Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Strength of schedule: Dallas Cowboys
By Todd Archer
IRVING, Texas -- If the Dallas Cowboys are going to make a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, they might have to do most of their damage on the road in 2014.
The Cowboys' away opponents had a .461 winning percentage in 2013. That is tied for the 26th-easiest "road" schedule with the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants. The only teams the Cowboys play away from AT&T Stadium in 2014 that finished last season with a winning record are the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks (13-3).
The Chicago Bears were 8-8. The St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans went 7-9 and the Jacksonville Jaguars finished 4-12.
But -- and there's always a but -- the Cowboys have not had a winning road record since 2009, when they went 5-3. The Cowboys were pasted at Soldier Field in 2013, 45-28. The Cowboys were 0-3 against new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt when he coached the Arizona Cardinals. The Cowboys will play the Jaguars at London's Wembley Stadium.
Why do the Cowboys need to play better away from home? The visitors to AT&T Stadium are tough.
Excluding the New York Giants (7-9) and Washington Redskins (3-13), the only team coming to Arlington later this year that had a losing record in 2013 is the Houston Texans (2-14). The Texans have a new coach in Bill O'Brien and are sure to have a new quarterback, but last season might have just been a down year, not a downturn. Talent remains on that team, and a quick turnaround is more than possible.
The Cardinals (10-6), San Francisco 49ers (12-4), Indianapolis Colts (11-5) and New Orleans Saints (11-5) round out the home schedule.
Find the "gimme" win there. Arizona might be the easiest, but Bruce Arians deserves a ton of credit for what he did in 2013. The 49ers might be the toughest team in the NFL. The Colts have Andrew Luck, and we saw what the Saints did to the Cowboys last year in a 49-17 win.
And -- and there's always an and -- the Cowboys have not exactly turned their $1.2 billion stadium into a fortress. Since posting a 6-2 mark there in the stadium's first year (2009), they have not finished better than 5-3 since.