FRISCO, Texas – At the same time they learn their playoff fate this weekend, the Cowboys will finalize their 2022 opponents.
As usual, the vast majority of an NFL schedule is cyclical. The Cowboys have known 14 of their 17 opponents since the season started. Of course, they'll play six games against their NFC East rivals, New York, Philadelphia and Washington. They're also slated to play the entire NFC North and the entire AFC South in 2022.
What they have learned in the last week is two of their three other opponents, which are determined by order of finish. As champions of the NFC East, the Cowboys will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who clinched the NFC South last weekend, next year. They'll also play host to the first-place finisher of an AFC division – in this case, the Cincinnati Bengals, who locked up the AFC North on Sunday in a thrilling win against Kansas City.
That leaves just one known opponent – a 2022 road trip to play the NFC West champion, which will be either the Los Angeles Rams or the Arizona Cardinals.
The Rams and Cardinals enter Week 18 within a game of each other, having both won on Sunday. With a one-game lead in the standings, the Rams can lock up the division with a win against San Francisco this coming weekend. If they were to lose to the 49ers and the Cardinals were to defeat Seattle, the Cardinals can still win the division for themselves.
Whoever comes out on top will host the Cowboys next season.
To break it down more simply, here's a look at the Cowboys' home and away opponents.
Home: Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia, Washington.
Away: Green Bay, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Tennessee, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and either L.A. or Arizona.
It's worth pointing out that the Cowboys will host Cincinnati because of the current format of the league's new 17-game schedule. The entire AFC played host in this year's extra, cross-conference game – which is why the Cowboys traveled to New England in October. The entire NFC will return serve in 2022, opening the door for the Cowboys to host Joe Burrow and the Bengals.
The Cowboys' road game against Jacksonville is also of interest. The Cowboys have not played in Jacksonville since 2006, because their scheduled 2014 trip was moved to London. The Jaguars have played at least one game overseas every season since 2013 – with the obvious exception of 2020. It's possible that next year's matchup could be the first in Jacksonville in 16 years.