Every Cowboys fan will tell you this is the year. This is the year Dallas wins a divisional playoff game for the first time in more than a quarter century and wins the Super Bowl. This is the year. It’s just as silly as a Browns fan or a Washington fan saying Cleveland or the Commanders are going to win the Super Bowl. It’s just as unlikely.

The window on the Dak Prescott – Ezekiel Elliott – CeeDee Lamb Cowboys era closed last year. If Dallas was ever going to win a divisional playoff game for the first time since 1995, last season was their chance. They swept the pitiful NFC East and finished 12-5. But, if you’ll remember, they committed an NFL record 14-penalties against the 49ers in the Wild Card playoff game and inexplicably imploded in the last 30-seconds. Since that time, Dak has had another surgery, suffered an additional shoulder strain, and today is complaining about a sore ankle. Zeke is one year older and slower. Amari Cooper and Cedric Wilson are  gone, Michael Gallup and James Washington are hurt, CeeDee is going to be triple-teamed on every play, and Dalton Schultz will be the team’s leading receiver. Randy Gregory is gone. And the offensive line is counting on Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Connor McGovern, and Terrence Steele. Tyron Smith is out for the year and Tyler Smith was the most penalized player in college football last season.

Expectations are high for the Cowboys heading into this 2022 campaign and it makes no sense. Remember, there are only five teams in the NFL that have not won a divisional playoff game in 26-years, and the Cowboys are one of them. The expectations in Dallas should be similar to what they are in Miami or Detroit. But every Cowboys fan will tell you this is the year.

The Cowboys play, statistically, the easiest schedule in the NFL this year – their opponents combined winning percentage is .462. And the NFC East is still the worst division in football. But the prediction here is that Dallas goes 8-9 and misses the playoffs. Mike McCarthy will be responsible for two of those losses with his poor clock management and/or coaching decisions. Something you’ve never seen before will factor heavily in another of the losses. And Jerry Wayne will do something nobody thought he would ever actually do.

Here it is, week-by-week. No gambling, please. Unless you can find a Cowboys fan to take the over on ten wins.

9-11 v. Tampa Bay – Bucs 17, Dallas 13
Take the under on this one. Tom Brady is missing almost as many starters on offense from last year as the Cowboys are. Both offensive lines are questionable at best. Both teams are missing  big-play receivers. Neither team can run the ball. Both defenses are the strengths of their teams. But he’s still Tom Brady.

9-18 v. Cincinnati – Bengals 30, Dallas 24
The Bengals run the old fumblerooskie and former Cowboy La’el Collins scores the game winning touchdown, running over Leighton Vander Esch, and ending his career. Tony Pollard scored two of the Cowboys touchdowns on long runs while Elliot finished with 19 yards on 14 carries. Cameras catch Jerry  in his suite with his finger in Steven’s  face.

9-26 @ Giants – Dallas 24, New York 12
A battle of two winless teams for Monday Night Football. Jerry told 105-FM The Fan that he had a conversation with Sean Payton on Tuesday, “just talking football with an old friend.” On Wednesday, Mike McCarthy told The Ticket he’s not concerned about his job security, he’s focused only on beating the Giants. In New York, Saquon Barkley is back for the G-Men. But so is Daniel Jones. New York has the only offense in the NFC East worse than the Cowboys. Dalton Schultz catches 12 passes for two scores and Micah Parsons forces two fumbles as the Cowboys notch their first victory of the season.

10-2 v. Washington – Dallas 30, Commanders 10
Carson Wentz has issues. As a team, Washington has the NFL’s worst quarterback rating over the past four years with ten different starting quarterbacks. And Wentz continues the trend. Mike McCarthy raises eyebrows when he calls for a punt on third down late in the first quarter. But this is a cakewalk – Tony Pollard racks up 188 yards of total offense – and the Cowboys even up their record at 2-2.

