ESPN’s Football Power Index released its predictions for the 2017 season earlier this month and seemingly has little faith in the Cowboys.
Less than a year removed from Dallas going 13-3 and owning the No. 1 seed in the NFC, ESPN’s FPI has the Cowboys going 9-7 with a 46.4 percent chance to win the NFC East. The FPI also has Dallas ranked sixth overall in the NFL behind the Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Seahawks and Falcons.
While I don’t find the Cowboys’ overall ranking surprising, the 9-7 record has me scratching my head.
The proposition of 9-7 just sounds a bit ridiculous.
Dallas went 2-1 last season against the teams ESPN’s FPI ranked ahead of them, with the only loss coming against Green Bay in the NFC Divisional Game.
Compared to 2016, the Cowboys’ schedule in 2017 may appear to be more challenging on the surface, but consider this. Jaylon Smith is returning from injury and, if healthy, will be a force at linebacker. Dallas got younger in the secondary with the additions of Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the draft.
Oh, and Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott – remember them? They’ll have a full year of NFL and playoff experience under their belts.
So without further adieu, let’s go on a quick 16-game journey and break down the Cowboys’ upcoming 2017 season game by game.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10 vs. New York Giants. 7:30 p.m., NBC
The Giants got the better of the Cowboys twice last year. Once in December in a 10-7 defensive battle, and once in Dallas in the first game of the regular season. Almost exactly one year later, Terrance Williams will remember to get out of bounds and Dak & Zeke will finally solve New York.
Cowboys 27, Giants 24. Record: 1-0
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17 @ Denver Broncos. 3:25 p.m., FOX
The Cowboys haven’t beaten the Broncos since September 10, 1995 – one month before I was born.
The last time Dallas and Denver got together was 2013 when Tony Romo and Peyton Manning were still quarterbacking their respected teams. Romo threw for a franchise record 506 yards in a 51-48 loss that saw No. 9 throw his only interception of the game late in the fourth quarter.
These are different times now, with Prescott at the helm for Dallas and either Paxton Lynch or Trevor Semien under center for Denver. The Broncos may have one of the game’s best players in Von Miller, but their offense has been anemic since Manning’s retirement.
Cowboys 31, Denver 17. Record: 2-0
Week 3: Monday, Sept. 25 @ Arizona Cardinals. 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald aren’t getting any younger, but are always capable of putting on a show. Arizona’s defense is typically formidable, but after a 7-8-1 2016 campaign, I wonder if the Cardinals have gotten too old on both sides of the ball.
I’ll take the young guns out in the desert.
Cowboys 24, Cardinals 17. Record: 3-0
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1 vs. Los Angeles Rams. Noon, FOX
I bet the Rams are wondering what would have happened if they drafted Dak instead of Jared Goff. Too bad hindsight is never 20/20.
A move from St. Louis to Los Angeles doesn’t make this team any better. The Rams were one of the worst teams offensively last year, and I expect them to struggle moving the ball again in 2017. Expect a field day from the Dallas offense.
Cowboys 38, Rams 14. Record: 4-0
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8 vs. Green Bay Packers. 3:25 p.m., FOX
Dallas has to be sick of losing to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers by now. First the Dez Bryant no catch and then the miracle throw down the sidelines. Both sent the Cowboys packing in the second of the playoffs.
Thankfully, this isn’t a playoff game. Dak, Zeke and the gang will surely have revenge on their minds. The Packers’ uncertainty at running back and in the secondary is just enough of a weakness for Dallas to exploit and enter the bye week undefeated.
Discount double check that, Rodgers.
Cowboys 28, Packers 24. Record: 5-0
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22 @ San Francisco 49ers. 3:05 p.m., FOX
The 49ers traded down and passed on quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the draft, and are betting on – Brian Hoyer? Well, whatever. San Francisco has been irrelevant since Jim Harbaugh left for Michigan.
Put another one in the win column.
Cowboys 31, 49ers 17. Record: 6-0
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29 @ Washington Redskins. 3:25 p.m., FOX
Games in Landover always seem to leave Cowboys fans with heart palpitations. Dallas nearly went 0-2 last season before Prescott and Elliott led a second half comeback to knock off Washington.
The Redskins got better on both sides of the ball in the offseason, with the most notable addition being defensive tackle Jonathan Allen from Alabama. Couple that with TCU product Josh Doctson’s return, and Washington is a team with firepower that will catch the Cowboys off guard in a place no one likes to play.
