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10 Bold Predictions for Dallas Cowboys in 2012

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Over the past two days, I’ve published five defensive predictions and five offensive predictions for the Cowboys in 2012. Here are a couple of those prognostications:

Anthony Spencer will record at least nine sacks.

Spencer has never topped six sacks in a season, so why would I expect him to bust out for 50 percent more than his career-high in 2012? Because Spencer has actually been around the quarterback enough to generate nine sacks. He’s simply been unlucky.

In an article I wrote that predicted 2012 team sacks, and most players’ sacks add up to about 25 percent of their pressures over the long run. Sure, some players are better than average at bringing down the quarterback once they’re in range, but they generally don’t deviate too much from that number. Even DeMarcus Ware’s sack rate over the past three years is around 28 percent.

So what does this have to do with Spencer? Well, the outside linebacker has actually reached the quarterback quite a bit over the past few seasons—actually, he’s done it just as much as the NFL’s top pass rushers. Since 2009, Spencer has averaged the same number of pressures as the league’s top 15 outside linebackers (and more quarterback hits), but fewer sacks.

Spencer’s career sack rate is only 20 percent, meaning even if he reaches the quarterback at the same rate in 2012, he’ll probably register a career-high in sacks simply because he’s unlikely to continue his string of poor luck. Based on his past pressure rates, I’m guessing that final sack total is around nine.

and. . .

Dez Bryant will lead the NFL in touchdowns.

Over his two-year career, Bryant has converted 13.9 percent of his receptions into touchdowns—an outstanding rate. With Bryant’s play-making ability and projected increase in deep targets (he hasn’t ranked higher than 51st in the NFL in his first two seasons),there’s no reason to think Bryant can’t maintain that rate even with a higher number of targets.

And more targets are almost a certainty for Bryant in 2012. Fans want to jump on Bryant for not living up to expectations, but he’s been quite efficient with the limited looks he has received. Bryant actually ranked just 28th in the NFL in targets last year with 100. For a player who is transforming into the Cowboys’ No. 1 option on offense, that simply won’t cut it. As a comparison, Bryant has fewer targets in his two-year career than Roddy White had in 2011 alone!

With a jump in targets to 120, we’re looking at 16 or more touchdowns this season. Too bold of a projection? Not for a player with Bryant’s skill set.

You can read the five defensive predictions here and check out the offensive predictions here. NFL standings predictions coming later today. . .

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