Dallas Cowboys Schedule Analysis; Fast Start Crucial
By Bo Martin
The Dallas Cowboys find themselves amidst an important season. This is the season that they are truly expected to get over that hump and there is a lot that stands in their way. Besides being in the toughest division in football they haven’t exactly drawn the easiest schedule. This isn’t an excuse however, as fans, analysts, and football minds a like are expecting the Cowboys are in win now mode. I’m not sure that I believe that they are in “win now” mode but I do believe that this season is the most important one we’ve had in recent memory.
While dissecting the schedule I’ve noticed that nothing is really a given and they will have to work hard week in and week out. I thought I’d give an overall summary of each game and what we’re up against and our probability to make it to the playoffs.
Week 1- @ NY Giants:
The Giants are coming off a Super Bowl victory but the Cowboys haven’t been slouches against them necessarily. This game will do a lot to they psyche of this Cowboys team. Morris Claiborne will face elite receivers from the beginning and I expect him to struggle. However, if the Boys can manage a win it’ll be a big step in the right direction.
Matchup to watch: Morris Claiborne/Brandon Carr versus Nicks/Cruz
Week 2- @ Seattle
This is a game that many will overlook. Seattle is a team of grinders. With Marshawn Lynch leading this team it could be a tougher matchup than expected. I do expect the Cowboys to win this game because they need to.
Matchup to watch: Cowboys Linebackers versus Marshawn Lynch
Week 3- Tampa Bay
Tampa retooled this offseason but I’m not sure that it’s going to click right away. We’re facing Tampa at a good time as their young core starts to get it together. This will be a game that the Cowboys will have the chances to win, it’ll be a grinder game but if the DB’s can shut down Vincent Jackson I think we have a really good shot.
Matchup to watch: Brandon Carr versus Vincent Jackson; Dez Bryant versus Aqib Talib
Week 4- Chicago
Another retooled team. If Forte holds out this game instantly becomes easier. I don’t think Bush is a slouch but he’s no Forte. The D will have a tough time managing this rebuilt WR group and Chicago’s defense remains one of the toughest in the league.
Matchup to watch: Demarco Murray versus Bears Linebackers
Week 5- BYE
Week 6- @ Baltimore
I can’t remember a time when Baltimore was just an awful team. As long as Ray Lewis is there that defense will play with unrelenting passion. Flacco has emerged as a QB who can push the ball down the field and Torrey Smith adds a new dynamic to the offense. This will be a tough game for the Cowboys to manage with Ray Rice being so versatile.
Matchup to watch: Torrey Smith versus Morris Claiborne
Week 7- @ Carolina
Cam… Oh Cam… Cam Newton leads a re-motivated Carolina team who believes that the South could be theirs. With an explosive offense and a stout defense Carolina could one of those games that gets overlooked. I wouldn’t sleep on this team because they have the ability to leave Dallas sitting there dazed.
Matchup to watch: Cam Newton versus Dallas D-Line/LB
Week 8- NY Giants
I’m personally glad we finish with the Giants early. At home and in full stride I expect the Cowboys to be their crispest of the season here. This game could be a nail biter or a blow out but I see the Cowboys nabbing one here.
Matchup to watch: Romo versus Giants D-Line
Week 9- @ Atlanta
Atlanta is multi-dimensional and can be very tough on offense. I think there are improvements to be made on this team defensively but honestly, with the Falcons you never know what you’ll get. On paper I think you expect this team to win but Matt Ryan is quietly emerging as a player who can deliver with his back against the wall.
Matchup to watch: Witten versus ATL Linebackers
Week 10- @ Philadelphia
We see Philly for the first time here and it scares me to death. I’m from the Philadelphia area guys and I know a lot about what the Eagles are doing. I think this is a scary team that can really be dominant. Playing in Philly is one of the toughest things an NFL team has to do and the Cowboys probably still aren’t used to it. Our D better be on it’s game as they have to deal with multiple gamebreakers but if Vick is injured or pressure is getting to him this games dynamic changes in a hurry.
Matchup to watch: Carr/Claiborne versus Jackson/Maclin
Week 11- Cleveland
Finally a break after a tough stretch. I know it’s a little arrogant to say but this Cleveland team has a lot of improvements to make. They are fully rebuilding and even though they got some great pieces this year I’m still not excited about them. This should be a showcase/confidence game for the Cowboys.
Matchup to watch: Sean lee/Dan Connor/Bruce Carter versus Trent Richardson
Week 12- Washington
I’m not sure what to make of the new look Redskins but I do feel they’ll be explosive and fun to watch from a football perspective. I don’t think they’ll be competitive this year as their defense still lacks some key pieces. Watch out in the future though for this team. They’re not to be overlooked but the Cowboys should sweep the skins this year.
Matchup to watch: RGIII versus Cowboys LB
Week 13- Philadelphia
Playing in Dallas makes this game a little less stressful for the Cowboys. Philly at this point could easily be injured and beat down. The Cowboys will need this game badly as the analysts will be scruitinizing them for their December woes. This game will be important for the last stretch.
Matchup to watch: LeSean McCoy versus everyone
Week 14- @ Cincinnati
Cinci is a young team on the rise and could definitely take their division this year. AJ Green has emerged as a stud and there is plenty of room for improvement with the young core of this team. A tough defense also leads this team and they can be playmakers. Romo will have to be careful and stick to the gameplan on this game because it’s not going to be an easy one.
Matchup to watch: AJ Green/Jermaine Gresham versus man coverage
Week 15- Pittsburgh
I never want to play Pittsburgh in December. This year though might be different, the team is getting older and by this point players could be starting to rest or be run down. This game is likely the start of a key 3 game stretch the could put the Cowboys in the playoffs.
Matchup to watch: DeMarco Murray versus Pitt front 7
Week 16- New Orleans
New Orleans is depleted so I don’t know what this will look like. However, If Drew Brees is playing I know this team will be explosive and ready to go. This game will likely be competitive being that the NFC South and NFC East should be very close. The Cowboys could win this game because of the lack of rushing attack for New Orleans and the upgrade in the secondary for the Cowboys.
Matchup to watch: Drew Brees versus Cowboys Secondary
Week 17- @ Washington
Who knows that this game will mean but I’m a betting man, I’ll say that this game is a win and in game for the Cowboys. It’s just how it’s been working out. Washington is known to spoil Dallas’ party and I wouldn’t get excited about seeing this as the final game. It’s a tough road to take.
Matchup to watch: Not really a matchup but the Cowboys effort will say a lot about their playoff hopes.
Overall, the Cowboys have a tough road. The schedule isn’t one where we’re just going to plow our way to the playoffs. It’s crucial that Cowboys are .500 or over by the BYE. If they can make it to the Cleveland game with 5 wins or more I think they have a shot to make the playoffs. That would put them around 10-11 wins. It’ll take a fast start, a lot of heart, and maximum effort, but if they can stay focus this season might be the one we’ve been waiting for.