Dallas Cowboys 2011 Schedule Release: Initial Thoughts, Analysis
The 2011 NFL schedule was just released, and the Cowboys’ looks as follows:
- Week 1: @ New York Jets
- Week 2: @ San Francisco 49ers
- Week 3: Washington Redskins
- Week 4: Detroit Lions
- Week 5: Bye
- Week 6: @ New England Patriots
- Week 7: St. Louis Rams
- Week 8: @ Philadelphia Eagles
- Week 9: Seattle Seahawks
- Week 10: Buffalo Bills
- Week 11: @ Washington Redskins
- Week 12: Miami Dolphins
- Week 13: @ Arizona Cardinals
- Week 14: New York Giants
- Week 15: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Week 16: Philadelphia Eagles
- Week 17: @ New York Giants
In my opinion, the order of these particular opponents is about as difficult as could be for Dallas. That isn’t to say the Cowboys’ schedule is the most difficult in the league, as they get to play the AFC East, NFC West, and the third-place teams in the NFC South and North (along with each division opponent twice, of course). The 13 specific opponents could be more challenging, but the current order of these teams does the ‘Boys no favors.
It is so crucial to begin the season hot to develop a sense of confidence and an identity as a team. The Cowboys came out of the gate stumbling in 2010, and they were never able to rebound. Year in and year out, the teams that are there in the end are so often those that began the season on fire.
Of course, ending the season on a roll is important as well. Even if you do get into the playoffs, it is near impossible to make a run if you take a losing streak into the postseason. It is the first quarter and the final quarter of the season that really play so much of a factor in determining a team’s ultimate fortune.
The Cowboys’ initial four opponents are not incredibly difficult, but the first two games are on the road. The first contest is against a deadly Jets team on Sunday night in the Meadowlands. The Cowboys will go into that game as an underdog, and it will be played on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. You know the Jets and their fans will be pumped for that one. After that game, the Cowboys then must travel across the country to play the Niners. Of course no Week Two game is a “must win,” but you sure don’t want to come home at 0-2 to face a division rival.
The Cowboys’ also have another early bye, this time in Week Five. I think most players prefer a late bye because it allows players to heal up during the middle of the season. Instead, the Cowboys will have 12 straight weeks of football before (hopefully) heading into the playoffs.
Luckily, the Cowboys have only one true cold weather game late in the season. Unfortunately, it comes against the New York Giants in Week 17. There could be a whole lot on the line in that one, and it sure would be nice to have it in Big D. Instead, the Cowboys will finish their regular season in the same overrated stadium in which they will start it.
That contest against the G-Men marks a horribly difficult four-game stretch to close out the regular season. The Week 17 matchup against the Giants will actually be a rematch of a Week 14 game in Dallas. Sandwiched between those two are a trip to Tampa and a home game against the Eagles.
The cumulative 2010 record of the Cowboys’ 2011 opponents is 129-127, putting them right in the middle of the pack in terms of difficulty. The Cowboys also once again have the maximum six nationally-televised games: three Sunday night games against the Jets, Eagles (first matchup) and Giants (first matchup), a Monday night game against Washington in Week Three, a Saturday night contest against Tampa Bay, and of course the Thanksgiving game, being played against the Dolphins this season.
Ultimately, the Cowboys will need to play far superior than they did in 2011, regardless of their opponents or the order of their games. If the ‘Boys come out playing their best game each week instead of worrying about the talent level of their opponent, their season will end somewhere other than where it begins.