DALLAS — The hype machine for the NFL never stops and its annual schedule release was the latest event to ramp up the offseason intrigue. With leaks coming out days before its official announcement, there weren’t as many surprises as possible, yet the anticipation for the league’s slate of games brought excitement.
That was the case for Dallas Cowboys fans who eagerly awaited the team’s schedule. The curiosity gets the best of many who needed to know the particulars of the Cowboys’ 2023-2024 campaign despite already knowing the opponents months ago as dictated by the NFL’s formula.
Of course, that won’t stop the masses from going over the official schedule with a fine-toothed comb marking off wins and losses, months before these games are set to take place. Injuries, luck, and other circumstances can quickly affect how good a team is from year-to-year, making guesses about the Cowboys’ record in May seem like an exercise in futility. Much can change from now until September.
On paper, it appears as though it’s a tougher road for Dallas than the one they traveled last year. Here’s a look at the trends offered by the schedule as the Cowboys look to make the playoffs for a third straight season under Mike McCarthy:
A familiar face to open the slate
Although it hasn’t happened in the past three years, the league went to a comfortable matchup to open the season with the Cowboys set to face off against the New York Giants. From 2012-2019, a span of eight seasons, the Giants and Cowboys matched up six times on opening weekend.
The good news is the Cowboys have won five of those six games, including all five night games, which this contest will also be. The opener was pinned for NBC’s Sunday Night Football from MetLife Stadium. The lone loss in the series of openers against New York came during Dak Prescott’s debut as a rookie in 2016.
On the road to end, again
The Cowboys finish up their schedule in Washington D.C. against the rival Commanders for a second consecutive year. It also marks the fourth consecutive season that the Cowboys will end the year on the road, something that seems unlikely and not something any other NFL team has had to endure.
Over the past 10 years, Dallas’ schedule has concluded with seven road games, so it would appear that the league loves to have America’s Team up against the ropes to complete their season.
A return to three games in 11 days
After a brief respite last season, the Cowboys are back to playing three games in 11 days around Thanksgiving. The organization has gotten used to the Sunday game before their annual Turkey Day contest followed by another Thursday night game in recent years, so it’s no surprise it will happen again in 2023.
The positive is that the Thanksgiving game against the Commanders is the beginning of three straight home games that culminates with a mini bye week to prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles in Dallas to kick off December. It’s never an easy stretch for the Cowboys, but it has become common to their schedule.
Four of first six away from home
The first six weeks of the season isn’t their toughest stretch of games, but the Cowboys do play four of their first six contests on the road. Three of those games come against 2022 playoff teams and includes back-to-back games in California against the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers in Weeks 5 and 6. The team will likely stay out west for those two weeks, which is a difficult way to prepare for quality opponents.
Also included in the early run of games is a Week 2 matchup with McCarthy’s old quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets. The Jets are an upstart team who appear to be very dangerous heading into the season, and it’s the first home game of the season for the Cowboys.
America’s Team in prime time
There’s a reason the Cowboys are called America’s Team, and it’s because they get the most views when they’re on television. The league knows this well which is why the Cowboys are scheduled for the maximum six prime time games this season, with their annual Thanksgiving game a seventh contest where all eyes will be on Dallas.
The sporting world will be exclusively watching the Cowboys for over a third of their games during their upcoming campaign.
The toughest slate of games for Dallas comes late in the season, when the team will play four straight playoff teams from 2022 starting after Thanksgiving. A home game against the Seattle Seahawks on the Thursday after the holiday precedes the contest with the Eagles. Afterwards, there’s a trip to Buffalo to play the Bills, and then the Cowboys travel to Miami to play the Dolphins.
It doesn’t get much easier after that, either. The upstart Detroit Lions await the Cowboys after those four games, and then the season finale on the road against the Commanders concludes the cruelest stretch on paper. Games against rivals and a contest likely to be played in the harsh conditions of Buffalo in December won’t be a picnic.
If the Cowboys can survive the late season gauntlet, they should be playoff tested.
Do you think the schedule will allow the Cowboys to take back the NFC East crown? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.
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