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Schedule Release | 2024

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Cowboys 2024 schedule release: Preview, key notes


(Editor's note: The content provided is based on opinions and/or perspective of the editorial staff and not the Cowboys football staff or organization.)

FRISCO, Texas — It's been months of waiting, and while the Dallas Cowboys have long known who their 2024 opponents will be and where they're set to face off with them, the when was still unanswered — that is until the NFL officially released the complete league schedule on Wednesday, May 15 for all to enjoy.

In breaking down the 17-game slate, there are some items that immediately jump to the forefront for consideration, from the number of prime time games to the assessment of miles traveled between games, with everything tidbit carrying some weight either for or against the Cowboys.

Notable schedule quirks:

  • 9 home games
  • 6 prime time games
  • Back-to-back prime time: Week 4, Week 5
  • No three-game homestand
  • No three-game road trip
  • Coast-to-coast travel: Week 8, Week 9
  • Mini-bye week post-Thanksgiving
  • 6 of the final 9 games are home games

All told, this will be one of the most pivotal seasons in the Cowboys' history, in a lot of ways, and they're hoping to finally get over the postseason hurdle that's existed since they won hoisted their fifth Lombardi trophy back in the mid-1990s — when gasoline was still roughly a dollar a gallon.

They have a tall mountain to climb and only a few more weeks to prepare for it, but let's take this moment to do a deep dive into every single matchup to see what Dallas is up against on a week-to-week basis.

Strap in folks, because the Cowboys are going for a ride in 2024; and they'll hopefully keep both hands on the wheel this time around.

*note: (H) denotes a home game, (A) denotes an away game

Week 1 (A) - Cleveland Browns

  • Date: Sunday, Sept. 8
  • Time: 3:25 pm CT
  • Location: Cleveland Browns Stadium (Cleveland, OH)
  • Opponent 2023 record: 11-6
  • Series record: 16-13, Browns lead

It'll be a baptism by fire for Tyler Guyton at left tackle, assuming he earns the honor of replacing Tyron Smith as early as the first week of his rookie season. Myles Garrett is a machine amongst men, and he's not the only one on the Browns' defensive line to contend with, either. Za'Darius Smith bookends the D-line with Shelby Harris and Dalvin Tomlinson ready to test rookie center Cooper Beebe and the abilities of All-Pro guards Tyler Smith and Zack Martin.

It will be paramount for the Cowboys to win often in the trenches, for the sake of both quarterback Dak Prescott and the rushing attack — the success of the latter leading to the success of the former. The O-line needs to get a serious push here, but the challenge will be very real.

Defensively, well, it's the Amari Cooper Bowl. And with Trevon Diggs presumably taking the field in his first game back from a torn ACL, it begs the question of if he'll be tasked with covering the route monster or if it'll be the more physically ready DaRon Bland. Don't forget the Browns have also added Jerry Jeudy via trade though, and David Njoku can be problematic as well.

Reports are that Nick Chubb, arguably the best running back in the NFL, will not be available for the opener due to his devastating knee injury suffered late in 2023. Instead, the Cowboys' run defense will be assessed by the legs of several in what could be an RB-by-committee approach, not unlike what the Browns themselves will face defensively.

The key for the defense will be to terrorize Deshaun Watson, and considering he's also very mobile, Eric Kendricks, DeMarvion Overshown, Marist Liufau and Damone Clark will be tested sideline to sideline; and so will Micah Parsons' competitive spirit to try and outshine Garrett on every single snap.

So maybe don't forget about that guy, considering he's also generational and doesn't exactly like to be outdone by his counterparts in the league.

The Cowboys aren't getting a warm up like they did with the Week 1 matchup against the questionable Giants in 2023.

This will be a massive gut-check right out of the gate.

Week 2 (H) - New Orleans Saints

  • Date: Sunday, Sept. 15
  • Time: Noon
  • Location: AT&T Stadium
  • 2023 record: 9-8
  • Series record: 18-13, Cowboys lead

You've got to love the history between these two clubs, as scenes of DeMarcus Ware celebrating the ground-shaking upset victory over the 13-0 Saints … in New Orleans, no less … a win that also snapped a five-game losing streak against that team.

