The Dallas Cowboys are a week away from their regular season opener against the New York Giants. The Cowboys had an NFC-best 13-3 record last season. They hosted the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round and lost.
Here are three predictions for the Cowboys this season.
#3. Dak Prescott’s numbers will drop in both passing yards and touchdowns and go up in interceptions
Prescott had an incredible rookie season: He threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 67.8 percent of his passes.
However, the fourth draft pick had it easy as a rookie. He had the pieces around him in fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, the offensive line, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Almost everyone of them is back. The two big differences are the game plans he will face and the schedule.
Opposing teams now have 17 regular season and playoff games of film to scout against him. This sample lays out what he does well and what he does not do well. It started to show a bit last season. He had just one game in which he threw for 220 yards or more in the final six games. He was also below his season average of eight yards per pass attempt in four of those games.
Along with better scouting, he is going to face a tougher schedule. Last year, the Cowboys faced the NFC North, AFC North as well as the 2015 last place teams in the NFC West and NFC South in addition to their division rivals. This year, the Cowboys will face the NFC West, AFC West and 2016 first place teams in the NFC North and NFC South in addition to the their division rivals. The schedule is going to be more difficult.
He is still going to get his yards and touchdowns, but expect his statistics to drop to the 3,500 yards range with touchdowns around 20 and the interceptions around eight.
#2. Chidobe Awuzie will start by the end of the season
The Cowboys let Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr leave as free agents in the offseason and replaced them with free agent Nolan Carroll and second round draft pick Chidobe Awuzie. Carroll will start alongside Orlando Scandrick to begin the season, but Awuzie will replace him in the starting lineup by the end of the season. Carroll is fine in small stints, but Pro Football Focus has given him average to worse grades throughout his entire seven-year NFL career. Last season was the lowest of his career, despite matching his career-best 11 passes defensed, with a 44.6 grade. The highest grade he received was 77.7, which was his rookie year.
A rookie out of the University of Colorado, Awuzie is a very good cover corner with good measurables. All he needs to do is get caught up with the speed and he will be a shutdown No. 1 corner.
#1. The Cowboys will finish second in the NFC East division
The Cowboys face a tougher schedule and will fall a few games short of matching last season’s 13 win total. 10 wins will be good enough for the Cowboys to finish second in the NFC East and the second wild card finish in the regular season.