As much as the Cowboys’ defense and running game matter to the team’s fortunes in 2013, Dallas will go only as far as quarterback Tony Romo takes them. If Romo can limit the turnovers, the offense has the ability to be one of the best in the league.
If you’re a Cowboys fan, you don’t want to see Romo attempting 40.5 passes per game like we did in 2012 because that will probably mean the Cowboys are losing. With Bill Callahan calling the plays and Dallas unlikely to get down in games so frequently, we should see Romo attempt in the range of 580 passes in 2013—68 fewer than last season.
Romo’s career completion rate is 64.7 percent, but he’s checked in higher than that in each of the past three seasons. At a 66.7 percent completion rate, Romo would connect on 387 passes. If Romo can match his career mark of 7.9 yards per attempt, that would give him 4,582 yards on the year.
Romo has thrown a touchdown on 5.5 percent of his career passes, but that number dipped to 4.3 percent last year. However, with presumably better field position, it should once again hover around 5.5 percent, which would give Romo 32 touchdowns on the season.
The key for the Cowboys, of course, will be how many interceptions Romo tosses. That number was 19 last season, tying his career-high. Because Romo threw so many passes though, his interception rate was 2.9 percent—only 0.1 percent higher than his career mark. In Romo’s two full seasons prior to 2012, his interception rate was 1.7 percent. I think last year was really more of a blip in the data than anything else, so Romo should fall in the range of 2.0 percent. That would mean he’d throw about 12 picks this year.
So now we basically have a full projection for Romo: 4,582 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Those bulk numbers are undoubtedly good enough to advance to the playoffs. And if you’re looking at Romo from a fantasy perspective, he has an even higher ceiling. Remember, I projected Romo at 580 attempts, but he could easily attempt 650 passes, depending on game situations. At that number with efficiency even a little bit superior to what we saw last year, Romo would easily throw for 5,000 yards.
Final 2013 Projection: 387-for-580 (66.7 percent) for 4,582 yards (7.9 YPA), 32 touchdowns, 12 interceptions – 100.4 passer rating
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.