Why the Dallas Cowboys Are the Team to Beat in the NFC

Why the Dallas Cowboys Are the Team to Beat in the NFC
Ezekiel Elliott gives the Cowboys plenty to cheer about in 2016 | Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have played like a team on a mission in 2016. After the vast majority of sports writers, NFL analysts, and football junkies wrote them off when Tony Romo went down with a serious back injury in mid-August, “America’s Team” silenced any and all critics and proved all of their doubters wrong through the first three quarters of the 2016 season.

Behind a dominating offense and a surprisingly strong defense, the Cowboys are off to a fast start in 2016. They currently own the best overall record (11-1) in the NFL, and are a couple of wins away from locking up the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Also, let’s not forget, if wide receiver Terrance Williams had the field awareness and wherewithal to simply run out of bounds on their final drive against the New York Giants in Week 1, the Cowboys could very well be sitting atop the NFL standings with an undefeated record.

Due to their fast start, the Dallas Cowboys are now favored to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 51. Based off of what we see out of the most valuable professional sports franchise in the world, we wholeheartedly agree.

Why the Dallas Cowboys Are the Team to Beat in the NFC
Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott were franchise-changing draft picks | Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Through the first month of the season, we weren’t convinced that this Dallas Cowboys team was for real. As we previously mentioned, they fell to the Giants in Week 1. Then, in Week 2, they defeated a solid team in the Washington Redskins. Their next two wins came against the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers, two of the worst teams in the league. It wasn’t until a three-game stretch (all wins for Dallas) in mid-October — against the Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles — that we truly bought into the Cowboys being legitimate contenders in the NFC.

If you have seen them play in 2016, it’s clear that Dallas’s strength is their offense. Thanks to a couple of excellent draft picks (running back Ezekiel Elliott in the first round and quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round) this past offseason, the Cowboys now have a near-perfect personnel fit for their run-first offensive scheme.

Because of their success — both on the scoreboard and in the time of possession battle — on the offensive side of the ball, Dallas’s much-maligned defense has vastly improved in 2016. Now they actually get the opportunity to play with a lead and get adequate time to rest on the sidelines. The Cowboys’ defense ranks third in the league in rushing yards allowed per game and fifth in the league in points allowed per game.

Why the Dallas Cowboys Are the Team to Beat in the NFC
Jason Garrett has the Cowboys firing on all cylinders | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Any team can catch a few breaks, luck into a few wins, and enjoy a fair amount of success as the rest of the league works toward developing the right blueprint on how to slow them down. But, in our eyes, this Dallas Cowboys team is built for long-term success (barring injury of course).

So, why are the Cowboys, who had so many questions marks all over their roster entering the season, suddenly the team to beat in the NFC? There are obviously multiple reasons, and it helps, of course, that they the best offensive line in the NFL. It’s allowed Elliott to emerge as one of the top two running backs in the league; a rookie under center in Prescott, who has the look of a franchise-changing quarterback; and an outstanding group of wide receivers and tight ends.

But it all comes down to the fact that head coach Jason Garrett has them firing on all cylinders. Their veterans established a great team chemistry and locker room environment. When teams have those things going for them, history has proven that they will consistently find ways to win games.

Why the Dallas Cowboys Are the Team to Beat in the NFC
Dak Prescott gives the Cowboys their best chance at success | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Going forward, the Cowboys have a schedule that shapes up nicely for them to make a fairly easy run at locking up the No. 1 overall seed for the NFC Playoffs. In fact, if we made a prediction today, we see Dallas finishing the regular season with a 14-2 overall record. If that is the case, the Cowboys will have home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Their stiffest competition in the NFC will likely come from the Packers, Seattle Seahawks, and Atlanta Falcons — all proven to be beatable. The Cowboys already knocked off the Packers on the road in Week 6; the Seahawks, Giants, and Falcons all continue battle consistency issues in 2016.

There are, however, a couple factors that could slow down the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. If Elliott, Prescott, or a key offensive linemen is injured, Dallas will be in trouble. The other element that could hurt the Cowboys is the fact that Elliott and Prescott have zero postseason experience at the NFL level.

With all that being said, though, this team is built to win in the postseason. And with Prescott and Elliott leading the way, they are the team to beat in the NFC in 2016.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference and ESPN.