Dallas Cowboys (Last Season: 9-7) – Projected record = 9-7
Summary – With polarizing coach Bill Parcells gone from the Cowboys’ fold, many players seem to be much happier. Terrell Owens and Julius Jones both have made comments – in essence – saying good riddance to Parcells, and that the Cowboys will be a better team in his absence. To make such a strong statement about such a well respected coach can be terrible karma, and usually I would take Jones’ and Owens’ statements into consideration and drop the team out of my top twelve, but there’s too much talent on the Cowboys for them to miss the playoffs. Players like the deteriorating Owens, Tony Romo, Terry Glenn, Marion Barber III, Julius Jones, Jason Whitten, and that’s just the offensive side. In the most overrated division in the league, the Cowboys should beat up on the Redskins and Giants as well as the other weak NFC opponents outside their division.
Much of the concentration will be focused on the relationship between Romo and his receiving corps – mostly 81 – but the thing that will determine the Cowboys’ offensive success is the production of the running game. With one of the best two back combinations, the Cowboys need Barber III to build on the success he had at the end of 2006, and Julius Jones to return to the form he had previous to the success of Barber III.
The Cowboys defense will also need to improve dramatically. With some of the most physically talented players at their positions in the league (Roy Williams, Terrence Newman, Demarcus Ware, Jason Ferguson, etc.) one stands out when looking at the new head coach owner Jerry Jones hired.
Star to Watch - Demarcus Ware looks to use his physical gifts to impact the game like Cowboys’ coach former player Shawne Merriman did in San Diego. But Ware is a better coverage linebacker than Merriman, and the Cowboys will need to use his coverage skills to aide the secondary that will undoubtedly have coverage issues like they did in 2006. Look for Demarcus Ware to increase his sacks and overall effectiveness because of the installation of a much more aggressive defense implemented by new head coach Wade Philips. Also watch: T.O’s companion Terry Glenn, one of the most underrated players in the league who gets much less attention than his counterpart, but is just as good. Roy Williams will also need to be much better in pass coverage this season to aide new safety Ken Hamlin and inconsistent Terrence Newman.
Player to Watch – One of the former top tight ends in the league, Jason Whitten, will need to have a much better season if the Cowboys are going to contend for a Championship in 2007-08. Whitten, a big target with soft hands, only had one touchdown and below 700 yards receiving last year, disappointing both fantasy owners and the Dallas organization. But expect Whitten to serve as Tony Romo’s security blanket and catch more balls and become much more effective in the red zone.
What I expect to see from the Cowboys throughout the year:
Julius Jones will return to his previous form and team up with Marion Barber III to form one of the best – if not the best – running back tandem in the league. Barber and Jones will take much of the pressure off inexperienced quarterback Tony Romo, allowing more time to find weapons such as Whitten, Owens, and Glenn.
The Dallas defense will evolve into one of the top seven units in the league behind the strong play of Ware, Williams, NT Jason Ferguson, and unsung defensive leader MLB Bradie James.
The replacement of Bill Parcells will prove to be of little effect in terms of X’s and O’s, but the handling of Terrell Owens will drastically different. Head coach Wade Philips will refer to TO as TO or Terrell or Owens, and not just “he” like Parcells, and TO will speak out constantly (with ESPN covering the Cowboys more than any other team). Annoying everyone in the Cowboys’ locker room.
Bill Parcells will be excellent on the set of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown teamed up with Emmitt Smith and former receiver Keyshawn Johnson.
Terry Glenn will put up similar yardage figures as Owens, but will not score as many touchdowns. Also, Jason Whitten will prove that 2006 was a fluke and will score at least six touchdowns, and put himself back into the pro bowl.
How the Dallas Cowboys will fare – 9-7, and fifth seed in the playoffs. The Cowboys will look like Super Bowl winners one week and dogs the next. They are one of the most dangerous teams in the league, but their season will be one of severe inconsistency, much like 2006. But the Cowboys will win their first round playoff game only to lose to the number one seed in the second round of the NFC playoffs. Also, Terrell Owens will be cut after the 2007 season when management realizes that he is not worth the trouble.