Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finally had enough of Jason Garrett’s underachieving ways after nine mostly mediocre seasons. Garrett went out in epic fashion with the Cowboys finishing with the largest point differential (+113) to not produce a winning season since the 1989 Bengals (+119). Dallas finished with an 8-8 record, which was its first non-winning season since 2015, and they ended with a 9-7 against-the-spread mark. Garrett and the Cowboys choked away the division and the playoffs last year, dropping three straight games after a 6-4 start to help them miss the playoffs at -125 odds.
Dallas finished with such a massive positive point differential because of their perfect 6-0 record in games decided by three scores or more. On the flip side, they couldn’t close out enough tight games with a dreadful 1-6 mark in one-score contests. The Cowboys were one of the best teams for overs last season, finishing with a 10-6 mark thanks to their 27.1 points per game average (sixth-best) — they allowed the ninth-fewest points per game (20.1).
Dallas’ 2020 win total (9.5) climbed by half a win from last season with the franchise bringing in Mike McCarthy to lead the team. The Cowboys fell below their 2019 win total with their eighth loss of the season to the Eagles in Week 16. Dallas has -250 odds to get back to the playoffs after a year layoff — the Cowboys have made the playoffs in even years and missed the playoffs in odd years since 2014. Entering the season, I have the Cowboys power rated as the sixth-best team in the NFL (+1700 to win Super Bowl LV), as the fourth-best team in the NFC (+850 to win the conference), and as the best team in the NFC East (-106).
|Week||Opponent (spread if available)||Time|
|1||@Los Angeles Rams (-2.5)||8:20 (Sun)|
|2||Atlanta Falcons (-7)||1|
|5||New York Giants (-7.5)||4:25|
|6||Arizona Cardinals||8:15 (Mon)|
|8||@Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5)||8:20 (Sun)|
|9||Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)||4:25|
|12||Washington Football (-8)||4:30 (Thurs)|
|13||@Baltimore Ravens||8:20 (Thurs)|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||8:20 (Sun)|
|16||Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)||4:25|
|17||@New York Giants||1|
Key Off-season Moves
Gerald McCoy (DT)
Andy Dalton (QB)
Dontari Poe (DT)
CeeDee Lamb (WR)
Trevon Diggs (CB)
Greg Zuerlein (K)
Aldon Smith (DE)
Byron Jones (CB, Mia)
Robert Quinn (DE, Chi)
Travis Frederick (C, retired)
Randall Cobb (WR, Hou)
Jason Witten (TE, LV)
Maliek Collins (DT, LV)
Xavier Su’a-Filo (OG, Cin)
Jamize Olawale (FB, opted out)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||9.5 (-150/+123)|
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Cowboys couldn’t get out of their own way plenty of times throughout the Jason Garrett era, including last year when they missed the playoffs despite absolutely dominating some opponents and despite playing like one of the league’s best teams at times. The Cowboys finished with a disappointing .500 record last season despite owning the sixth-best point differential in the league at +113 points, which was nine points better than a Packers team that had FIVE more victories.
The Cowboys defense has done a solid job limiting opponents the last few years, but they really struggled to give the ball back to their offense. They ranked in the top-10 in yards allowed the last three seasons, and they’ve finished in the top half of the league in points allowed. However, they consistently struggled to create turnovers during Garrett’s tenure, finishing in the bottom half of the league in takeaways in five straight seasons. The Cowboys intercepted a pass on just 1.23% of the passes they faced last season (third-lowest), and they averaged just 1.1 takeaways per game (tied eighth-lowest). New DC Mike Nolan is expected to be more creative with his defensive pressures and coverages compared to the predictable schemes and coverages under Rod Marinelli in recent years.
The Cowboys beefed up their defensive line by adding Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, and they had one of the few universally praised drafts this past spring. Dallas saw arguably the best WR in the draft, CeeDee Lamb, fall into their laps in the first round before one of Greg Cosell’s favorite cornerbacks, Trevon Diggs, dropped to them in the second round. They also landed one of the top centers in Tyler Biadasz before shoring up their backup quarterback situation by signing Andy Dalton for $3 million after the Bengals cut him after the draft.
The Cowboys have the ninth-easiest schedule and the easiest slate in the NFC East based on 2020 win totals (per Sharp Football). They benefit from two matchups with both Washington and New York, and they also have Cincinnati on their schedule. Dallas has two games on short-rest weeks this season, and they lucked out getting Washington in both of those contests. They also host a pair of pivotal NFC contests in Weeks 15-16 against the 49ers on Sunday Night Football and against the Eagles.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Cowboys desperately needed to pull the plug on Jason Garrett after nine painfully uninspiring seasons, but this is the toughest off-season to be breaking in a new coach and his staff. At least Mike McCarthy has been around the block with 13 years of head coaching experience with the Packers and nearly 30 years of NFL coaching experience. He also kept young OC Kellen Moore as the team’s play-caller, which will help with their offensive continuity as they implement some of McCarthy’s schemes.
