Dallas Cowboys: 2012 Cowboys schedule

Dallas Cowboys schedule analysis

April, 17, 2012
Breakdown: The Cowboys are always a prime-time draw, and while they have only one "Monday Night Football" game on ESPN (Oct. 1 against the Bears), NBC is putting them on in prime time at least three times. In addition to the Sept. 5 opener against the Giants, the Cowboys play Sunday night prime-time games Nov. 4 (at Atlanta) and Dec. 2 (at home against the Eagles).

The Cowboys got an early bye -- Week 5 for the second season in a row. Players generally don't like the early bye, since it's the last break for a long time, and I wondered earlier today whether teams that got the early byes last season would get later ones in 2012. Not the case. The Cowboys will have played just four games before they take their week off.


Based on the schedule, what will be the Cowboys' record in 2012?


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And their first two games are on the road, as I will discuss in greater detail below, but that means the Cowboys' home opener won't be until Sept. 23, at 1 p.m. ET against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They don't see their traditional rivals from Washington until very late, but the first Redskins-Cowboys game of the year will be watched by a lot of overstuffed people, as it's the second game of the day on Thanksgiving, Nov. 22.

Complaint department: After their Week 4 home game against the Bears, the Cowboys begin a six-week stretch in which they will have just one home game. They're off in Week 5, then play at Baltimore, at Carolina, home against the Super Bowl champion Giants, at Atlanta and at Philadelphia. That's a long stretch of time without the home fans getting a chance to see their team in person, and if those teams perform as expected, it could be a pretty tough stretch of opponents as well. The payoff is that five of the Cowboys' final seven games will be at home, but they can't love ending the season with a road rivalry game against the Redskins in Washington.

A travel break: The Cowboys' longest road trip of the season is to Seattle, but they get about as good a break as they could get on that one. Their game against the Seahawks will be in Week 2, following 10 days off after the Sept. 5 season opener against the Giants in New Jersey. If you're a middle-of-the-country team and you have to play in New Jersey and Seattle in consecutive weeks, the best you can hope for is that the first game is a few days early.

Cowboys Regular-Season Schedule (All times ET)
Week 1: Wednesday, Sept. 5, at NY Giants, 8:30 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Seattle, 4:05 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 1, Chicago, 8:30 PM
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Baltimore, 1:00 PM
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at Carolina, 1:00 PM
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, NY Giants, 4:15 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, at Atlanta, 8:20 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Philadelphia, 4:15 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 22, Washington, 4:15 PM
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, Philadelphia, 8:20 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, at Cincinnati, 1:00 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, Pittsburgh, 4:15 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, New Orleans, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Washington, 1:00 PM

A look at Cowboys' schedule breaks

April, 17, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Based on last year’s results, the Dallas Cowboys' 2012 schedule is tied for 11th most difficult in the NFL, but there are some breaks if you dig a little deeper that might help a team that has not made the playoffs in three of the last four years.

Here are five observations:

** To me, the toughest part of the schedule runs Oct. 14-Nov. 11 when the Cowboys play four of five games on the road (Baltimore, Carolina, Atlanta, Philadelphia) and three of the five against playoff teams from a year ago (Baltimore, Giants, Atlanta). That’s why it's imperative the Cowboys open the first quarter of the season with a 3-1 record. While an Oct. 7 bye week isn’t the best, having it leading up to a tough game at Baltimore is a plus. That could be a good break for the Cowboys.

** Once again the NFL did the Cowboys a favor with the Thanksgiving scheduling. The Cowboys host Cleveland on Nov. 18 before playing Washington on Thanksgiving. Just out of fairness, the NFL should make the Cowboys travel the week prior to their holiday game, but it’s only happened twice in the last 10 years. And the Cowboys get 10 days off to prepare for Philadelphia’s visit to Cowboys Stadium following Thanksgiving. That could be a good break for the Cowboys.

** The Cowboys will be done with the Giants by October. That’s a little strange considering how the NFL likes to backload division games. Actually, the Cowboys are playing just one NFC East game in the last four weeks (Dec. 30 at Washington). The last time they had it that “easy” came in 2006. That could be a good break for the Cowboys.

** Sometimes it helps that the Rangers are the Cowboys’ neighbors. With the Rangers home Sept. 16, the Cowboys will play at Seattle, giving them 11 days off from the season-opener at New York and a trip to the Pacific Northwest. That could be a good break for the Cowboys.

** Will cold weather be much of an issue? Perhaps. The Cowboys are at Cincinnati on Dec. 9 and at Washington on Dec. 30. It could be cold and snowy in either spot. Or it could be comfortable. That could be a good break for the Cowboys.

2012 schedule: Five key games for Cowboys

April, 17, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- The easiest way to make it to the playoffs in the NFL is to win the division, but that does not figure to be easy for the Cowboys, considering the improvements the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins made and the presence of the defending Super Bowl champ New York Giants.

Two of the five key games the Cowboys face in 2012 come from the division in part because of what type of message victories would send. The other three come against playoff teams from 2011, in Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Atlanta.

