Every NFL season brings with it outliers who far exceed expectations or disappoint miserably. With the futures odds set for the 2021-22 NFL season, we examine that broad range of possibilities for the Dallas Cowboys. You’ll find the best odds available on BetUS Online.
When Last We Met
The 2020 season was a disappointment for the Dallas Cowboys, who finished 6-10. The poor record was an understandable development after the loss of franchise quarterback Dak Prescott early in the season.
Prescott suffered a gruesome ankle injury in Week 5 that knocked him out for the remainder of the season. After the injury, the team turned to Andy Dalton for much of the year, with a few appearances from Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert.
The turnstile at quarterback and the talent drop-off from Prescott to Dalton stunted the Cowboys season. Dallas was 2-3 when Prescott’s ankle was hurt and proceeded to lose four straight games. Heading into Week 14, Dallas was 3-9 and didn’t have much of a chance at the playoffs.
Thanks to a weak NFC East and a three-game winning streak, the Cowboys had a chance to win the division and make the playoffs, but lost to the New York Giants 23-19 in Week 17.
Dallas’ identity throughout the season was a team with strong offensive skill players and an extremely vulnerable secondary. The offensive line, at once an elite unit, struggled due to injuries and aging from some of their most notable linemen.
Dalton completed 64 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns to eight interceptions. Breaking down the passing yardage stats from 2020 gives one optimism for 2021.
In six fewer games than Dalton, Prescott threw for just 300 fewer yards on the season. Prescott would have likely led the league in passing if he stayed healthy, throwing for 1,856 yards and nine touchdowns in just 4½ games.
It’s a testament to both Dak Prescott’s talent and the talent at wide receiver. Amari Cooper led the group with 92 receptions, 1,114 yards and five touchdowns. Rookie CeeDee Lamb had 935 receiving yards and five touchdowns and Michael Gallup had 843 yards and five scores.
Ezekiel Elliott was once again the team’s leading rusher, though he failed to eclipse 1,000 yards. He finished with 943 yards on 4.0 yards per carry and six touchdowns. Backup Tony Pollard finished with 435 yards on 4.3 yards per carry and scored four times.
Not much should be gleaned from the Cowboys’ rankings league-wide, on the offensive end, given they were without their star quarterback, but it’s still good to take stock of how the team performed.
Dallas ranked 14th in yards per game and 17th in points per game. Pro Football Focus graded the offense 25th in the league, while Football Outsiders ranked them 24th.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys struggled all season. The defense allowed the 10th-most yards per game and the fifth-most points per game.
Pro Football Focus had the Cowboys down as one of the worst defenses in the league at 28th compared to 23rd by Football Outsiders.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith led the team in tackles, with 154, good for second-most in the NFL. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence led the team in sacks, with 6.5 and Trevon Diggs had a team-high three interceptions.
To Miss the Playoffs (+110)
With Prescott expected to return to the starting lineup, the Cowboys regain some solidity on offense.
Still, if you witnessed Prescott’s ankle injury last season, it’s reasonable to imagine a scenario where he does not regain the mobility that has made him one of the NFL’s brightest young quarterbacks.
If Prescott morphs into more of a conventional pocket passer, that may put a damper on Dallas’ hopes of an explosive offense. The offensive line is still good, but they are aging and in need of fresh faces.
One downside to having a good quarterback like Prescott on the roster is that you need to pay them, and that’s exactly what the Cowboys finally did this offseason. With Prescott off his rookie contract and commanding a sizable amount of the team’s total salary cap, there’s less money on the table for the team to invest in position groups that need improving, such as the offensive line and defense.
The Cowboys are hanging their postseason hopes on their trio of strong receivers, but that may not be enough.
Dallas acknowledged their defense was a problem through their actions in the NFL Draft. Their first six selections were all defenders, which is a nice strategy in theory. Some are bound to become contributors, but there’s now a lot of eggs in the rookie basket. There’s an expectation that all of these young players will come in and remedy the defense, which is an unfair burden to put on rookies.
