Should the Dallas Cowboys be the NFC East favorites in 2016?
By Ivan Leonard
After a disastrous 4-12 season, should the Dallas Cowboys actually be considered the NFC East favorites going into next year?
Coming off of a 4-12 season, a last place finish in the NFC East, and a season in which star quarterback Tony Romo missed significant time due to injury; there is every reason to be pessimistic but the Dallas Cowboys might be in a good position to bounce back.
Sure, the Cowboys seem to always be right there when they miss the postseason. But the first step to contending in the playoffs is contending in the division. And since 2012, Dallas has been able to do that. They have swept every other team in the division at least once and compiled a 10-2 road division record. All the while being the only division team with a winning record over that same span (15-9).
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I was never a big fan of owner Jerry Jones’s moral victories after losses, but this season’s absence of Romo and receiver Dez Bryant for large chunks of the season made most temper their expectations and put things in perspective. A team missing its two best offensive players and best defensive player in Orlando Scandrick was still competing in the division and still managed to beat each of it’s divisional foes at least once.
The Dallas defense played spectacular at times this season. But it did not matter because they were on the field so much they would break in the fourth quarter. During their four-game losing streak after the Week Six bye, the Cowboys lost games to the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers because they failed to reach the endzone. And they lost games to the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles due in part to untimely pick-sixes. Dallas allowed under 350 yards in three of those four games but were doomed by turnovers and stalled drives. A new running back added to an offense with healthy Romo and Dez should fix that.
With the Eagles and Giants going through transition periods with new coaches, those two teams both might be a year or two away before competing again. Add in the Washington Redskins that did not defeat any teams with a winning record now having to take on a tougher schedule, and the NFC East could be the Cowboys to lose.
In the past five or so years in the NFC East, the team favored to win the division fails to make the playoffs. While a team predicted to finish under .500 seems to always win it. We have seen quarterbacks like Michael Vick, Robert Griffin, Nick Foles, and now Kirk Cousins each have Pro-Bowl calibers seasons before reverting back to being average. And Cousins might be the next victim.
The Cowboys are in prime position to bring the NFC East crown back home to Dallas next season.
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