After locking horns with the playoff-caliber Browns, on all fronts and in Cleveland, no less, the Cowboys will return home to host the Saints in Week 2 this time around. It's fair to view this matchup as less daunting than the previous week's, but it's also true that there is no free lunch in the NFL.

And especially considering the Saints were in the running for their division crown last year.

This win will have to be earned, lest the Cowboys find themselves in a situation wherein they take the visitor lightly and get embarrassed for the second home game in the last three tries — stretching back to the playoff exit against Jordan Love and the Green Bay Packers.

Derek Carr is still a capable quarterback in this league and Alvin Kamara can change the outcome of a game if permitted, though it is promising to know Jourdan Lewis is back to prime form and it was Lewis that famously had Kamara in a straight jacket in Kamara's prime. Former first-round pick Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed will meet a dynamic cornerback duo in Diggs and Bland and, defensively, this should be advantage: Cowboys.

The newly-rebuilt offensive front will meet a still-impactful Cameron Jordan but also a familiar face in Chase Young, but keep an eye on Demario Davis and Pete Werner as well — a very talented linebacker duo that plays in front of a secondary that features Tyrann Mathieu and Paulson Adebo (Mathieu and Adebo combined for eight interceptions in 2023).

The loss to the Packers notwithstanding, the Cowboys have been virtually bulletproof at AT&T Stadium over the past few seasons, and this will be a great chance to start a brand new streak of victories in Arlington.

Week 3 (H) - Baltimore Ravens

  • Date: Sunday, Sept. 22
  • Time: 3:25 pm CT
  • Location: AT&T Stadium
  • 2023 record: 13-4
  • Series record: 5-1, Ravens lead

As you can see above, the Cowboys haven't exactly fared well historically against the Ravens. They've lost five of their only six matchups — the two teams only squaring off once every four regular seasons — though Lamar Jackson is only responsible for one of those losses. Still, it feels as if John Harbaugh has a recipe that Mike McCarthy will need to poison with explosive plays in all three phases of the game to knock the Ravens off of their perch in Week 3.

It goes without saying that Jackson will be all kinds of trouble that must be contained in the pocket, and taken down while in it, to prevent the deep ball or a chance he'll escape and tear off massive chunks of yardage with his legs.

The last, and only, time the Cowboys faced Jackson was in 2020, and while he was impressively held to only 107 passing yards on 12 completions with an interception, he also had two passing touchdowns along with a rushing touchdown and 94 rushing yards.

So, yeah, you get the point.

Expect Zay Flowers to be a headache unless neutralized by a more than capable Diggs, Lewis and Bland; and the Cowboys have more firepower in their secondary than do the Ravens in their receiving corps, even factoring in rookie first-round pick Rashod Bateman. Experience has to count here, and Diggs/Bland/Lewis take the edge there and in their ability to force turnovers.

Did I mention the fact Derrick Henry is in Baltimore now, though? That means that, for a second (third, if you count Watson's mobility) week in a row, the Cowboys' run defense will be put to the fire against one of the best in the NFL; and that draws a circle about not only Mazi Smith, but every single player in the defensive front seven.

Unfortunately, things won't get any easier when flipping to the defensive side of the equation, thanks to Roquan Smith patrolling the second level at linebacker, with Geno Stone at the third level (7 INTs in 2023) and Justin Madubuike sitting in the middle of the D-line, daring Beebe, Smith and Martin to move him.

But, hey, Patrick Queen is out of Baltimore, so that helps.

But, hey, Patrick Queen is still waiting for the Cowboys in Week 5, so there's also that.

This will be, hands down, the biggest test of the early season for Prescott and the Cowboys, and another very real litmus test to test their progress, with two AFC heavyweights on the card in the first three games.

There will still be a ton of football left to play (14 games, actually) after Week 3, but Dallas can't lean on that and need to get off to a hot start, and hopefully create positive headlines in the process.

Week 4 (A); Week 13 (H) - New York Giants

  • Date: Sunday, Sept. 26; Thursday, Nov. 28
  • Time: 7:15 pm (TNF); 3:30 pm (Thanksgiving Day)
  • Location: MetLife Stadium; AT&T Stadium
  • 2023 record: 6-11
  • Series record: 75-46-2, Cowboys lead

Short wait for this one, considering it's only four days after the Week 3 bout against the Ravens. The Giants will have the same short hop from a worthy contender as well, having played the Browns four days prior.

