The offseason practices are in the rearview mirror as the Cowboys are heading towards training camp, which begins on July 24 in Oxnard, Calif.
That's usually the place where many of the questions regarding this team start to get answered.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – are attempting to answer 20 pressing questions as the team gets ready for camp and the 2017 season.
Today, we continue the series with a focus on the schedule. Each writer pinpointed one part that could be rather daunting for the Cowboys this season.
*18) What's the Scariest Part of Cowboys' 2017 Schedule? *
Broaddus: The first month of the season has me nervous: Giants, Broncos, Cardinals and Rams are all good defensive teams. The strength of this Cowboys squad is the offense, so if for some reason things don't go well then they could be in trouble right out of the gate and that creates doubt. Last season they were able to build momentum off the early wins and it carried them throughout. Starting the season out 1-3 would put them in a poor spot especially with games ahead featuring the Packers, Redskins, Chiefs and Falcons.
Eatman: I don't know if this is the scariest part, or just very critical, but I'm looking at the month of November. Everyone always talks about December and sometimes the first few games. Of course, the end of the season is going to be tough – always is. But I look at the schedule like a major golf tournament. Sure, you better bring your game on Sunday, but if you're not getting it done on Saturday, you're probably out anyway. So November is a crucial month. Five games with four at home. If you've struggled early, here's the chance to get back in the race. If you're on fire early on, then go ahead and pull away from the pack. Chiefs, Falcons, Eagles, Chargers and Redskins – the Cowboys need to be 4-1 in November. If they can do that, it'll set themselves up nicely for the final month.
Phillips: Last Friday us writers ranked the Top 10 quarterbacks on the 2017 schedule. Why? It's an imposing list. The Cowboys have four games against guys with Super Bowl rings (Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson) as well as matchups with the reigning league MVP (Matt Ryan); a serious 2016 MVP candidate (Derek Carr) and three more crafty veterans (Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith). Oh, and the division games against the Eagles (Carson Wentz) and Redskins (Kirk Cousins) are never cakewalks. The Cowboys showed financial restraint in letting so many veteran defensive backs leave via free agency. They have a lot of promising young talent in the secondary now – young talent that will be tested all season long. How fast they develop will help determine whether the team can take a step forward.
Helman:It's pretty rare to have the division title locked up with three games left to play, which is what the Cowboys accomplished last year. It's much more likely that the NFC East championship is going to come down to the final week of the season, as has been the case for much of the past decade. With that in mind, I'm awfully concerned looking at that last month of the season. After taking a mini bye week to start December, the Cowboys on the road to face the Giants – who swept them last season. A week after that, it's a West Coast road trip to face the Oakland Raiders, who now employ the highest-paid quarterback in the game – not to mention Amari Cooper, Khalil Mack, Marshawn Lynch and a bunch of other talent. Following that test, it's home to face Russell Wilson and that Seahawk defense on Christmas Eve. And when that's all finished, a division road trip against a Philly team with plenty of reason to feel optimistic about this season. If the Cowboys win the division this year, I think it's going to be because they excel in that final month. It looks absolutely brutal.