A loss to the New York Jets cost the Dallas Cowboys dearly in 2019. America’s Team must be ready for three similar trap games in 2020 to make the playoffs.
The 2020 NFL schedule release Thursday night revealed a challenging campaign for the Dallas Cowboys. A schedule that doesn’t allow for much margin for error over the 17-week season. Making it ultra-important the Cowboys don’t take any opponents lightly as they did with the New York Jets back in Week Six last season.
I found three 2020 opponents that Big D must be aware of and avoid the traditionally called “trap game” performance, that so many NFL teams suffer from. Those three games are versus the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, and the Cincinnati Bengals. To make the playoffs, the Cowboys should go 3-0 against these rapidly improving teams.
Week Two, the Falcons come to Dallas for the season home opener. And the Cowboys need a fast start to survive the early onslaught of tough teams.
The Falcons finished the 2019 season winning six out of their final eight games, allowing for head coach Dan Quinn to keep his job in 2020. Wide Receiver Julio Jones was targeted 48 times the last three games while quarterback Matt Ryan threw 11 touchdowns to only six interceptions after their Week Nine bye.
The Falcons live and die by the pass. And a young secondary for the Cowboys might not have time to mesh together yet by Week Two. So, it will be on the front six to control the run game and get after Ryan as much as possible. Ryan threw the ball 41 times per contest in 2019, the most of any NFL quarterback. The secondary can’t sleepwalk into this early game.
Fast forward to Monday night, Oct. 19, with the Cardinals visiting Big D for a Week Six battle. Bad news for the Cowboys secondary is they have to face another top wide receiver and an offense that will stretch a defense out if it is allowed to fully morph into its spread ways. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and quarterback Kyler Murray will be a handful for the defense, especially one that is built inside to outside.
So, it will be tasked to the offense for the Cowboys to escape with a victory. Potentially handing the team a 5-1 start to the season. Arizona was the worst defense in the league last season by yards allowed and 28th in points allowed. Their offense is good but the Cowboys offense is well-balanced and better if they, again, don’t underestimate their opponent.
Finally, the Cowboys will head north to a cold and wet Cincinnati on Dec. 13. sandwiched in between a road game versus the almost impossible Baltimore Ravens and a home game against the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. This is the very definition of a trap game, one that could cost the Cowboys a playoff berth.
It’s tough to get a feel for the leap forward the 2020 Bengals and their new rookie quarterback Joe Burrows. But still, America’s Team lost to the Jets last season.
Any NFL team is good enough to steal a win. Especially one that can take advantage of the other coming off an anticipated war against All-Pro quarterback Lamar Jackson and looking forward to a chance to play the 49ers.
The Cowboys like the first two games I looked at must rely on their offense and their stellar front six to ensure a win. Those two factors might be covering up a weak secondary all season. But just how there isn’t balance in a schedule, there isn’t balance at every position group on a successful team.
If America’s Team walks away 3-0 from these three games, there is a great chance they have a high seed in the NFC playoffs. Lose games like these and there is a good chance they might be on the outside of the playoff picture come January 2021.