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Are Cowboys Set to Thrive as NFC Underdogs in 2018?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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QB Dak Prescott Already Embracing Leadership Role?

The last two successful seasons the Dallas Cowboys have been able to put together have both been years in which the team was a big underdog heading into the season. In 2014, the Cowboys were expected to have a bad season with one of the worst defenses in NFL history after losing DE DeMarcus Ware. In 2016, the Cowboys were basically scratched off after Tony Romo went down in preseason. After all, we saw what happened in 2015 without #9 and no one expected Dak Prescott to have the impact he had as a rookie.

In 2018, the Dallas Cowboys seem ready to take on as one of the NFC underdogs once again. Although they're recognized as an above-average team, many doubt their ability to win enough games to make the postseason the year after a disappointing 9-7 record.

With the Philadelphia Eagles being the clear favorites to win the NFC East as the defending Super Bowl champions, many have forgotten about the team that took the league by storm in 2016. Now without Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, the passing game's future is uncertain. You need a passing game to win in the NFL.

In a conference that basically has three contenders per division, it will be a challenge for the Cowboys to earn a playoff berth. The NFC West has the Rams, the 49ers and maybe the Seahawks contending, the North has the Vikings and the Packers while the Lions and Bears seem like potential surprises and the South has the Panthers, Falcons and Saints who were all contending for the playoffs in week 17 last year and will likely be in a similar scenario this year.

Cowboys, Elliott Should Be Keeping Close Tabs on Le'Veon's Situation

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (AP Photo / Don Wright)

There are many reasons to be excited about the Cowboys' upcoming season, such as Dak's third year, Kris Richard's arrival and a promising offensive line with rookie Connor Williams fixing the one question mark in the unit.

Hopefully, this reasons outweigh the causes for concern. Such as big question marks at the wide receiver, tight end and safety position. On top of it all, the Cowboys' schedule isn't an easy one. They'll face quite a few contenders throughout the season and unlike the AFC, any NFC team that plans to play in January must have a very good record.

With so many talented and promising teams, the race for the Wildcard playoff berths will likely be the most exciting one in the entire NFL this year.

The big question here is, will the Cowboys be able to have success as an underdog in the conference once again in 2018? Personally, I even feel that said "underdog" status will help spark a fire in the play of a team with so many young and hungry competitors.

This is a young team, one with few experience at various positions. However, it's a good team. Although the pass-catchers department is questionable, Dak Prescott might have the best season in his career and Ezekiel Elliott will be back without any off-field issues behind an improved offensive line.

The defense is also promising at every spot except for safety, which despite having decent starters, it's probably the most questionable position on the team. At the very least, it looks like a better unit that 2017's.

If being an underdog the entire season results in a successful year, then bring it. Besides, everyone loves the underdog.

Tell me what you think about "Are Cowboys Set to Thrive as NFC Underdogs in 2018?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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6 Comments
  • Brian Moore

    ARE COWBOYS SET TO THRIVE AS NFC UNDERDOGS IN 2018?
    Let;s be brutishly honest, they where 8-8 last year. Philly played their second string and still almost beat the Cowboys. The NFC is going to be a super tough place to play and I have many teams ahead of the Cowboys.

    Philadelphia Eagles
    Green Bay Packers
    Minnesota Vikings
    Atlanta Falcons
    Los Angeles Rams
    New Orleans Saints
    Jacksonville Jaguars
    With Washington, SF,and Carolina very close. This excludes AFC, which has several teams on it also that I feel are stronger. Of course anything can happen, and in several instances it does, but I still feel Dallas is on the outside looking in.

    • Stranger

      Good. I like your response Brian. Dallas’s biggest deficit is depth in a few key positions. LB and OL. Questions about receivers is in every Cowboys fan’s mind but the receivers were bad last year … Witten was slow with no YAC and Dez was undependable and a cancer in the locker room. I actually think receiving will be ok.

      I like the fact that many have the same attitudes as you do. Everybody hates the Boys and get up for them a little extra anyway. It helps if people/other teams think they’ll be mediocre.

