Football can be a cruel sport. Just last Sunday, we witnessed the most heartbreaking scene of the 2020 NFL season as the Dallas Cowboys played the New York Giants. Cowboys’ Quarterback Dak Prescott had to be carted off the field after fracturing his right ankle while teammates, fans in attendance, and people watching around the world rooted for him.

All of this happened on Sunday. Yet, it’s time to move on.

Prescott will undergo rehab and try as hard as he can to be ready for the Cowboys’ offseason activities in 2021. But all of that will happen behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the 2020 Dallas Cowboys have to keep on keepin’ on and play football. And fans will keep on keepin’ on rooting for them. Nevermind who’s under center.

When the Cowboys play the Arizona Cardinals on Week 6, Andy Dalton will be in at quarterback. And at least for the rest of the regular season, he’s the quarterback that Cowboys’ fans will be discussing on a day-to-day basis.

Football is a cruel sport. And while my thoughts will remain with Dak Prescott as he works to get back on the playing field in 2021, it’s time to talk about Andy Dalton.

Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Andy Dalton (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

What to expect from Dalton’s Cowboys?

When a backup quarterback heads to work in the NFL, he does much more than just stay ready in case the starter gets injured. He helps prepare the defense, he helps prepare the starter, he watches a lot of tape to be prepared not only physically, but mentally. Only once in a while, he steps in to actually play on game day. And when he does, it’s usually under poor circumstances.

But there’s a difference between Andy Dalton and your regular backup quarterback in the NFL.

You see, Dalton has 133 career starts. For nine years, he was the starter for the Cincinnati Bengals. He has 204 career touchdowns paired with over 30,000 passing yards. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler. He’s played in the playoffs four times.

Keep in mind, the COVID-19 pandemic played an important factor in Dalton’s decision when signing with the Cowboys. In order to be close to his family, he chose Dallas. But who knows if he’d playing elsewhere if it wasn’t for the pandemic. It’s easy to assume he would’ve chosen a play that gave him a realistic shot at competing for the starting job.

But one gruesome injury later, he’s the guy in Dallas. Just like Dak was back in 2016.

Fortunately for Dalton, he’ll be playing with a great set of weapons, including rookie WR CeeDee Lamb. When Dalton had quality receivers he led a good offense. In 2015, the Bengals had a 12-4 record thanks in part to Pro Bowl seasons from WR A.J. Green, and TE Tyler Eifert.

Dalton’s biggest challenge in 2020 will be playing behind a banged-up offensive line. But he knows what that’s like after playing with the Bengals over the last few years.

Another challenge, perhaps the most important of all, will be putting a mediocre defense on his back. Dalton’s playoff years with the Bengals had a capable defense on the other side of the ball. Can the Prescott-less Cowboys score enough points to win despite allowing over 30 from the opponents?

That in particular brings up questions about how Mike McCarthy will handle playing with a backup quarterback. Will the game plan still feature the passing game, or will the Cowboys lean on Running Back Ezekiel Elliott?

Time will tell. As far as expectations go, the Andy Dalton’s Cowboys should still be in the mix for the playoffs. If that has more to do with the Cowboys themselves or the division they play in, we’ll see. In fact, if you ask the oddsmakers, they’re the favorites to win the NFC East.

Making the playoffs shouldn’t be tough for the Cowboys. Dalton will be able to win football games with strong personnel around him on offense. A better question would be, how the Cowboys fare in the playoffs?

When Jerry Jones said the Cowboys’ expectations had changed after Prescott’s injury, he was probably talking about the Super Bowl run in the minds of Cowboys Nation for the 2020 season.

But we’ll worry about that later. For now, the Cowboys should focus on winning the NFC East, a task that’s definitely within reach.

Featured Image Via Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports