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Eatman: Schedule Doesn't Look Any Easier Than Past; Team Is Just Better

As soon as the schedule started to circulate around on Tuesday, the opinions at Valley Ranch seemed to be the same.

Sure, there are some tough teams on the schedule, like both Super Bowl participants, along with the Packers on the road, but we knew about all of those games coming in.

But from start to finish, it all looks rather manageable and had several people nodding with approval, as if to suggest the Cowboys should be in good shape. I've heard some 11-5 predictions already and even a 13-3.

But to me, it's not because of the schedule. It's because of the team.

The schedule might look a tad easier this year because this Cowboys football team just showed us last season that it's a better team than we've seen in the past.

That happens when you go 12-4, win a playoff game and come within a clarification-needing NFL rule of advancing to the NFC Championship Game to face a team they had already beaten.

The arrow is pointing up here in Dallas, and that's why it seems like there is much more optimism around the schedule.

It's not because the order looks great. December is still December and the Cowboys have three games in the month that should be really cold – at Washington, at Green Bay and at Buffalo.

The Cowboys start off the season with a home opener with the Giants and then a road matchup with the Eagles. The Falcons at home shouldn't be a huge problem, unless of course the Cowboys still have some cornerback issues and Atlanta's big receivers get rolling.

But then it's a road game with the Saints, followed by the world champion Patriots coming into town, fresh off a bye.

And yeah, it's been brought to my attention that both the Eagles and Patriots will get to face the Cowboys after a bye week, and the Seahawks and Packers get 10 days off before playing Dallas.

How concerning is that?

Maybe in other years you would be, but the Cowboys have to be past all of that now. They just went 8-0 on the road last year and arguably outplayed the Packers at Lambeau Field in the road playoff game.

Bye weeks and extra rest and all of that shouldn't matter anymore. At least that's what head coach Jason Garrett has told us time and time again. No excuses, right? He doesn't let his team fall into that trap and neither should anyone else.

I'm not saying just because the Cowboys went 12-4 last year that it's going to be the same this year. No way. We know better than to assume that. The 8-8 train could rear its ugly head once again. That's what happens when you have a bunch of superstars like the Cowboys have. A few injuries here and there and the lack of depth will come back to not only bite this team, but devour it.

So anything can happen. But when you glance at this schedule, it's easier to pencil in double-digit wins for the Cowboys because of their success on the road.

Games at the Giants or Redskins, or the trips to Florida for the Dolphins and Buccaneers aren't as scary. Even playing at the Superdome on Sunday night doesn't seem insurmountable.

And just think, the Cowboys really don't even know who their starting running back is for 2015. Sure, it could be Darren McFadden, but we all think there's going to be a draft pick in the first three rounds. That guy will probably be the starter at some point.

That's how comforting this offensive line is, coupled with the fact that Tony Romo, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant are going to make this offense dynamic again.

The running back isn't even settled, yet no one seems too concerned.

Again, that was the feeling here in 2008 after the Cowboys went 13-3 and we all know what happened that year. Some of the worst losses in franchise history occurred and the team went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Then in 2010, coming off an 11-5 season and a playoff victory, the Cowboys went 1-7 to start the year and saw Wade Phillips get fired before finishing 6-10.

This league is structured for teams to rise and fall, which makes teams like the Patriots even more impressive. And we're going to see Tom Brady and his crew on Oct. 11 at AT&T Stadium. But just like that one and any other game, the Cowboys seem to be built to win these.

So I wouldn't say the schedule looks any more favorable than previous years. It's the team itself that looks to be pretty good – on paper, on course.


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