According to Las Vegas, the Dallas Cowboys are substantial favorites to win the NFC East this season. Forget about the uncertainty surrounding Dak Prescott’s return from his devastating ankle injury. Forget about the fifth-worst scoring defense they trotted out on the field last year. And forget about the improved Washington Football Team coming off a playoff appearance in 2020. Dallas is still the team to beat in the NFL’s worst division.
Cowboys pegged as the team to beat in the NFC East
The NFC East had an embarrassing season as a whole in 2020. Washington, Dallas, the New York Giants, and the Philadelphia Eagles went a combined 24-40, and the Football Team ultimately emerged from the division with a 7-9 record.
The Cowboys most likely would’ve won the NFC East last year if Prescott didn’t go down early with a season-ending ankle injury, so they’ve been pegged as the +110 betting favorites to win the division in 2021. Washington is behind them at +255, while New York and Philadelphia are tied at the bottom with +450 odds.
Prescott is back and fully healthy again, the offense is still one of the NFL’s most dangerous groups, and the defense will just have to be good enough to keep opposing teams out of the 30s every week for Dallas to succeed. Considering none of the other three teams in the division made any dramatic improvements this offseason, it makes sense for the Cowboys to be the betting favorites.
Sanders isn’t buying what Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are selling
Most people, especially Cowboys fans, would agree the Cowboys should roll over the NFC East this season now that they’re back to full strength. But one of the greatest to ever wear the blue star on his helmet, Deion Sanders, isn’t sold on the team.
Sanders was asked last week on NFL Total Access with Steve Weissman and Bucky Brooks whether the Cowboys will be the team to beat in the division this year, and he firmly disagreed.
“No, they ain’t the team to beat,” he said, per 247 Sports. “Jerry Jones is remarkable. Jerry is unbelievable. Every year, Jerry has figured out a way to make us believe that the Dallas Cowboys are the team to beat. No, the Dallas Cowboys ain’t the team to beat. We mention two of the offensive players, Dak [Prescott] and Zeke [Elliott]. No one mentioned their line and no one mentioned the defense that was horrific. When I say horrible, I mean horrible with a capital ‘H’ last season.
“And how do you constitute for that in the offseason? I know you have some drafted players that you hope and you pray to pay dividends, but I don’t like it whatsoever. But they will compete because the NFC East is hot garbage. Hot garbage with steam. Hot garbage in Texas right now, and it’s about 100 out here right now. It is hot garbage, the NFC East.”
Sheesh. Tell us how you really feel, Deion.
What will it take for the Cowboys to win the NFC East?
Sanders sure is right about one thing: The NFC East is… how did he put it again? Oh right. Hot garbage.
Washington has a questionable offense with still no long-term answer at quarterback, the Giants will only go as far as Daniel Jones can take them (how has that worked out so far?), and the Eagles are in full rebuild mode with Carson Wentz leaving town this offseason. If Prescott looks even close to the player he was pre-injury last season, the Cowboys should cruise to an NFC East title.
But they’ll need their underwhelming defense to step up for that to happen. Dallas gave up 29.6 points per game last season, which ranked 28th in the NFL. The Cowboys did add Keanu Neal, Carlos Watkins, and Jayron Kearse to the defense in free agency, and Jerry Jones wisely spent his first-round draft pick on uber-talented linebacker Micah Parsons, but this team will need some veterans to step up in 2021.
If the defense can force turnovers and limit big plays like it failed to do last season, Prescott and the offense should be able to do enough to lead the Cowboys to the playoffs.