2017 NFL Update: Jury Still Out on the Dallas Cowboys

No team got as much press during the NFL Preseason as the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were a strange team to analyze before Week 1. The over/under on Dallas’ total number of victories was 9 games. The projection, that Dallas would go 9 and 7, implied that the Cowboys would have trouble winning the NFC East.

However, the Cowboys were an 8 to 1 second choice to win Super Bowl 52. It seemed strange that a team that would have trouble winning it’s division could possibly be one of the favorites in its conference to go to the Super Bowl.

How has the 2017 NFL Regular Season worked out for the Dallas Cowboys? Keep reading to find out!

Dallas Cowboys 2017 Update

As of NFL Week 14, the Dallas Cowboys are at 6 and 6. They haven’t been totally eliminated from playoff contention. In fact, things are looking up. Before getting into why I believe that, read some answers to 3 questions I laid out in my 2017 Dallas Cowboys Preview.

 3 Questions on the 2017 Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl LII Odds

Sophomore Blues for Ezekiel and Dak?

Answer:  A “yuge” yes

My biggest question going into the 2017 NFL Season about the Dallas Cowboys was how well their two 2016 rookie sensations, running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott, might perform. More than a couple of great rookie have underperformed in their sophomore years. Would Dak and Ezekiel become two more great rookies to have bad second seasons in the NFL?

The answer is “yes”. I dig deeper by individually looking at each player, Zeke and Dak.

RB Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott is currently serving out his 6-game suspension. The suspension, handed down for domestic abuse, won’t end until Week 16. If the Cowboys are in playoff contention, Zeke’s presence in Week 16 could be the deciding factor.

Before the suspension, Zeke had been having an okay season. He had rushed for 783 yards from 191 attempts. That’s a 4.1 per rush average. Zeke had rushed for 7 TDs. He had also caught 19 passes for 210 yards. He had caught 2 TD passes.

With Elliott on the bench, the Cowboys have decided to ride RB Alfred Morris. It took Morris a couple of games to get going. He finally did in Week 13 when he rumbled for 127 yards from 27 carries. Morris is more than capable of carrying the Cowboys rush offense. The reason is because the Boys’ offensive line remains one of the very best in the NFL.

QB Dak Prescott

For a starting quarterback in the NFL, Dak Prescott’s numbers are just okay. Based on his 2017 stats, he’s a serviceable quarterback. He’s not the best. He’s not the worst. Dak’s thrown for 2,420 yards. He’s completing close to 63% of his passes, and he’s thrown 18 TD passes. He has also thrown 9 interceptions. Dak’s QB rating is an okay 87.9.

Where Dak has really excelled this season is in the rushing attack. Prescott’s run for 275 yards from 39 carries. That’s over 7 yards per carry. He’s also scored 5 rushing TDs. If Dak is able to rush the football when he wishes, not when he must, he’s one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL. Prescott had a so-so game in Week 13. He only completed 50% of his pass attempts for 102 yards. His yards per completion average came out to 4.6.

That’s okay. He didn’t throw any interceptions. He threw 2 TD passes. What’s really fantastic is that the Boys beat rival Washington 38 to 14.

The bottom line with Zeke and Dak is that neither is as good this season as they were last season. Zeke had to take 6 games off. Even before the suspension, he wasn’t exactly tearing it up.  Dak has seemed out of sorts. He’s also thrown plenty of more interceptions in 2017 than he did in 2016.

There is good news, though. Dallas’ rushing attack finally got on track in Week 13. When the Cowboys get their rushing attack going, Dak becomes an even more effective quarterback. Also, Zeke is back in the next couple of weeks. It all adds up to Dak, and the Cowboys’ rushing attack, possibly peaking at the right time.

How Much Better Has the Dallas Defense Gotten?

Answer:  It depends on linebacker Sean Lee

When linebacker Sean Lee plays, the Dallas Cowboys have one of the very best defenses in the NFC.  Lee’s that important to the Cowboys. Lee hasn’t played since Week 9. Dallas beat the Kansas City Chiefs 28 to 19 in Week 9.

Without Lee, the Cowboys have gone 1 and 3 straight up. The only win was in Week 13 versus Washington. Lee has 41 solo tackles on the season. He’s Dallas’ best run stopper. Lee is listed as probable for Week 14. If he comes back 100%, he should definitely help Dallas in their playoff run.

What are the Cowboys’ True Chances of Winning the NFC East?

Answer: Turns out not that good

In the preseason, the Dallas Cowboys were a heavy favorite to win the NFC East. The odds on Dallas were so low that most NFL future bettors had already turned their attention to the New York Giants. When word came down that Ezekiel Elliott was likely to be suspended for 6 games, the Giants became the favorites to win the NFC East.

But, neither the Giants nor the Cowboys are going to win the NFC East. The team that’s run away with the division are the Philadelphia Eagles. Going into Week 14, Philadelphia has a 10 and 2 record. The Eagles should have no trouble winning the division while the Cowboys must struggle to just make the playoffs.

The New York Giants? The Giants, who did make the playoffs last season, have turned into one of the worst teams in the NFL. NYG is at 2 and 10. The Giants are so bad that they fired both their GM and their head coach after the 17 to 24 Week 13 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Bottom Line: 2017 Dallas Cowboys will make the playoffs

Am I going out on a limb by writing that the Dallas Cowboys will make the 2017-2018 NFL Playoffs? I think I am. Right now, before the Week 14 game at the New York Giants, the Cowboys are at 6 and 6. There’s no reason for the Boys not to beat the Giants. The fact that RB Alfred Morris rushed so well behind the offensive line in the impressive victory over Washington is a sign that Dallas has finally gotten it together. Not only that, but LB Sean Lee is listed as probable to play this Sunday.

But, the real reason to like the Dallas Cowboys is because the New York Giants are just a bad football team. It’s going to be tough for the Giants to keep Dallas from scoring close to 30 points.

Week 15’s game is versus the Oakland Raiders in Oakland. Like Dallas, Oakland is at 6 and 6 going into Week 14. The Raiders ride a two-game win streak into Week 14. I’m not impressed. Oakland beat the Giants and the Denver Broncos. Denver, like NYG is one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Dallas should handle the Raiders. What it means is that when Zeke returns, the Cowboys will have an 8 and 6 record. Could Dallas possibly beat Seattle in Week 16? With Zeke back, and a healthy Sean Lee, the Boys figure to be ultra-competitive versus Seattle. The Seahawks’ offensive line isn’t very good. Lee is one of the few linebackers in the NFL that can hang with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. With Zeke, Dallas should have no trouble moving the ball against the Seahawks’ defense.

At 9 and 6, garnering a playoff spot would come down to Dallas’ Week 17 battle versus the rival Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are a +350 NFC favorite to win Super Bowl 52. Philadelphia has looked unstoppable. However, Philly suffered their first loss of the season since Week 2 in Week 12.

Seattle beat Philadelphia. The Seahawks are the only above .500 team that Philadelphia has played this season. And…Philly lost. Yep. I think Dallas beats the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17.

Also, I firmly believe that starting in Week 14, the Dallas Cowboys win their final 4 games of the season. I won’t say I told you so when it happens.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson


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