The schedule has finally been released. The Cowboys will play their first-ever 17-game schedule, featuring nine road games and eight at home.
Here are the initial thoughts from the staff writers as they get a first look at the schedule.
Mickey Spagnola: While some might search for the soft-belly of the Cowboys 2021 schedule, let's go here with the most challenging part. From Nov. 21 through Dec. 19, the Cowboys must play four of those five games on the road: at Kansas City, at New Orleans, at Washington and at the Giants. And one of those, against the Saints, is a Thursday night game, and New Orleans is never a good place having to play a night game no matter what day of the week it is. Plus, the final three of those four road games are consecutively. Tough road. And this makes it even super tough. Once again, because of playing host to the Raiders for the annual Thanksgiving Day game, the only home game during that five-game streak, the Cowboys will be playing three games in 12 days, and again two of the three on the road: Nov. 21 at Kansas City; Nov. 25 Raiders and then Dec. 2 at New Orleans the following Thursday night. Also during this five-game span, the Cowboys will be playing three division champs: Kansas City, New Orleans and Washington, the AFC champion Chiefs and a Saints team advancing to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs before losing to the Bucs. Got it. That's all enough to grow hair on a team's chest or possibly determine which way the season goes.
Nick Eatman: There's a lot of talk about who the Cowboys are starting the season with, who they're ending with and of course, that brutal stretch around Thanksgiving. To me, I'm looking for areas this team can really excel, or in other words, better excel. Give me Weeks 3-5 – all at home – as a crucial part in the Cowboys' schedule that likely needs to have two, if not three wins. We never know how the schedule is fully going to play out, but after playing Tampa and then the Chargers on the road to start the season, it's Philly, Carolina and the Giants at home before a trip to New England. The Cowboys need to win those three home games. They all seem winnable and it'll help them out in the division as well, especially since it's the only two division games until December. That's a stretch that has to be won by the Cowboys.
Rob Phillips: My first impression is the first two games: back-to-back road trips (on opposite coasts, no less!) to open a season for the first time since 2012. That's a tough beat, especially considering the opponents. Which leads to my second takeaway: the quarterbacks. "The GOAT" Tom Brady in Week 1 followed by rising star Justin Herbert in Week 2. The Cowboys finally avoid Drew Brees but catch Patrick Mahomes on the road four days before Thanksgiving, a matchup they won't see again until 2025. Cool. Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, Kyler Murray – the defense will be challenged quite a bit. All that said, we have no idea how the matchups will truly look for months. And if the Cowboys are an improved football team (health willing, they should be) then it doesn't really matter who they line up against – they'll present problems for opponents week to week, too.
David Helman: Do you think the NFL has a decent idea of the most likely teams to win the NFC East? It sure feels that way when you see the Cowboys and the Washington Football Team slated to play twice in three weeks – with both games coming in the final month of the season. Sure, Dallas does wrap up its season with a road trip to play Philadelphia, but the Cowboys will get their first shot at the Eagles all the way back in Week 3. Similarly, the Cowboys will host New York in Week 5 before the eventual Dec. 19 return date. Backloading this Cowboys-WFT series to December seems to send a very clear message, to me anyway, that the league expects these two to be fighting for the division in the home stretch of the season. And what a fun tie breaker that might be.