IRVING, Texas – The schedule was just released Tuesday night, but it's already been dissected up and down this week, highlighting key moments such as the opener, the finale, Thanksgiving Day and everything in between.
The writers of Dallascowboys.com weighed in on their initial thoughts of the schedule, pointing out the positives, negatives and a few things to watch out for during the 2015 campaign.
Rob Phillips:Each year for the last decade we've immediately pointed to the December schedule for two reasons: The Cowboys had a disturbing habit of stumbling down the home stretch, and, in their partial defense, their final month was usually stacked with division and elite opponents. This year fans should have less angst for two reasons: The Cowboys cruised through December undefeated last year, proving this group can excel in high-leverage situations; and this year's December lineup looks cold but not miserable. Two games against the Redskins, based solely on last year's standings, are more favorable than facing the Giants or Eagles. The Jets and Bills don't have elite quarterback play. Green Bay does, and that's probably the toughest matchup on the schedule based on stakes, venue and Aaron Rodgers. But hey, Dez caught it, right?
Bryan Broaddus: In the last three seasons both the Seahawks and Patriots have lost a total of 12 games each. The Seahawks have lost 10 of those games on the road while the Patriots have suffered defeat nine times away from Gillette Stadium. I feel like that the fact that both New England and Seattle have to make trips to AT&T Stadium is a welcomed break, considering what the Cowboys might have had to deal with if it was the other way around.
Nick Eatman:There were a lot of good things that came out of the schedule. That happens when your team is supposed to be pretty good and expected to win a lot of these games. Not that this team didn't prove last year how successful it could be on the road, but the Cowboys showed they can be pretty good at home, too. To open the season and close the season at home vs. NFC East opponents is a plus, especially considering the Giants and Redskins usually don't overflow the stadium with visiting fans. So the Cowboys should have a true home-field advantage to open and end the season when creating a buzz and finishing the fight make for meaningful games.
David Helman:It's hard to predict what the NFL landscape is going to look like in April, but the back end of this schedule certainly *looks *favorable on paper. The Cowboys get both of the Super Bowl teams and the four toughest division games out of the way in the first half of the season. In the second half, they play eight games against seven opponents that went a combined 46-65-1 in 2014. From Nov. 15 until the end of the season, Dallas only plays two 2014 playoff teams, Carolina and Green Bay. Three of the Cowboys' last seven opponents – Tampa Bay, Washington and the New York Jets – have top-10 picks in next week's draft.
Rob Phillips:The defense's early-season matchups without Greg Hardy. If his 10-game suspension stands, consider the offenses they'll face with no upgrade to the pass rush at this point in the offseason: two doses of Eli Manning, who usually brings his "A" game against Dallas; Chip Kelly's innovative scheme twice; Matt Ryan, a top-15 quarterback in the league; future Hall of Famers Drew Brees and Tom Brady; and a Seahawks offense that added a downfield element with Jimmy Graham.
Bryan Broaddus: Even before the news of Greg Hardy and his suspension, I was worried that he was going to miss games when the Cowboys played some outstanding quarterbacks. If he had been suspended just the first six weeks of the season he would have missed Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Now if 10 games is in fact the punishment, add Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill to that list as well. That doesn't help a defense that struggled to get any type of pressure in 2014.
Nick Eatman:This might fall under the nitpicking category, but arguably the three toughest matchups on the Cowboys' schedule next year will all get more rest than Dallas leading up to the game. The Cowboys face New England coming off its bye, and will play host to Seattle and travel to Green Bay in the last two months of the season. Both the Seahawks and Packers play on Thursday night the previous week, giving them 10 days of rest. To make it worse for the Green Bay trip, the Cowboys play on the road that previous Monday in Washington, giving them just six days to prepare for the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year. Also, the Eagles come to the Cowboys in Week 9 after a bye week.
David Helman:When I looked at the list of 2015 opponents and saw road trips to Green Bay and Buffalo, it seemed like a certainty that one of them would come in the late, cold months of the season. I was honestly pretty surprised to see that the NFL opted to send Dallas into the cold for both games. It's not the end of the world, given the ground-and-pound identity the Cowboys have established, but it's still not great. On top of that, the division-heavy schedule to start the season is at least slightly concerning. Four of the Cowboys' first eight games are against Philly and New York, who should be the primary competition for the division title. Dallas can't afford a sluggish start.
Watch Out For:
Rob Phillips:This year's critical Thanksgiving stretch is structured much more favorably than last year when the Cowboys caught the red-eye flight home from New York and lost to the Eagles on a ridiculous three days' rest. This time they've got a noon game at Miami, which will get them home at a decent hour Sunday night, followed by Carolina on Thursday, followed by an unofficial second bye week. They don't play again until the Dec. 7 Monday night matchup with Washington 11 days later.
Bryan Broaddus: The month of December. This team was outstanding in 2014 down the stretch in those tough make-or-break playoff games. Tony Romo was brilliant and the secondary held up their end of the responsibility. After the stretch with road games in Washington, Green Bay and Buffalo, you will have a good idea if this team is ready for the playoffs or will once again be on the outside looking in like it has in the past.
Nick Eatman:I think that season opener is going to be a really tough game. Just remember how good Odell Beckham Jr. was down the stretch last year. Sure, he had the best catch ever, but he was dominant in the other games, too. With the world watching, the Giants will come into AT&T Stadium and give the Cowboys a really tough game. With the Eagles looming in Week 2, this one against the Giants will be crucial to get off on the right foot. The Giants always play the Cowboys tough in Arlington, and I think this one will be no different.
David Helman:Last year the Cowboys played a Sunday night game in New York the week of Thanksgiving, which meant they got back to Dallas at roughly 4 a.m. Monday with three days to prepare for a hot Philadelphia team on Thursday. It was a scheduling tweak that outraged plenty of people. This year should be slightly more manageable, as they play an early game in Miami on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. That means the Cowboys should be back at home by 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. Sunday night, giving them a bit more time to rest and prepare for the Thanksgiving game against Carolina. It's a minor detail in the grand scheme of things, but I bet it's a change Jason Garrett is happy about.