This 3 game stretch could determine Cowboys hopes of winning NFC East
By Jerry Trotta
The 2023 schedule is out and the Dallas Cowboys made out pretty well. They're tied for the third toughest strength of schedule, but there's no point reading too much into that in May. It's impossible to factor in injuries and other potential pitfalls teams may experience with the season still months away.
That said, there's other components of the schedule to analyze.
The Cowboys have totaled 12 wins in each of the last two seasons. Unfortunately, they only have one NFC East title to show for it after the hated Eagles rattled off 14 wins and clinched a first-round bye as the NFC's top seed.
Making the playoffs is the ultimate goal, clearly, but Dallas will be hoping to win the division and secure a home playoff game. This roster is too talented to settle for anything less, but getting over the Philly hump won't be easy.
After all, they face an unforgiving three-game stretch that could determine their hopes of supplaning the Eagles as the division champs.
3 game stretch that could determine Cowboys' NFC East hopes
The first half of the Cowboys' schedule is relatively favorable, but Mike McCarthy better have his squad laser-focused over the remaining five games.
In Week 14, Dallas hosts Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football. The difficulty of that matchup goes without saying. While the Cowboys topped the Eagles at home last season, Jalen Hurts was injured and it took a heroic effort for them to hold of the Gardner Minshew-led contingent on Christmas Eve.
After that, they travel to the northeast for a date with the Bills. While the Cowboys are in the same class as Buffalo in terms of contenders, there's nothing fun about traveling to Orchard Park in mid-December. Weather will almost certainly be a factor, and beating Josh Allen and company is already a tall task by itself.
Next up for Dallas is a road game against the reloaded Dolphins, who could surprise people and win the AFC East. Tua Tagovailoa's health is perhaps Miami's biggest X-factor, but we've seen the Cowboys struggle against teams that boast elite speed and the Dolphins are arguably the fastest team in the NFL.
Additionally, the Dolphins made notable upgrades on defense.
They traded for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, signed David Long in free agency and Bradley Chubb will be more comfortable in the system after they traded for him at the deadline. Finally, they hired Vic Fangio, maybe the single greatest defensive mind in the game, as their defensive coordinator.
The Cowboys finish the 2023 season at home against the Lions, which won't be a walk in the park, and on the road in Washington.
While Detroit will be a tough out, facing the Eagles, Bills and Dolphins consecutively -- with two coming on the road -- is a murderer's row of fixtures late in the schedule. Depending on their record at the time, Dallas can't go any worse than 1-2. And if they go 0-3, they better beat Seattle in Week 13 and finish the season with wins against the Lions and Commanders to make up for lost time.
Make no mistake, this three-game stretch could dictate the Cowboys' NFC East hopes and potential playoff seeding.