Will the Cowboys Reach the Playoffs in 2021?

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Will the Cowboys Reach the Playoffs in 2021?
Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys finally come to an agreement, establishing the team’s course for the next four years at the very least. Separately, it places mega expectations for the Cowboys’ upcoming 2021 campaign, which is directly proportional to Prescott’s massive contract. To put it simply, nothing less than a playoff appearance will be considered acceptable for such a massive investment that practically ties the team’s hands in a bind and eats up a good chunk of their salary cap.

If one were to take a cue from various top betting sites, oddsmakers are projecting the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs as a matter of fact. Dallas is priced as the team to beat in the NFC East, with a good distance ahead of the rest of the field. Winning the divisional title is as we know one way to punch your playoff ticket. However, from there onwards, oddsmakers don’t perceive Dallas as a legitimate contender. Things get murkier in the broad spectrum of the NFC Conference and Super Bowl 56 betting markets with the Cowboys being dubbed no better than middleweights.

Priced anywhere between +1200 and +1500 in the NFC, and +2500 to +3000 in Super Bowl 56 betting markets, the current betting outlook implies the Cowboys would be hard-pressed to go deep in the playoffs. They’re more likely to lose in the first round of postseason action. A perception that is arguably underpinned by cold hard facts that encompass the last five seasons, and in particular, the Cowboys’ performance overall in the playoffs with Dak Prescott as the offensive pivot.

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Dallas Cowboys Pretenders in Super Bowl 56 Betting

Football betting markets are reactionary and predictable at early doors, essentially picking up from where the previous season left off with a few exceptions here and there. It should come as no surprise to bettors therefore that the top bets in Super Bowl 56 betting markets are last year’s finalists: the tandem of the Kansas City Chiefs (+525 at BetOnline) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+650 at BetOnline). This trend extends to the top four best bets as well, featuring the NFC and AFC Conference finalists: Green Bay Packers (+1200 at BetOnline) and the Buffalo Bills (+1400 at BetOnline).

Nowhere in the top five do the Dallas Cowboys figure, they’re a far cry from those contenders to win Super Bowl 56, and for good reason too. One of which is the fact that they’ve missed the playoffs in the last two seasons (their last appearance was in 2018). Dak Prescott took over as the franchise’s starter replacing Tony Romo officially in 2016. The Cowboys have reached the playoffs only twice since 2016 going 1-2 SU.

Thus, in the absence of tangible postseason pedigree, the Cowboys are quite rightly priced amongst the league’s Super Bowl pretenders, currently sitting on odds as high as +3000 (per Bovada) in early markets and as low as +2500 (per BetOnline) – the odds vary depending on which sportsbook from the wide selection on offer that one considers in the betting.

HC McCarthy and Owner Jerry Jones of the Cowboys
Head coach Mike McCarthy (L) of the Dallas Cowboys speaks with team owner Jerry Jones. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images/AFP

Dallas Cowboys Favored To Win NFC East

Although the Cowboys don’t feature amongst the top five or, even, the top ten best bets to win the Lombardi Trophy, they fare much better at the divisional level. In the context of the NFC East, the Cowboys are deemed to be the team to beat by the current serving of early NFL odds – albeit in a wide-open division that is set to some of the tightest odds.

With BetOnline sportsbook (visit our BetOnline Review), the Cowboys are priced at +115 to clinch the NFC East, while the reigning champions, the Washington Football Team, are priced at +300. The Eagles, meanwhile, are priced at +400, and the NY Giants round out the section on +425 odds.

Obviously, the Cowboys have the upper-hand because out of the four teams in the division they’re best set up at the quarterback position with Dak Prescott. On the flip side of that same very same coin, though, is the fact that the signal-caller is coming off a terrible injury. It’s uncertain how effective his play will be, although reports suggest his recovery is going well. Better even than expected.

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And yet, the jury is still out on Mike McCarthy after the head coach’s first season turned into an unmitigated disaster. There is additional uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball, which presents a big question mark now that Dan Quinn is to be the new defensive coordinator. Quinn was lauded as a defensive guru during his years in Seattle, but during his most recent period as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, he presided over one of the worst defenses in the league.

