It’s finally here, after waiting seven long months, the NFL season is getting ready to kick off this week. For Dallas Cowboys fans, there is little hanging over their heads this year. There is no confusion with Ezekiel Elliott’s playing status. The expectations aren’t nearly as high after coming off a lackluster 9-7 season, which could help the Cowboys be a surprise team.
The seesaw between up and down seasons needs to end for Dallas and there have been massive changes to how these Cowboys will look when they kickoff against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
There is also no Dan Bailey, no Dez Bryant, and no more Jason Witten, a fixture around the club for the last 15 years. These 2018 Cowboys have a different feel to them, it’s a younger group eager to prove the organization made the right moves this offseason. Let’s take our best guess at how it will all turn out.
Record: 11-5, NFC East Champions
The schedule doesn’t look daunting right now, but it’s difficult to know in the NFL from year to year. Dallas also doesn’t have a lot of injuries holding them back, yet. Travis Frederick and Xavier Woods are the biggest question marks, while David Irving remains out as well.
However, the good news is that Elliott should be ready to rock for 16 games, Tyron Smith feels great and if the Cowboys can play their bully ball on offense and dominate the time of possession, they will be fine. It worked in 2014 and 2016, it should be just as effective this season.
This could also be the best defense Dallas’ has had in a long time. They are deep at pass rusher and linebacker, two areas which haven’t been kind to the team recently. The emergence of Chidobe Awuzie and Jaylon Smith are major reasons why Rod Marinelli’s group will take a step forward, but Randy Gregory’s return can help elevate the defense.
The outside skill positions on offense are the biggest worry. There doesn’t appear to be a clear number one receiver yet and tight end is a huge question mark. If one receiver emerges as the go-to guy, the Cowboys will have enough in the passing game to keep defenses honest.
We should expect the Philadelphia Eagles to regress a season after every little thing went their way. The football Gods were surely with them last year, but it’s a whole new deal in 2018. The New York Giants also improved, but is it enough to compete with the Cowboys and Eagles?
Full Prediction: Cowboys will win the NFC East and make it to the NFC Championship game, where anything can happen. It’ll save Jason Garrett’s job much to the dismay of many fans. As Rafael Vela pointed out a few days ago, this year’s version of the Cowboys has Garrett’s handprints all over it, he needs to win big to avoid losing his job.
Five Bold Predictions:
1. Ezekiel Elliott will rush for over 2,000 yards. I had this claim earlier this offseason and even though losing Travis Frederick for any amount of time will sting, Elliott is that good.
2. Michael Gallup approaches 1,000 yards. The rookie receiver is damn good and he’ll establish himself as the best wideout on the team quickly. Gallup will have better numbers than Bryant did as their number one receiver last year.
3. DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory will both have double-digit sacks. With the Cowboys running the ball, securing leads and controlling the clock, the pass rushers will be able to attack. It’s a dynamic duo.
4. Jaylon Smith emerges as a Pro Bowl player. Smith looks like he’s back to his old self again and he is coming to wreck game plans. It will be a thing of beauty to watch.
5. Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie will each have five interceptions. The other dynamic duo for the Cowboys resides in the secondary. Jones finds a home at cornerback and Awuzie breaks out, making the Pro Bowl.
Bonus: The Cowboys’ defense finishes as a top-five unit in the league.
This a really good team; they have the physicality to dominate with their running game on offense and the speed and athleticism to fly around on defense. All the Cowboys need is for a receiver to emerge and for a little help from the injury Gods.
Sometimes you just have to believe; I believe the 2018 Dallas Cowboys have the makings of a special team. Just how far they go is a mystery, but they will at least be in the final four of the NFL season.
You can chat with or follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi