IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.
Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.
As we count down the days to camp, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.
With 21 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today’s question centers on the prognostications for the NFC East this year:
21) What does it take to win the NFC East in 2013
The Cowboys' division has quite the reputation in the NFL -- it's often referred to as the "NFC Beast" -- and for good reason. With 12 combined Lombardi Trophies between its four members, the East has the league's most hardware by a pretty wide margin.
It's pretty impressive, then, that the Cowboys have the best resume among that group, with the obvious five Super Bowl championships and, the reason for this story, 21 division crowns -- the best of the four in both categories.
The past few years haven't necessarily been up to par, however. The NFC East sent multiple teams to the playoffs in five straight seasons from 2005-09, including three teams during the 2006-07 season.
In the three seasons since the Cowboys' last division title, the NFC East has only managed one playoff team, and the division champion has typically been decided in the final moments of the season. In fact, an East team hasn't earned a bye week in the playoffs in five years.
Heading into 2013, the East could be the most even division in the NFC, but it doesn't look likely to produce a 13 or 14-win team. Nine or 10 wins has been enough to claim the title for three straight years.
That seems like an easy enough goal to attain, though anyone can point to the Cowboys' failure to do so on the last nights of the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Games against the likes of Denver, Green Bay, Chicago and New Orleans are bound to stand out as the season nears. But the last time Dallas reached the postseason was also the last time it posted a winning record in the NFC East -- so it's not exactly rocket science.
If the Cowboys can post four, or even three wins against their division rivals, the rest might just fall into place. And they won't be stuck on 21 division titles in 2013.
Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let’s take a closer look at the number 21:
- You can't mention the number 21 without a reference to "Prime Time," Deion Sanders. After signing a gigantic contract in 1995, Sanders debuted halfway through the Cowboys' Super Bowl season and helped the team to its third title of the 90s. The Hall of Fame cornerback earned Pro Bowl nods in four of his five seasons in Dallas.
- Another member of the all-nickname team, Adam "Pacman" Jones wore Sanders' old number during his one season with the team.
- Emmitt Smith scored 21 career touchdowns in the playoffs alone, which is triple the number that the Cowboys' current running back corps has scored in their combined careers.
- In 1976, against the Bills, and in 1984, against the Patriots, the Cowboys combined for 21 punts in a single game.