Dallas Cowboys: Legit contender or fools’ gold this year?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys are on the brink of a 13-4 season, possible back-to-back NFC East titles and if the football gods show favor, a number one seed in the NFC. With all of that, there are still competing viewpoints related to this team.

According to local Dallas media, this is a legit contender primed to make a playoff run. National media views it a little differently, characterizing this team as a choke waiting to happen. Who’s right? Playoff time will tell.

Here are a few reasons the Dallas Cowboys will make a run in the postseason and is not getting the attention they deserve.

The Underappreciated kicker:

In the years post Dan Bailey, fans have cringed at the thought of kicking field goals. Prior to this season, the combination of Brett Maher, Kai Forbath and Greg Zuerlein have made a whopping 102 of 152 field goals. Yep, that’s 67% of their kicks. For every missed field goal, there was a higher chance that the opposition received decent field position.

While Brett Maher did not have a great start to his Cowboy career, he is definitely making good on his second chance. This season, he has been on fire kicking 29 of 32 field goals and 50 of 52 extra points. That’s a 91% clip that puts him 6th in the NFL in field goal percentage.

According to teamrankings.com, he is providing the Cowboys an extra touchdown per game as he accounts for 8.6 points per game as well as averaging the most touchbacks per game at 4.8.

As this is being written, I’m trying to locate a piece of wood to knock on. I don’t want to jinx Brett but at the same time he needs to receive more praise. He has been known for his big leg but has lacked accuracy, consistency and sometimes confidence. As the playoffs approach, his kicking won’t be a secret, but it will definitely be a weapon the team will rely on.

The emergence of Nahshon Wright

Dan Quinn has been hoping and praying that one of those young corners in the 2021 NFL draft pans out to be a player. Kelvin Joseph was given the first opportunity after the injuries to Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown. Unfortunately, that did not work out as planned. Kelvin may have found a home on special teams, but we shouldn’t expect much on the defensive side of the ball from him this season.

Next up, Mr. Nahshon Wright out of Oregon State. Standing at 6-foot-4, he has the profile that Dan Quinn desires. The positives that are on display for Wright is similar to his draft scouting reports. According to NFL.com, he’s long and athletic and he can high point the ball. That interception against the Titans gave fans a glimpse of what this player has the potential to be.

Taking into account, Trevon Diggs travels from time to time with the top receiver, that will leave Julio Jones as the cover for Nahshon. While on paper that matchup doesn’t look inviting, I would be hesitant to “wright” off Nahshon. His route recognition has improved, and he has not given up the big plays as one would expect.

Pro: The offense has found its traction….

The Dallas Cowboys offense is firmly taking its rightful place as the identity of this team. This is an offense that ranks #2 in scoring, #3 in 3rd down conversions and #2 in redzone scoring. In addition, it boasts a plethora of skill players including but not limited to Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb.

It appears that Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore has found his rhythm in the play calling which should pose a problem for opposing defenses. So, with all of that offensive firepower, what’s the problem?

Con: Will the turnovers continue to offset the offense? 

Dak Prescott is turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Dak has thrown 14 interceptions in only 11 games. Granted, he gets credited with interceptions that hit the receivers directly between the numbers. Dak has evolved from a quarterback who was very conservative of where he placed the football to someone who will take chances from time to time.

In the playoffs, everyone knows that the game shrinks and there are only so many offensive possessions. You give up one possession taking a chance with the ball it may define the outcome of the game.

Pro: The Running Game may be the best in the NFL.

The Dallas Cowboys will have tough decisions to make this offseason. Tony Pollard will command big dollars as a first-time free agent at the age of 25. However, Ezekiel Elliott is making the big bucks now. Both of them won’t be able to make those type of dollars for the Dallas Cowboys but that’s a problem for this offseason.

As it stands, they have one of the more potent thunder and lightning combos the Cowboys since the Julius Jones and Marion Barber combo. Zeke has compiled 866 yards and 12 touchdowns. TP20 has 988 yards and 9 touchdowns. That makes them good enough to be the number 8 rushing attack in all of football. When you throw in rookie, Malik Davis, that running back room is competitive, hungry and experienced.

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Con: Will the offensive game plan stick to the run?

There have been numerous occasions where the casual fan can look at a Dallas Cowboys game and say to themselves, “Man, we probably should have run the ball”. Let’s count the occurrences. We were up 17 to Green Bay and continued to throw the ball. We had the Jacksonville Jaguars on the ropes, but we continued to throw the ball. So, while the Cowboys have the personnel to run the ball and control the clock, teams know its just a matter of time before they revert back to passing the rock.