There are a lot of expectations surrounding the Dallas Cowboys for the upcoming season. Dak Prescott’s return from injury and the hiring of Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator are two primary factors.

With that said, not everybody is buying the hype. Many in the media seem to believe that the Washington Football Team are in the position to go back-to-back as NFC East champs. Others think Daniel Jones takes the next step for the New York Giants after the signing of Kenny Golladay.

Realistic portions of the Cowboys fan base are not expecting a Super Bowl appearance next February. Still, it stands reason to believe that the Cowboys are the best team in the division should make the playoffs with a healthy season from Prescott.


Dallas Cowboys
Nov 26, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Justin March (59) and middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (90) celebrate SmithÕs interception return against the Washington Football Team during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Long-time NFL columnist Peter King released his power rankings for the 2021 season in his Football In America column on Monday. King has the usual suspects at the top — Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Buffalo are in the top-3. King is high on the Browns as well, ranking Cleveland at four.

Nowhere to be found in the top-10 is the Dallas Cowboys. Or the top-15. Or even the top-20.

King ranks the Cowboys at 21 in his power rankings, behind teams such as Washington, Chicago, and the New York Giants. Dallas is the third best team in its own division, according to King — with “the best player” in said division.

The best player in the NFC East is back, and if Dak Prescott is what he was when we last saw him for a season (2019: 4,902 passing yards, 30 TDs), with a receiving corps bettered by CeeDee Lamb, Dallas will be in the NFC East mix in late December. The bigger question is the defense, obviously. Imagine giving up, in eight of 16 games, 33 or more points . . . and then imagine being alive on the last weekend of the season with Andy Dalton at the helm. So much of this season depends on new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s ability to do what Mike Nolan couldn’t last year—install a complex system, much of that in Zoom meetings, and get players ready to react by opening day. Quinn is Dallas’ third defensive coordinator in the last 18 months. In an ideal world, Quinn, Seattle’s coordinator in 2013 and ’14, hopes he’s found his Bobby Wagner as the nerve center of his defense with first-round rookie Micah Parsons. But Quinn will need to hide a lot of warts in a porous secondary.

King’s primary focus regarding the Cowboys appears to be on the defensive side of the ball. That definitely makes sense. The Cowboys should feature one of the league’s best offenses, but there are several question marks on the other side of the ball.

Still, quarterback is by far the most important and most valuable position on the field. Having Prescott behind center should make the Cowboys the favorite to win the NFC East and get back into the postseason.

An argument could be made for the Cowboys to finish second behind Washington, thanks to Washington’s incredible defense and overall talent-level on the roster. But, third? Behind the Giants? It’s hard to see that happening.

Featured image via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
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