Relying more on their defense and running game this season, the Cowboys are inviting themselves into close games. The Cowboys went 5-3 in one-touchdown games last season, and combined this with a perfect 6-0 division record to escape with the NFC East.
The Cowboys not only swept the Eagles, Giants and Commanders, they outscored them 240-107, averaging more than 22 points per win. Of course, there is no reward for style points in the NFL, and the Cowboys have failed to score more than 22 points in two of their last four NFC East road games. They managed just 17 in a wild-card playoff outing against the 49ers, and they’ve lost a lot more on offense this offseason compared to the strong defense they’ve maintained under Dan Quinn.
Their current injury situation has made matters worse, but they’ve run the roster this offseason with the expectation that they’re still way ahead of their division competition. Having Dak Prescott over Jalen Hurts, Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones is a great starting point here, but the Cowboys should have a much better supporting cast around Prescott with the start of the season a week away.
When the Cowboys won the East in 2018, they only outscored the division 160-134, losing to Washington in week seven. If the Cowboys were never as good as the 50-point results they hung over the Eagles and Commanders last year, or as bad as the 30-16 loss to the Broncos, it’s even harder to predict what they’ll be this season.
Their division foes weren’t just active in free agency, they drafted directly against the Cowboys’ weaknesses, looking to keep alive a streak of not repeating a winner since 2003-04. The Eagles are seen as the biggest threat to the Cowboys right now, they drafted Jordan Davis to bolster their run defense, stole another Georgia defender in the third in Nakobe Dean and traded for AJ Brown to give Hurts one of the best receivers in the NFL. .
The Giants got arguably the best pass rusher in the draft in Kayvon Thibodeaux to throw to whoever the Cowboys start at left tackle, and a new coaching staff to help Daniel Jones realize his potential.
The Cowboys forced multiple turnovers in all but one of their division games last season, another area where some regression is expected for the team this season. Playing against offenses designed to control the ball, the Cowboys can expect much closer games from these rivalries in 2022. Whether it’s having the ball in Prescott’s hands with a chance to win late, or a game where the defense really carries them, the The Cowboys remain the betting favorites to hold off the Eagles and the rest of the division, but in far less overwhelming fashion.