The Dallas Cowboys are currently taking their fans on their best ride in many years. At 13-3 and atop the NFC entering the playoffs, dreams of Super Bowls and Dynasties are dancing through the heads of all of Cowboys nation.
But as good as Dallas has been this year, they are in no way a shoo-in to represent the NFC in Houston this February. This team still has many flaws, some which have been masked by some of the most talented players in all of football to this point, but flaws nonetheless.
The biggest problem with the Cowboys going into these playoffs isn’t what you think it is, however. No, it is not their defense which has overachieved their preseason expectations, or their defensive line filled with “nobodies” who struggled to get after the passer at times this season.
What may hold the Cowboys back most is their inability to beat top pass defenses.
Some of the staff at SB Nation put together a list of each playoff team’s fatal flaw earlier this week, and their points about the Cowboys couldn’t be more accurate. Despite being fifth in the NFL in both points scored and total offense per game, the Cowboys struggled mightily when facing top competition.
Two of their three loses came at the hands of the New York Giants, a pass defense which ranks 10th in passing yards allowed per game and in the top ten of opponent passer rating. Dak Prescott looked lost at times at the Meadowlands this season, completing just 17 of his 37 passes for only 165 yards.
Dallas scored 24 or more points in every meaningful game but three this year. Those three games were: the two against the Giants, and one against the Minnesota Vikings, who also rank in the top ten in terms of opponent passer rating.
Sure, the prolific Cowboys rushing attack should be able to soften up any pass defense, or possibly even render it meaningless. But when a team possess a balanced defense, who can cover the Dallas receivers in one-on-one situations, the Cowboys tend to struggle a lot. Then again, so does every other team, hence the high rankings of these defenses.
There is good news, however.
Despite this “flaw” the Cowboys still managed to win 13 games and secure a first round bye, so that’s obviously good.
But the even better news is that unless they match up with the Giants for a third time (which is possible) the odds are they won’t have to play an elite pass defense during the entirety of the NFC playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, and Detroit Lions each have average-to-below-average defensive units against the pass, and two of these teams have already been shredded by Dak this season. The Seattle Seahawks have a lot of good names defensively, but without Earl Thomas they have barely been able to stop anybody consistently. Plus, I believe the Cowboys could run the ball very effectively against Seattle.
The point of all this is to say, the Cowboys do have some serious flaws in their game. They might have won 13 games this year, and the playoffs might go through Dallas, but that does not mean they are a perfect team whatsoever.
But neither is anyone else.
The league is filled with imperfect teams, and there really is no juggernaut in the NFL this year. To be honest, the closest thing the NFC has to a juggernaut is the Dallas Cowboys.