The Dallas Cowboys are arguably the most polarizing franchise in the National Football League. And really, it’s easy to see why. “America’s Team” has a massive, loyal fanbase. They’re also the most hated team in the NFL outside of the New England Patriots. Last year (2015), injuries to key players made Dallas one of the biggest laughingstocks in all of professional sports. This season, the Cowboys are taking the league by storm. They entered the postseason with the second-best record in the NFL (13-3), and now control their own championship destiny.
The vast majority of their success can be attributed to owner/General Manager Jerry Jones wisely (and uncharacteristically) listening to his personnel executives and scouts (led by his son, Stephen) when it came to assembling the team’s roster. As a direct result, the Cowboys now have arguably the best (and definitely the most balanced) offense in the NFL — all built through the NFL draft.
Since the 2010 NFL Draft, Dallas has landed three perennial All-Pro offensive linemen and an All-Pro wide receiver (left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, right guard Zack Martin, and Dez Bryant). In the 2016 draft, the Cowboys hit the jackpot twice; they selected running back Ezekiel Elliott (first round) and quarterback Dak Prescott (fourth round). Both are NFL MVP and Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates in 2016.
Despite their success during the 2016 regular season, not everyone is convinced that Dallas is a legitimate world championship contender. However, there are 10 reasons why the Dallas Cowboys can win Super Bowl 51 this coming February.
1. They have the best offensive line in the NFL
Elliott and Prescott dominate the headlines. However, neither player would be where they are in their respective rookie seasons without the play of the Dallas offensive line. In fact, these unsung heroes are so outstanding that they’re now mentioned as a potential candidate to win the 2016 NFL MVP award as a group.
While that likely won’t happen (even though technically it is allowed), Travis Frederick, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin all earned first-team All-Pro honors for the 2016 season. What’s even crazier about the Cowboys’ play up front is the fact that they lacked second-year guard La’el Collins for most of the season.
2. They consistently dominate the time of possession battle
History proves that winning the time of possession battle almost always equates to success in the NFL. In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys rank third in the league with an average time of possession of 31:27 per game. By consistently winning this facet of the game, the Cowboys help their defense stay fresh by keeping them off the field while wearing down opposing defenses.
3. Ezekiel Elliott is arguably the best running back in the NFL
At the very least, Elliott is one of the top three running backs in the league today (joined by David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals and Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers). The former Ohio State Buckeye led the league in rushing yards during the regular season, earning first-team All-Pro honors along the way. If he remains healthy, “Zeke” is the type of back who can carry his team to a championship.
4. Dak Prescott is at his best in critical situations
The rookie out of Mississippi State is a perfect fit for Dallas’s offense. He’s played at an elite level since literally his first NFL preseason game. As a direct result, Prescott’s teammates already respect him. He came up with clutch performances on multiple occasions during the regular season, and it is quickly becoming clear that he has the “it” factor that few other NFL quarterbacks possess. Bottom line: The Cowboys struck gold when they took Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
5. Their defense is substantially better in 2016
The Dallas Cowboys were flat-out awful on the defensive side of the ball in 2015. But this year is a completely different story. Entering the playoffs, Dallas ranked 14th in the league in total defense; first in the league in rushing yards allowed per game; and fifth in the league in points allowed per game.
We directly attribute the Cowboys’ defensive turnaround to their offense. Their offensive dominance allows their defense to stay healthy and regularly play with a lead (which, for those who don’t know, is a huge advantage). While we can’t confuse their defense with those of the Denver Broncos or Seattle Seahawks, it’s good enough for the Cowboys to make a deep postseason run.
6. They don’t turn the ball over
Turning the ball over is one of the quickest and easiest ways to lose games in the NFL. In fact, if you look the NFL’s current turnover differential stats, you will find a direct correlation between how well a team performs in this area and their overall record. During the 2016 regular season, the Cowboys turned the ball over only 15 times.
7. They own the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs
Before the 2016 season even started, we had a pretty good idea that the Cowboys had one of the easier schedules in the league. However, to their credit, they took care of business week in and week out on their way to clinching home–field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.
Dallas will have a couple tough tests over the next month, but the Cowboys will likely be the Vegas favorites in all of their remaining games. When it’s all said and done, having the distinct advantage of playing all of their playoff games at home could be enough to ensure Dallas represents the NFC in Super Bowl 51.
8. They are healthy
For the first time in a long time the Cowboys will enter a game at full strength (or close to it). And it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Linebacker Sean Lee is healthy and playing at an All-Pro level; Bryant is back to being one of the most explosive wide receivers in the league; their outstanding offensive line is completely in tact; Morris Claiborne is set to return to their secondary after missing nearly two months; Romo is healthy and ready to play if need be; and running back Elliott shows no signs of wear and tear.
9. They excel on third down
NFL coaches often refer to third down as the “money down.” Games can be won and lost based on third down performance, and players can earn a reputation for being a clutch performer by consistently producing big plays during third down situations. In 2016, the Cowboys rank ninth in the league in offensive third down conversions (42.3%) and 15th in the league in third down defensive stops (39.1%).
10. They have outstanding kicking specialists
History proves that having a clutch kicker and/or a punter who can flip the field or completely take away a dangerous punt returner are invaluable assets during the NFL postseason. The Dallas Cowboys have both. Dan Bailey is a near-automatic kicker, and Chris Jones is one of the most consistent — and underrated — punters in the league.