The Dallas Cowboys will find out their official schedule on Thursday night. Until then, we’ll look at the opponents on the docket and discuss the outlook.
Each year the release of the NFL schedule is highly anticipated. It isn’t quite the spectacle of the NFL Draft, but in some ways, it is just as important to a team’s upcoming season. An easy schedule can make it, a hard schedule can break it. That applies to the Dallas Cowboys and for each of the other 31 teams in the league.
For those unfamiliar with how NFL scheduling works, it’s actually a fairly simple formula. Each team plays their divisional opponents twice each. On top of that they play each team from a division within their conference. They also play each team from a division in the other conference.
To round out the schedule, they’ll play the two remaining teams from their conference that finished in the same rank within their division from the previous season.
With the logistics settled, let’s start examining each team that is on the Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 schedule as it’s set to be official on Thursday night.
Aug 12, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; MetLife Stadium in the first half of the Miami Dolphins at the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
NFC East Rivals
Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world noting can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” He mostly got that right, but he forgot to include one thing. Really, it’s death, taxes, and yearly games against the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.
The NFC East will feature some of the Dallas Cowboys’ greatest competition. The New York Giants are coming off a playoff campaign, and have strengthened their receiving corps with the addition of Brandon Marshall.
The Giants defense gave the Cowboys offense fits last year, and with no real losses to speak of, Big Blue poses a viable threat to Dallas’ supremacy of the East.
Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins are coming off a heartbreaking third place finish that barely saw them miss the playoffs. However, the Redskins lost their top two receivers from a season ago, and haven’t made major additions besides poaching ex-Cowboys defensive tackle Terrell McClain.
Lastly, the Philadelphia Eagles are entering the second year of rebuilding after the Chip Kelley era, and will have a second-year signal-caller under center. Carson Wentz showed promise in his rookie season, and should improve in year two.
In addition, the Eagles added stud receiver Alshon Jeffery, who should provide them with a viable threat. Behind the Giants, the Eagles are the next greatest threat to Dallas. As usual, the Cowboys will play one home game against each NFC East rival, and one away game against each.
September 3, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; General view of Levi’s Stadium with gold painted numbers at the 50 yard line to celebrate Super Bowl 50 before the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers. Super Bowl 50 will be held at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas Cowboys will play the NFC West as part of their NFC rotating division opponents. The NFC West consists of the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks and Rams will be home games, with the Cardinals and 49ers being road trips.
The 49ers and Rams are both in the middle of full rebuilds, and shouldn’t pose much of a threat to Dallas in 2017. On the other hand, the Seahawks and Cardinals are both going to be challenges.
The Seahawks possess probably the best all-around defense in the league, and one of its best quarterbacks in Russell Wilson. On top of that, the Seahawks have won at least 10 games every year since 2012. Seattle is guaranteed to be a tough game.
Arizona should prove to be a challenge as well. Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer had a down year in 2016, but is only two years removed from one of the best seasons of his career. The Cardinals have playmakers on both sides of the ball.
I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the Cardinals in 2017, but they aren’t a team the Cowboys should take lightly. It’s anyone’s guess how these games turn out, but the Cowboys should be able to hold their weight against the NFC West competition.
Jan 1, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; A general view of Sports Authority Field at Mile High in the fourth quarter of the game between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders. The Broncos won 24-6. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
For their AFC rotating division opponents, the Dallas Cowboys draw upon the AFC West. The Denver Broncos, Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. Dallas will travel to play Denver and Los Angeles, and host both the Raiders and Chiefs.
This is the division I am concerned about. Three of the four teams in the AFC West are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The Raiders were elite last year until Derek Carr suffered a broken leg. The Broncos defense makes them a contender. The offense will likely take a step forward with sophomore signal caller Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian having more experience.
The Chiefs are a bit of a wild card, but I like their chances to compete next season. Eric Berry has proven to be an elite talent, and possibly the best safety in the NFL. The Chiefs defense is solid heading into 2017. The lone question is again on offense. Is Alex Smith a quarterback capable of leading them to a Lombardi trophy?
The Chargers have talent, but they never seemed to be able to put it all together to win games in 2016. So far, nothing has indicated to me that anything will be different come this fall. I’m not saying they’ll be a pushover team, but I wouldn’t bet on them being fierce competition either.
I’m envisioning all four of these games to be tough, but hopefully the Cowboys will get some relief and not be forced to play them all in a short timespan.
Jan 14, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium prior to the NFC Divisional playoff between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
NFC Same Place Finishers
At this point, we’ve covered opponents for 14 out of the 16 games. Two left. The Dallas Cowboys will host the Green Bay Packers and pay a visit to the Super Bowl runner-up Atlanta Falcons.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume I’m not the only one who isn’t thrilled about being paid another visit by Aaron Rodgers and company. Especially now that Rodgers has another weapon in Patriots defector Martellus Bennett.
On top of having their hands full with the Packers, the Cowboys will also have to face reigning league MVP Matt Ryan. The Falcons should also be a formidable foe. They feature playmakers such as Julio Jones and the 2016 sack leader Vic Beasley.
At the end of the day, the Dallas Cowboys will play a very tough schedule in 2017. They will face six playoff teams from 2016. They’ll square off against the Defensive Player of the Year, Khalil Mack, three Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and the league’s most recent MVP.