Now at 3-4 after suffering a heartbreaking road loss in Washington, the Cowboys and their fans are enduring this bye week with a lot of doom and gloom.
To many the season feels lost, and even if the Cowboys do turn things around and play better football, it’s hard to imagine they can compete with the Rams and Saints of the conference. While I remain objective in my analysis of this team, we do want to find some reasons for optimism around the Dallas Cowboys this season.
Here are 3 reasons why you should stay optimistic about the season and the Cowboys’ chances at clinching an NFC East crown.
This Defense Is Legit Good
Everyone realizes this, right? Outside of the safety position (which has looked improved the last couple of games) the Cowboys have a rather deep and talented defensive unit. Sure they are not without their flaws, but any defense which employs the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Sean Lee, Chidobe Awuzie, Leighton Vander Esch, and Jaylon Smith is a good one.
The Cowboys are currently 12th in team defense DVOA (defensive-adjusted value over average), specifically 3rd against the run. Dallas is also 4th in team defense (yards against) in the NFL, and 9th in expected points added defensively.
They’re good! And if the formula works even halfway correctly on the offense, this defense will give the Cowboys a chance to win each and every game.
Dallas Still Has A Top 3 Skill Player In The Division
So I get it, the popular take nowadays is that running backs don’t matter. And as a self-proclaimed “analytics” guy, I’m typically inclined to side with this take.
With all of that being said, Ezekiel Elliott is really good. And when the offensive line plays even close to their perceived ability, Elliott has the chance to take over and win games for the Cowboys. In fact, we’ve sort of seen this happen already this season when Elliott dominated the Detroit Lions both on the ground and in the passing game when it mattered most.
The Cowboys are built to run the football, play “ball control” offense, and win these low scoring games they seem to play every week. They haven’t been winning them, and the offense has been failing the defense, but having a stud player like Elliott definitely helps their outlook.
The NFC East Is Still Wide Open, And The Schedule Is Favorable
For all the points we can make about individual players or units, this is probably the most important point. The NFC East is wide open, and though the Redskins sit atop the Cowboys and currently hold the head-to-head tie breaker, they still have to come to Dallas later in November.
And, I mean, do you trust Washington to sweep Dallas and take control of the division?
Tied with the Cowboys currently are the 3-4 Eagles who look like a shell of their 2017-selves. While still talented, they are a little worse than a year ago basically everywhere, and their weak secondary is coming back to bite them. Philly also plays the toughest schedule of the three competing teams in the East, still traveling to New Orleans and Los Angeles to play the Rams this season. Plus Dallas gets to play Philadelphia twice, giving them two chances to bury the Eagles. You might not trust them to do it, but they’ll have the chance to do so regardless.
The Cowboys own schedule isn’t too daunting either. Yes they do play a Falcons team that looks like they’ve gotten it together a bit and the dangerous Saints as well, but they also get to finish the season against the tanking Giants, lowly Colts, and inconsistent Bucs.
This doesn’t guarantee a single thing, but it does make the Cowboys outlook that much better as we sit here during the bye week.