Dallas Cowboys 2019 season preview: Pressure's on talented roster

Stephen A. demands answers about Cain's Cowboys prediction (1:55)

Stephen A. Smith demands answers from Will Cain about his prediction for how the Cowboys will do in this season. (1:55)

The Dallas Cowboys are ranked No. 13 in ESPN's preseason Football Power Index. Here's everything you need to know about the Cowboys heading into the 2019 NFL season:

The big question: Can Dallas get past the divisional round?

If Jason Garrett wants to be the Cowboys' coach in 2020, winning a divisional playoff game seems to be the minimum the team will have to accomplish since it made it to the second round of the playoffs three times in his tenure. The roster is as talented as it has been since 2007, and the Cowboys have a defense that could be dominant. With the Ezekiel Elliott saga done, this offense can be more than sufficient. -- Todd Archer

Offseason in a nutshell

The Cowboys opened the offseason wanting to get long-term deals done with DeMarcus Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Elliott. Lawrence and Elliott are both under contract. That strategy bled into their other moves, with the team adding veteran receiver Randall Cobb to a cost-effective deal and trading for pass-rusher Robert Quinn, who is suspended for the first two games. If the Cowboys are going to spend big, it will be on their own players, but they want to make sure they're signing the right deals to keep their core group together for years to come. -- Archer

Inside the Cowboys' schedule

Most important game: Week 4 at New Orleans. If the Cowboys want to be true contenders, then beating last year's NFC runner-up could go a long way in cementing that reputation. The Cowboys beat the Saints at AT&T Stadium a year ago behind a dominant defensive performance. If they can do that again in the Superdome, then they would have to be considered one of the league's best.

Toughest stretch: Weeks 14-16 at Chicago, home against the Los Angeles Rams and at Philadelphia. That's three difficult offenses to defend and three defenses capable of putting pressure on the quarterback. That stretch comes after a Nov. 24 visit to New England.

Over or under 8.6 wins? Over. If it's not the over, then Garrett will not return and a new coach will inherit a young roster that has plenty of pieces to be in the championship mix. The Cowboys have not posted back-to-back playoff seasons since 2006-07 and they have not had consecutive double-digit winning seasons since 1995-96. Eight wins seems a little low considering the talent available. -- Archer

Schedule ranking: No. 27

The Cowboys don't have two home games in a row all season, but they do get two Thursday games in a row: Week 13 on Thanksgiving when they host Buffalo, and the following week at Chicago. Their schedule gets much tougher in the second half of the season, although even that is tempered by the Thanksgiving game against Buffalo and Week 17 hosting Washington. -- Football Outsiders | See the full 1-32 ranking

Breakout fantasy star: WR Michael Gallup

Cooper gets the headlines, but don't forget about Gallup. The 2018 third-round pick wasn't much of a fantasy contributor as a rookie receiver, but he quietly ranked near the top of the position in average depth of target (14.1), yards per reception (15.4) and yards after catch (5.1). The 23-year-old could settle in as high as second on the team in targets, which would put him squarely on the flex radar. -- Mike Clay | More fantasy coverage

The view from Vegas

Super Bowl odds: 15-1 (opened 25-1)
Over/under: 9 (O -115/U -105)
Playoff odds: Yes -115, No -105

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook as of Sept. 2.

Most interesting player prop

Over/under 1,099.5 receiving yards for Cooper:

  • Archer: Over. In nine regular-season games last season after his trade from Oakland, Cooper caught 53 passes for 725 yards. Extrapolate that over a 16-game season and he would have accounted for 1,288 yards. Even though his time in training camp has been limited by a heel injury, Cooper and Prescott have enough time on task in offseason workouts to surpass that figure.

  • Clay: Over. In 11 total games with Dallas last season, Cooper handled a career-high 25% target share (8.4 per game). Expect him to beat 1,099.5.

Bold prediction: Rushing champ again

Training camp? Who needs training camp? Elliott will have three practices under his belt by the time the Cowboys play the New York Giants in Sunday's season opener. He might not be vintage Elliott in Week 1 and potentially Week 2 as he works into game shape, but he will lead the league in rushing for the second straight season and third time in his four years. This time, however, he will likely have to come from behind to claim the title. -- Archer

Where the Cowboys landed in NFLRank

Speed reads before the opener