The Dallas Cowboys spent week 5 of the 2012 NFL season on their bye week. After the disturbing MNF loss to the Chicago Bears, the team went into the bye at 2-2, with a .500 winning percentage. NFL teams generally try to break the 16 game regular season into quarters. With the first quarter completed, let’s take a look at the next three to come.
Week 6 (@ Baltimore; 4-1; .800 winning percentage)
Week 7 (@ Carolina; 1-4; .200 winning percentage)
Week 8 (vs. NYG; 3-2; 600 winning percentage)
Week 9 (@ Atlanta; 5-0; .1000 winning percentage)
This Cowboy’s opponents in the second quarter of the season will be by far the toughest stretch. Depending on how they play, this could make or break their season. The opponents in this stretch are a combined 13-7, with a .650 winning percentage. Baltimore rarely losses at home, and this will be a very tough matchup this week for the Cowboys. Carolina is on their bye week in Week 6, and will play very desperate in this game at home not wanting to go to 1-5. This will be the most “winnable” game in this group, but we all know there are no gimmes in the NFL.
The Giants come to Cowboys Stadium in Week 8, and have never lost there. Their fans call it “their home away from home”, and it will be a tough matchup. The Giants will also be looking for payback for their Week 1 loss. Lastly, the Cowboys face the currently undefeated Atlanta Falcons at home.
Week 10 (@Philadelphia; 3-2; .600 winning percentage)
Week 11 (vs. Cleveland; 0-5; .0000 winning percentage)
Week 12 (vs. Washington; 2-3; .400 winning percentage)
Week 13 (vs. Philadelphia; 3-2; .600 winning percentage)
This quarter is where the Cowboys will have to make up ground from the second quarter of their season. The opponents in this stretch currently have a combined record of 8-12, with a .400 winning percentage. The Cowboys have had trouble with Philadelphia in recent seasons, and to obtain a split in the two games would be considered an accomplishment. Week 11 and 12 for the Cowboys will come in a five day span, with the Washington game at home on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys must get both of these games.
Week 14 (@ Cincinnati; 3-2; 600 winning percentage)
Week 15 (vs. Pittsburgh; 2-2; .500 winning percentage)
Week 16 (vs. New Orleans; 1-4; .200 winning percentage)
Week 17 (@ Washington; 2-3; .400 winning percentage)
This is the home stretch of the season. However, this is also where the Cowboys have faltered most in recent seasons. The opponents current record is 8-19, with a .420 winning percentage. The game in Cincinnati will be cold, and will be a tough game as the Bengals are much improved from past seasons. The game in Week 15 against the Steelers is by far the toughest ticket to get for a home game at Cowboys Stadium this year. We all saw how well the Bears fans showed up in Week 4, and expect a similar showing from Steeler fans. They will be fighting for playoff positiong, so this game will be a tossup.
New Orleans comes to town the following week, and expect them to be playing much better in the second half of the season than the first. Drew Brees and the Saints offense is explosive, so this game could become a shootout. Hopefully by this point, the Cowboys offense will be up to task, or this whole discussion is mute anyways. Lastly, the Week 17 matchup on the road against the Redskins will be ugly. NFC East games are usually tightly contested, the weather will be chilly, and the fans hostile. If the Cowboys are able to still be alive at this point in the season, this game will have playoff positioning ramifications. Last season the Cowboys went home and the Giants advanced to the playoffs in the Week 17 match up. This game could have similar importance.
There it is, a quick look at the remaining three quarters of the 2012 season. The Cowboys will have to rise to the occasion to be able to navigate this difficult season. It is very unfortunate the Cowboys didn’t start better, but you can’t change the past. Starting 2-2 is ok, and they are returning some playmakers on the defensive side of the ball in Jay Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman, and Anthony Spencer. Although the offensive line has not played well, they have gotten better in pass protection from the start of the season. Hopefully the run blocking will improve as well as the chemistry along the line. As we all eagerly await what is about to unfold the rest of the way, let’s hope the Cowboys can become the team we all think they can.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH