Dallas Has Best Shot of Teams Playing this Week at Super Bowl Run
In early September, had you inquired about the 2014 performance expectations for the Dallas Cowboys, I would have anticipated them struggling to secure even seven victories.
The departures of key players like outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and end Jason Hatcher, combined with the underwhelming performance of their 2013 defensive unit, left the Cowboys’ defense looking highly susceptible this season.
Without a significant alteration in their defensive strategy, it seemed likely that Dallas’ defense was on track to replicate the previous year’s disappointing results.
The Dallas Cowboys’ offense in the prior year predominantly leaned on the passing abilities of quarterback Tony Romo despite having a capable running back in DeMarco Murray.
This identity crisis raised concerns about their potential success in 2014. As we speculated on the Cowboys’ prospects, head coach Jason Garrett was implementing a profound philosophical shift throughout the team.
Under Garrett’s guidance, Dallas transitioned into a run-first offensive approach, marking one of the most pivotal decisions during his tenure.
The outcome was a remarkable 12-4 season with an NFC East Division title, notably accentuated by their unblemished 8-0 record on the road. Their road victories even included a triumph at the formidable CenturyLink Field in Seattle, widely recognized as one of the most daunting venues for visiting teams.
Run-first offenses have historically shown resilience in away games. The effectiveness of their ground game not only lightened the defensive load but also mitigated some of the communication challenges posed by raucous opposing crowds, which often accompany a pass-centric strategy.
Recent history has shown that three of the last four Super Bowl champions entered the playoffs through the wildcard round. The Green Bay Packers (2010), New York Giants (2011), and Baltimore Ravens (2012) convincingly demonstrated that a first-round bye was more of a hindrance than an advantage.
This was primarily due to the momentum they built in early January, propelling them to Super Bowl success. The Dallas Cowboys could become the fifth wildcard team in six years to embark on a Super Bowl journey.
This possibility stems from their propensity to excel when playing on the road, a significant factor given that Super Bowls are traditionally held at neutral venues.
Suppose the Cowboys can secure a home victory this Sunday against the Detroit Lions, especially with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s suspension being overturned on Tuesday. In that case, they will likely face more away games in the postseason. For a team that thrives on the road, this scenario could play to their advantage.
Another noteworthy advantage for Dallas lies in its favorable matchup against Green Bay, the team they would face should they overcome the Lions.
The Packers have demonstrated vulnerability against the run, allowing an average of 4.3 yards per carry this season, while a solid run defense typically concedes around 3.5 yards per carry.
Dallas, on the other hand, boasts a potent ground game, and by effectively running the ball, they could control the clock and limit possessions for the Packers’ high-powered offense, commanded by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
If the Cowboys prevail over Green Bay, they would likely return to CenturyLink Field in Seattle, where they achieved a significant victory earlier in the season.
In their initial encounter, the Dallas Cowboys showcased their ability to run the ball effectively and defend against the run, outperforming the Seahawks in both aspects.
Their confidence in countering the home-field advantage and employing a style that has troubled the Seahawks provides a compelling case for another substantial victory. This, in turn, could potentially secure them a trip to Arizona.
Now, it’s essential to refrain from prematurely booking Dallas a spot in the Super Bowl before the playoffs; however, among all the playoff teams set to compete, the Cowboys appear to have the most promising prospects for a championship run.