The 102nd edition of the National Football League, the 2021 NFL season is scheduled to start on September 9, with defending champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Kickoff Game. The playoffs are expected to start on January 15 2022, and Super Bowl LVI will be played on February 13 at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. This season marks the first time the regular season will be played with an expanded schedule of 17 games.
On August 5, the Dallas Cowboys kick-off the preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, in Canton, Ohio. Both teams, who own the most appearances in the game with six each since 1962, were scheduled to face off in the 2020 Hall of Fame game, but the match was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s event will be open to the public, and tickets are already on sale.
After a brutal campaign in the 2020 season, when the team finished with a 6-10 record and missed out on the postseason for the second straight year, the Dallas Cowboys are looking to rebound for the upcoming season. However, the Cowboys have a lot of work to do in order to make a playoff return. Since the team struggled with injuries last year, especially in the offensive line, health will be a major concern in 2021. Besides, defense should also be a point of focus, and newly-appointed defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has a tough job ahead of him, which already started with a lot of defensive players picked in the 2021 Draft.
According to bookies and media analysts, the Dallas Cowboys are the favorites to win the NFC East, with +125 odds – for more information on sportsbooks in Texas, be sure tocheck out this page. However, to fulfill these odds and return to playoff action in 2021, the Cowboys will have to significantly improve in comparison to last year.
Dak is back!
After receiving the franchise tag in March 2020, quarterback Dak Prescott started the 2020 season in great fashion. In the first four games of the season, he threw for incredible 1,690 passing yards, and nine touchdowns.
In Week 2, Prescott threw for 450 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for three TDs, in the Cowboys’ 40-39 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, and became the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 400 yards and rush for three touchdowns in the same game. Later, he also became the first player to pass for at least 450 yards in three consecutive games. But in October, during the game against the Giants, Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation to his right ankle, which ended his season as he underwent surgery the same night.
Fast forward to 2021, and Dak Prescott is back and with a new contract – on March 9, he signed a four-year extension worth US$160 million with US$126 million guaranteed. His recovery is going as expected, and he has stated several times in recent months that he’ll be ready to play in the preseason.
“I’m right on pace. As I said, I’m healthy. If we had to play a game now, I feel like I can go out there. Obviously with the protection of my O-line and making sure I’m not getting beat up the whole game, I could go out there and be very successful, start the game, finish the game and not even worry about the leg”, he said in an interview in late May.
With Prescott back in action, and relying on a healthier offensive line, the Cowboys are certainly capable of a deep run in the playoffs.
Defensive issues must be corrected
In the 2020 season, the Dallas Cowboys defense had a season to forget, after allowing a franchise-record 473 points. On January 8, the Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, and appointed ex-Falcons head coach Dan Quinn for the job. With Atlanta, he posted a 43-42 record and took the team to the Super Bowl in his second season. Between 2013 and 2014, Quinn was the Seahawks’ DC, where he employed a 4-3 scheme that helped the team to consecutive Super Bowl appearances, creating the “Legion of Boom” with the likes of Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner.
In Dallas, he doesn’t inherit this kind of talent, and he already stated that he intends to use a 3-4 scheme, with Leighton Vander Esch, who is returning from a broken collarbone and a high ankle sprain, and Micah Parsons, the 12th overall selection in this year’s draft, as the inside linebackers for run-defense alignments, and with rookie Jabril Cox coming in the nickel for pass-defense situations.
With the return of injured players, and the influx of young talent coming off the Draft, the Cowboys defense is expected to significantly improve under Dan Quinn, who is known for putting players in position to thrive by amplifying individual skill sets.