Dak Prescott and this Cowboys offense is going to have a tough time maintaining their high level of play from last season. They led the league in total offense by averaging 431.5 yards per game, and they finished sixth in scoring offense by averaging 27.1 points per game. McCarthy’s offenses finished in the top-10 in both yards and points per game eight different times in his 13 seasons in Green Bay, but they did it just once in his final four years with the Pack. The Cowboys did lose slot WR Randall Cobb and TE Jason Witten this off-season, but they drafted CeeDee Lamb and they elevated Blake Jarwin to the starting TE spot. The Cowboys have the talent to remain among the league’s elite offenses, but this offense should take a small step back from last year’s lofty standards.
The Cowboys also lost a big piece along their offensive line and two big-time players on defense. Dallas should still have one of the best O-lines in the league, but it did lose the anchor to the group, C Travis Frederick, to an early retirement after he sat out the 2018 season with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. They also have massive holes to fill on defense with CB Byron Jones and EDGE defender Robert Quinn leaving and landing the two biggest contracts on the open market — the Dolphins gave Jones $82.5 million and the Bears gave Quinn $70 million. The Cowboys will have a difficult time filling the voids left behind by Jones and Quinn, especially in their secondary where they’re young and lacking much depth.
The Cowboys have a relatively tough opening stretch of games (@LAR, Atl, @Sea, Cle) before their schedule eases up a bit in Weeks 5-7 (NYG, Ari, @Was). Per usual, the Cowboys will be heavily featured on national TV with five primetime games this season and a sixth game against the Redskins as a standalone game on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys and the rest of the NFC East drew tough matchups with their crossover games with the AFC North and NFC West. Dallas will also play the Vikings and the Falcons in their extra NFC games.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Dak Prescott: passing yards (4275.5), passing TDs (27.5), MVP (+1400)
Fantasy Points Projections: passing yards (4595), passing TDs (33)
Best-case Scenario: Prescott posts another MVP-caliber for the second straight, this time with the best WR trio in the league at his disposal with CeeDee Lamb added to the group.
Worst-case Scenario: Prescott sees a huge drop from his 596 attempts in 2019 as the Cowboys defense finally forces more turnovers and they get back to pounding the rock.
Ezekiel Elliott: rushing yards (1275.5), most rushing yards (+800), OPOY (+3000)
Fantasy Points Projections: rushing yards (1295)
- Best-case Scenario: Elliott regularly sees lighter boxes because of their outstanding receiving corps, and he sees heavy work with the Cowboys grinding out victories late in games.
- Worst-case Scenario: Dak Prescott continues to have to air it out with their defense struggling to force turnovers once again, and Tony Pollard’s role in this backfield grows too.
Amari Cooper: receiving yards (1050.5), most receiving yards (+2800)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (1025)
- Best-case Scenario: Dak Prescott continues to be the best thing that’s happened to Cooper’s career. Amari plays more in the slot and he posts career-best numbers for the second straight season.
- Worst-case Scenario: Cooper can’t match his career-best numbers from last season as he struggles to separate himself from talented young WRs Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb.
Michael Gallup: receiving yards (900.5)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (965)
- Best-case Scenario: Gallup once again finishes the year nipping at Amari Cooper’s heels after he finished just 8.2 fantasy points behind Coop in their 14 games together in 2019.
- Worst-case Scenario: Gallup loses some steam in his third season after the Cowboys drafted arguably the best WR in the 2020 draft in CeeDee Lamb and with Blake Jarwin getting a bigger role.
CeeDee Lamb: receiving yards (700.5)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (840)
- Best-case Scenario: Lamb steps into Randall Cobb’s old slot role and his vacated 83 targets from last season to challenge for rookie-best receiving numbers.
- Worst-case Scenario: Lamb fails to be anything more than a third option in an absolutely loaded passing attack with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin.
Best Bets and Leans
The Cowboys, with Jerry Jones in charge, have much higher aspirations than the Divisional Round of the playoffs, which is the deepest they’ve been in the postseason since they won the Super Bowl 25 seasons ago — they’re winless in six Divisional Round appearances since 1996. Dallas showed traits of being a dominant team last season, but it was ultimately undone once again by Jason Garrett’s game and team mismanagement and by their defense being unable to force turnovers.
Much like Garrett in Dallas, new HC Mike McCarthy lost his old job with Green Bay at the end of the 2018 season after his tenure got stale. However, McCarthy did more in Green Bay than Garrett ever did in Dallas by helping to build a perennial contender with the Packers. I’m expecting this Cowboys team to respond to fresh ideas and a new voice this season. With a schedule that’s more on the easier side, I’m leaning toward the Cowboys going over their nine and a half wins, but I ultimately couldn’t get to the window because of the juice (-150) books are taking at the current win total.
I am willing to lay a little juice to make a small wager on Dak Prescott to throw for more than 4200.5 passing yards. Prescott now has the league’s most formidable trio at WR between Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, and the Packers were regularly among the league leaders in 11 personnel usage under McCarthy. Prescott will also have Blake Jarwin bringing more explosive plays at the tight end position, and he has Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to give him six viable targets. The Cowboys defense is going to struggle to slow down opposing offenses quite a bit this season so Prescott, who threw for 4902 yards last year, could have his foot on the gas pedal for 60 minutes quite a bit this season.
Best Bets: Dak Prescott over 4200.5 passing yards (-125, Sportsbook.ag). Risk one unit to win .8 units.
Leans: Cowboys over nine and a half wins (-150, DraftKings).