The Dallas Cowboys won't be anywhere near the favorites to reach the Super Bowl next season. In my estimation, the 49ers, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, Saints, Giants, Redskins and Bears all have better odds of representing the NFC at Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey. But that's not to say the Cowboys are incapable of making the playoffs for the first time in four years and getting hot in January. For Jerry Jones and Co. to experience a run that hasn't been witnessed in Dallas since January of 1996, these five things need to happen. 1.) Good health. The Cowboys are going to have injuries, every team does, but a playoff berth would especially take good health from three key players that have had some difficulty staying off the injury report. DeMarco Murray, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter have to bounce back in 2013 and be a factor for the entire season. Depth isn't a strength for the Cowboys, so the talented starters must be on the field, this obviously includes Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Miles Austin, Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. 2.) Improvement from the offensive line. First, an offensive lineman must be drafted in either the first or second round this year. The Cowboys need to add a player that has a good chance at being an immediate upgrade. The same starting group won't cut it. If there are no upgrades entering Week 1 next season, expect another mediocre season. Some experts say there's good offensive line depth in this draft. The Cowboys, who have very limited cap space, would be wise take advantage of it. 3.) Bring in a veteran wide receiver. Laurent Robinson became a security blanket for Romo two years ago. Find a similar player. Austin has demonstrated repeatedly that he can't stay healthy for an entire season. It's possible that Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley or Danny Coale could have a breakout season in 2013, but there's also a chance that none of them make an impact. While they don't have the financial space to sign someone like Green Bay's Greg Jennings, the Cowboys' staff should be able to find a fairly cheap player after teams start making cuts. Remember, Robinson didn't sign until September in 2011. There will be veterans available who want to show they can still play in the league. Find one who Romo can count on to be in the right spot at the right time. 4.) Force more turnovers. The Cowboys forced only 16 last season, second-fewest in the NFC. Rod Marinelli's Chicago Bears defense forced a league-high 44. Marinelli will be focused on transitioning the Cowboys' defensive line into a four-man front but he should be able to help the Cowboys improve in this area. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were outstanding at forcing turnovers while Monte Kiffin was running their defense. The Buccaneers forced 65 turnovers during Kiffin's last two seasons in Tampa Bay (2007-2008).
What it will take for the Dallas Cowboys to reach the 2014 Super Bowl
Dallas Morning News | Feb 4