We all know the Dallas Cowboys are one of the most talented teams in the NFL. Also a well-known fact is their annual proclivity to underwhelm. At risk of being yet another prognosticator burned by "America's Team", I think there are three major reasons why the Cowboys will be the cream of the the NFL's crop in 2009.
1. Three Running Backs
With Derrick Ward now playing in Tampa Bay the Cowboys will have the best trio of runners in '09 with Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice, and when it comes to running backs in today's NFL, more is better.
Through the first six games of 2008 Barber and Jones got off to a phenomenal start, rushing for 440 and 266 yards respectively, but following Jones' season-ending injury Barber's YPC dropped from 4.0 to 3.4. This drop-off is indicative of Dallas' failure to properly use Choice for the first eleven games.
Dallas obviously did not realize what they had in Choice early in 2008, as he did not get any significant playing time until Week 13, when he proceeded to rush for 382 yards in the final five games with Barber either out or limited by injury.
2. No more TO
The best personnel move made by the Cowboys this offseason was cutting loose the declining Terrell Owens. TO's antics used to be worth the headache because of his ability to take over games, but age finally caught up with the superstar last year, as he was held to under 40 yards receiving eight times.
That is just not good enough for a guy making roughly $10 million a season and doing more talking off the field than contributing on it.
Without Owens, Tony Romo will throw the ball less. This is a good thing for the Cowboys, not because Romo is a bad quarterback, but because he does have a propensity to turn the ball over.
A more successful running game means Romo will be in more short-yardage situations on second and third down, which will naturally lead to fewer interceptions. Combine that with Jerry Jones' pre-emptive relieving of the pressure to get the ball to TO and the result is a much better offense in big D.
3. Wade Phillips as Defensive Coordinator
Why does Wade Phillips continue to get opportunities as a head coach in the NFL despite his lack of playoff wins? Because he is quite possibly the best defensive coordinator in the game.
The Cowboys' D saw significant improvement after Phillips took over the defensive play calling in the middle of last season, that is until the final two games when the entire team imploded.
San Diego's defense went from a perennial top ten unit under Phillips to 25th last year. Also, in seven years as defensive coordinator for the Broncos and Bills, Phillips' defenses gave up less than 17 points per game three times.
Given the amount of talent on the the Cowboys' defense, it would not be a stretch to say Dallas could surrender the fewest points in the NFL this year. Once again this is great news for Romo and should further reduce his turnover count.
All of these factors, added to a weak NFC and a fairly friendly schedule will allow this underachieving bunch to regain their 2007 form. Until last season, Dallas had held the record for Super Bowl wins for 14 years, look for the Cowboys to contend strongly this season for their pace-keeping sixth title.