Cowboys fans will tell you their team is right back where it belongs opening up the 2015 season: in the primest of prime time slots, at home, hosting a division rival, on Sunday Night Football, with the whole world watching. A 12-4 division winner from a year ago is always going to be in the conversation. But when that team is the Cowboys, opening up the NFL season in the premier TV spot is a given. Expectations are high. Dez has a brand new contract, Sean Lee is completely healthy, and Jerry Wayne has two brand new hips. The One Billion Dollar Food Court will be rockin’ Sunday night.
But for how long?
In the category of “If You Can’t Say Anything Negative About the Cowboys, Then Don’t Say Anything At All,” I bring you my game-by-game predictions on the 2015 season.
Sunday Night Football v. Giants – The Cowboys have won five of the past six meetings against the Giants and they’ll probably take this one, too. New York is playing without their best pass rusher and their left tackle. Dallas’ passing game clicks early and often with Tony Romo finding Witten, Dez, and Cole Beasley for touchdowns. And that’s a good thing because the running game doesn’t go anywhere. Darren McFadden gets the start and manages only 29 yards on 15 carries, with four runs for negative yardage. The other bad news is that linebacker Sean Lee was injured as he trotted onto the field for the first play of the game. He ran into a member of the kicking team coming off the field, tearing a ligament in his right ankle. Lee will be out four to six weeks. Cowboys win 24-13.
September 20 at Eagles – Philly spent so much money over the summer pulling DeMarco Murray away from Dallas, the team cannot afford to buy their players any socks or shoes. Or a quarterback. No problem, as Sam Bradford only has to hand off to a motivated Murray who runs for 125 yards and two scores in a 17-10 Eagles win. Christine Michael gets the start at running back for Dallas, but he gains only 22 yards and fumbles twice. It’s starting to look like Dallas can’t run the ball and teams are pinning their ears back to rush Romo, who was sacked four times in the loss.
September 27 v. Falcons – Dallas starts Joseph Randle at running back and he explodes for 111 yards and two scores in a 31-24 Cowboys win. After the game, Randle awards all his offensive linemen gift boxes of cologne and fancy underwear from Dillard’s. When the underwear doesn’t fit, Randle is unable to provide his teammates with receipts.
October 4 at Saints – Drew Brees lights up the Cowboys secondary in a blowout win, 35-17. But the game will be remembered for Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan suffering a massive heart attack on the sidelines during the third quarter. Paramedics were confused when they first reached Ryan, mistaking the barbecue sauce on his chin and around his neck for blood. Romo gets banged up pretty badly in this one. Randle runs for only 19 yards and the offensive line is having problems picking up the increased blitzes. Dez Bryant was picked up by the TV cameras several times yelling at Romo and at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
October 11 v. Patriots – Greg Hardy makes his Cowboys debut against the reigning Super Bowl champs. Hardy was suspended by the NFL and cut by the Panthers last year after he was accused of strangling his girlfriend and assaulting her on a bed of automatic weapons. So the Cowboys scooped him right up! Why not? It’s not like they’re having to compromise any values. It’s not like the Cowboys’ reputation for stuff like this could get any worse. This happens every summer, doesn’t it? Cowboys fans are forced every off season to make a new moral judgment on whether they can really cheer for a team that keeps signing criminals like this. Speaking of criminals, Tom Brady throws for a season-high five TDs with properly inflated footballs and the Pats win in a blowout, 36-10. The tailback position has become a revolving door of failure. Lance Dunbar starts this game and finishes with one yard rushing on eight carries and a fumble. With no running game to speak of, Dez Bryant is getting triple-teamed on almost every play. He finishes with one catch and seven lip-read curse words on national TV. After the game, Jason Garrett accused the Patriots of tampering with their coaches headsets until he was reminded that they were in AT&T Stadium. On a side note, Greg Hardy sacked Brady early in the second quarter and Chris Christy, in the owner’s luxury suite, hugged Jerry Wayne so hard that one of his hips cracked. The Cowboys limp into the bye week at 2-3.
Bye Week – What else? The Dez Bryant video from the shopping mall parking lot that’s been rumored to exist for two years finally surfaces. TMZ features it in a 30-minute special called “I’m not Michael Irvin!” Is this the most “Cowboys” thing that could happen during the bye week, or what? Delicious! While he’s getting his hip repaired, Jerry Wayne orders all the team’s cell phones destroyed. He also fires Linehan and signs Tim Tebow as a running back.