The Cowboys’ first selection was Micah Parsons, a linebacker from Penn State. He’s a versatile defender, but investing a top-12 draft pick in a linebacker isn’t the best use of resources.
Back to the offense keeping this team out of the playoffs. There is some concern that Elliott’s best days are behind him. There’s only a few active running backs in the entire league that have carried the football as much as Elliott in their careers, despite the fact that he is only 26.
Running backs can drop off a cliff in a hurry, and if Elliott can’t offer the same ability from years past, defenses can focus on slowing down the passing game and shutting the offense down.
To Make the Playoffs (-140)
Dallas will make the playoffs if they can take advantage of the loaded receivers. The trio of Cooper, Lamb and Gallup all had strong 2020 seasons, even with Dalton throwing them the football.
Lamb has the potential to be the best of the group despite entering just his second season. Defenses will have to give more attention to all three receivers, which should open things up in the running game.
Elliott needs to maintain his past production, despite the mileage he’s already accumulated, for the offense to find balance. The presence of Pollard should help.
With a few key pieces back on the offensive line, this offense is going to be tough to slow down and is the key to the Cowboys’ 2021 success.
We haven’t yet even touched on Prescott. Fully expected to recover from his injury, Prescott has a pristine situation on his hands. If he can maintain his level play from the beginning of last season, monster statistics, and wins, should follow.
The Dallas defense needs to be better for the team to make the playoffs. There are building blocks on the team that can lead this unit, and some of the rookies picks should bring fresh energy to the team.
To Win the NFC East (+125)
Dallas is the favorite to win the NFC East with Prescott returning, but should they be?
Washington won the division last season and has only gotten better. They have an elite defense, strong offensive playmakers and a quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick that should be good enough.
After Washington, it’s fair to consider Dallas the next-best team in the NFC East. The New York Giants are resting their hopes in Daniel Jones, who has struggled in the NFL, and the Philadelphia Eagles were a mess in 2020.
Dallas has a realistic chance of winning the division, thanks to the aforementioned elite offense.
Their schedule as a whole isn’t too menacing, either. The two toughest teams on the schedule are on all of the NFC East teams’ schedules: Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
After those two teams, the toughest games on the schedule are likely at New Orleans, vs Arizona, at New England and at Minnesota.
Much of this schedule is winnable, and even the tough games listed above should yield a 2-2 split at worst.
If Dallas can get more consistent play out of defeitsnse, and most importantly the secondary, it has a strong chance of winning the division and clinching a playoff spot.
Last season, the Cowboys went 2-4 in the division, though again, take that with a grain of salt given Dalton was their starter. In 2019, with a full season of Prescott, the Cowboys went 8-8 and 5-1 in the NFC East.
To Win the NFC (+1400)
If the Cowboys win the NFC East, they would get a home playoff game, which would help them on their road to a Super Bowl berth.
It may be asking too much to bet on Dallas to win the NFC, though. This is a team that often shrinks in the postseason, failing to make the NFC Championship Game since 1994.
That’s a long stretch of time, and head coach Mike McCarthy has felt uninspiring in his brief tenure as the team’s coach.
It’s hard to ignore the likelihood of Tampa Bay reaching the Super Bowl again when placing your futures bets on the NFC.
There’s also a lot to like about the NFC West teams. The road to the Super Bowl, especially with only one bye on the table, is menacing, and one the Cowboys shouldn’t be expected to make.
To Win the Super Bowl (+2800)
For the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl, they would need a historic offensive output week in and week out.
Think of the Best Show on Turf. The Cowboys need to recreate that offensive explosiveness and put up so many points on teams that it doesn’t matter what their defense lets up.
If they can do that, and there’s always a chance, then maybe 2021 is finally the year the Cowboys take back the Lombardi Trophy.
Lamb is a star. Cooper is steady and Gallup is among the best third receivers on an NFL team.
With Prescott back, maybe the Cowboys let it fly like we’ve never seen and break offensive records left and right.
That’s what it would take for Dallas to win the Super Bowl.