State of the Union: Dallas Cowboys

My favorite two teams, the Cowboys and Ravens, play each other for the first time in four years and are going in totally different directions. In this article, I’ll tackle the Cowboys and their stunning breakout performance to start the season.

Ten weeks into the NFL season, and the team with the best record in  the league is… the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve been a Cowboys fan since 2008, and the Cowboys have only been to the playoffs twice since then, so nine-game winning streaks and prime playoff position has been rare this last decade. Today, I’ll address the state of the Dallas Cowboys- why they’re good, how good they are, and how long they can stay this good.

Why they’re good

Rookies

The obvious reason why the Cowboys have taken a big leap this year is the performance of their rookie starters. Namely, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott filled in Week 1 after the injury to previous starter Tony Romo and has run away with the job, playing mistake-free, stellar football. Elliott has been the engine that makes the Cowboys offense go, racking up a league high 1,005 yards and playing at an MVP-caliber level as a rookie. Not only are these rookies good, but they’re clutch, a trait that was on clear display in their comeback win over Pittsburgh.

Offensive Line

Prescott and Elliott don’t do it on their own, because the offensive line has been the reason they’re able to do so well. Not only do the Cowboys have All-Pro players blocking for Elliott and Prescott such as tackle Tyron Smith and guard Zack Martin, but Dallas also has depth that has allowed them to not miss a beat when one of the starters goes down.

Coaching

Head coach Jason Garrett has had an up-and-down coaching career, but after last year’s 4-12 disappointment it looks like Garrett steadied the ship, even through an injury to the franchise quarterback. Credit is also deserved by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who has crafted an offense that allowed the rookies to slide in and excel.

How Good They Are

In a year with no totally dominant team, the Cowboys are as good as they get. Dallas leads the NFL with an 8-1 record and are 1.5 games ahead of every other team in their conference. Aside from a close loss to Giants, the Cowboys have trampled playoff-caliber competition, beating the Bengals, Packers, Eagles, and Steelers. The rest of the schedule looks winnable, with games against all three NFC East opponents, so the Cowboys could challenge for the top seed in the playoffs.

Are the Cowboys Super Bowl worthy? The offense is certainly Super Bowl-caliber, ranking in the top five in yards and points per game. Dallas’ defense, though not on the level of Minnesota or Seattle, has held up and seen improvements from players such as corner Morris Claiborne and linebacker Sean Lee. In fact, Dallas ranks 8th in points allowed per game and 12th in yards allowed per game. On special teams, the Cowboys have the best kicker in the game in Dan Bailey, who gives them an edge in a year when many kickers have been off the mark.

Dallas is certainly on the level of Atlanta, Seattle, and Minnesota, the other division leaders, and will be a team nobody wants to play in the playoffs. If the defense can limit some of the potent NFC offenses, the Cowboys could be Super Bowl-bound.

How Long They Can Be This Good

Life is good in Dallas. When it seemed like the Cowboys playoff hopes were retiring along with quarterback Tony Romo, Dallas finds the running back of the decade in Ezekiel Elliott and then finds Romo’s successor in Dak Prescott. The offensive line is young as well, meaning the offense is in good hands. The Cowboys are trending upwards and should be in the playoff picture for a long, long time.

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