10-9 @ L.A. Rams – L.A. 31, Dallas 14
The Cowboys come crashing back to earth and reality as the Rams dominate this game from the opening kick to the final gun. The Cowboys depleted offensive line make the Rams tackles and ends look like the old Fearsome Foursome. Aaron Donaldson eats Tyler Smith for lunch and then spits him out. Smith suffers six holding penalties while the Rams sack Prescott five times.  The running game is non-existent. No catches for CeeDee Lamb. Mike McCarthy says he’s seeing good things out of his punter. Jerry commented after the game that the new SoFi Stadium is nice, but you can’t see the sun. And where’s the art?

10-16 @ Philadelphia – Philly 17, Dallas 16
The Cowboys lose the division lead on a Sunday night in the City of Brotherly Shove as the Eagles assert their dominance in the trenches. Games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage and the Cowboys can’t match up. Jason Peters injures himself while running onto the field during player introductions, forcing punter Bryan Anger into the lineup at left tackle. Jalen Hurts ran for both Eagles touchdowns as Dallas falls to 2-4. One catch for Lamb for six yards. Mike McCarthy says he’s seeing good things out of his special teams. And it’s still  early. Nobody’s panicking.

10-23 v. Detroit – Dallas 38, Lions 26
CeeDee Lamb has his first multiple catch game of the year as the Cowboys beat the winless Lions. Michael Gallup makes his first start of the year, which takes a little pressure off Lamb. After the game, Detroit coach Dan Campbell begs Jerry to find him a spot on the Cowboys staff. Jerry considers making Campbell his starting left tackle.

10-30 v. Chicago – Cowboys 28, Bears 27
This one  is  closer than it should have been. McCarthy’s decision to use all his video challenges on holding calls almost cost the team at the end. But Trevon Diggs, who gives up 261 yards receiving, intercepts Justin Fields in the end zone to close it out. The Cowboys head to the bye week at 4-4. McCarthy says the Cowboys are through the toughest part of their schedule and they feel really good about getting Michael Gallup and James Washington back after the bye.

Bye Week
The running back situation dominates the headlines during the off week. Ezekiel Elliott is the second highest paid running back in the league, but he’s only averaging 2.1 yards per carry. The passing game isn’t working because there’s no running game to set it up. Tony Pollard seems to have the step and the spark Zeke has lost. But Jerry needs Elliott  on the field for obvious reasons: He drafted him, he signed him to that ridiculous contract, and they’re working on a Pizza Hut commercial together. All the talk centers around ways to get both players on the field at the same time. Pollard practices at slot receiver, tight end, and fullback. Dak asks  Elliott to work on his blocking. Jerry Wayne is completing his mental list of fired or retired NFL coaches: Urban Meyer, Mike Zimmer, Matt Nagy, Jon Gruden, Joe Judge. He’s got all their phone numbers except for Zimmer. Zimmer’s been blocking Jerry’s calls since 1994.

11-13 @ Packers – Green Bay 34 , Dallas 10
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy gets emotional in his first return to Lambeau Field since being fired by the Packers four seasons ago. He weeps openly during pre-game introductions and then attempts an ill-conceived Lambeau Leap at the end of the national anthem. Zack Martin and Dante Folwer help carry McCarthy off the field. Aaron Rodgers misses the game, out sick with COVID-19, measles, whooping cough, polio, and shingles; he hasn’t had any kind of preventative vaccination. Ever. But Green Bay wins the time of possession 49-minutes to 11 and gets the victory in a laugher.

11-20 @ Minnesota – Vikings 44, Dallas 41
The Cowboys lose in a wild shootout to the surprise team of the NFC. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings run and pass all over the Cowboys defense, but this loss is on McCarthy. Down 44-38 with 14-seconds to play at the Minnesota 14-yard line, McCarthy calls for a field goal to make it a three-point game. This way, he reasons, Dallas needs only to recover an onside kick, complete one long sideline pass, and kick another field goal to force overtime. The kick is good. The onside attempt is not. Kellen Moore refuses to talk to reporters after the game. Jerry Wayne uses a fake name to try to get Mike Zimmer’s phone number. The Cowboys fall to 4-6. But McCarthy likes what he sees with the optimism and good cheer in the locker room. They’ve got the Giants up next.

