It’s tough to get through the NFL offseason. I probably don’t have to tell you that. Sure, things are exciting in March when you’re looking at top free agents land in their new teams and hoping your team gets the guy you want. The excitement probably continues all the way until the NFL Draft. But after that, it’s mostly waiting.

However, there’s one thing I secretly enjoy about this phase of the offseason. I enjoy the “This is our year” aspect of it. Hope springs eternal this time of the year. The high expectations every fanbase starts to build, some of which will get fulfilled and some that will end up in your usual sports fan heartbreak.

Recently, The Athletic posted a survey for Dallas Cowboys fans. One of the main questions tried to define the expectations. Asked what would need to happen for the season to be considered a success, here’s what over 1,300 fans had to say.

  • 45.6%: At least get to the Divisional Round.
  • 40%: At least get to the NFC Championship Game
  • 13.3%: At least make the playoffs

Usually, these conversations feel trivial due to the lack of context. For example, last season wasn’t a success, but how much of it was because of the injuries? The expectations changed right after Dak Prescott’s injury.

However, with the season less than 80 days away, let’s use the context of what we know now. And let me tell you why I disagree with the majority answer in The Athletic’s survey.

What needs to happen for the 2021 Dallas Cowboys’ season to be a success?

Expectations are harder to define for some teams than it is for others. That includes the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys, after all, have one of the most talented offenses in the league. They have a very good quarterback in Dak Prescott commanding an offense filled with top-tier weapons. Kellen Moore, who’s established himself as a good offensive coordinator, has the luxury of having one of the best wide receiver units in the NFL.

Yet, the defense is in a bad spot. Even with plenty of additions in the offseason – including six defensive players with the Cowboys’ first six picks of their Draft – plenty of concerns have been left unanswered.

And most importantly, the Dallas Cowboys have not been a constant in the NFL playoffs for a long, long time. Since 2014, they’ve been in the playoffs three times, never in back-to-back years. Things can change from one year to another (shoutout Tampa Bay), but true winning teams get in the playoffs consistently.

However, there’s a reason why the Cowboys are the clear favorite to win the NFC East. They’re the one franchise in the division with a proven franchise quarterback and an elite group of skill-position players. Forget about what would be considered a success, not winning the division should be considered a disappointment.

This means, in other words, that not being the home team in the Wild Card round would be a disappointment as well. The majority of fans who participated in The Athletic’s survey voted that getting to the Divisional Round should be considered a success. Assuming the Dallas Cowboys don’t finish as the 1 seed in the NFC, that’d mean getting one win in the playoffs.

Even though I realize how hard it is to get to the NFC Championship Game and context is vital, I believe the Cowboys’ season would be a success if they get there. Championship teams in the NFL are built with Top 5 units, not necessarily balanced teams. And if there’s one thing we all seem to agree on, is that there’s an elite offensive unit in Dallas.

PFF even ranked the Cowboys’ receiving corps as the second-best in the league.

There’s a lot we will learn about the Dallas Cowboys in 2021, but the team is a legit contender in the NFC. And even though they’re not considered the favorites in the conference, they should be a competitive team deep into the playoffs. An elite offense should make them be seen as such.

Featured image via Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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