NFL: The key to the Dallas Cowboys success

The Dallas Cowboys clinched a play-off berth last night, with the Washington Redskins loss to the Arizona Cardinals enough to send ‘America’s team’ to the post-season for only the second time in seven years, with games to spare.

The Cowboys will look to go all the way to the big one and win their first Super Bowl title in over 20 years, but there are still (as yet undecided) obstacles in their way.

Are the Cowboys legit? Or are they just another 2015 Carolina Panthers? Boy, you better believe they are legit. Last year’s Panthers were a flash-in-the-pan – something that I predicted, just saying – and have flattered to deceive this year with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread.

Well let me tell you something, this Cowboys team is something else. They’ve built the winning formula in Dallas over several years of smart draft picks and savvy free agent pickups, which has eventually led to them having, in my opinion, the best offense in football.

I’ll be honest here and say that my knowledge of every NFL team’s roster is far from perfect, but I’d like to think that not many people can name all five starters on another team’s offensive line without double checking first.

But that just shows how ridiculous this Dallas O-Line is. Stemming from All-Pro center Travis Frederick, flanked by Ronald Leary and Zack Martin at LG & RG respectively, with Tyron Smith and Doug Free at the two tackle positions, the line, as a whole, should be the NFL’s MVP.

Not only do they excel in pass protection, given rookie quarterback Dak Prescott all the time in the world in the pocket to pick a pass to star wide receiver Dez Bryant, but they also open up massive holes for their other MVP candidate, rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot, to glide through with minimal effort.

But surely it can’t be that easy for him, right? Wrong. When the Cowboys faced the Pittsburgh Steelers and came away with a dramatic 35-30 win, Elliot contributed with three rushing touchdowns and 209 yards from scrimmage. Guess how many times Elliot was touched by a Steelers player on those scores? Zero.

The Cowboys’ offensive line is as dominant as any unit or any individual player in the league on a week-to-week basis. Despite losing La’el Collins to a foot injury, the five-man gang of Smith, Leary, Frederick, Martin and Free has been the backbone of an offensive renaissance in Dallas.

The team is averaging nearly 29 points a game this season, the fourth best in the league, with a rookie fourth round quarterback and missing their star wideout for a large portion of the season. That offensive line is making everyone on offense look great and, as a unit, deserve serious consideration for the league’s MVP.

Although it has never happened before, there is nothing in the committee rules stating that a unit of players can’t, as an entity, be the league MVP. I wouldn’t say that it is completely impossible for a line to win the MVP award, but the odds are definitely stacked against them, with the odds stacked heavily in the favour of QB’s or RB’s. One year though, we could see it, and this year could be the one.

I wouldn’t say there is one obvious candidate out there as an MVP. Tom Brady and Matt Ryan are both in consideration, with Ryan’s favourite target WR Julio Jones one to watch as well. Factor in running backs Elliot, DeMarco Murray and of course David Johnson (who leads the league in all-purpose yards), and there isn’t one that stands out as the clear favourite.

If Elliot is to be the proverbial front-runner (pun intended) in the MVP race, the Cowboys O-Line has to be right behind him as second favourite. It isn’t just what they do for Elliot, they do an incredible job at creating the space for Prescott to operate, with the rookie fourth-rounder allowed an average of 2.47 seconds in the pocket before making a pass. That is astounding.

The O-Line is just that good. Elliot and Prescott would be good, potentially great anywhere else. But as good as they are, we know that they’re too dependent on scheme and surrounding talent to be the most valuable player in the league.

Perhaps that’s why David Johnson should be MVP given the trash O-Line he’s had to work with all season, but that’s an article for a different day…