DALLAS COWBOYS 2022 WIN PREDICTION
A healthy return for quarterback Dak Prescott meant that the Dallas Cowboys would make their way back to the postseason in spite of head coach Mike McCarthy doing all kinds of Mike McCarthy things.
Dallas opened the season strong, dropping their first game 31-29 to the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before reeling off six consecutive victories afterward, two against playoff teams (the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots) and another against a squad that finished with a winning record (the Los Angeles Chargers).
The good times didn’t last as the Cowboys dropped three of their next four, one a blowout loss to the Denver Broncos in Dallas and the other two to the Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders.
Four consecutive wins thanks in large part to a return to NFC East play helped the Cowboys sew up the division and secure a playoff spot. They stupidly played starters in their season finale game against the Eagles, winning 51-26, only to set up a Wild Card round defeat, 23-17, to the road warrior San Francisco 49ers.
Prescott finished the season completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 4,449 yards, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Ezekiel Elliott crossed 1,000 yards for the fourth time in his six-year career, gaining 1,002 yards with 10 touchdowns. Tony Pollard had 719 yards and two scores.
CeeDee Lamb caught 79 passes for 1,102 yards and six touchdowns. Amari Cooper had 68 grabs for 865 yards and eight touchdowns. Dalton Schultz had 78 catches for 808 yards and eight TDs.
The defense finished 19th in yardage and No. 7 overall in points surrendered. Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons led the team with 13 sacks to go with his 84 tackles.
Last season: 12-5, NFC East Champion
2022 NFL Draft: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa (Round 1), Sam Williams, Edge, Ole Miss (Round 2), Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama (Round 3), Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin (Round 4), Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota (Round 5), DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State (Round 5), Damone Clark, LB, LSU (Round 5), John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas (Round 5), Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State (Round 6)
2022 Additions: Dante Fowler, Jr., Edge (free agent), James Washington, WR (free agent), Ryan Nall, RB (free agent), Lirim Hajrullahu, Kicker (free agent)
QB: Dak Prescott
RB: Ezekiel Elliott
WR: CeeDee Lamb
WR: Michael Gallup
WR: Jalen Tolbert
TE: Dalton Schultz
FB: Ryan Nall
LT: Tyron Smith
LG: Tyler Smith
C: Tyler Biadasz
RG: Zack Martin
RT: Terence Steele
LDE: DeMarcus Lawrence
LDT: Carlos Watkins
RDT: Neville Gallimore
RDE: Dante Fowler, Jr.
WLB: Anthony Barr
MLB: Leighton Vander Esch
SLB: Micah Parsons
CB: Anthony Brown
CB: Trevon Diggs
SS: Jayron Kearse
FS: Malik Hooker
PK: Jonathan Garibay
P: Bryan Anger
PR: CeeDee Lamb
KR: Tony Pollard
With the Cowboys, you always have to pick where to begin and for me, it’s with their second dumbest move of the offseason — shipping off their best receiver, Amari Cooper, to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a fifth rounder and for trading out sixth rounders. Cooper cost Dallas a first round pick back in 2018. With Dallas, Cooper played exactly like he was worth that cost, putting up three consecutive 1,000 yar seasons before breaking the streak last season. He still caught eight touchdowns, which tied a career high.
Hey, sometimes you have to move on from a guy. There are unconfirmed rumors that Cooper and Prescott had a falling out and, if so, there’s no question about who you’re trading. The problem is, the compensation was so low for a guy of his caliber. Cooper should have at least warranted a second-round pick. It doesn’t feel like the Cowboys tried that hard to get it.
The dumbest move is just a continuation of one of the dumbest moves in the history of the franchise — the continued and inexplicable employment of Mike McCarthy. Owner Jerry Jones seems to have finally snapped out of his love affair with the moribund loser and has kind of openly opined about finding a new head coach for the Cowboys. Sometimes he’s done it with McCarthy sitting right next to him. Now, I have no doubt that if the Cowboys don’t have a lengthy postseason run Sean Payton will be the head coach of the team next season and, frankly, Jones probably doesn’t either. We’re playing this thing out with McCarthy just to see how laughably bad it can get.
On the bright side, if you root for the Cowboys, they have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. It comes thanks to playing in the NFC East and matching up with the AFC South in their inter-conference games. But just because it looks easy on paper doesn’t mean it will be easy in reality.
First off, the Cowboys open with two home games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cincinnati Bengals. I think that’s an 0-2 start. They then travel to the New York Giants before hosting the Washington Commanders and that should give them a shot at .500 before traveling to SoFi Stadium to face off against the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams.
Their season and chance at an NFC East title and home playoff game might be on the line in the following week when a possible 3-5 Cowboys squad travels to Philadelphia to take on the much improved (and much better coached) Eagles.
There’s a two-game breather with the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears on the schedule before a date at Lambeau Field with the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 13 after their bye. That’s followed with a game at the Minnesota Vikings and, honestly, I’m seeing two straight losses and a 5-7 mark heading into Thanksgiving.
That means to finish with the record I’ve predicted, Dallas must win out against the Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Eagles, Tennessee Titans and Commanders. If they drop one of those, they end up 9-8 and maybe even out of the Wild Card race. The Colts could really be the team to ruin it all for Dallas, but I’m going with the double-digit win total and a quick playoff exit ushering in the Sean Payton era.
Final record prediction: 10-7
Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.