Cowboys season prediction: 10-6

After two straight 8-8 finishes, the Dallas Cowboys will finally break through and make the playoffs again with a 10-6 record in 2013.

For the first time since 2009, the pieces come together for an offense led by Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, and a defense led by DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee. Freed up from calling plays, Jason Garrett’s game management will improve and an offense that has piled up yards -- if not points -- in the recent past will now be able to score more consistently. With a sounder scheme under Monte Kiffin, the defense might not be Doomsday reincarnated, but it will take the ball away.

Jerry Jones believes if you just make the tournament, then you can compete for a Super Bowl, using the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers as recent examples. The Cowboys will be a wild-card team, which will likely mean their trip toward Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium will have to take place on the road.

The Cowboys’ return to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons won’t last long, but it will give Garrett job security for 2014 and Jones a belief that contention is not far away.

Predicted finish in NFC East: second