Let's assume that all balances out going into this one.

For one of the first times since Moses crossed the desert, the Cowboys and Giants will not square off in the season opener. When they did in 2023, it was Dallas effectively turning New York upside down and using their hair to mop the floors at MetLife Stadium to the tune of a 40-0 shellacking thanks to a defensive clinic.

The second matchup wasn't entirely different, with the Giants getting dogwalked like a stray pup who made the erroneous decision to walk into AT&T Stadium — right into the jaws of a rabid pack of wolves in a 49-17 throat rip to secure the series sweep for the Cowboys.

And, with that, the Giants have still not defeated Dak Prescott since the 2016 season, when they were the lone team to sweep him during his otherwise historic rookie campaign.

He's won 12 straight against Big Blue, throwing for a combined 26 touchdowns to only six interceptions; and let's not forget his receiving touchdown to secure a narrow 37-34 victory in 2020.

"I'm the pappy." - Dak, probably

There's not much that will be unfamiliar when the Giants take the field on either occasion to face the Cowboys, because Daniel Jones remains the franchise quarterback (though you can add first-round pick Malik Nabers to the fight) but, and this is critical to note: Saquon Barkley is no longer present to try and save the day on offense (more on this later in this breakdown).

Devin Singletary steps in to lead the RBs group for New York, one that now includes rookie fifth-round pick Tyrone Tracy Jr. as well, so they're not completely devoid of talent there, but it's also true that no one presents the immediate threat that Barkley usually would. It might be a welcomed sight for the Cowboys' run defense that went up against Henry the week prior, but no one can afford to do anything but keep their pedal to the floor.

Very capable of taking the win in the prime time matchup in Week 4 at MetLife, much like they did in Week 1 of the 2023 season, all that would be left to do then, to preserve Prescott's dominance over Big Blue, would be to protect home field with the smell of turkey in the air.

The Giants do not match up well against the Cowboys, but in divisional matchups, it's more about who wants it more, and less about what it looks like on paper.

Week 5 (A) - Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Date: Sunday, Oct. 6
  • Time: 7:15 pm CT (SNF)
  • Location: Acrisure Stadium
  • 2023 record: 10-7
  • Series record: 17-16, Cowboys lead

Talk about some epic battles, folks.

The disdain that exists between these two clubs is palpable, and thick enough to require a chainsaw lubed to a fare thee well to slice through it. You can trace this rivalry back decades and, more recently, you could simply ask Ezekiel Elliiott what he has to do with reinvigorating it in recent years — by way of his walk-off rushing touchdown in 2016, in Pittsburgh, with only nine seconds remaining in regulation to secure the 35-30 victory in thrilling fashion.

You can bet the Cowboys, who re-signed Elliott this offseason, would love for history to repeat itself in the win column, though without it being as close of an affair.

Nothing about the Steelers looks even remotely the same as 2016, though, let alone 2023, considering they've moved on from Ben Roethlisberger (retired) and, now, his supposed successor in Kenny Pickett (traded). It's now the Russell Wilson show in 2024, or the Justin Fields show, depending on who you ask and how things will shake out.

This early in the season, you can bet it'll be Wilson taking the start. He didn't face the Cowboys in his time with the Broncos, but he's 5-1 as a Seahawks' quarterback against Dallas. He's no longer in prime form, but it's unclear what form he'll be in this season, especially with Fields threatening to nudge him out of the top spot if his play isn't up to snuff.

Fear is a powerful motivator, after all.

The name of this game is to delete George PIckens' big play ability and to frustrate him, to the point where he mentally checks out. That will force Wilson to depend on other, less explosive, receivers to try and be the hero against Diggs, Bland and Lewis; as well as a safety corps that features Malik Hooker and young impactful talent like Juanyeh Thomas and Markquese Bell — as Donovan Wilson feels like a major X factor here.

Keeping the Steelers' offense guessing about Dono's intentions will be important for keeping both the pass and run offense off-balance, seeing as he can make plays in both areas.

Najee Harris is more of a bully back than one who'll hit the home run, so wall up the middle of the D-line and force him to the edge where he can try his best to be better in space than Kendricks, Overshown or even Liufau (three LBs who excel at meeting RBs at the LOS).