November 1 v. Seahawks – The Cowboys lose the game and their quarterback. Romo goes down after being sandwiched by two Seattle defenders late in the second quarter. Garrett decides not having a quarterback is a better option than inserting Brandon Weeden into the game. Dallas goes on to lose 93-10. Romo has a lacerated kidney. Dez Bryant demands a trade.
November 8 v. Eagles – Tough to watch this one. Dallas re-signs Tebow during the week to play quarterback while Romo undergoes surgery on his damaged kidney, promising the former Heisman winner he can break each offensive huddle with “Glory to God!” Rolando Mclain and Greg Hardy wreak havoc in the Philly backfield, forcing Sam Bradford into four interceptions. But the Cowboys offense can’t get in the endzone. The Eagles win it 6-3.
November 15 at Buccaneers – Against all reason and common sense, Romo starts at quarterback against Tampa Bay. Maybe it’s not really that surprising. The Cowboys allowed him to play several games last season with a broken back. So, why not push him out there in between dialysis procedures? While investigating the events surrounding Romo’s condition, reporters discover that Jerry Wayne has been personally administering the team’s concussion protocol exams during games all season. Jameis Winston throws three picks, but rushes for three touchdowns and the Bucs beat Dallas 28-20. Dez Bryant demands a trade.
November 22 at Dolphins – In a matchup between the league’s best offensive line and best defensive line, the D wins it 27-24. Ndamukong Suh makes three sacks and six quarterback pressures in Miami’s close win. Dez Bryant gets into a shoving match with Garrett and Witten on the sidelines during the third quarter. That night, Skip Bayless says Dez should be able to call his own plays.
November 26 v. Panthers – Greg Hardy is pumped to play against his old team and (cough) strangles the Carolina offense in a 33-20 Thanksgiving Day Cowboys win. The Dallas running game finally gets on track and Romo and Dez hook up for three touchdowns. However, Sean Lee chokes on a turkey bone after the game and is hospitalized with a lacerated esophagus. He’s day-to-day. Still.
December 7 at Redskins – The Monday Night game is overshadowed a bit by a protest group storming the field during the third quarter, demanding Daniel Snyder rename his team the Washington First Americans. They scatter when Greg Hardy and Joseph Randle pull out their guns. Behind 330 yards passing by Romo and three interceptions by Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys destroy Washington 42-14. Dallas has stumbled quite a bit this year, but they’re only one game back of the Giants in the pathetic NFC East.
December 13 at Packers – This one does not come down to a controversial catch. Aaron Rodgers blows it open and has time to film three new State Farm commercials during the fourth quarter. The Cowboys lose 34-13 to fall to 5-8. They have to win their final three games to get to 8-8 and any shot at the playoffs. In the worst division in football, this is possible.
December 19 v. Jets – Darren McFadden has emerged by now as the Cowboys top running back, but that’s not saying much. He hasn’t run for a hundred yards in a game yet and Romo is under constant pressure from blitzes and Dez is now being quadruple-teamed on every play. Dallas is finally able to capitalize. McFadden hits the gaps hard and gains a hundred yards in a game for the first time this season in a 13-10 Cowboys win.
December 27 at Bills – A desperate Cowboys team finds a way to win in below freezing temperatures in Buffalo. Sean Lee, playing on crutches, intercepts a pass and laterals to Tim Tebow, who’s playing cornerback, who then runs it back for the game-winning score. Dallas wins it 17-16.
January 3 v. Washington – Snyder has officially changed the team name to the Washington Senators to appease the congressmen who are threatening a federal hearing into the team’s discriminatory moniker. The Cowboys are scoreboard watching throughout their 28-17 win. Moments after the victory, Philadelphia wins at home to finish 9-7 and takes the only playoff berth from the NFC East. Jerry Wayne weeps and blows his nose on Chris Christie’s red “good luck” sweater. Jason Witten announces his retirement. Tony Romo discloses that he’s been playing all year with a separated shoulder and a torn Achilles tendon. Greg Hardy holds police at bay for six hours overnight in a televised stand-off with police. Dez Bryant demands a trade.