After a disappointing 6-10 season in 2020, the Dallas Cowboys clinched the NFC East last year with two weeks left to play. Led by quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys went 12-5 during the season with its offense averaging 31 points per game, topping the league. Not to be outdone, their third-ranked defense (by EPA) was stout and opportunistic, leading the league in takeaways. And the Cowboys were absolutely dominant against their division rivals, sweeping the East for the first time since 1998. While it still didn’t land Dallas in the NFC title game, it was an impressive overall season.
But Elo rating suggests a tougher road ahead for Dallas in 2022. The model sees the Cowboys dropping to 10 wins, dead-even with the Philadelphia Eagles in a tight battle for divisional supremacy. Last year, Philadelphia’s first season since 2015 without quarterback Carson Wentz, was a mild success, and it laid the groundwork for higher expectations in 2022. Quarterback Jalen Hurts managed the league’s 11th-ranked offense by EPA to a 9-8 record and Philly slipped into the playoffs by winning a tiebreaker over New Orleans.
A surprise draft-day trade for wide receiver A.J. Brown has generated excitement for the Eagles’ passing game, but Philly’s strength remains its offensive and defensive lines. The team’s O-line ranked third in pass block win rate in 2021, and their hog mollies graded out as the fifth best in the league in pass blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. Perhaps practicing against their teammates helped: The Philly D-line was also excellent, ranking fourth in pass rush win rate and was graded sixth-best in pass rush by PFF charters. Hopes are high in Philadelphia, and the team isn’t being overhyped. Line play in particular is (relatively) reliable from season to season, and if Hurts takes the next step while the Philly receiving corps lives up to its potential, the Eagles could make a deep run in the playoffs.