly against the Cowboys weaknesses, looking to keep a streak of no repeat winners since 2003-04 alive. The Eagles are seen as the biggest threat to the Cowboys right now, drafting Jordan Davis to tighten their run defense, stealing another Georgia defender in the third with Nakobe Dean, and trading for A.J. Brown to give Hurts one of the best receivers in the NFL.

The Giants got arguably the best pass rusher in the draft with Kayvon Thibodeaux to throw at whoever the Cowboys start at left tackle, and a new coaching staff in place to help Daniel Jones realize his potential.

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles

The Cowboys forced multiple turnovers in all but one divisional game last season, another area to expect some regression for the team this season. Playing against offenses designed to control the ball, the Cowboys can expect much closer games from these rivalries in 2022. Whether it’s having the ball in the hands of Prescott with a chance to win late, or a game where the defense truly carries them, the Cowboys are still the betting favorite to hold off the Eagles and the rest of the division, but in much less of a landslide.

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