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Roping In The Cowboys Schedule

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The Dallas Cowboys have stacked the pressure on themselves higher than ever before. Will the schedule do them any favors? Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.
The Dallas Cowboys have stacked the pressure on themselves higher than ever before. Will the schedule do them any favors? Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images.

Contrary to what the bravado of the NFL’s constituency implies, success in professional football isn’t solely defined by Super Bowl rings. Parity pervades NFL football like no other sport or league. There is no truer and more accurate sports cliché than “any given Sunday,” and the competitive realities of the sport do allow for other barometers of success.

Take the Cowboys and their one playoff victory in 16 seasons. If, for instance, they finished 10-6, won the division, made the NFC championship and lost in a respectable, choke-free game to the likes of San Francisco or Green Bay, who wouldn’t consider that a successful season?

Strength of schedule — at least when analyzed in April — is frequently derided as a valid indicator of wins and losses. But now that the 2013 lineup has been released, it makes for a convenient place to start the endlessly entertaining process of boundless speculation. Here’s a rundown of the good and not so good on the Cowboys’ 2013 docket. Check out the team's full schedule here

Toughest Game: Week 15 at home against Green Bay Packers.

A team’s road record seems like a logical jumping off point for this category, but Dallas is 16-16 in away games over the last four years, so forget that. Even with the departure of Greg Jennings, Green Bay’s explosive, pass-heavy offense already looks like trouble for a young and thin Cowboys secondary. Factor in other basic considerations — the timing, the Packers’ resume under Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy — and it’s impossible to downplay the enormity of this game.

Easiest Game: Week 13 at home against the Oakland Raiders.

Turkey Day dessert should be extra sweet this year. The Raiders have averaged six wins over the last five seasons: a period that has seen them shuffle through four starting quarterbacks, three head coaches and one despotic, if not colorful owner. They’re a dead-end franchise, and drawing such an opponent late in the season — in a home game played before a festive, charged-up crowd — is a huge plus.

X-Factor Game: Week 11 away against the New Orleans Saints.

New Orleans has maintained a special antipathy for Dallas since the Cowboys came to town in 2009 and disrupted the perfect season, then spent two years listening to intermittent rumors about Dallas courting Sean Payton. As the last game before the bye week, the bout with the Saints will be a night game in the “loudest place on Earth,” with playoff implications likely starting to take shape. Look out.

Toughest Stretch: Weeks 14 through 16 - at the Chicago Bears, home against the Green Bay Packers and away against the Washington Redskins.

The beginning of the season really isn’t the cakewalk it might seem. St. Louis is steadily improving in a cutthroat division, Kansas City now has Alex Smith and Andy Reid running the show and the Broncos are the early AFC Super Bowl favorites.

But recent history has made the phrase “Cowboys in December” borderline synonymous with “Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl”; it’s a time for unraveling and underperforming. The combination of a night game in Chicago’s outdoor stadium, followed by a visit from Green Bay and a divisional showdown on Robert Griffin III’s turf, portends another grim December.

Dallas Cowboys 2013 Regular Season Schedule

  • Week 1 - Sept. 8 vs. New York Giants, 8:30 p.m.
  • Week 2 - Sept. 15 at Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m
  • Week 3 - Sept. 22 vs. St. Louis Rams, 1:00 p.m.
  • Week 4 - Sept. 29 at San Diego Chargers, 4:25 p.m.
  • Week 5 - Oct. 6 vs. Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
  • Week 6 - Oct. 13 vs. Washington Redskins, 8:30 p.m.
  • Week 7 - Oct. 20 at Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00 p.m.
  • Week 8 - Oct. 27 at Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m.
  • Week 9 - Nov. 3 vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m.
  • Week 10 - Nov. 10 at New Orleans Saints, 8:30 p.m.
  • Week 11 - Bye Week
  • Week 12 - Nov. 24 at New York Giants, 4:25 p.m.
  • Week 13 - Nov. 28 vs. Oakland Raiders, 4:30 p.m.
  • Week 14 - Dec. 9 at Chicago Bears, 8:40 p.m.
  • Week 15 - Dec. 15 vs. Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m.
  • Week 16 - Dec. 22 at Washington Redskins, 1:00 p.m.
  • Week 17 - Dec. 29 vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00 p.m.