The strength of the Steelers is their defense, though. Dak Prescott's protection upfront will need to be exceptional and any lessons learned from the battle with Myles Garrett will go a long way in helping to slow down the terror that is TJ Watt, and it will begin with the interior finding ways to push Cameron Heyward out of the way to allow the rushing attack to delete the pass rush.

From there, once the secondary is focused on trying to help in run support, opportunities will open up in the air but, be careful and pick your spots, because Minkah Fitzpatrick and future Hall of Fame cornerback Patrick Peterson didn't make a name for themselves by simply laying down and letting the ball be caught.

It's a fairly young team in Pittsburgh, at least offensively, having that much in common with Dallas, but the latter has enough of its core intact that the chemistry is not as much of an issue (if at all) as it might be for Mike Tomlin's bunch.

P.S. I am drooling at the thought of seeing Jake Ferguson in the middle of the field against Patrick Queen, who defected from the Ravens to join the Steelers this year. Ferguson is a force with the ball in his hands, but Queen is also one of the best at his position, so something's got to give there.

A few extra days will allow the Cowboys more time to prep for this trip to Pennsylvania — also Parsons' collegiate stomping ground.

Week 6 (H) - Detroit Lions

  • Date: Sunday, Oct. 13
  • Time: 3:25 pm CT
  • Location: AT&T Stadium
  • 2023 record: 12-5
  • Series record: 17-11, Cowboys lead

Declaring themselves eligible in Week 6 will be Dan Campbell's band of unmerry men, who will have a serious ax to grind when they walk onto the field in Arlington in mid-October.

It was just last season that a controversial attempt to confuse the Cowboys blew up in Campbell's face and ultimately helped seal the victory for Dallas; and that simply adds to the list of weird things that have often occurred when the Cowboys and Lions meet.

Anthony Hitchens versus Brandon Pettigrew, anyone?

If you know, you know.

What might happen this time around? There is really no way to know, and that simply adds to the excitement of this clash. Both teams were basically on a collision course to potentially have this rematch last January in the playoffs, but the Cowboys failed to uphold their end of the bargain on Super Wild Card Weekend, with the Lions advancing to the NFC Championship, where they had the 49ers on the ropes before faltering late and losing out on a Super Bowl bid by a total of only three points.

This just proves that the Lions have completed their culture change under Campbell, and it didn't take long. Jared Goff is resurgent in Detroit's offense with the aid of Amon-Ra St. Brown and breakout tight end sensation Sam LaPorta, while the Jamhyr Gibbs/David Montgomery combo at RB can be devastating to some teams.

Aiden Hutchinson hit the ground running in the NFL and is yet another dominant pass rusher the Cowboys will face before entering their bye week. His pressures, if allowed, can help the secondary take the ball away (the Cowboys' usual formula, by the way) with Kerby Joseph and Brian Branch combining for seven interceptions in 2023, and rookie first-round pick Terrion Arnold now wants a piece of that cornerback pie.

There are vulnerabilities here though, as the Cowboys and 49ers showed last season. The primary one is to establish the run but not simply in the traditional sense. Using the RBs in both the run and pass game will go a long way here, as will Prescott taking off and using his legs when given the opportunity, because they will exist for him to do so.

Good news is the All-Pro quarterback has recently done exactly that. His 242 rushing yards and 21 first downs rushing were the highest tallies since before he suffered his season-ending ankle injury in 2020.

His mobility will come in handy in expanding coverage windows and applying stress on the Lions' corners against CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Jake Ferguson and whomever steps up to be crowned WR3 in Dallas.

As for Goff, it's all about deleting his downfield weapons to shrink the field and then forcing him to make short-field decisions while under duress. Easier said than done, sure, but it still needs to be done.

Week 7 - BYE

Simply put, we will know exactly who the Cowboys are by the time they enter the bye week, because their first six games are nothing to sneeze at.

Try it and you'll find that's blood in your Kleenex, and not mucus.

Week 8 (A) - San Francisco 49ers

  • Date: Sunday, Oct. 27
  • Time: 7:20 pm (SNF)
  • Location: Levi's Stadium
  • 2023 record: 12-5
  • Series record: 20-19-1, 49ers lead

"Here we go again." - DMX

It's pretty clear the NFL is thrilled that this age-old rivalry is back in full effect, and it could kick up another notch in 2024. As of late, the 49ers have had the Cowboys' number like a leaked lottery ticket — both in the playoffs and in the regular season. The thing about it, in my opinion, is that Dallas had a chance to win those contests but simply folded in the face of that competition.

