With no sports on the calendar for the foreseeable future and with The Last Dance now over. (Really, what are we supposed to do now?) We either read everything about how sports could possibly come back or how hard it will be for that to safely happen, or we look at the NFL schedule more than we ever have before and talk ourselves into why this is the year our team puts it all together. (Let’s be honest, all of us are doing both of those things.)
And in the spirit of staring at the Dallas Cowboys schedule way too much, I am going to give you my way too early predictions for each game of the regular season. The scope of the overall schedule will be taken into account, like bye weeks or extra or short rest because of a Thursday night games. I will point out some key match ups to watch along the way as well. Let’s get to it.
Week 1 – Cowboys @ Rams
Week 1 the Cowboys get to open the Rams fancy new stadium in LA. If this was a normal offseason and the new coaching staff had all of training camp and OTAs to get their playbooks worked in and position battles all sorted out, I would quickly put a W for the Cowboys. When there is a short offseason or major changes happen, there is something to be said for continuity, which the Rams have a quite a bit of. Aaron Donald lining up over a new center and possibly new LG scares me, but I think the Cowboys overall roster talent, and someone letting Kellen Moore actually run with the play calling, gets them the win. If the Cowboys lose this one, I would not be surprised at all, but I am going to say a win to start to start the Mike McCarthy era 1-0.
Week 2 – Falcons @ Cowboys
Week two the Boys are back home and again the new coaching staff has to play a factor to an extent. The defense has 2 new DTs. Who knows what happens at the DE sports across for Demarcus Lawrence and then you factor in the loss of their #1 CB. There are just so many moving pieces with the shortened offseason to assume they will beat teams they are more talented than early on; however, I think they get the win here as well. I do think it will be closer than many expect because Matt Ryan is a very good quarterback and you can’t ever count out a good QB. Side note, how much fun is it that Ceedee Lamb will probably have AJ Terrell matched up on him at some point in this game? 2-0 on the season.
Week 3 – Cowboys @ Seahawks
Now it gets interesting. A trip to Seattle in week 3, if there are no fans in the stands or a limited number this game is a lot less daunting, but Russell Wilson is still the QB for the Seahawks and if Pete Carroll would let him cook for a full 4 quarters, this team would be truly scary. The defense is a shell of itself from the Legion of Boom days, but they are still well coached and can make plays. This is a winnable game for the Cowboys, but with or without fans in the stands, I think this is where the Cowboys get their first loss of the season. It should be a good game, it usually is when these two teams get together and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Boys come out on top, but I think it’s just too much Wilson for the remade Cowboys secondary. 2-1
Week 4 – Browns @ Cowboys
The darlings of last off season, the Browns, come to town in week 4. It will be interesting to see what the Browns offense looks like under Keven Stefanski and how his style meshes with Baker Mayfield. They fixed their biggest weakness this offseason with two new OTs and they added another playmaker in Austin Hooper. The Browns are once again not short on talent, but the same questions remain. Can they put it all together and will Baker take that step forward? This is going to be another test for the Cowboys secondary and by now they should have an idea of who the guys are going to be, If Trevon Diggs is going to start, who of the CBs will make the move to safety, etc. The talent across the board is relatively even in this one and both have new coaching staffs this year and when in doubt I would go with the better QB, in this case that’s Dak. I think the Cowboys pull this one out and have a 3-1 record a quarter through the season.
Week 5 – Giants @ Cowboys
Next up are the G Men, which if it wasn’t for the Jason Garrett subplot might not be a lot of fun. The Giants are bad. Daniel Jones looked almost exactly what I expected him to look like his first year. Their o-line should be better, but they don’t exactly have playmakers outside of Saquon Barkley and almost their whole defense is a question mark besides safeties who can play in the box, they have that locked down. Reading the report that the Giants offense will run a very similar offense to what Garrett ran in Dallas makes me feel even more confident that the Cowboys get a big win here and move to a very nice 4-1 record early on.
Week 6 – Cardinals @ Cowboys
Then the Arizona Cardinals come to town. It will be a bit of a homecoming for Allen product Kyler Murray. He has won a lot of big games at AT&T stadium, in high school and in college. Kliff Kingsbury and Murray have a new weapon in DeAndre Hopkins and once again the remade Cowboys secondary should be tested. By this point in the year we should have an idea of the CB rotation and just how multiple this new defense will be. Even though the Cardinals should be a fun team to watch with that offense and do it all defensive playmaker Isaiah Simmons, the Cowboys are the much better team. BUT I don’t see this Cowboys team coming out of the gate going 5-1. I do think it is 100 percent possible they win this game and continue that blistering start, but I think they drop two in their first six games and I am going to pick this one. Outside of Hopkins there is no matchup that I see causing massive issues for the Cowboys, it comes down to they will drop a game they should win because the NFL never goes exactly how it should or how we think it should. I think the Cowboys start their season 4-2 with one loss that makes us all sit there and say how did they lose that one.
