<
>

Enjoy the 2017 ride, don't worry about Cowboys' future just yet

play
Stephen A.: Elliott is going to serve 6-game suspension (1:47)

Stephen A. Smith explains it is pointless for Ezekiel Elliott to continue fighting his six-game suspension because all of the power lies in the hands of Roger Goodell. (1:47)

FRISCO, Texas -- With the season starting Sunday, hope abounds. At least it should.

But as the Dallas Cowboys enter the season opener against the New York Giants on Sunday, there are questions. Lots of them.

How will the threat of a suspension, less likely to take place this season after Friday's ruling granting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, impact Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday and the rest of the season? How will the suspension affect the Cowboys if it is implemented this season? Who can rush the passer? Can a revamped secondary make enough plays? Will the offensive line be as good with two starters (La'el Collins, Chaz Green) playing different spots? And there's the inevitable sophomore slump question for Dak Prescott, even though there are no signs of that actually being a thing with how the quarterback has prepared.

But that led to this week's Twitter question:

Why give up on 2017?

I still believe the Cowboys are talented enough to win the division even with all of those questions. Why? Every team has questions entering the season. Followers of the Cowboys just know the questions facing their team more than any other. But the Giants have issues, too.

Will the offensive line improve? Do they have a running game? Will Odell Beckham's contract situation turn into any kind of distraction?

The Cowboys showed a year ago that they can handle drastic change. They lost Tony Romo in the third preseason game in 2016, turned the keys over to Prescott and finished with a 13-3 record. For years, if the Cowboys did not have Romo pulling magic out of his hat, then they could not win. The fact that they went 8-8 in all three seasons from 2011 to 2013 was a product of Romo playing at such a high level, not a sign that he couldn't win when it mattered.

There are a lot of things that you can say Jason Garrett doesn't do, but one thing he does do is have his team ready to play. Even in the forgettable 4-12 season in 2015 the Cowboys played hard and had chances to win games. Had they had even average quarterback play in Romo's absence they could have finished 8-8.

There have been a lot of jokes about the "process," talk Garrett likes to use, but it actually works, and it actually means something to the Cowboys.

If Elliott is gone for six games at some point this season, I expect the Cowboys to still be able to run the ball. I believe Collins will be fine at right tackle. I believe they can find somebody to work between All Pros-Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick at left guard and be serviceable. I believe the defense will be better than people think, especially because the expectations might be so low. For years people howled at Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox, and now that they are gone folks wonder if the younger players can do better. You can't have that argument both ways.

The Cowboys have pieces in place to be very good in 2018, although it's more likely now that Elliott could miss six games next season as the legal process plays out this season. In recent years, the Cowboys have shown they can draft better. They wisely have not invested heavily in free agency, but they will be better positioned to make some more-than-modest signings in the offseason if they choose to.

But why worry about 2018?

Enjoy this ride and see where it will take you first.