FRISCO, Texas –So the NFL finally released its 2017 schedule and immediately, fans coast to coast likely have the Cowboys' final record already pegged. Even though the opponents have been announced for months, there's something about seeing the full order of appearance that creates a level of excitement here in mid-April.
The writers of DallasCowboys.com are no different, each of them taking their own slant to what sticks out the most in the Cowboys' 2017 regular-season schedule.
David Helman:All of a sudden, the strength of the NFC East looms large – and the Cowboys are going to be up against it in the second half of the season. There's the obligatory Giants game to open the season, and there's a trip to Washington in late October. But that's it for the Cowboys' divisional rivalries in the first half of the season. Doing some basic math, that means four of the Cowboys' six division games will come in the second half of the season. It starts with a home game against Philly in mid-November, but there's also a primetime game at home against the Redskins. And of course, in the ever-important month of December, this team faces not one, but two divisional road trips – where it will more than likely be cold and miserable. This might not have seemed important in previous seasons, but the NFC East suddenly figures to be a heavyweight in the NFL playoff picture. The Cowboys and Giants are both coming off playoff trips, the Redskins narrowly missed a wildcard spot and the Eagles showed promise with a rookie quarterback. It doesn't seem likely that this is a division anyone is going to run away with. And with four division games in the final seven games of the season, the Cowboys are going to need to be firing on all cylinders down the home stretch.
Nick Eatman: We all look at schedules a bit differently, especially if it affects you. So having a home game on Christmas Eve was one of the first things I noticed and certainly appreciate that part of it. Then again, it's the only home game for the Cowboys in December so that might be problematic. Let's not forget the Cowboys were 6-1 on the road last year. (And yes, I'm excluding games where Sanchez played the entire second half). But while everyone wants to talk about December, let's not forget November. That's when teams start to really make a move in the standings one way or the other. The Cowboys have four of five games at home, starting with the Chiefs on CBS, which should be Tony Romo's first game to cover the Cowboys. But after a game in Atlanta, which will be entertaining, it's back home for three straight against the Eagles, Chargers and Redskins. If the Cowboys are hot, they have to chance to create some distance in the NFC East. And if they've struggled to that point, here's a chance to get back in the race. That stretch of home games could be huge.
Rob Phillips: Jason Garrett says it doesn't matter where you play – on the road, in the parking lot, on the moon – you've got to bring your best. That'll be the case this December, where Dallas plays three of its final four games away from AT&T Stadium: back-to-back games against the Giants (Dec. 10) and Raiders (Dec. 17) and a New Year's Eve finale at the Eagles. (In between is a Dec. 17 home game against Seattle.) The Cowboys were 6-2 on the road last year, counting the Week 17 loss at Philly when the starters sat most of the game. If they're indeed in the playoff race this December, the games look like they'll only get tougher – the Giants, Raiders and Seahawks all made the postseason last year – and that's typically how the schedule goes. Should get interesting when the weather turns cold.
Bryan Broaddus:The league did the Cowboys no favors with the first three games of the season when it comes to matching against defensive teams. The Giants were the one team on the schedule last season that were able to bottle up the Cowboys offensively not once but twice. The Broncos didn't defend their Super Bowl championship well but it wasn't the fault of the defense. Von Miller and company will be a stern test in the Mile High City in Week 2 where visiting quarterbacks have struggled to win. Like Denver - Arizona had its share of problems offensively but it also had issues as well on defense. I expect this will be one of the more physical defenses that the Cowboys face all season with the tremendous size that the Cardinals have in their front seven. We will know very quickly how good this Dallas offensive will be in these first three games.