Entering this season, the majority of fans were on the boat that the Dallas Cowboys were going to be an average-to-flat-out terrible team after they saw the franchise's moves in the offseason.
(I admit, I was one of them.)
With several starters gone, the Cowboys came out in the season opener, stunk it up, and lost their starting QB. Now faced with a backup QB and uncertainty, almost all of the sports media world was writing the Cowboys off and expecting them to drop several games during Dak Prescott's absence.
But, to use a quote by Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith and mix it up a bit: “The Cowboys didn't write back,” and have proved everyone wrong.
On a four-game winning streak, the team has come together in ways that fans have never witnessed before. And, also add they have gotten highly-efficient play from backup QB Cooper Rush and have fielded an elite, shutdown defense– it feels like a new team replaced the Cowboys.
Now facing a big test this week against their NFC East rival, the Philadelphia Eagles (5-0), the Cowboys have the opportunity to send a message to the rest of the NFC that says, “We're legit, and we're coming.”
But, before they head into Lincoln Financial Field in what should be an electrifying game, I wanted to ask a question and get every fan's opinion: Are the Cowboys acutally legit NFC contenders?
First, let's start with records.
If you look at the NFC standings, fans can see the Cowboys are currently ranked fifth overall. The teams that are sitting in front of them include the Eagles (5-0), Vikings (4-1), Bucs (3-2), and 49ers (3-2).
Admittedly, records do matter near the end of the season in-the-terms of playoff seeding, but as we all know, history has shown lower seeds making playoff runs.
But we're not here to focus just on records. We want to learn if they belong. So, let's look at ESPN to see where their total defense and offense rank compared to others.
- Cowboys: Total Offense: 27th | Total Defense: 7th
Other teams: Eagles: Total Offense: 2nd | Total Defense: 4th; Vikings: Total Offense: 10th | Total Defense: 24th; Bucs: Total Offense: 21st | Total Defense: 6th; 49ers: Total Offense: 20th | Total Defense: 1st
While it's no surprise that their offense ranks lower than all four teams, seeing their defense up there with the best is encouraging. Plus, if you consider that the Cowboys are staying afloat even without a top offense, that has to point to them evolving once Prescott returns.
To clarify, this is no knock on Rush, as he has done his job to help the team win. But once Prescott returns, there is no doubt that he will elevate the team to another level, and you should see their offense trend upward.
Also, add that without Prescott, the Cowboys continue to trend upward in Super Bowl odds and in people's eyes, as CBS Sports wrote how they're legitimate contenders because of their defense and could be scarier once the QB-switch happens— it's looking good for Dallas.
So, if you haven't realized my verdict yet, it's all FACTS. Because of the rise of the defense, the team is no doubt a legit team to fear out of the NFC, and they will only get better as the season progresses.
If they can keep the offense simple once Prescott comes back, instruct him to tone down his gun-slinging tendencies, and scheme for him to use his legs more– the sky is the limit for the team.
They will have a tough gauntlet on their way to a possible Super Bowl return for the first time since 1996, but they have all the pieces to break through. And they need to take advantage of their window before time bites them in the rear end.