America’s Team: A franchise as loved as it is hated across the country. 30 years ago, Dallas was the ogre of the NFL: champions in 1992, 1993 and 1995! Yes, but that was 30 years ago.
Since then, the franchise with the Texas star as its symbol has not won anything. Worse, a few appearances in the playoffs but not even a conference final to eat. So the fans are hungry! They could be fed at the start of the year: like Ezekiel Elliott making his gesture feed me (cover picture).
Dallas Cowboys: 12 wins-5 losses
More than solid in their NFC East division, conceding only two defeats, Dallas also delighted its fans against other NFL heavyweights: Bengals, Vikings, Lions, Buccaneers and Titans. Knowing how to keep your foot on the accelerator, the Cowboys also knew how to do that with two series of four consecutive victories: weeks 2-5 and 11-14.
Two defeats were only after extra time. And one sweep Giants to please the fans!
How did they get there?
Attack and defense are alike: clean and efficient. As a result, the Cowboys are performing in an essential category when the cleaver matches arrive: 2nd NFL in terms of the ratio balls recovered / balls lost!
Without being spectacular, Dak Prescott led an attack that converted more third attempts than his opponents. For this, he can rely on a duo of runners who have won almost 2000 yards on the ground. But the real strongman of this attack plays at receiver.
Receiver CeeDee Lamb is having a stratospheric season: 1359 yards and 9 touchdowns! His progress, in yards and touchdowns recorded in each of his three NFL seasons, makes him the worthy successor to Dez Bryant with number 88. But if he wants to succeed Michael Irvin, he will have to win at least one title!
The key player: Tony Pollard
If receiver CeeDee Lamb (pictured above) will spearhead the offense, Tony Pollard is the one who could make the difference.
He and Ezekiel Elliott play the same number of offensive plays on offense. But if Zeke has scored more touchdowns on the ground, Tony Pollard is gaining more ground on his attempts: 5.2 yards against 3.8. He is also the better of the two in reception and this is what makes him the potential X factor of this attack: 1007 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground, 3 touchdowns after receptions.
In the 4th quarter of a match win or go home, he is the type of player who can change the course of a match. He has the talent and also the motivation. Arriving at the end of his contract, Tony Pollard has every interest in showing himself in a decisive match: the runners have more difficulty than other players in finding a good contract.
Why are they going to go all the way?
The Cowboys’ defense was masterful in 2022: 17 fumbles caused, 16 interceptions and 54 sacks! A defense that starts its matches well with an average of 3.4 points against in the 1st quarter (7th in the NFL). A defense that finishes them even better: 3.9 points in the 4th QT, 2nd NFL.
Micah Parsons to put pressure on the outside, safety Donovan Wilson and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to tackle inside the field. It is not the individualities that are missing, with also DeMarcus Lawrence, Trevon Diggs and Anthony Barr. Some members of this battalion even revealed themselves in 2022.
This is the case of DaRon Bland. Regarding the 2022 draft, the fans were unanimous on the need to select a defensive back very early. The leaders have yet waited for the 5th round and the choice 167! Only the 14th safety of this 2022 vintage, the rookie flourishes within Dan Quinn’s systems: 54 tackles and 5 interceptions! The term defensive back or defensive back takes on its full meaning: able to hold different assignments from one game to another.
Why won’t they go?
Three internal reasons, in addition to the quality of the adversaries, can prevent them from going to the end. It starts with reducing the number of interceptions thrown by Dak Prescott: 15 in the regular season (worst NFL total tied).
Then, they absolutely must concede fewer penalties. Playoff games are often about details and being disciplined is part of it. A penalty can cost a driveseveral penalties can cost a game!
Rookie Tyler Smith has taken over from Tyrone Smith so well that the latter now plays on the right. But the offensive line lost a lot of quality in week 14 with the injury of Terence Steele! This right tackle was having an excellent third season with the pros, both in protection and for the ground game.
As a direct consequence of his absence, the Cowboys runners lost efficiency.
Apart from Terence Steele mentioned above, the other injured players were not as important. Note all the same the cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis and especially Anthony Brown: if Bland makes up for the absence of the first, Brown is sorely lacking in this unit!
Philadelphia seems to be flying high in the sky as the 49ers can drown everyone in their Bay. But effective in attack and formidable in defense, this team is not good to take. The Cowboys don’t look the best in the NFC, but they could very well cause a surprise.
Just a year ago, who thought the Bengals would make it through to the playoffs?
DaRon Bland has been one of the biggest steals from the 2022 draft. Drafted in the 5th round with the 167th pick. He’s now starting for the Cowboys and has 5 INTs on the season #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/VGFSTzm17H
—Ernie (@es3_09) December 25, 2022