My life of sports fandom has made me a bit of a pessimist. I’ll admit to that.
Outside of the Dallas Cowboys, I am a die hard fan of the New York Mets in baseball and the New York Knicks in basketball. Neither of which have given me much to be excited about during my years on this earth.
Typically, when one of my teams has a successful year, the next year ends in some brutal heartbreak. The last time the Cowboys had a somewhat-successful season (prior to 2016), they followed it up with injury-riddled heartbreak during 2015.
This very well could be the root cause for why I have been pumping the brakes a bit on the 2017 Dallas Cowboys hype over the last several weeks. Or, I could actually have some valid points.
I’ll let you guys be the judge of that.
There has to be some regression, right?
The Dallas Cowboys offense maintained most of its key pieces from a year ago, and even added a dynamic threat in rookie wide out Ryan Swizter. But even as great as we expect them to be, it is reasonable to expect some regression from last season, right?
Dak Prescott was an absolute phenomenon in 2016, and while I expect him to be a great quarterback in this league for years to come, we do often see second year quarterbacks struggle coming out of the gate.
If the Cowboys are without running back Ezekiel Elliott, whether for suspension or some other reason, those first couple of games might spell trouble for the Dallas Cowboys. The first three defenses they face are all fierce units. Including the New York Giants, who defeated the Cowboys twice just last season.
The Cowboys will also be replacing two starters on the offensive line from 2016 with inexperienced players. While I have faith those holes will be filled, it is still fair to ask some questions.
Still, the Cowboys have three of the best offensive linemen in football, an elite receiving corps, the league’s leading rusher, and an excellent young quarterback. They should be fine on that side of the ball.
What will the Cowboys be defensively?
This is a crucial question for the 2017 season. Despite losing key contributors to their defense from last season, I do think the Cowboys re-loaded for the future.
Drafting players like Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods, Dallas now has a versatile and athletic young secondary to build their defense around. Plus, they are (in all likelihood) adding the best linebacker prospect from the 2016 NFL Draft in Jaylon Smith to their starting front-seven.
So, things should be looking up.
Despite all of this good news for the Cowboys defense, it will still be an incredibly inexperienced unit across the board. Youth can be an advantage in a lot of respects, but it also could produce some uncomfortable growing pains throughout the season.
There’s only one way to know what will happen though, and that’s to play the games.
Could close games bring different outcomes this time around?
This right here is my main reason of concern.
In 2016, the Cowboys were 7-2 in “close games,” defined as decided by one score (7 or less points). On top of that, seven of their thirteen wins came against teams which finished at .500 or under.
With the schedule they will face this year, they will be less likely to play as many as seven .500 or less teams. Plus, close games are rarely sustainable in the NFL. Even just anecdotally, you can remember that many of those close games could have gone either way.
If one call or play went differently in Minnesota, the Cowboys would have lost that game. If Carson Wentz didn’t falter down the stretch on Sunday Night Football, the Cowboys probably would have lost that game as well.
Typically, teams with this great of a record in close games suffer some regression to the mean the very next season. This could very well explain why many, including Vegas, have the Cowboys at 9 or 10 wins in 2017 instead of 12 or 13.
With all of this being said, I still expect the Cowboys to either win, or at least challenge for, the NFC East crown this season. I expect them to get to 10 wins, and potentially host a playoff game.
This roster is too good for any drastic regression in my opinion, and they are the best/most talented team in the division.
Still, I wonder if as a fan base we should back off the Super Bowl hype train we seem to currently be on. But when I look around the rest of the conference, I don’t see a team the Cowboys can’t beat.
So, at least for now, keep on riding the hype train. It’s more fun that way.