Assuming the 2020 NFL season starts as planned, things are going to look a bit different this year. Tom Brady will be playing in Tampa Bay rather than in New England; the Raiders, barring any changes, will hit the gridiron in Las Vegas. And, come the playoffs, the field will be expanded to seven teams per conference. That shift, however, wouldn’t have helped the 2019 Dallas Cowboys.
Last season, the Dallas Cowboys collapsed down the stretch, eventually missing out on the playoffs. Even an extra Wild Card spot, though, wouldn’t have saved them ignominious fate.
The newly expanded NFL playoffs
While the NFL playoff format has shifted over the years, things have remained relatively constant since the early 2000s. This fall, however, there will be a new wrinkle in the postseason plan.
Under the league’s new CBA, 14 total teams will make the playoffs. In order to make those numbers work, only the first overall seed in each conference will receive a bye; the others will battle it out in six total Wild Card Weekend games.
While the finer details of that expansion are still coming to light—on the television front, for example, we know Nickelodeon will be involved—we’ll have to wait to see how things play out on the field. With only two teams getting a bye, will coaches prioritize resting their players over securing a better seed? On the opposite end of the spectrum, how many teams will consider themselves contenders with an additional Wild Card spot up for grabs?
Playoff expansion, however, still wouldn’t have helped the Dallas Cowboys
When you’re a team like the Dallas Cowboys, every season comes with high expectations. The 2019 campaign, however, was especially painful.
Despite having plenty of talent, the Cowboys were never able to put things together on the field. Other than a three-game winning streak to start the year, the club never found any consistency; every week seemed to include one step forward and two steps back. Despite controlling their own destiny, Dallas collapsed down the stretch. They finished the year 8-8, missed the playoffs, and Jason Garrett’s contract wasn’t renewed.
Will things be any different for the Dallas Cowboys?
This year, Jerry Jones will be desperate to see his Dallas Cowboys return to the postseason. Even with an expanded playoff field, though, there’s still plenty of work to do on the field.
While the Cowboys have certainly been busy this offseason, their work is far from done. The club managed to retain their two biggest free agents, Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, but still have to hammer out a long-term deal with the quarterback. There have also been plenty of losses, though. Jason Witten, Randall Cobb, and Travis Frederick are gone from the offensive unit, while four defensive starters—end Robert Quinn, cornerback Byron Jones, safety Jeff Heath, and tackle Maliek Collins—have all left Big D.
There’s also the reality of adjusting to a new coach. Whether you believe Mike McCarthy is the answer or not, the players will still have to get used to a new system. That transition, however, could be especially difficult. Given the current state of the world, there’s no guarantee that teams will be able to work out as usual during the summer; even if camp opens on time, it’s possible that Dak Prescott won’t be there.
When the 2020 NFL campaign begins, the Dallas Cowboys will have to like their chances of making the playoffs. While the weakness of the NFC East will give them an advantage, an expanded postseason doesn’t guarantee success.