Only a cowardly wimp would predict the Dallas Cowboys to go 8-8 this season.Count me in, of course. My annual preseason assessment of the Cowboys — based upon white-glove TiVo analysis of each exhibition game, a WikiLeaks transcript of Jason Garrett’s daily press conferences and an unavoidable perusal of Owner Jones’ “irrelevant” Internet bathroom photos — have left me with no choice but to declare the glitz-and-glamour boys perfectly adequate for the fourth straight season.Colleagues are scoffing at me for this. I’m being called a homer. People are wondering what I saw in the team’s winless preseason that leads me to believe that the Cowboys are capable of winning eight games.My standard answer: Beats me. Actually, though, as long as quarterback Tony Romo can play most of the season not bent over like a parenthesis, the Cowboys’ offense should be just fine. Explosive, even, at times, and all that that implies.Receiver Dez Bryant seems poised for an elite season. The new play-caller, Scott Linehan, latest in a series, appears to have noticed that nine-time Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten is still on the team.The offensive line, drafted to wrap Romo in a veritable cocoon, has the talent to do so. The Cowboys may even run the football this season, which is a sound strategy whenever your quarterback is coming off two back surgeries. The running game should give the offense a necessary balance — at least until DeMarco Murray has his annual season-disrupting injury.Romo insists he will be better, but I think he meant to say “richer.” He is certainly that, and he’s also 34 years old, a senior age for someone to be trying to win two NFL playoff games for the first time.I hear from Romo-dites all the time, many of them apparently Tony’s old fraternity brothers. Their argument is always Tony’s glitzy (that word again) numbers — his touchdown passes, his dimples, his fourth-quarter comebacks, etc.I get that. Romo is on your fantasy team. But the Cowboys’ problem isn’t Tony Romo. It’s the amount of salary cap money that’s been allotted to him and how his contract has impacted the rest of the roster and skewed subsequent personnel decisions.Clearly, Owner Jones’ chips are all on No. 9. Romo’s deal means that he is the Cowboys’ Quarterback for Life — Jerry’s life, not Tony’s.The amount allocated both to Romo and to the linemen that are charged with protecting him means that the Cowboys have skimped on the other side of the football. The 2014 Cowboys will wear the effects of that skimping like a ball and chain. This is not breaking news, of course. No preseason football magazine has failed to mention Romo, Dez or Owner Jones without an accompanying shriek about the Cowboys’ defense.The franchise’s three best defensive players from last year’s 8-8 season will not play Sunday. Two signed free-agent contracts and are playing elsewhere. Linebacker Sean Lee is out for the season. The default best defensive player, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, is suspended for the first four games of the season. The default best remaining pass rusher, rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, is out with a broken foot. But Cowboys fans already know all this. They’ve heard that this well could be the worst defense in franchise history. Can an explosive offense overcome an imploding defense?I’d say the odds are 50-50, which sounds like another 8-8 season to me.It’s a wimpy prediction, no doubt, but trust that it comes only after a careful vetting of the Cowboys’ entire training camp and preseason.Yes, the Cowboys remain glamorously mediocre.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton