4 Bold (and Slightly Less Bold) Predictions for the 2013 Dallas Cowboys

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4 Bold (and Slightly Less Bold) Predictions for the 2013 Dallas Cowboys
USA TODAY Sports

In 93 days, the Dallas Cowboys will host the New York Giants to open the 2013 NFL regular season on Sunday Night Football. In the meantime, we have a lot of speculating to do.

Let's start with four big predictions regarding the 2013 campaign for "America's Team."

 

1. Dez Bryant will lead the league in touchdown catches

During the second half of the 2012 regular season, Bryant had more touchdowns than anyone in football. And with the 24-year-old enjoying a peaceful and productive offseason as he continues to improve, there's no reason to believe he won't continue on that trajectory throughout his fourth NFL season.

In fact, expect Bryant to hang with Calvin and Andre Johnson in the race to lead the league in yardage as well. He proved during those final eight games of the 2012 campaign that he's a legit star, and there really is no ceiling here. 

So long as Tony Romo's throwing passes and Miles Austin and Jason Witten are factors, Bryant will have the ability to shine in a very unique way. He'll become a superstar in 2013.

 

2. Ronald Leary will become a regular starter at guard

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Mackenzy Bernadeau did not have a good 2012 experience at right guard and the 'Boys haven't been able to rely on Phil Costa at center. Watch for the team to give serious consideration to two youngsters to fill those roles, with left guard Nate Livings also a potential target for demotion.

First-round pick Travis Frederick is likely to earn a starting job at either center or guard, but Leary is the wild card. Look for the 24-year-old to gain an edge on Bernadeau, Costa and maybe even Livings as the Cowboys hold what should be a healthy competition for the starting guard spots.

Leary, who was signed as an undrafted free agent, spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad but showed some flashes in spot duty during training camp and the preseason. Plus, Jerry Jones feels strongly about the Memphis product, and that goes a long way in Dallas.

 

3. For the first time in his nine-year career, DeMarcus Ware won't lead the team in sacks

Anthony Spencer made up a lot of ground between those two last year, and now Spencer is primed to become the Cowboys' sack king in his third consecutive contract year. Ware, who has been bothered by injuries the last two years and isn't practicing much right now as he recovers from shoulder surgery, will be 31 in July.

He began to slow down when his sack total dropped from 19.5 in 2011 to 11.5 in 2012, and now he's making that transition to 4-3 defensive end fairly late in his career. The change might not make things easier on a pass-rusher in decline.

Ware hasn't missed a game in his career. We're not about to predict injuries, and he's one tough dude, but eventually the guy might have to miss some time. The odds of that happening increase with each passing season. 

 

4. They'll end their playoff drought 

Technically, they're due. The NFC East has had four different division winners in four years, and the 'Boys were the last to capture the crown, back in 2009. They haven't had a winning record since then, but they've also only had one losing one, and if they were to fall short again in 2013 they'd be locked in their longest playoff drought since the late 1980s. 

While we have our doubts about the way things are being run and don't exactly view head coach Jason Garrett as a magician, this Dallas team is too talented to be kept out of the postseason yet again. They didn't have all of the pieces in place in 2011 and they were demoralized by injuries in 2012, but the pieces are there now and the law of averages says they'll be (knock on wood) healthier this time around.

There are no bad teams in the NFC East, but there also aren't any dominant ones. Look for the 'Boys to make another run at the division title. And even if they fall short, I'd expect them to grab a wild-card spot.

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