Training camps began Monday in Buffalo and Las Vegas. We’re 50 days away from the 2022 NFL Kickoff and that means the countdown has begun for Dak Prescott and Josh Allen.
There probably aren’t two other quarterbacks in the NFL with more pressure to win the Super Bowl in February 2023.
Prescott, who is entering his seventh year as the Cowboys’ starter, has led Dallas to the playoffs three times, including his rookie season and 2021.
However, he has only one postseason win and that was in 2018 against Seattle.
Before the start of the 2021 season, Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million contract extension, $126 million guaranteed.
That just means Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is confident Prescott can lead “Team America” back to the Super Bowl and end a 26-year drought without an NFL title.
Dak’s great responsibility
Dallas hasn’t advanced to an NFC Championship Game since 1995, when the Cowboys placed the fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy in their display case.
Last season, Prescott had 4,449 passing yards and set a new franchise record with 37 touchdown passes. Also, he was third in the NFL with a rating of 104.2 points.
Dallas finished 12-5 and won its fourth NFC East title since 2014 and third since 2016, when Prescott – then a rookie drafted in the fourth round – had to replace Tony Romo, who he was injured during preseason and missed the entire year.
But the ending was customary for the Cowboys.
Favorites by three points to beat San Francisco in the Wild Card, Dallas fell at home and was eliminated at the first change.
But it was not only the what, but the how.
Trailing 23-17, Prescott rushed the ball on a designed run and slid for a 17-yard gain to the 49ers 24 with about eight seconds left on the game clock.
It looked like the Cowboys would have one last play to try to tie the game, but Prescott gave the ball to one of his teammates instead of handing it to the official (who must ground the ball for the game to continue), and by the time the quarterback hit the ball in search of stopping the clock, it had expired and with it the Dallas season.
Super Bowl or flop in Dallas
In 2022 expectations, as usual, are high for the Cowboys.
But if Prescott is able to get Dallas to the Super Bowl, it will be without some familiar faces.
The Texas offense lost wide receivers Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson, guard Connor Williams and tackle La’el Collins in free agency.
Of all of them, Dak will miss Cooper the most, because in four seasons together in Dallas they combined for 3,893 yards and 27 touchdowns.
CeeDee Lamb (79 receptions 1,102 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2021) is now the WR1 in the Cowboys offense, with Michael Gallup, who is recovering from a knee injury, as number two.
The backfield is one of the most complete in the league with Ezekiel Elliott (237 attempts, 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2021) and Tony Pollard (130-719-2).
A month ago, coach Mike McCarthy hinted that he will use Prescott more in the running game.
“We have the opportunity to move the offense more; Dak has great movement capacity. He has had more reps in the race, it is more natural for him and he looks really good,” the trainer said.
The offensive line, however, will miss Williams and Collins.
Jerry Jones hired McCarthy in 2020 because he thought he could lead his team back to the Super Bowl.
If that doesn’t happen by the end of the 2022 campaign, McCarthy will likely be fired, but he won’t be the only one with outstanding debt in Dallas.
Prescott is the quarterback and therefore will be co-responsible for one more in the Cowboys’ long and infamous list of failures.
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It’s now or never for the Bills
Josh Allen and the Bills are favorites in major casinos to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LVII on February 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
In January, Buffalo fell 42-36 in the Divisional Round at Kansas City, in a game in which the Bills showed they can play one-on-one against the best … but they can’t beat them.
Allen passed for 329 yards and four touchdowns, and it wasn’t enough to get past Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who won the game in overtime to advance to the AFC Championship for the fourth straight time.
A year earlier, in January 2021, Buffalo was one step away from the Super Bowl after losing the AFC Championship Game 38-24 to, of course, Kansas City.
It is true that the Bills took Bill Belichick and his Patriots out of the driver’s seat and now it is Buffalo that commands the AFC East, with two consecutive division titles.
The Bills beat old nemesis New England twice last season, including a 47-17 blowout in the Wild Card.
Allen became the first Buffalo player to surpass 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdown passes in consecutive seasons.
In addition, he is the first player in NFL history with at least 100 touchdown passes (103) and 30 rushing touchdowns (31) in his first four seasons.
Von Miller wants another ring
The Bills’ defense led the NFL in yards allowed, but with only 42 sacks, which relegated them to 11th in the league.
For this reason, in free agency Buffalo acquired linebacker Von Millerwho in February won the Super Bowl with the Rams and will try to get a third championship ring with a third different team (he was champion with Denver in 2015).
In the 2021 regular season, Miller was third in Los Angeles with just five sacks, but in the Playoffs he led the Rams with four sacks, including two in the Super Bowl against Cincinnati.
The Bills expect more of the same from Miller.
The list of free agents who came to Buffalo is long and includes wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Tavon Austin, tight end OJ Howard, running back Duke Johnson and defensive linemen Shaq Lawson, Jordan Phillips, Tim Settle and Daquan Jones. among others.
It’s hard to find a more complete roster than the Bills’, and coach Sean McDermott’s team has no excuses this year.
And a lot will depend on what Allen does or doesn’t do.
Although the team lost wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley, Allen still has Stefon Diggs, who in 2021 recorded 103 receptions and 1,225 yards, becoming the first player in franchise history with at least 100 catches and 1,000 catches. receiving yards in consecutive seasons.
After the “divorces” of Davante Adams-Aaron Rodgers and Tyreek Hill-Patrick Mahomes, the Allen-Diggs duo remains, on paper, the best in the NFL.
More weapons, less excuses
On the second day of the draft, the Bills added another weapon for Allen when they selected Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir in the fifth round.
“(Allen) is a guy who has shown that he is one of the best in the league,” Shakir said. “He can do it all from a quarterback standpoint. I’m excited to get in there, get to work, earn his respect, first of all, and make sure I go ahead and make a good first impression.”
In just his fifth year, Allen has established himself as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL and it’s no small feat to have led his team to the playoffs in four of those five seasons.
But now the expectations are different. Advancing to the postseason won’t be enough for the Bills, who have two very clear goals in 2022: defeat the Chiefs and win the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
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Dak Prescott and Josh Allen under pressure to win the Super Bowl this season