  • dallas1966

    Imho this is the year the Cowboys return to elite status as THE Team in the NFL replacing the Patriots.

    • http://www.dallascowboyschat.com Cowboysdude

      And you’re the type of fan that ‘jerruh’ loves……too blind to see that this team isn’t being run as a football team it’s being run as a money maker……winning is a bonus. So keep handing your money over lemming.

      • dallas1966

        Let’s see who’s have the last laugh in February 2019.

  • http://www.dallascowboyschat.com Cowboysdude

    As long as they continue to sell their red headed clapping puppet as a HC this team is doing nothing but watching the playoffs at home.

Game Notes

Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Dominate Jaguars Top-Ranked Defense

Brian Martin

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Monday Morning Hangover: Cowboys Dominate Jaguars Top-Ranked Defense 1

After watching the Houston Texans defeat the Dallas Cowboys in the Week 5, I decided to lower my expectations heading into this week's matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After all, the Cowboys offense has been one of the worst in the league this season and they were going up against the top-ranked Jaguars defense. Boy was I surprised at what took place Sunday afternoon.

I don't know how you started off your football Sunday, but I decided to watch the Texans take on the Buffalo Bills. I didn't have much of a choice since I live in the Houston area and it was the only game on TV, but I still wanted to see how they played after beating my Cowboys in overtime a week prior. I was disgusted at what I saw and unfortunately took it out on my cold beverage.

The Texans looked nothing like the team we saw against the Cowboys. They were pretty much dominated by the Buffalo Bills, which I'm ashamed to say put me in a rather foul mood ahead of kickoff time in Dallas. I was expecting another sloppy performance, but what we all witnessed was anything but that.

The Dallas Cowboys offense pretty much moved the ball at will against the Jacksonville Jaguars top-ranked defense. I don't think anyone could have predicted that, especially considering the Jaguars were the best overall defense in the league and where the top-ranked in the passing game as well. I thought if the Cowboys were going to have any kind of chance it was against their 14th ranked run defense.

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

Well, the Cowboys ended up dominating on the offensive side of the ball and completely exploited the Jaguars defense both on the ground and through the air. Quarterback Dak Prescott, Running Back Ezekiel Elliott, and Wide Receiver Cole Beasley all raised the level of their game and were big contributors to the 40 points the offense put on the board.

Prescott may have thrown for little less than 200 yards, but he was able to connect with Beasley nine times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. With all of the struggles in the passing game for the Cowboys, these two need to continue to connect like this.

Where Prescott was the most impactful against the Jaguars was with his feet. He was really close to being the Cowboys leading rusher with 82 yards and a TD on just 11 carries, but Zeke ended up surpassing him in the end with 106 yards and a TD on 24 carries. Regardless, the Jaguars defense didn't have an answer for Prescott's feet Sunday afternoon.

I have hope once again that this offense is clicking, but I've gone down this road once before. The Dallas Cowboys are still right in the mix of things in the NFC East division and will have a chance to distance themselves next week when they take on the Washington Redskins.

Now, here's the difficult part of all of this. The Cowboys now need to carry over this impressive offensive performance against the Jaguars into next week against the rival Redskins. We've all seen them riding on a high before this season, only to crash back down to earth the following week. They can't afford to do that with a division foe up next on the schedule.

What did you think about the Dallas Cowboys offense against the Jaguars?



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Game Notes

DAL 40, JAX 7: Cowboys Answer The Bell In Dominant Win

Kevin Brady

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DAL 40, JAX 7: Cowboys Answer The Bell In Dominant Win

It seems like a pattern is developing here during the 2018 Dallas Cowboys season.

For a team and an offense which has looked absolutely horrid on the road, the Cowboys appear to be one of the better teams in the conference when playing at home.

That trend continued today as the Cowboys dominated the now 3-3 Jacksonville Jaguars from start to finish, en route to a 40-7 home victory over last year's AFC semi-finalist.

Quarterback Dak Prescott had possibly his best game of the season, making up for his poor performance in Houston a week ago. While Prescott only threw for 183 yards on 17 completions, it was his 82 rushing yards on 11 carries which put this offense over the top. Plus, the Cowboys were in "kill the clock" mode for basically the entire second half.