Redskins 27, Cowboys 21. Record: 6-1
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs. 3:25 p.m., CBS
This will be Dallas’ first game on CBS in 2017 – and who did the network just hire as its new lead color analyst? The name is escaping me, but this will be no easy game for the Cowboys. The Chiefs went to the second round of the playoffs last year before bowing out to Pittsburgh.
Now, after Andy Reid bet big in the draft on former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City will bring a new-look offense to town with its frightening defense.
That’s right – CBS just hired Tony Romo. What do you want to bet this will be his debut calling a Cowboys game? I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d wager a lot of money Romo will be in the booth for this one. And in his return to AT&T Stadium, Dallas will fittingly lose a nail biter.
Chiefs 24, Cowboys 17. Record: 6-2
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12 @ Atlanta Falcons. 3:25 p.m., FOX
In my most recent article, I said it wouldn’t always be easy for Prescott and Elliott on their quest to claim the Lombardi Trophy. In fact, the two have never lost two consecutive games in their NFL career – which makes this road game against Atlanta come at the worst time.
The Falcons are one of the NFC’s best and have a high-flying, young offense to go along with a formidable defense. We’re going to see just exactly what Dak and Zeke are made of after their third straight loss.
Falcons 31, Cowboys 27. Record: 6-3
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19 vs. Philadelphia Eagles. 7:30 p.m., NBC
Carson Wentz had a good rookie season all things considered, and got a lot of help in the offseason with the Eagles adding weapons around him. That said, Philadelphia’s defense is porous and susceptible to a balanced attack.
The Cowboys stop their three-game losing streak and get back in the win column with a big day from Elliott and the offensive line.
Cowboys 28, Eagles 20. Record: 7-3
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 23 vs Los Angeles Chargers. 3:30 p.m., CBS
The traditional Thanksgiving day game is upon us. While I’m sitting on my couch half asleep full of turkey and pie, I’ll watch the Cowboys pick apart a Chargers team that struggled on both sides of the ball last season.
Turkey won’t be the only thing getting burned on this day.
Cowboys 35, Chargers 14. Record: 8-3
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 30 vs. Washington Redskins. 7:25 p.m., NBC/NFL Network
Washington may have had Dallas’ number in their first meeting, but in the first of consecutive critical division games, the Cowboys will come out swinging. Expect plenty of emotion and fireworks in this one with plenty of playoff implications.
In the end, Dallas will squeak by behind Prescott’s arm and pad its lead in the division.
Cowboys 24, Redskins 21. Record: 9-3
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10 @ New York Giants. 3:25 p.m., FOX
Road games in December are never easy, and this one is no different. A win here could potentially seal the division for the Cowboys, and a loss could open the door for the Giants, Redskins or Eagles. Last season New York swept the season series and stumped Dallas on two separate occasions.
This year the Cowboys flip the script.
Cowboys 31, Giants 28. Record: 10-3
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17 @ Oakland Raiders. 7:30 p.m., NBC
Before Derek Carr went down last year, Oakland was an absolute machine and appeared poised to challenge for the AFC crown. Assuming Carr avoids injury, the Raiders will once again be juggernauts out west. In their last season in Oakland, the Raiders will make every game at home count.
The silver and black will overwhelm the Cowboys one last time at the Coliseum.
Raiders 34, Cowboys 21. Record: 10-4
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24 vs. Seattle Seahawks. 3:25 p.m., FOX
Seattle is not the team it once was. Although they won the NFC West and went to the Divisional Round last year, you can’t help but notice the Seahawks have gotten worse since their last Super Bowl appearance.
Richard Sherman may be gone, and with the legion of boom deteriorating, Russell Wilson can’t do it all himself with what was never a juggernaut offense.
Christmas comes early for Cowboys fans.
Cowboys 21, Seahawks 10. Record: 11-4
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31 @ Philadelphia Eagles. Noon, FOX
Almost one year after Tony Romo threw his final touchdown pass as a Cowboy, Dallas returns to the scene of the crime. With the division likely locked up, the Cowboys will either be playing for home field advantage or nothing at all.
These two teams don’t like each other, though, and Dallas will want to go into the playoffs with momentum. The Eagles will not be flying high into the new year.
Cowboys 24, Eagles 17. Final record: 12-4
How many wins do you see the Cowboys pulling off in 2017? Share your predictions with Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.