Separately, Prescott’s new contract represents an internal human resources challenge. It eats up much of their salary cap, meaning it’s going to have a noteworthy impact on the shaping of the rest of the roster. It’s a quarterback-centric league, but it takes a team to win championship titles, and for that, good players are necessary at many key positions…

As far as the rest of the field is concerned, the Washington Football team has quarterback question marks, but they’ve got one of the most exciting, burgeoning defenses in the league, and that could be problematic for their divisional neighbors. The Eagles are going into a rebuild around Jalen Hurts in the offseason, all the while debuting a new head coach in 2021. That makes Philly perhaps one of the most difficult teams to gauge in the mix. In the meanwhile, the NY Giants have upside, but it all rests on Daniel Jones’ development and maturation in his third year in the league.

Prescott and the Cowboys Have Losing Playoff Record

Since 2016, the Cowboys have won the NFC East title twice in five seasons, making the playoffs on the back of it, albeit collecting merely a 1-2 SU record in those limited appearances. Prescott led the Cowboys to a playoff victory for the first time in 2018, during his second crack at playoff action. The Cowboys beat the Seahawks in the Wild Card round before succumbing to the LA Rams in the Divisional round.

In 2019, the Cowboys missed the playoffs after finishing second in the NFC East with an 8-8-0 record. In 2020, they missed the playoffs after finishing third in the NFC East behind a 6-10 SU record. This means, in the last two seasons, when Prescott was without a doubt littering the stats sheet with individual feats of elite play, the Cowboys overall came up short. They have an overall 14-18-0 SU record, of which Prescott accounts in 20 games with a 9-11 SU record. Consider a healthy Prescott at the start of the 2020 season carried the Cowboys to a 1-3 SU before he succumbed to a season-ending ankle injury.

Zeke Elliott of the Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys pulls in a pass against the Washington Football Team defense. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

The NFC East Was the Worst Division In the League in 2020

Not only was the NFC East the worst division in the league last year, but it may well have been THE worst division in NFL history that came very close to sending a 6-10 SU NY Giants into the playoffs.

Of course, that’s not to say that Washington’s 7-9 SU record, delivering the NFC East title to the nation’s capital, represents a massive improvement on the NY Giants. But it did prevent the 2020 NFC East from finishing as the worst division in the league since the league’s modern divisional set up over 50 years ago. That ignominious honor of being the worst belongs to the 2014 NFC South, which the Carolina Panthers won with a 7-8-1 record.

In no uncertain terms, the NFC East is coming off its worst season ever. The combined production of the NFC East quartet was 23-40-1 SU, and the combined record against non-NFC East opponents was 11-28-1. And, in particular, based on early NFC East futures, it appears the division’s weakened state is likely to spill into the upcoming season, raising questions about what this could mean – if anything at all – for the Dallas Cowboys.

At its simplest, it means the Dallas Cowboys are the best of a suspect NFC East bunch on paper, but that in of itself is no guarantee of pending success in the postseason.

Dak Prescott Signs The Dotted Line

Prescott has signed a four-year deal worth $160 million with the Dallas Cowboys, of which an astronomical $126 million is guaranteed money according to NFL insider Adam Schefter. The deal is record-breaking in many ways, as it includes $66 million to sign and $75 million in his first year – both of which are record amounts in their respective categories by league standards.

The Cowboys had until Tuesday, 4:00 PM ET to come to terms with their chosen signal-caller. By securing the deal on Monday, the Cowboys put to bed one of the biggest uncertainties that followed them into this offseason.

A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday, which will shed more light on this agreement and give everyone a clearer sense of where the Cowboys go from here, but a guess can easily be hazarded: lifting the Lombardi trophy.

Super Bowl glory is the obvious dream for any team. When a franchise makes such a big commitment, it can be inferred that winning the Lombardi trophy is their singular, express objective in the present. So, at its purest, it’s the playoffs or bust for the Cowboys.

Having said that, winning the NFC East followed by a quick postseason exit isn’t going to cut it. It’s not going to be enough for fans, nor will it appease those critics, who are already calling into question Prescott’s big payday. I dare say it won’t cut it for Jerry Jones either, who is keen to win another Super Bowl ring.

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