Cheers to hoping they've gotten that out of their system this time around, because the 49ers are taking a lot of pride in what they view as bullying the Cowboys into submission.

And the fact they're coming off of their bye week means they will have had two weeks to get ready.

Something to consider is that Mike Zimmer isn't one to succumb to bullying and, hell, his style of coaching should better prepare the Cowboys for what they'll again face in Santa Clara — especially when you look at how the newly-hired defensive line coach labels himself a "loose cannon" and, trust me when I tell you this, he's not joking when he says that.

Jeff Zgonina is serious business and looks every bit the perfect casting for the latest installment of "The Terminator" movie series, also a decorated former collegiate lineman and Super Bowl winner in his time playing for the [St. Louis] Rams.

And he was also responsible for how problematic the Commanders' defensive line has been since the turn of the decade.

This is the exact demeanor the Cowboys' defensive front must adopt to combat Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey, and the secondary has to against George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. With so many weapons offensively, and so much swagger to boot, the only way to take down the 49ers and end their recent ownership of the Cowboys is to punch them squarely in the mouth … but for four quarters.

The Lions shocked them with physicality and turned the bully into the bullied, but didn't do it for 60 football minutes; though the blueprint is out there now. All Dallas has to do is follow it.

And that includes making sure the Cowboys' offensive line, running game and Prescott are ready to do some serious damage. If Goff and the Lions can put them on the ropes, so can Prescott and the Cowboys but, again, there can't be a moment of chill until the clock hits all zeroes.

Week 9 (A) - Atlanta Falcons

  • Date: Sunday, Nov. 3
  • Time: Noon CT
  • Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
  • 2023 record: 7-10
  • Series record: 17-11, Cowboys lead

Adrian Clayborn can't hurt you anymore, Dallas.

Mark yourself safe from that memory.

Putting the "Burning of Atlanta" further into the rearview, the Cowboys can focus on the current task at hand and that's to send the hounds at quarterback Kirk Cousins to see how the soon-to-be 36-year-old who is coming off of a torn ACL is capable of in the face of extreme pressure. This is, of course, assuming first-round pick Michael Penix is still a backup at this point in the season, or if he's rattled Cousins' cage by then.

Cousins is a fairly familiar opponent for the Cowboys, seeing as the two sides have met on a laundry list of occasions — during his time with the Commanders and then the Vikings.

Allow me to invoke the name of Zimmer once again here, because not only does Cousins have a record of only 2-9 against the Cowboys, but the aging QB will also be tasked with outsmarting his former head coach. Zimmer knows every weakness of Cousins, even ones the Cowboys didn't know until now.

That's a tasty morsel to wrap your mind's palate around, indeed.

I won't pretend the Falcons are devoid of talent, and one look at their depth chart will give you a glaring indication as to why it will not be a cakewalk in the A to start the month of November. Cousins will have the assistance of Bijan Robinson at running back, Kyle Pitts at tight end, and both London Drake and Rondale Moore (remember him from the 2023 loss in Week 3 to Arizona?) to test the Dallas defense.

This feels like a matchup the Cowboys can exploit by getting off to a fast start to both demoralize a mostly unsettled and unproven Falcons' defense, turning the scoreboard into the 12th defender against Cousins — making him become a superhero, if he can.

Week 10 (H); Week 17 (A) - Philadelphia Eagles

  • Date: Sunday, Nov. 10; Sunday, Dec. 29
  • Time: 3:25 pm CT; 3:25 pm CT
  • Location: AT&T Stadium; Lincoln Financial Field
  • 2023 record: 11-6
  • Series record: 73-56-0

Both sides of this rivalry will pretend all season long that they don't have this one circled on their little calendars hanging in their locker, but I'm not buying it. Both of these matchups will ultimately help shape the entire NFC East, as has been the case for a very long time now.

It was a case, in 2023, of home field being protected on both sides, the Eagles narrowly escaping with a win at The Linc before the Cowboys left an entire boot print in Philly's backside in the rematch at AT&T Stadium.

