The Dallas Cowboys didn't live up to Sporting News' 2019 bold prediction of winning Super Bowl 54. That makes them a strong candidate to rebound from a disappointing 8-8 and at least get back to the NFC playoffs in 2020. — given their recent track record has been making it in even years (2014, 2016, 2018).
The Cowboys' latest regression to mediocrity cost coach Jason Garrett his job. He was replaced by Mike McCarthy, who was used to taking his Packers teams consistently to the playoffs. Dallas' offense was explosive enough to win more games last season. But a red-hot 3-0 start was marred by a weak end, allowing the Eagles to take the division instead. The biggest concern was the Cowboys not being able to finish out close games.
The only question about quarterback Dak Prescott is when he will get his lucrative long-term contract. He took his passing to another level with Kellen Moore and should continue on an upward trajectory with another top wideout, rookie first-rounder CeeDee Lamb, joining Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
The Cowboys still have a sturdy offensive line, a stud back in Ezekiel Elliott. They lost cornerback Byron Jones on defense, but linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylen Smith form the strong backbone of their front seven.
What does all that mean for 2020? Here's looking into the crystal football to predict the Cowboys' near future.
MORE NFL PREDICTIONS:
SN's complete 2020 standings projections & playoff picks
Cowboys record prediction for 2020
- Record: 10-6
- Division: No. 2 in NFC East
- Playoffs: No. 6 seed in NFC
This isn't calling for the Cowboys to suddenly flip the switch back to being a dominant force. The NFC is too tough of a conference to navigate and they also have a Super Bowl contender in their own division. Dallas and Philadelphia will have another heated battle in the East with both teams being healthier and better. While the Cowboys have more concerns in the front and back of their defense, the Eagles have to worry more about offensive line and wide receiver..
The Eagles upgraded as division champions and don't have a coaching change, which gives them a slight edge to repeat. With seven playoff spots, however, the Cowboys will be well positioned to nail down one of the wild cards.
Cowboys 2020 win total, Super Bowl odds
- Win total: Over/under 9 1/2
- Super Bowl odds: +1500 (sixth best)
The Cowboys' win total is tricky because Sporting News' 2020 projection has little margin for error. It would surprise no one if Dallas either shot up to 13-3 or fell to 7-9. They are one of the more volatile teams in the NFL and the arrival of McCarthy after a decade of Garrett adds a new wrinkle.
But then there are the Super Bwl odds, which suggest McCarthy will be better than Garrett in meshing the Cowboys with the modern game. With a QB such as Prescott, the Cowboys always will have a chance to win big and get hot in the playoffs. They're not a bad alternative to take vs. say, Tom Brady's Buccaneers.
Cowboys schedule 2020
The Cowboys don't have the same early breaks of 2019 and that may be a good thing to battle-test them. The Rams are more vulnerable now and after the Cowboys didn't get to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp, that's their chance to rule L.A. in a new rival stadium to Jerry World.
The Falcons can be tricky in Week 2 and the Seahawks present a tough road trip early in Week 3. The Cowboys probably need to go 2-1 in that stretch to feel good about their playoff chances later.
Dallas must dominate October because after that month, it gets six returning playoff teams in the final nine games, including the critical showdowns with the Eagles twice. It's brutal to draw both the NFC West and AFC North, another reason to keep the win total modest. A two-game improvement would then be a huge improvement.
17 Jan. 3 at New York Giants 1 p.m. Fox
Below is the Cowboys' complete schedule for the 2020 season.
|Week||Date||Opponent||Kickoff time (ET)||TV|
|1||Sept. 13||at Los Angeles Rams||8:20 p.m.||NBC|
|2||Sept. 20||vs. Atlanta Falcons||1 p.m.||Fox|
|3||Sept. 27||at Seattle Seahawks||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|4||Oct. 4||vs. Cleveland Browns||1 p.m.||Fox|
|5||Oct. 11||vs. New York Giants||1 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Oct. 19 (Monday)||vs. Arizona Cardinals||8:15 p.m.||ESPN|
|7||Oct. 25||at Washington||1 p.m.||Fox|
|8||Nov. 1||at Philadelphia Eagles||8:20 p.m.||NBC|
|9||Nov. 8||vs. Pittsburgh Steelers||4:25 p.m.||CBS|
|11||Nov. 22||at Minnesota Vikings||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|12||Nov. 26 (Thursday)||vs. Washington||4:30 p.m.||Fox|
|13||Dec. 3 (Thursday)||at Baltimore Ravens||8:20 p.m.||Fox/NFLN|
|14||Dec. 13||at Cincinnati Bengals||1 p.m.||Fox|
|15||Dec. 20||vs. San Francisco 49ers||8:20 p.m.||NBC|
|16||Dec. 27||vs. Philadelphia Eagles||4:25 p.m.||Fox|
|17||Jan. 3||at New York Giants||1 p.m.||Fox|