April 1, 2012;

QUICK OUT: Dallas Cowboys Official Schedule and Predictions


The big news this week was the release of the offcial NFL regular season schedule.  We’ve known for a few weeks that the opening game would be at the New York Giants and we’ve known the list of home and away opposing teams, but up until Tuesday night, we had no idea how the schedule would actually play out.  Listening to most of the pundits, the Cowboys drew a very tough schedule – particularly in the first half of the season.

Jan 1, 2012; Mandatory Credit: Jim O

The December stretch is as brutal as ever in terms of who we play but at least 3 of the 5 games this year are at home.  Last season and in 2010, the December stretch only included 2 home games.  In fact, you have to go all the way back to the 2006 regular season to find a schedule where the Cowboys had more than 2 games at home past November 30th.  Add to that, the fact that 5 of the final 8 games are at home – including an almost unheard of 3 straight home games in November – and I think the back half of the season is at least a somewhat favorable draw.

However, it may not matter unless the team can get out of the gates fast and have a winning record through an absolutely diabolical first half of the season.  They not only open against division foe and defending world champion New York Giants in their stadium, but then have 4 of the next 7 games on the road.  Their 3 home games over the first half of the season include what should be a winnable game against Tampa Bay, a rematch with the always tough Giants who seem to save their best for Cowboys Stadium, and a Monday Night tilt against a very tough Bears team.  The Cowboys in the last 2 decades have not been great on Monday nights so that game looks to be a very hard task to bring home a ‘W”, even at home.

They did draw an early bye week in week 5 again which could be a positive or a negative depending on the team’s physical status and their mental state after the first four games.  But, regardless of whether they are at a stage where the bye is good for them, facing the next 12 weeks with no rest is not an advantage.  They do of course get their traditional ‘mini-bye’ after the Thanksgiving Day game, but they’ll need every bit of that time to prepare for their home rematch with the Eagles, who barely broke a sweat sweeping the Cowboys last year.

In terms of division opponents, I think it does matter when we play them.  We catch the Giants early this year with games week 1 and week 8.  I’d much rather face this team early in the season where they are more likley to struggle than in the midst of their late season heroic runs that earned them their last 2 Lombardi trophies.  Like a team of killer zombies, just when you think they are dead they seem to rise up and get on a roll.  I’d rather catch them early while they are still in “struggle mode”.  We always seem to get the Eagles in home and away games that are fairly close to one another and this year is no exception – we play them in Philly week 10 and then they come to our place week 13.  It’s up to us to show up and make those games meaningful and at least get a split.  Everyone agrees the Redskins will be a different team with RGIII running the offense if he is selected with the 2nd overall pick as expected.  It would probably be beneficial to catch the rookie phenom early in the season before he figures out the complexity and speed of the NFL game.  But, I think we’re okay getting them at home on Thanksgiving Day week 12 - a game we always seem to play well in even if we don’t ultimately pull out a win – and then again for the week 17 finale where a playoff berth and/or a division title may be up for grabs.  By week 17, I’m betting RGIII is exhausted and nicked up a bit based on his style of play and I like our chances in that one.

So, for fun, let’s take a look at what is going to be the all-important first half and make some predictions for each NFC East Division team – see the chart below.

The first thing that stands out is that the Eagles have a very favorable schedule over their first 8 games.  They have 4 home games including a week 7 bye sandwiched between two home games and face only 1 division opponent in the first half of the season.  Furthermore, they only play 5 conference games in the first half – every game is important but if they lose a non-conference game, it’s less painful than a conference game when it comes to tie breakers and playoff seeding.  I would expect the Eagles to have a record of 6-2 and be in first place in the division at the midway point.

The Giants have the next most favorable schedule in the division.  Like the Eagles, they have 4 home games but they also have 7 conference games and 4 division games in that stretch.  If they stumble at all early in the season, it could dig a bit of a hole for them.  Splitting the 2 games with the Cowboys and then likely losing at the Eagles and at the 49ers would leave the Giants at 5-3 and a game back of the Eagles in the division.

The Cowboys open the season with two tough road games and will likely be pleased to finish the first half of the season at 4-4 with the softer part of their schedule in the 2nd half.  That would put them in third place, a game back of the Giants and 2 games back of the Eagles.  If they get off on the right foot in the opener against the Giants and then catch a few other breaks, they could hit the midway point as high as 6-2 and would be in great shape heading into the second half.  But, the talent of this team and how much the personnel changes will impact that is still unknown.  They could just as easily be 3-5 at this point if they have another couple of 4th quarter collapses and be just trying to earn a wild card spot.  But, I think they will be 4-4 or possibly even 5-3 at this stage trying to be realistic.  Of course, if they were 8-0 no one would be happier than me!

Despite the addition of RGIII and Pierre Garcon among others, the Redskins most would agree are still a year or two away from really challenging for a playoff spot.  Time will tell.  Like the Cowboys, they only have 3 home games in the first 8, open with 2 road games, and have 3 of the first 4 games on the road.  They will be competitive and likely be much improved on offense and will still have a very good defense, but I think they will be fortunate to be at 3-5 ; 2-6 is more likely at the halfway point with wins more likely only against the Rams and the Vikings.  One thing is very likely and that is they will be in their traditional spot of last place in the division.

We’ll take a look at a prediction for the second half of the season next week.  If you’re like me, the release of the schedule is exciting because it means football is getting closer.  Go Cowboys!

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WEEK

Cowboys

Giants

Eagles

Redskins

1

at Giants

Cowboys

at Browns

at Saints

2

at Seattle

Tampa Bay

Ravens

at Rams

3

Tampa Bay

at Panthers

at Cardinals

Bengals

4

Chicago

at Eagles

Giants

at Tampa Bay

5

BYE

Browns

at Steelers

Falcons

6

at Ravens

at 49ers

Lions

Vikings

7

at Panthers

Redskins

BYE

at Giants

8

Giants

at Cowboys

Falcons

at Steelers

9

at Falcons

at Saints

(Bye Wk11)

(Bye Wk10)

Home

3

4

4

3

Away

5

4

4

5

Division

2

4

1

1

Conf

7

7

5

6

Non-Conf

1

1

3

2

Tags: Cowboys Dallas Dallas Cowboys Eagles Giants New York Giants NFL Philadelphia Eagles Washington Redskins

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