Everyone is high on the Dallas Cowboys.
With two rookie phenoms leading the offense, the best offensive line in football, and Coach of the Year Jason Garrett calling the shots, 2016’s Dallas Cowboys garnered the attention of the entire NFL. Leading ESPN’s Power Rankings for half of the season, the Cowboys were expected to have great success in the playoffs. But a loss to Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs quickly stymied any Super Bowl hopes for Dallas.
2017 Won’t Be Easy
The Cowboys have a tough schedule ahead in 2017. Dallas will have to play through the entire AFC West (Broncos, Raiders, Chargers, Chiefs) which consists of a recent Super Bowl winner (2016) and two 2016 playoff teams (Raiders, Chiefs). Additionally, they’ll face all of the NFC West teams (Seahawks, Rams, 49ers, Cardinals) of which two have had playoff runs in both 2016 and 2015. They will also face each team in their division twice as well as the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons who played in the 2017 NFC Championship.
It isn’t just the teams themselves that will present a challenge for the Cowboys. Looking at the number of Pro Bowl quarterbacks on the Cowboys 2017 schedule is intimidating. Dallas will face eight Pro Bowl QB’s in 2017: Derek Carr, Phillip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. With a pass defense that placed in 26th in 2016, the Cowboys will have to sign a free agent or draft an elite pass rusher to face these MVP caliber quarterbacks.
Second Year Players
Going into 2017, both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will be entering their second year in the NFL. But with a year of experience under their belt, so to comes a year of tape on both rookies. Every coaching staff in the NFL that is set to play Dallas will have ample time to study every flaw in Dak’s game and will undoubtedly exploit each weakness. Unlike Dak, Elliott ended 2016 unsatisfied with his performance. Although 1,631 total yards on the season is no small feat, his goal was to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie record of 1,808 yards. Like Dickerson did in his second year, Elliott is looking to break the 2,000 yard mark next season.
Less Wins, More Fight
Given the ease of their 2016 schedule, 2017 will be a huge challenge. The Cowboys left 2016 heartbroken in their 34-31 loss to the Packers. They went the entire season with the mantra of “fight” and will head into 2017 looking to “finish the fight” despite the increased challenges. After going 13-3 in 2016, expect the 2017 Cowboys to have a less god-like record, finishing the season at 11-5. This will still lead to an NFC East championship and playoff berth, but America’s Team will have to elevate their game to the next level.
Lauren Lapaglia is a lifelong Cowboys fan and is the NFC East Division Manager, Dallas Cowboys lead writer and marketer for Pro Football Spot. For more Cowboys content, follow her on Twitter @scullyspeaks and the Cowboys on PFS @spotcowboys. You can also LIKE our Facebook page HERE.