Dallas Cowboys' 2014 playoff shot

Cowboys lead list of 5 non-playoff 'favorites' to make postseason next year

Updated: January 22, 2014, 1:59 PM ET
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider

Tony RomoAP Photo/Alex BrandonCan Tony Romo lead the Dallas Cowboys to the postseason next year?
For every team except the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, it is time to start concentrating all of the organization's efforts toward improving the roster for next season.

How likely is it that this work will pay off with a postseason berth next year?

To find out, let's take a look at five teams that just missed the postseason and examine the upgrades and pitfalls that could be facing them in their efforts to close the playoff gap.

This review will contain an overview of each team's 2014 home and away opponents, its projected first-round draft pick in Mel Kiper's and Todd McShay's 2014 mock drafts, a potential major improvement factor, a potential major decline factor and a bottom-line summary of its postseason chances next year.


1. Dallas Cowboys

2014 home opponents: N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, Arizona, San Francisco, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans

2014 away opponents: N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, St. Louis, Seattle, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Chicago

Mock draft picks: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, safety, Alabama (Kiper); Stephon Tuitt, defensive lineman, Notre Dame (McShay)

Potential improvement factor: It's hard to do much worse than Dallas did last season in terms of rush defense (128.5 yards allowed per game, ranked 27th), pass defense (63.4 Total QBR allowed, ranked 27th) and pass rush (5.5 percent sacks per attempt, ranked 32nd), so there are many ways the arrow can point upward here. Clinton-Dix would be a big plus in pass defense (he is the highest-rated safety in this year's draft), and Tuitt is a high-motor player who led Notre Dame in sacks last season. Further development of Terrance Williams (who had a 10.1 YPA on 73 targets) and improved health for Morris Claiborne (who missed six games this year) could give the pass offense and the pass defense a significant boost.