DALLAS — The NFL just kicked off its season on Thursday night, which means football is officially back. The journey back was a long one, and many thought it might not happen, but the season has arrived and with it begins a new era of Dallas Cowboys football on Sunday night.
The franchise will be playing their 60th season in 2020 with a new head coach and the same elevated expectations. With that in mind, here are some predictions for the storied franchise:
Cowboys will win the NFC East with an 11-5 record
The division looks like it could be a two team race between Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, but surprises happen all the time. The Eagles have some health issues and the back end of their defense isn’t great, so Dallas looks like the better team on paper right now.
Mike McCarthy brings a new, aggressive approach on both sides of the ball and the Cowboys will benefit. Offensively, they’ll be allowed to find that extra gear and earn more easy wins instead of playing in so many coin flip close contests.
There hasn’t been a repeat NFC East Champion in over a decade and that streak continues as Cowboys run the NFC East in 2020.
Offense will finish inside the Top 5 in scoring offense
Dallas finished 2019 as the top offense in yards per game by a wide margin, but it didn’t translate into wins. The team finished sixth in the league in points per game, yet they had scoring outputs of under 17 points four times last season.
Don’t expect that to happen again, the Cowboys will have improved red zone efficiency and they will be one of the top scoring teams in the NFL, with an average of over 30 points a game.
Don’t expect three 1,000 yard receivers, but four players will have at least 800 yards receiving
There has been a lot of talk about having three 1,000 yard receivers, but that might be tough to do. The receiving options are too good and Ezekiel Elliott will touch the ball too much for three receivers to hit the 1,000 yards mark.
We should expect wideouts Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup to surpass 1,000 yards again, but rookie WR CeeDee Lamb and TE Blake Jarwin will fall short. However, both Lamb and Jarwin will eclipse 800 yards receiving.
Michael Gallup will be the statistical No. 1 WR
Along the same lines, watch for Gallup to take over as the number one receiver for the Cowboys, at least in terms of production.
Teams will still put a lot of effort into stopping Cooper, and health is always a concern for the four-time Pro Bowler.
Gallup meanwhile will continue his ascension which saw him improve in each of his first two seasons. The third year receiver will have over 1,300 yards and double-digit scores to lead the team in both categories.
Ezekiel Elliott will lead the NFL in rushing
No running back has had more rushing yards than Elliott since he arrived in the league in 2016, but the explosiveness from his dazzling rookie campaign just wasn’t there last season.
After a full offseason, reports out of camp suggest that the two-time NFL rushing champion looks like he’s back and ready to run wild again.
With defenses more focused on stopping the Dallas air attack, watch for Elliott to lead the league in rushing with over 1,400 yards and double-digit touchdowns.
Dak Prescott has an MVP-caliber year
It’s hard to predict who will be the NFL MVP but Prescott will be in the conversation when it’s all said and done.
Expect over 40 total scores from Prescott and over 5,000 yards passing. He looks primed for his best season as Dallas has loaded up on weapons for him everywhere on offense.
Defense will be in the Top 5 for takeaways
Creating turnovers has been a major issue for Dallas’ defense in the past few seasons and that will finally change.
The aggressive style from new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, coupled with a potent offense allowing them to attack more, will lead to copious amounts of turnovers. They’ll create over two per game and surpass 35 takeaways.
DeMarcus Lawrence returns to double-digit sack status
The numbers say that Dallas’ top pass rusher had an off year last season with just five sacks, but the analytics suggest he was much better than the sacks he collected.
With Everson Griffen and Aldon Smith in the fold to give teams someone else to worry about, Lawrence will get more one-on-one chances and he should be able to convert those into at least 12 sacks in 2020, the most since he collected 14.5 sacks in 2017.
A CB will have at least four interceptions
The Cowboys haven’t had a CB with four or more interceptions in a season since Terence Newman in 2011. Expect that to change.
The best guess is that it will be Chidobe Awuzie finally unleashed to attack the ball under a new coaching philosophy or rookie CB Trevon Diggs who knows a thing or two about going up and getting the football as a converted wide receiver.
Nevertheless, someone will emerge as a ballhawk in the secondary for the defense.
Cowboys will end the streak of misery
The franchise hasn’t made it to the NFC Championship game in 25 seasons, and they haven’t played in the Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXX. That streak ends in 2020.
The Cowboys will not only make their long awaited return to the NFC Championship game, but they will advance to the Super Bowl. That sounds like a successful 2020 season, but why stop there?
Let’s put it all on the line, the 2020 Dallas Cowboys will win the Super Bowl and Mike McCarthy will become the first coach to win Super Bowls with multiple teams. Dak Prescott will hoist the Lombardi Trophy and it will momentarily make people stop bickering about his contract as he joins the Cowboys immortals.
How do you see the 2020 season shaking out for the Dallas Cowboys? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.