Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Cowboys' toughest stretch is the middle
By Calvin Watkins
The Dallas Cowboys normally have a killer of a late-season schedule.
Last season, the Cowboys went 1-4 down the stretch in December/January, including losing the regular-season finale at the New York Giants with a playoff berth on the line.
This season, the Cowboys' hardest part is the middle.
From Week 6 to Week 10, spanning mid-October to mid-November, the Cowboys have road games at Baltimore, Carolina, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
The Cowboys must handle this section of their season because if not it could have lingering effects the rest of the way. Following the bye week Oct. 7, the Cowboys visit the Baltimore Ravens, who have produced 27 home victories, the second-most in the NFL since 2008. The next week, the Cowboys visit Cam Newton and the young and up-and-coming Carolina Panthers.
Here's where it gets tricky.
On Oct. 28, Dallas hosts the New York Giants, who are 3-0 at Cowboys Stadium. Yes, undefeated and undisputed and depending on how the season-opener goes in East Rutherford, N.J., the Cowboys can't afford to go 0-2 in the NFC East before November.
After hosting the Giants, the Cowboys visit the Atlanta Falcons. Guess what? The Falcons are 26-6 at the Georgia Dome since 2008. Oh yeah, one more thing. The Falcons game is Sunday night. The Cowboys have lost their last seven Sunday night games.
The rough patch ends Nov. 11 at Philadelphia. The Cowboys have won games there in the past, but not last season, where they were swept by the Eagles.
This is a five-game stretch where the Cowboys have to go at least 3-2. It seems difficult given the home records of Atlanta and Baltimore. It's one thing to finish badly, but the meat of your schedule is just as important. In October, quarterback Tony Romo has a lifetime record of 7-9. In November, Romo is 19-2.
There is some good news though. After this five-game stretch, the Cowboys will play five of their last seven games at Cowboys Stadium, including three consecutive home games.