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.
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