Best and worst case scenario for 2022

Welcome to FanSided’s 2022 NFL preview! It’s time to look into our crystal football and take a glimpse at the Dallas Cowboys season prediction.

Last year was arguably the first time in a while the Dallas Cowboys had a chance at a playoff push. After an incredibly strong start to the season, the magic wore off a bit in the second half of the season, but they still swept the division and came out of the regular season with a 12-5 record.

With high hopes heading into the Wild Card Round, the Cowboys were outplayed by the San Francisco 49ers. The final 14 seconds are likely burned in the memories of the players on the 2021 roster.

Dallas Cowboys 2021 season in review

  • 12-5 record
  • 1st place in NFC East
  • Lost in Wild Card Round to 49ers

For the 11th consecutive playoff appearance, the Cowboys failed to get to a Conference Championship game. With a great opportunity to do well in the playoffs based on their seeding, Dallas fell short of expectations. The roster and potential were there, but lack of discipline, penalties, and poor execution took the Cowboys down early.

Dallas Cowboys 2022 NFL Draft class

  • Rd 1: Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa
  • Rd 2: Sam Williams, DE, Ole Miss
  • Rd 3: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
  • Rd 4: Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
  • Rd 5: Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota
  • Rd 5: DaRon Bland, CB, Fresno State
  • Rd 5: Damone Clark, LB, LSU
  • Rd 5: John Ridgeway, DT, Arkansas
  • Rd 6: Devin Harper, LB, Oklahoma State

There are mixed reviews about the Cowboys’ draft class. Many felt Tyler Smith was too inexperienced, raw, and unproven to be a first-round pick. Smith, Tolbert, and Williams have all made big plays this summer, making fans excited for what they may offer this year.

For Tolbert and Smith, the rookies will likely be expected to start in Week 1 due to injuries and lack of depth. Expect to see most of these rookies tested this season.

Previewing Dallas Cowboys’ offense for the 2022 season

  • Key offseason additions
    • Jalen Tolbert, WR
    • James Washington, WR
    • Tyler Smith, OG
  • Biggest X-Factor: CeeDee Lamb, WR
  • Squeakiest Wheel: Ezekiel Elliott, RB

There are far more question on offense than defense for the Cowboys. Dak Prescott is finally healthy for the first time in a few seasons but the talent around him has changed. The only sure-fire returners available as receiving weapons for Prescott are CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. Both the receiver and tight end will need to have major performances in order to help make up for the loss of Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson, Blake Jarwin, and the injuries to Michael Gallup and James Washington.

The offensive line is the biggest concern. It was last year and all the front office did was add a young, inexperienced rookie. Tyler Smith will be thrown in very early on without a single NFL snap. While Tyron Smith and Zack Martin are All-Pro caliber veterans, their age and durability could be a huge issue.

If guys like Tyler Biadasz, Connor McGovern, and Terence Steele don’t do their jobs, it’ll be big trouble.

The running game should be much better than the latter half of the 2021 season. Ezekiel Elliott is allegedly fully healthy and Tony Pollard is supposed to finally be used more. Both backs will be key to the success of this team.

Previewing Dallas Cowboys defense for 2022 season

  • Key offseason additions
    • Anthony Barr, LB
    • Dante Fowler Jr., DE
  • Biggest X-Factor: Micah Parsons, LB
  • Squeakiest Wheel: Dante Fowler Jr., DE

For the first time in a long time, fans are likely more excited about this defense than they are about the offense. Although the team lost Randy Gregory, most of the stars of last year (Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthony Brown, etc) will all be back. Expect Parsons to continue his Swiss Army-knife ways.

Dante Fowler Jr. hasn’t had a decent season in multiple years, but hopefully, the change of scenery will help him emerge in 2022. He will need to help make up for the loss of Gregory and contribute in a big way. If not, he will likely lose his spot to rookie Sam Williams.

The secondary is stronger than it’s ever been with Diggs, Brown, Jayron Kearse, and Malik Hooker all back and ready to improve on their breakout years in 2021. If the offseason programming has shown us anything, it’s that none of these defenders plan on reverting this season.

Dallas Cowboys coaching staff overview

  • Head Coach: Mike McCarthy
  • Off. Coordinator: Kellen Moore
  • Def. Coordinator: Dan Quinn

Coaching was a major storyline of the 2022 offseason. Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn both interviewed for several head coaching positions with other teams, but ultimately ended up returning to Dallas.