The latter was a part of the Eagles' late-season slide that cost them the chance at being the first to repeat as NFC East champs since they accomplished the feat in the early 2000s. And that brings me to the next point: it's exceedingly difficult to go back-to-back in this division, which doesn't bode well for the Cowboys.

That said, history only dictates the future if you allow it to change the present.

These are the two frontrunners for the division crown in 2024, as the Commanders undergo a full rebuild and the Giants continue to do whatever it is they're doing up there.

This time it'll be the Eagles visiting Arlington first, and that gives the Cowboys a chance to get an early leg up in the race, and it needs to be a healthy case of "rinse and repeat" from the last time they met — to the tune of a 33-13 victory for Dallas that saw them bottle up the rushing attack and Jalen Hurts' ability to get the ball consistently to AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith in situations that would have swung the game against the Cowboys.

But, but, but … they've went out and got reinforcements, and the biggest one is named Saquon Barkley (I told you we'd get back to that eventually). Barkley is still capable of breaking open games, but I'm not too concerned when you factor in his career record against the Cowboys.

It's 0-10.

Granted, he's with a different team now with different circumstances and a quarterback who is mobile. Wait, wasn't Jones mobile as well? OK, nevermind. But the Eagles offensive line … wait … didn't Jason Kelce retire? OK, nevermind.

So maybe, just maybe, the Cowboys have as solid of a chance at stopping Barkley, the Cheesesteak Version, as they did when he was playing in New Jersey (they do).

As for the defensive backs in Philadelphia, a lot has been thrown at trying to fix that problem but with James Bradberry still on the roster, consider it not fixed.

Find him and attack.

Fletcher Cox joined Kelce in retirement, so subtract that future Hall of Famer as well from this contest, though from the defensive side of the ball. Tyler Smith had Jalen Carter handcuffed and Mirandized in their first two matchups, and it feels as if — though the Eagles still have a strong defensive front — it's one that can be deleted or moved around by rookies like Guyton and Beebe who, at this point, will have several games under their belt and should be more comfortable in their NFL skin.

This should be fireworks … on both occasions.

Week 11 (H) - Houston Texans

  • Date: Monday, Nov. 18
  • Time: 7:15 pm CT (MNF)
  • Location: AT&T Stadium
  • 2023 record: 10-7
  • Series record: 4-2, Cowboys lead

Speaking of fireworks, the Texans have suddenly become a barrel of them.

The decision to select CJ Stroud last April paid off like Gangbusters, as did the decision to hire Demeco Ryans as head coach and then surround their young franchise QB with a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. What this means for the Cowboys is that they have their work cut out for them in the Battle of Texas, even though JJ Watt isn't running out of the tunnel — though Tony Romo's spin had something for the future Hall of Famer in yesteryear.

Ah, the memories.

Keeping to this season, however, it's a Cowboys' roster that, on paper as of May 15, isn't as robust as the one they field last year, and that presents question marks that will need to be answered before they take the field in prime time to try and keep the Texans at bay.

Stroud provides as much firepower on offense as Will Anderson does for the defense, and there are many more names I could mention here that would support the overall point that this will be, hands down, one of the most physically demanding games on the Cowboys' entire schedule.

A playoff team last season that will see the return of young explosive talent like Tank Dell on offense, will also feature the free agency additions of Danielle Hunter and Denico Autry on the defensive line to play alongside Anderson, who himself was a breakout talent in his first season as the third-overall pick out of Alabama.

So while Watt won't be taking the field anymore, Anderson most definitely will.

Stop me if you're sensing a theme at this point, but the Cowboys' offensive line better be ready for what awaits them in this contest. They'll have the skill set and, with Zack Martin, the experience to become a wall against Houston, so the name of the game is to have built enough chemistry amongst themselves throughout the weeks prior to allow them to simply play as a unit without having to think — already knowing each other's tendencies.

That will help keep Anderson and pass rush at bay, stress the corners against elite Cowboys' receivers and a 2023 MVP frontrunner in Prescott, and give Dallas the edge to protect home field against the invaders from South Texas.

Lastly, did I mention we might finally get the Diggs Bowl in 2024? It was derailed last season when Trevon Diggs suffered injury and was unable to battle his older brother, Stefon, and the Buffalo Bills.

The elder Diggs is now in Houston by way of a blockbuster offseason trade, and the younger Diggs is expected to be back in full force this coming season.

