For 27 years, the Dallas Cowboys have been stuck in a cycle of pre-season hype, only to be let down at crunch time. Is the end of the Super Bowl drought in sight for America’s Team?
For the second year running, the San Francisco 49ers put an end to the Cowboys' season. The manner of the 19-12 Divisional Round defeat left Dallas fans with a myriad of questions about the future.
Many of those questions surround head coach Mike McCarthy and starting QB , of course.
But with arguably the best defense in the league and an offense that ranked fourth in points per game, the pieces are there for Dallas.
The question now is can McCarthy fit them all together?
|2023/24 NFL Season
|September 8th, 2023 - February 11th, 2024
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|To win Super Bowl LVIII +1400, to win the NFC +600, to win the NFC East +180
2nd NFC East (12-5). Lost in the Divisional Round.
To get beyond the Divisional Round for the first time since they last won a Super Bowl in 1995 has to be the aim for a team this talented in a conference so top heavy.
The defense lead the league in turnovers (33), ranked fourth in points per game allowed (21.0) and they only seemed to get better come playoff team, conceding 33 points across two games.
With top-level talent Micah Parsons closer to the line of scrimmage, Dallas posted the fourth-highest sack total (54) in the league.
They’ve retained the majority of their defensive starters and plugged a couple of gaps, most notably at cornerback where they added Stephon Gilmore. Defenses don’t always maintain the high standards set in previous seasons but Dallas have done it back-to-back years and still have room to grow.
The defense is unquestionably the strength of the team with the offense having work to do. Head coach McCarthy will call the plays this year after offensive coordinator Kellen Moore left and that’s a head coaching move that has a habit of backfiring.
Quarterback Dak Prescott’s injury history is another concern, as was his tendency to throw an interception in 2022, while the protection in front of him wasn’t great last season.
They’ve lost a few players on offense too, yet what’s left may be enough for Dallas to be a top-10 offense. It’s easy to get sucked into overhyping Dallas, as previous seasons have proven.
The narrative around the Cowboys seems to be the same as it always is – they are expected to be a very strong team in the regular season, and are -210 to Make the Playoffs, but what is the realistic ceiling for a franchise that hasn’t reached an NFC Championship since 1995?
With the 2022/23 Super Bowl runners-up Philadelphia Eagles and upstart New York Giants alongside Dallas in the NFC East, reaching their usual 9- or 10-win mark isn’t as simple as in past years. The Cowboys are O/U 9.5 in the Regular Season Wins market.
But with a great defense, anything is possible in the NFL, and Dallas has some of the most lethal defensive playmakers in the game today. Standout edge rusher Micah Parsons is the +650 favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year.
Mike McCarthy faced calls to go after a second consecutive season finished with a disappointing play-off exit, but team owner Jerry Jones has shown faith in him.
McCarthy won the power struggle between himself and former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who was supposedly being groomed to succeed him eventually, but now has no more excuses for another early playoff exit.
Dallas have improved under McCarthy, going from 6-10 in his first season in charge to two double-digit win campaigns.
But the Cowboys expect more.
He did deliver one Super Bowl during his 12 years as Green Bay Packers coach, but that’s seen as a poor return given he had the best years of Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field.
WR Brandin Cooks (Houston Texans)
CB Stephon Gilmore (Indianapolis Colts)
RB Ronald Jones (Kansas City Chiefs)
LS Trent Sieg (Las Vegas Raiders)
RT Chuma Edoga (Atlanta Falcons)
TE Dalton Schultz (Houston Texans)
RB Ezekiel Elliott
CB Anthony Brown
WR T.Y. Hilton
LB Anthony Barr
LT Jason Peters
WR Noah Brown (Houston Texans)
K Brett Maher
LB Devante Bond
RG Connor McGovern (Buffalo Bills)
|Luke Schoonmaker (2nd round)
CeeDee Lamb stepped up for the Cowboys last year to take the mantle as the top wide reciver in Dallas, posting his best numbers as he had 107 catches for 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns.
Expect him to beat those numbers this year if Prescott stays on the field. Micah Parsons was trending towards being the Defensive Player of the Year last season, only for multiple niggling injuries to slow him down in the back end of the campaign.
Still, it was another brilliant year from Parsons, who is now a full-time edge rusher. He plans to add muscle to his natural speed and agility traits this year, a scary thought for opposing quarterbacks.
Dalton Schultz’s exit leaves the starting tight-end spot up for grabs with second round pick Luke Schoonmaker having the potential to steal snaps from Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot early on.
The Wolverine has all the traits to be a top tight end, possessing impressive speed and agility for a man of 6ft 6in and is one to watch.
Tony Pollard has already had four years playing in the NFL and last year posted a career-best 1,007 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
However, that came in a timeshare with Ezekiel Elliott and the Pro Bowler could be poised to put up some big numbers now he’s the lead back.
A broken leg at the end of last season means he could start the year slowly but expect him to still be amongst the league’s top running backs.
Odds displayed within this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to change.