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.
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.
Cowboys NFC East Title Put on Hold with Redskins Win, Shutout Loss at Colts
For the first time since 2003, the Dallas Cowboys were shutout on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Their five game winning streak snapped, the Cowboys also saw their chances at clinching the NFC East dashed before the late kickoffs. Needing both a Redskins and Eagles loss to win the division without the benefit of a win themselves, the Redskins kept their playoff hopes alive with a walk off field goal at the Jaguars.
Washington Quarterback Josh Johnson won his second start since 2013 with 151 yards and one touchdown. The Redskins aren't the only NFC East team playing with a backup QB, as the Eagles must once again rally around Nick Foles against the Rams to extend their shot at the playoffs on Sunday Night Football.
The Cowboys certainly didn't deserve a celebration of any kind after their performance at the Colts. An emotional letdown after a win streak that featured triumphs over the Eagles twice, Redskins, and Saints, the Cowboys were slowed to a complete stop on offense while struggling fundamentally on defense.
Uncharacteristic missed tackles and lack of pressure on Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck allowed Indianapolis to turn a 10-0 halftime lead into an easy 23-0 win. Defending their home field, the Colts came out like a team still fighting for their playoff lives, while Dallas played like a team knowing two more chances at winning the division are still to come.
Instead of being able to watch and root against the Eagles tonight, the Cowboys can focus on not letting an embarrassing loss define a season that'll still end on a high note should they defeat the Buccaneers or Giants. A week 16 or 17 win automatically seals the division for the Cowboys, even with the Redskins improving to 7-7 moments before the Colts secured their shutout.
It was a masterful performance from Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus, preparing his team against Scott Linehan's offense to disrupt the momentum of one of the league's hottest teams.
Praising the Redskins for defeating a Jaguars team the Cowboys handled 40-7 much earlier in the season is hardly the situation Cowboys Nation wants to be in right now, but the team still has everything in front of them once Sunday's sixth loss is put behind them.
IND 23, DAL 0: Cowboys Get Shut Out, Embarrassed by Colts
The Dallas Cowboys must think they've already won the NFC East, because they looked like a team with nothing to play for today. The result was an embarrassing 23-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Cowboys were shut out for the first time since the 2003 season, which was Jason Witten's rookie year.
Dallas squandered a major time-of-possession advantage in the first half, finishing three drives with a blocked field goal, punt, and a failed 4th-and-1 play near the Colts' goal line. Indianapolis capitalized on their own drives and took a 10-0 lead into halftime.
The Colts got the ball back to start the third quarter and drove down for another touchdown. Down 17-0, Dallas responded with a weak drive and a punt. The game felt out of reach even then, with the Cowboys just looking flat from that point forward.
Ezekiel Elliott had 87 rushing yards 41 receiving for some empty production. Amari Cooper won't be winning any awards this week, held to just four catches for 32 yards.
Dak Prescott completed 62% of his passes for 206 yards. He was sacked three times and threw a late interception; an overthrown ball got tipped by the receiver and picked off on the team's final offensive series.
While the offense was especially bad today, the defense wasn't much better. Dallas surrendered 139 yards rushing yards and two touchdown to Colts RB Marlon Mack, who hadn't had a 100-yard game since October. Andrew Luck wasn't sacked and went virtually untouched the entire day.
The Cowboys could have taken the NFC East with a win, but they didn't come close. Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call with the postseason only a few weeks away.
- With the Redskins defeating the Jaguars today, Dallas will have to wait until next week to try to clinch the NFC East. The Cowboys needed losses by both Washington and Philadelphia if they didn't win themselves. The Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.
- The Cowboys will get some softer competition to finish the year, hosting the Buccaneers next week and then going to play the Giants in Week 17.
- With the Bears defeating the Packers today and moving to 10-4, they will likely stay the #3 seed in the playoffs. That means Dallas, assuming they do win the NFC East, will almost certainly be hosting the 5th-seeded Seahawks in the first round.
- Jaylon Smith led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, but neither he or Leighton Vander Esch were making the big plays that we've grown accustomed to.
- Xavier Woods had the highlight play on defense, delivering a perfect hit to dislodge the ball from Colts TE Eric Ebron and stop a potential big gain.
- Blake Jarin and Dalton Schultz combined for seven catches for 68 yards; another week of increased TE production from what we've seen must of the year.
- Fullback Jamize Olawale doesn't get many opportunities on offense, and he may not get more after dropping an open touchdown on the team's second drive of the day.
Cowboys Can’t Finish Drives, Trailing Colts 10-0 at Halftime
The Cowboys have had no trouble moving the ball today, but they've failed to finish drives with points. Dallas is thus trailing the Indianapolis Colts 10-0 at halftime.
Dallas has had possession for over 19 minutes compared to just 10 for the Colts. But their three drives have ended with a blocked field goal, a failed 4th-and-1 play near the endzone, and a punt.
The offensive line continues to suffer from health issues. With Zack Martin already out and Connor Williams starting at right guard, Xavier Su'a-Filo left the game with an eye injury during the second quarter and will not return. Backup Adam Redmond is now playing.
The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win in any of their final three games. They could also clinch today if the Redskins and Eagles lose. Washington is trailing 10-3 in Jacksonville at halftime, and the Eagles are visiting the Rams tonight.
Hopefully, Dallas will start showing up on the scoreboard in the second half.
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