As I said: fireworks.

Week 12 (A); Week 18 (H) - Washington Commanders

  • Date: Sunday, Nov. 24; Jan. 3/4
  • Time: Noon CT; TBD
  • Location: FedEx Field
  • 2023 record: 4-13
  • Series record: 78-46-2, Cowboys lead

If only someone could make this rivalry more fun by say, I don't know, taking the defensive coordinator from one team and placing him on the other and then, hmmm, maybe plucking a starter from both the offense and two impact players from the defense; and then having that coordinator turned head coach successfully poach some defensive assistants for his staff.

Oh, wait, that happened in real life.

Dan Quinn is now the head coach of the Commanders, and he signed center Tyler Biadasz and defensive ends Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler away from the Cowboys in free agency, but not before he convinced Joe Whitt Jr. and Shariff Floyd to join his coaching staff in Washington, also attempting (but failing) to steal Al Harris away before Dallas promoted him to assistant head coach beside Mike McCarthy.

The stage is set for combat here, and there's still a sour taste in the mouths of many Cowboys fans regarding Quinn following the defensive collapse against the Packers, to add more vitriol to the mix from those who'll be in the attendance at one or both games.

Quinn's house isn't completely in order to start the season, but it'll probably be a bit more polished by the time Week 12 rolls around. It was a sweep at the hands of the Cowboys last season, and convincingly so on both occasions, but a new quarterback in the nation's capital to throw the ball to Terry McLaurin (and rookie third-round pick Luke McCaffrey) sure does make things unpredictable this time around.

Jayden Daniels, the second-overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, is not only the reigning Heisman winner, but also the owner of a list of other accolades stemming from a sensational 2023 season at LSU. He will challenge the Cowboys' defense both with his arm and with his legs, not unlike Robert Griffin III did in his first year as a top pick for that club.

Shake his confidence early if there's to be a chance at forcing turnovers over the course of four quarters, and to force the Commanders into a run-heavy offense that, assuming the Cowboys have a … commanding … lead for much of the game, plays into McCarthy's and Zimmer's hands.

The defensive front in Washington isn't what it once was, and especially with some reported disdain between Jonathan Allen and the front office, but he's still there as this is being written so the combo of he and Daron Payne can still halt a rushing attack. But, as noted, Armstrong and Fowler have turned red coat, making for an interesting rep-by-rep fight of familiarity.

Again, and this will sound like an echo but, paging Beebe, Smith and Martin. These games will be won, or lost, in the trenches, and the team who establishes the most physicality early on will take the win.

Week 14 (H) - Cincinnati Bengals

  • Date: Monday, Dec. 9
  • Time: 7:15 pm CT (MNF)
  • Location: AT&T Stadium
  • 2023 record: 9-8
  • Series record: 10-4, Cowboys lead

Having played the Giants on Thanksgiving, this season will mark one of the rare occasions in which the Cowboys do not have to spin the block to take the field on consecutive Thursdays, and the Week 14 contest is also set for a Monday night.

This will give them a mini-bye week (11 calendar days between games) before welcoming the Bengals to North Texas, and that matters quite a bit at this point in the season — seeing as the actual bye week was a tad early (Week 7).

It's unclear what version of Cincinnati will take the field in Week 14, so let's assume it'll be the one that made a deep playoff run prior to Joe Burrow eventually suffering a season-ending injury in 2023. Burrow will be back on the field in 2024, and with a whole lot to prove, and not simply because of his massive contract that was awarded to him pre-injury.

Nope, it's because Burrow has heard all of the chatter about his he can't consistently stay on the field and lead his team, so you can bet he'll have on his big boy pants when he catches the flight to Texas in early December.

Ja'Marr Chase being his biggest weapon, the two are a touchdown machine, and it's a good thing that, by this point, Diggs should be his normal self after return from injury. A fully healthy Diggs will combine with Bland on the opposite side and Lewis at the nickel to make for a long day for Burrow, but not if the defensive line can't get into his personal space early and often.

Do that and good things will happen for the defense, including shrinking time of possession by hopefully getting off of the field on third down and that also means avoiding costly penalties that extend drives.

There are obviously Bengals' players to account for on defense, e.g., Trey Hendrickson and Logan Wilson, but Cincinnati goes as Burrow and Chase go. It's a defense that, while solid with some really good playmakers, allowed nearly 23 points per game in 2023 (21st in the NFL).

