On Thursday night, the NFL released schedules for all 32 teams. A handful of teams were given extremely difficult slates, while others got lucky with softer schedules. The Dallas Cowboys, coming off of their 13-3 season in 2016, were dealt a tough hand thanks to a schedule littered with playoff teams and five primetime matchups.
On Friday’s episode of “Undisputed,” Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe broke down Dallas’ schedule and predicted the Cowboys’ record for next season.
Matthew EmmonsMatthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas' holes on defense make this a hard schedule
"This looks like a hellaciously hard schedule to me, given all the holes remaining on defense for my Dallas Cowboys. I don’t have any idea how those holes will be plugged. In the draft, will they land a defensive end starter, a safety starter or a corner starter? Will they trade for Richard Sherman? I don’t know. But right now, I look at at Denver, at Arizona, at Atlanta, at Oakland, with home games against Aaron Rodgers, Kansas City, Seattle on top of all those NFC East home and away games."
USA TODAY SportsRobert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys have one advantage over the Giants
"Here’s the point about doing this, and I’ve done this many, many years on national TV. It’s April 21, and invariably we will look at these schedules and say, ‘Uh-oh, uh-oh or gimme, gimme, gimme,’ and it’ll be upside down. A year from today we’ll look back at and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know they were going to be that good. I didn’t know they were going to be that bad.’ Because one year ago I looked at last year’s Dallas Cowboys schedule and I saw Cincinnati, at Green Bay, at Pittsburgh, Baltimore, at Minnesota, and I thought, ‘Lord have mercy, that’s hellacious hard.’ And guess what, those games I just named became part of an 11-game winning streak by a fourth-round rookie quarterback. Were all those teams a little worse than I thought they were going to be? Maybe so, you could argue that. Dallas became better with Dak Prescott than I thought it was going to be. Even though I loved the Cowboys before the season started.
"But the Cowboys do have one advantage before I get to their schedule: On paper, the best team in the NFC East – we both agree – is the New York Football Giants. Do you realize the New York Giants drew the short straw here because they have to play four teams coming off a bye – four times they have to play a team that’s going to have two weeks to get ready for them. That’s advantage Dallas, I would say."
Dallas will go 11-5
"It’s going to be Dallas vs. the Giants for the top of the East. So I’m going to give the Cowboys a slight advantage there, but depending on how those holes are plugged on the defense I’m going to be conservative on April 21: I’m going to say that Dallas will have the best offense in pro football, and I hope that will cover for mostly a below-average defense as it did last year.
"So, right here, right now on April 21 I’m going to go Dallas 11-5. I’m going to say objectively they’re going to lose five games."
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They will lose these five games next season
"My five losses are … I’m going to give you at Denver. I think it’s tough coming off the big Giants Sunday night game, big emotional opener at home. … And then they go to Denver and they lose at Denver. The other losses, I say they’ll lose at Washington. They have been really good against Kirk Cousins, but surely he can beat them once at home, which he has had a hard time doing.
"And then at Atlanta, I think it’ll be potentially a shootout, and I’m going to give Matt Ryan that game. And then at the Giants, I’ll say they split this year, so I’ll give the Giants their game at home. And then the closing game is at Eagles, and I’m going to give the Eagles one because I do respect what they had on defense, and I do think they’ll be a little better since they’ve added a couple receivers, a couple weapons for Carson Wentz. So I’ll give them their home game. So I’ll say the Cowboys lose their three road division games to go 11-5, and I still think it will be good enough to win the NFC East."
Bob DonnanBob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Expectations are high
"The No. 1 thing that gets in the way of teams are expectations. The expectations were lowered last year because when Tony Romo got hurt they were going to turn to a rookie quarterback. No one saw that he would be able to play as well as he did. Not only did he play well, there were games when he played great. Now the expectations are to play that way game in and game out moving forward. You are the unquestioned starting quarterback of the football team, you are one of the leaders of the team. I would not be surprised if in his second year he doesn’t have one of those "C's" on his jersey. So expectations are going to be amped up, and the teams have had an entire offseason to study Dak Prescott, to study this offense and the way Scott Linehan likes to call plays. It’s always difficult, so we are going to see if Dak Prescott will have a sophomore slump."
They won't win 11 games
"The defense, I agree with you, Skip. They haven’t made any moves on defense. You lost your four starting defensive backs. You lost Jack Crawford, and you haven’t replaced those guys. … Do I believe they can go in the draft and find three guys that’ll be starters on that defense? No. Now, maybe if you are willing to part with that 28th pick for a Richard Sherman. Maybe you call New England about Malcolm Butler, see if they want to let him go. I think the Giants (win the division) because their defense comes back, and I think the upgrade of Brandon Marshall over Victor Cruz makes them formidable because they have a guy who not only can play inside, he can play outside the numbers. … Skip, looking at (Dallas’) schedule, that’s five playoff teams, six playoff teams, 10-6. I was leaning toward 9-7, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. They’re not winning the division, and they’re not getting to 11 wins. We can go ahead and bet some Dew on that right now."