Here goes:

Sept. 5 at NY Giants: The Cowboys opened and closed last season at MetLife Stadium, losing to the New York Jets and Giants, respectively. They get to open 2012 there on a Wednesday night against the Giants. A victory would not eliminate the odor of last year’s collapse, but it would put the Cowboys in the proper frame of mind in a first quarter of the season where they must finish at least 3-1. As they walked out of the stadium following the 31-14 loss to the Giants in January, the Cowboys promised the sting of losing out on a divisional championship game would motivate them throughout the offseason. They get an early chance to show just how much it will.

Nov. 4 at Atlanta: The Falcons figure to be playoff contenders and are difficult to beat inside the Georgia Dome. Matt Ryan has yet to win a playoff game, but he does not get the same label as Tony Romo, who has one playoff victory and is derided by a lot of pundits. Ryan has a number of talented players around him on offense in Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner. The defense has some holes to fill to get to the offense’s level, and that’s how the Cowboys can return home with a victory. When you’re looking for tiebreaker advantages late in the season, games like this are a must, as is the Week 4 meeting vs. Chicago.

Dec. 2 vs. Philadelphia: By the end of last season the Eagles were the best team in the NFC East, even if the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl. Philadelphia was doomed by a slow start, but they lit up the Cowboys twice in 2011. There was a pronounced difference in speed between these teams a year ago. I’m not sure LeSean McCoy was tackled up at Lincoln Financial Field. Romo was bounced after the first series from the rematch at Cowboys Stadium with a bruised hand because of the speed of Jason Babin’s pass rush. As has been the case around here for more than a decade, the Cowboys’ success depends on how they fare in December. With extra time to prepare for the Eagles following Thanksgiving, the Cowboys could be in position to kick off December with a win.

Dec. 16 vs. Pittsburgh: The Steelers are among the AFC’s big boys and the Cowboys have to show they can hang with the big boys, especially late in the season. In 2008, they went to Heinz Field needing a win and were dealt a 20-13 loss, thanks to a fourth-quarter collapse. The last time the Steelers visited the area came in 2004, and their fans took over Texas Stadium. You can only imagine the number of Pittsburgh fans that will be inside Cowboys Stadium for this game, and the $1.2 billion stadium has hardly been a homefield advantage for the Cowboys.

Dec. 23 vs. New Orleans: Sean Payton will likely be watching this one from his Westlake home because of his year-long suspension due to Bountygate. It would’ve been juicier had Bill Parcells taken over for Payton, but the former Cowboys coach chose to remain retired. But Drew Brees will be there and so will the Saints passing game. The Cowboys’ secondary fell apart at the tail end of 2011, contributing to a playoff-less season. The Cowboys changed coaches (Dave Campo out, Jerome Henderson in) and players (Terence Newman out, Brandon Carr in) just for these occasions. In 2009, the Cowboys won a late-season game against an undefeated Saints team and turned around their season at the Superdome. They might need to do that again at Cowboys Stadium in 2012.

Cowboys' toughest stretch is the middle

April, 17, 2012
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.

Cowboys' schedule soft around Thanksgiving

April, 17, 2012
The closest thing to a soft stretch in the Dallas Cowboys' schedule comes right after they finish their third set of back-to-back road trips over the first nine games.

After that, the Cowboys get three consecutive home games against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season.

They better beat the Browns, a team that went 4-12 last season and sorely lacks offensive weapons. Whether it’s Colt McCoy or rookie Ryan Tannehill under center, the Dallas defense should be able to rattle an inexperienced quarterback.

They’ll see another rookie four days later, assuming that Robert Griffin III is healthy when the Redskins come to Cowboys Stadium for Thanksgiving. As talented as Griffin is, he’ll be a rookie with no potent playmakers around him. That’s another must-win at home.

That’s followed by a home game against Philadelphia, which was arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL last season. The Eagles have plenty of weapons, but who knows if injury-prone Michael Vick will be healthy this deep into the season. Whether or not they face Vick, the Cowboys need this game if they plan to make the playoffs.

Cowboys 2012 schedule is released

April, 17, 2012
You knew about the first game of the Dallas Cowboys 2012 season, at the defending world champion New York Giants. Now here's the rest of the schedule. The Cowboys open the season on the road for the first two weeks for the second consecutive season. The Cowboys' opponents have a .504 winning percentage based on the 2011 won-loss records.

Here's the schedule.

Sept. 5 at New York Giants, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Seattle, 3:05 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. Tampa Bay, Noon
Oct. 1 vs. Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 bye
Oct. 14 at Baltimore, Noon
Oct. 21 at Carolina, Noon
Oct. 28 vs. New York Giants, 3:15 p.m.
Nov. 4 at Atlanta, 7:20 p.m.
Nov. 11 at Philadelphia, 3:15 p.m.
Nov. 18 vs. Cleveland, Noon
Nov. 22 vs. Washington, 3:15 p.m.
Dec. 2 vs. Philadelphia, 7:20 p.m.
Dec. 9 at Cincinnati, Noon
Dec. 16 vs. Pittsburgh, 3:15 p.m.
Dec. 23 vs. New Orleans, Noon
Dec. 30 at Washington, Noon

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