Contain Burrow and take advantage of what the defense will give them both on the ground and in the air, and it should be an enjoyable fifth (!!) prime time outing for the Cowboys.

This is December, when playoff seeding becomes top order, so both teams will likely leave nothing on the field; nor should they.

Week 15 (A) - Carolina Panthers

  • Date: Sunday, Dec. 15
  • Time: Noon CT
  • Location: Bank of America Stadium
  • 2023 record: 2-15
  • Series record: 11-3, Cowboys lead

Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones won't hold another press conference in Carolina this year, so there should be no reason to miss the start of this particular contest. That might go for Cowboys' players as well though, as it also felt like they weren't tuned into the game at completely either, at least at some points.

It took them a while to understand that while Bryce Young and the Panthers were not nearly on their level in any regard, that they also weren't going to simply bend the knee to the visiting Cowboys.

The run defense suffered blow after blow and just enough to let Young gain some confidence that he should've never had in the first place, and the Cowboys let the Panthers believe they could mount a comeback before finally outsourcing them 16-0 in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good.

I'd expect that lesson to carry over to this next battle in Charlotte, against a Panthers' team that believes they've reloaded and shook off the poor first year led by Young.

They added rookie first-round pick Xavier Legetter at receiver to help Young get going in Year 2 and, defensively, signed Jadeveon Clowney away from the Ravens after a strong showing in 2023; making him a defender to key in on in Week 15 as the Cowboys try to keep Prescott clean and work to carve open run lanes for the committee of running backs.

This is a winnable game for the Cowboys, but then again so are all of them (against you too, San Francisco), though when looking at it all contextually, this isn't one you would remotely put in the same atmosphere as the Browns, Ravens, Eagles, Texans, etc.

So maybe, just maybe, it's the rare "trap game" everyone is always worried about.

There is always one waiting just around the corner, after all.

Week 16 (H) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Date: Sunday, Dec. 22
  • Time: 7:20 pm CT (SNF)
  • Location: AT&T Stadium
  • 2023 record: 9-8
  • Series record: 13-6, Cowboys lead

While Derek Carr and the Saints were doing all they could to try and grab the NFC South crown in 2023, it was Baker Mayfield having a resurgent first season with the Buccaneers and instead leading Tampa Bay to the throne in that division — a pleasant surprise for that organization in the post-Tom Brady/Bruce Arians era.

Mayfield has since signed on to remain with the Bucs for the foreseeable future, and he'll lead the pirates into AT&T Stadium looking to plunder the booty (no Didd- … nvm).

The best way to keep this from happening is to take Mike Evans out of the downfield formula and the good news is the Cowboys have both the plan and the personnel to be able to do just that. And that will also mean trying to bottle up speedster Chris Godwin but, again, you've gotta love that the Cowboys have not one, but two record-setting shutdown corners that teams must contend with.

And when Godwin operates from the slot, the physicality of Lewis could disrupt his route timing which, if there's also pressure on Mayfield from Parsons and Co., will lead to the Bucs' quarterback throwing interceptions — history has shown.

I am interested to see what rookie fourth-round pick Bucky Irving can do, an Official 30 visit of the Cowboys who had a very, very good shot at landing in Dallas if they had a fourth-round pick to use, as Irving tandems with Rachaad White in the Tampa Bay backfield.

Or rather I should say I'm interested to see if the Cowboys' run defense will permit the first-year back to try and make Dallas regret not making a move to get him in April.

There's plenty of firepower on the Bucs' defense, led by Vita Vea's animalistic ways up front and a backfield still headlined by Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr., with Lavonte David patrolling the middle of the pack.

Keep an eye on former third-round pick Yaya Diaby as well, considering he broke out as a rookie pass rusher to the tune of 7.5 sacks in 2023.

It's a Bucs' offense that ranked 20th in the league in points scored per game (20.5), but a defense that ranked seventh in the NFL in points allowed per game (19.1), so the obvious is staring the Cowboys in the face.

Figure out how to make Todd Bowles' defense tap out, and an offense that hasn't been lighting up the scoreboard in Tampa will have to suddenly figure out how to do so.

And on a field where the Cowboys almost always do.

Let your record predictions fly, folks.