11-24 v. New York Giants – Dallas 24, Giants 13
Dallas gets behind early on a strange play which leads to an unsettling sideline confrontation between McCarthy and Kellen Moore. It seems McCarthy overruled Moore by calling for a double-reverse flea-flicker pass on the first snap of the game. Dak Prescott gets absolutely murdered on the play and the fumble is returned 23-yards for a Giants touchdown, the only New York touchdown of the day. Ezekiel Elliott runs for only 33-yards. Backup quarterback Cooper Rush completes 42 passes for 130 yards, no completion longer than three yards. It’s ugly. Really ugly. But the Cowboys have the easiest part of their schedule coming up and they’re only two games behind the Eagles in the NFC East. McCarthy says he really thinks they’re close to putting together a complete team effort.

12-4 v. Colts – Indianapolis 32, Dallas 28
The Cowboys lose in prime time on Sunday night football to the surprising Colts. Quarterback Matt Ryan is putting up MVP numbers in Indy while Jonathan Taylor leads the NFL in rushing. The Colts run game forces the Cowboys to play straight up man-to-man in the secondary and it is not pretty. Dak is back, but he’s playing from behind all night. He racks up big numbers – he completes more passes than all  the team’s rushing attempts combined – but the Cowboys lose and  fall to 5-7. Jerry Wayne works a deal with WWE to host a blockbuster Wrestlemania event at AT&T Stadium in January in exchange for John Cena and the Undertaker playing on the left side of the Cowboys offensive line the remainder of the season.

12-11 v. Houston – Cowboys 23, Texans 20
Micah Parsons plays his best game of the year as the Cowboys defense continues to be the strongest part of the team. Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn keeps getting mentioned for the two head coaching vacancies in the NFL. Kellen Moore’s stock is falling as the Cowboys offense is ranked in the bottom third of the league. The Cowboys commit 15 penalties and are the most penalized team in the NFL for the second straight year. Dallas is 6-7, still two games back of Philly.

12-18 @ Jacksonville – Cowboys 27, Jaguars 4
Jacksonville is the worst team in the NFL. Their only points come on two safeties against Prescott. After the game, Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence enters the transfer portal back to Clemson. Coupled with an Eagles loss, the Cowboys are now just one game back in the division. They play the Eagles next. At home. For the division lead. In December.

12-24 v. Philadelphia – Eagles 28, Cowboys 9
The Eagles complete a sweep of the Cowboys  to go up two games in the NFC East with two to play. And it finally happens. Jerry Wayne rides the elevator down to the field, fires McCarthy on the sidelines at the two-minute warning, and names himself as the Cowboys interim head coach. Yes. Jerry finally does the only thing he hasn’t done yet in imitating his idol Al Davis: he becomes the coach. Officially. After the game, Jerry explains that he couldn’t elevate one of his coordinators to the head coaching spot because they are such great coordinators. And because he’s the one who signed their contracts. And because they just filmed all those J.C. Penny commercials. McCarthy tells reporters he thought the Cowboys were really beginning to pull together as a team. The Cowboys are 7-8 and can still nab a wild card spot if they sweep their last two games.

12-29 @ Tennessee – Titans 44, Dallas 10
Derrick Henry runs over and through the exhausted Dallas defense for 174-yards rushing and three touchdowns as the Titans end the Cowboys playoff chances on a Thursday night in Nashville. It was a short week. The Cowboys defense is averaging 61-snaps per game and it’s just too much. Jerry Wayne makes his coaching debut and insists on joining the team captains on the field for the coin toss. He installs a wishbone offense with Tony Pollard at wingback and Dalton Schultz at fullback. It leads to six turnovers, a ruptured spleen for Dak Prescott, and a blowout loss.

TBD @ Washington – Dallas 12, Commanders 10
Daniel Snyder and Jerry Wayne trade offensive lines during the week leading up to the season finale. In a rare show of restraint, Jerry refuses to give up Cooper Rush for Carson Wentz.  Bryan Anger, who replaced  three Cowboys kickers during the season, kicks four field goals in the Cowboys win. Dallas finishes 8-9, the 27th straight year the Cowboys will not win a divisional playoff game.

Black Monday arrives and Steven and Jerry Jr. are tasked by Charlotte and Gene with the difficult job of firing Jerry as coach. Sean Payton is in town filming a Pizza Hut commercial.