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Saturday, August 13, 2022

‘They Ain’t the Team to Beat’

The 2016 NBA Draft was exciting because it felt like anything could happen. However, expect that feeling to quickly dissipate as soon as the draft is over. It’s been an exciting summer for the NBA, as the Cleveland Cavaliers fired their head coach, Tyronn Lue, and hired former New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry. But, after a few weeks of training camp, the Cavaliers are still in last place in the Eastern Conference. The team’s acquisition of LeBron James was supposed to be the answer to everything, but that hasn’t worked out.

It is tough to follow the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North. They are perennial contenders that are always in the mix for the big game. The Minnesota Vikings may be the team to beat this year. If they can continue to keep their heads above water in the NFC North they may be able to make a run at the Super Bowl.

According to Las Vegas, the Dallas Cowboys are the big favorites to win the NFC East championship this season. Forget the uncertainty surrounding Dak Prescott’s return from a devastating ankle injury. Forget the 5th worst defense they had last year. And forget about an improved Washington football team making the playoffs in 2020. Dallas is still the team to beat in the worst division in the NFL.

But not according to Cowboys legend Deion Sanders.

Cowboys are seen as the team to beat in the NFC East


The NFC East had an embarrassing season in 2020. Washington, Dallas, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles combined for a 24-40 record, and the football team left the division at 7-9.

The Cowboys likely would have won the NFC East last year had Prescott not stopped playing early with an ankle injury that ended the season. As a result, they are considered the favorites to win the division in 2021 with odds of +110. Washington is behind with a +255, while New York and Philadelphia are at the bottom with a +450.

Prescott is back and healthy, the offense is still one of the most dangerous groups in the NFL, and the defense has to be good enough to allow no more than 30 points to the opponent each week for Dallas to succeed. Since none of the other three teams in the division made drastic improvements in the offseason, it makes sense that the Cowboys are the bookies’ favorites.

Sanders is not buying into what Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are selling

Jackson State coach and Cowboys legend Deion Sanders looks on during the game against Alabama State | Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Most people, especially Cowboys fans, agree that the Cowboys should outperform an NFC East team this season when they return to full strength. But one of the greatest players to ever wear a blue star on his helmet, Deion Sanders, disagrees with the team.

Sanders was asked last week on NFL Total Access with Steve Weisman and Bucky Brooks if the Cowboys would be the team to beat in the division this year, and he strongly disagreed.

No, they’re not the team to beat, he said, according to 247 Sports. Jerry Jones is a great man. Jerry is great. Every year Jerry finds a way to make us believe that the Dallas Cowboys are the team to beat. No, the Dallas Cowboys are not the team to beat. We named two offensive players, Dak [Prescott] and Zeke [Elliott]. No one mentioned their line and no one mentioned the defense, which was terrible. When I say terrible, I mean terrible with a capital letter last season.

And how do you prepare for that in the off-season? I know you’ve drafted players you hope will pay off, but I don’t like this at all. But they will be competitive because the NFC East sucks. Hot mess with steam. It’s hot in Texas right now, about 100 degrees outside. It’s hot stuff, NFC East.

Oh, my God. Tell us how you really feel, Deion.

What do the Cowboys need to do to win the NFC East?

Sanders is certainly right about one thing: NFC East is… How did he say it? Oh, yeah. Hot stuff.

Washington has a questionable offense and still doesn’t have a long-term answer at quarterback, the Giants will only go if Daniel Jones can stop them (how has that worked out so far?), and the Eagles are in the midst of a rebuild after the departure of Carson Wentz this season. If Prescott looks like he did last season before his injury, the Cowboys should win the NFC East title.

But for that, their underperforming defense needs to get back on track. Last season, Dallas scored 29.6 points per game, 28th in the NFL. The Cowboys have bolstered their defense with Keanu Neal, Carlos Watkins and Jayron Kearse in free agency, and Jerry Jones wisely spent his first-round draft pick on the very talented middle linebacker Micah Parsons, but the team will need veterans in 2021.

If the defense forces mistakes and limits big play situations, as it failed to do last season, Prescott and the offense should be able to do enough to lead the Cowboys to the playoffs.

COMPARED TO: Deion Sanders wants to do it all in prime time at Barstool Sports

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