The real story here was the offensive line, however. The o-line which has been heavily criticized by the fan base during the season, and has shouldered a heavy amount of the blame for the poor offensive production, finally stepped up and played to their standards this afternoon. Prescott had great pass protection all day, which was evident in his passing numbers and Cole Beasley's receiving performance.

Dallas is now 3-3 on the season, tied with the defending champ Eagles and a half game behind Washington for first place in the NFC East. Next week the Cowboys have a huge game in Washington with first place on the line.

Other Notes

  • Cole Beasley proved once again why he's worthy of the pay day he'll get (probably somewhere else) this offseason. Beasley caught 9 balls for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns, dominating man coverage all game long.
  • These linebackers are legit. Both Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were all over the field today, anchoring a group which was impressive yet again.
  • Brett Maher simply can't miss, going 4 for 4 on field goal attempts including a 55 yarder in the second half.
  • Ezekiel Elliott went over 100 yards rushing again this week, and it was somehow still a quiet day for him in the grand scheme of things.
  • Byron Jones was the best cornerback on either team today, deflecting 3 passes and staying sticky to the Jacksonville wide outs all day. He's been incredible this season and Sunday's game was no different.
  • Oh, and Randy Gregory sack alert! Party!



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Player News

David Irving Ready to “Be Put Through Ringer” in First Action with Cowboys

Sean Martin

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David Irving Ready to "Be Put Through Ringer" in First Action with Cowboys
(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

The Dallas Cowboys patience in Defensive Tackle David Irving is set to pay off on Sunday, as Irving will play in his first game of 2018 after being suspended for the first four weeks. Irving was eligible to play last week in the Cowboys overtime loss at the Texans, but did not make the trip to Houston as he dealt with off-field concerns.

The Cowboys defense has performed admirably without Irving, but in a needed game against the Jaguars, it could be up to this defense to win the game for Dallas - something a disruptive player like Irving has the ability to do on any given snap.

While the plan is for the Cowboys to ease Irving into this game, his impact from the DT position might be enough to leave him on the field as much as needed in a tight game.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Irving said the coaches want to play him 10-15 snaps Sunday. "That's what they say now but if it's a close game, I know good and well Marinelli is going to be sending me out there & putting me through the ringer. I'm ready for it.

Like a good left-handed pitcher in baseball or three-point specialist in basketball, the Cowboys have afforded Irving a long leash despite his unreliability thanks to a 6'7" and 290 pound frame that makes him a menace for opposing guards.

The 3T-DT position is a pivotal one in Marinelli's scheme, and one the Cowboys have afforded Irving every opportunity to fill, yielding results whenever the former Chiefs practice squad steal suits up.

Filling in for Irving through the Cowboys first five games of the season has been reliable veteran Tyrone Crawford. Expected to play at defensive end this season, Crawford has recorded 14 tackles and one sack from the 3T position.

With Irving back in the "Hot Boyz" rotation, it will be interesting to see if Crawford once again goes out to right defensive end, where Randy Gregory has struggled to make the most out of his own return from suspension.

Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli is not expecting similar struggles from Irving, prepared to put him "through the ringer".

Where Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard calls the Cowboys defense, Marinelli is still one of the most respected coaches at The Star, demanding a lot of his defensive line in particular. It's the pairing of Marinelli's motivation and Irving's intangibles that have the Cowboys defense on the brink of taking another step toward's one of the league's best.

With their own offense set to line up against perhaps the best overall defense in Jacksonville on Sunday, Irving's return is just in time. The NFC East is far from out of reach for the Cowboys, who will be at full strength on defense once Sean Lee returns as early as next week.

The Cowboys have never lost a game in which Lee, Irving, and Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence play at least 20% of the team's snaps on defense. Perhaps this stat will have to be adjusted to include rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in short time, but for now the Cowboys are hours away from fighting for a 3-3 start to 2018, doing so with one of their most important defenders back in the lineup.

Tell us what you think about "David Irving Ready to “Be Put Through Ringer” in First Action with Cowboys" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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