Mike McCarthy’s seat was extremely hot after the Wild Card loss. Jerry Jones even refused to solidify his job security for the first few weeks after the season ended. The Cowboys owner also publicly spoke about the fact that Quinn would make a great head coach and he could get anyone he wanted to coach the Cowboys.

Then, Sean Payton “retired.” The rumor mill swirled. Although Payton is currently set with a contract to be a broadcaster at FOX, it seems likely he will return to coaching in 2023. If McCarthy doesn’t have a good season, expect Jones to go after his old friend with full force.

Dallas Cowboys Awards Watch

Watch for Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, and CeeDee Lamb to improve on their already great 2021 seasons. Plus, with Prescott back at full health, the quarterback could be back in the MVP conversation like he was at the beginning of 2021.

Dak Prescott, MVP

Don’t bet on it. But if we had to pick one, it is Prescott. First, quarterbacks always win. Secondly, with the green light to use his legs far more in 2022, Prescott does have a chance to get back to his old ways in 2022.

Micah Parsons, Defensive Player of the Year

Last year, Parsons became the first player ever to unanimously win Defensive Rookie of the Year. He also almost won Defensive Player of the Year. T.J. Watt was deserving after tying Michael Strahan’s sack record, but when you think about the most valuable defender in the game, it was Parsons.

Watt’s stats were higher because he was solely a linebacker. Parsons was versatile and adaptable to what his team needed and succeeded at every position. If he can do it again in 2022, prepare to see his name at the NFL Honors.

Biggest game on Dallas Cowboys schedule in 2022

The Cowboys have a lot of big games. They take on the Buccaneers, Bengals, and Rams all within the first five weeks. Those games are massive. But for many reasons, their away game in Week 10 against Green Bay is critical. Heading into the frozen tundra is always tough, and it will be Mike McCarthy’s first time back in Green Bay since his firing.

It is a midway checkpoint in the season, and the Cowboys will need to prove that they can get it done on the road against a formidable opponent. Plus, Aaron Rodgers loves to beat the Cowboys. This game will have tons of storylines and lots of drama.

Dallas Cowboys season prediction: Best-case scenario

Unlike some Cowboys fans, we are going to be realistic here. The Cowboys are not likely nto win it all this year. They will also likely have a worse overall record than last year’s 12-5. But the best-case scenario for the Cowboys is that they play with discipline, lessen the penalties, and get further in the playoffs than they have in a while. The hope is that continuity and key veterans can help make this happen.

Instead of prematurely looking to the Super Bowl, a big goal for the Cowboys should be to be the first team in 17 years to win the NFC East in consecutive years. The Eagles will give them a hard time with this, but this would be a huge feat for the 2022 season. Once they do that, they should strive to at least get past the first round of the playoffs.

All eyes will be on McCarthy and his staff to lead this team in a way they haven’t been in years.

Dallas Cowboys season prediction: Worst-case scenario

The first five games of the season will be both incredibly challenging and telling for the Cowboys. This team will be without all but one of its veteran wide receivers (and CeeDee Lamb is only in his third year), leaving Dak Prescott essentially on his own against the Buccaneers, Bengals, and Rams. If the Cowboys can get some major wins in these first five games it’ll truly set the tone, but they may not.

Facing three of the top teams in the league with an offense that has a ton of question marks doesn’t seem ideal. There is a legitimate chance the Cowboys start the season 2-3, which would certainly kill momentum.

Aside from record, this team has no chance of being a contender if the defense doesn’t have another phenomenal year. Last year, the defense scored points and kept this team in games. If Trevon Diggs can’t be the ballhawk he was and the Cowboys don’t find a legitimate replacement at DE for Randy Gregory, the whole team could suffer as a result.

Dallas Cowboys season prediction for 2022

  • 9-8 record
  • 1st place in NFC East
  • Lose in Divisional Round

The reality is this schedule isn’t as easy as the 2021 docket. The NFC East is stronger, and the Cowboys have some formidable opponents on their schedule. Frankly, 9-8 is a success. Going 12-5 with this slate will be rough.

As mentioned above, the biggest goal should be winning the NFC East. Win all the non-division games you can but be better than the NFC East and get your spot in the playoffs. Cowboys Nation may literally implode if the team gets to the playoffs and at least reach the Divisional Round. If they don’t, consider McCarthy fired.

There’s a lot to be excited about, but there are also major roster questions entering this season. The Cowboys have the talent to do well, but they need to avoid injuries and up the discipline. If they can do those two things, they’ll go farther than some will think.

Read more from FanSided’s 2022 NFL Preview here. For more Dallas Cowboys coverage, check out The Landry Hat. 

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