Week 7 – Cowboys @ Redskins
The Cowboys get back to division play with a game against the rival Redskins. How much fun is it going to be watching that Skins defensive line going against the Cowboys O-line for years to come? Seeing what Ron Rivera does with all those former first rounders, especially Chase Young is going to be interesting and could give the Cowboys some issues, but the Redskins just don’t have a ton of offensive talent and a lot of questions on their offensive line. Is Dwayne Haskins going to be their long-term answer at QB? This team is very early in the rebuild stage with a few exciting young pass rushers. I think the Cowboys get back to their winning ways and get a big win in D.C. That gives them a 5-2 record on the year.
Week 8 – Cowboys @ Eagles
On the first day of November the Cowboys travel to Philly for one of the games that will most likely decide the division. This is one of the first times we could see the schedule come into play. The Eagles play a Thursday night game the week before so they will have more time to prepare for the Cowboys to come to town. How the Eagles secondary plays will go a long way toward not just deciding this game but their whole season. Their struggles to cover last year were well documented and I don’t know if you have heard but the Cowboys added arguably the best receiver in this year’s draft to an already loaded receiving corps. The talent on these two teams is definitely close and it is going to come down to these two teams for the division. Because of how the two teams matchup though, I like the Cowboys more head to head. I think this one will be close and the Cowboys could definitely come out of the City of Brotherly Love with a W, but with the Eagles having that extra rest and preparation time and having that crazy crowd behind them (possibly), I think the Eagles win the first of two crucial matchups to drop the Cowboys record to 5-3.
Week 9 – Steelers @ Cowboys
The Steelers come to Dallas to renew the old rivalry. What will Big Ben look like coming back from injury as he nears the end of his career? That question will probably define the Steelers season. No matter how good and talented a defense is, a defenses performance almost always varies greatly from year to year. It’s going to be up to the La’el Collins to make sure taking Taco Charlton over TJ Watt doesn’t haunt them in this game and watching him work against Collins will be a fun one on top of being a big part of deciding this game. IF Big Ben is back close to himself, extending plays and breaking tackles in the backfield, he could test the secondary as well. I could see the Steelers taking this one on the back of their defense and a couple big plays from Big Ben, but something about coming home after a loss to a division rival makes me think the Cowboys are going to come out guns blazing and we are going to start to really see what this offense is going to look like. I’m picking the Cowboys to get the win, moving to 6-3 and go into a much-needed bye week with a win.
Week 10 – Bye Week
Week 11 – Cowboys @ Vikings
The Cowboys will head far north to take on the Vikings and Mike Zimmer’s always well coached defense. This game last year was a heart breaker, where Dak had a victory taken from him by his own coaching staff with the play calling down the stretch. The Vikings will be coming off a short week having played the Bears on Monday night, with the Cowboys coming off the bye. Mike McCarthy had a record of 9-4 coming out of bye weeks as the Packers head coach. The most interesting match up to me will be Zimmer’s defense and defensive play calling against Kellen Moore’s calls. If the Cowboys were on normal or short rest taking on the Vikings, I would take the Vikings to take home the win, but I think that extra week of preparation will be just what the Cowboys need to come out of the bye week with a win and move their record to 7-3.
Week 12 – Redskins @ Cowboys
Next the Redskins come to town on Thanksgiving and there isn’t much more to break down about this opponent. It will be interesting to see how Haskins has developed and what that defense is looking like under Rivera. Young going against Tyron Smith should also be a fun watch the second time around, but I still think the Cowboys take this one easily and continue their strong season, 8-3.
Week 13 – Cowboys @ Ravens
This is one you have circled on your calendar the second the schedule was released. The Cowboys will travel to take on reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and that high-flying Ravens offense. The Ravens also played on Thanksgiving so these two teams will be on the same amount of rest for this Thursday night game. The Ravens got better this offseason too. Adding Calais Campbell in a trade and Patrick Queen in the draft are huge gets for an already great team. This game is going to come down to containing Jackson, which is possibly the hardest thing to do in the NFL right now, and that duty will fall mainly on the linebackers, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. LVE is coming off an injury plagued season and Smith did not play up to the contract he was given before last season. If those two, along with some help from General Sean Lee, want to get back to being considered one of the best LB corps in the game, there isn’t a better way to do it than containing Jackson. But I don’t think they can do it. I do think this will be a close game, but I don’t see the Cowboys defense making enough stops to win this one and that drops them to 8-4 on the season.
Week 14 – Cowboys @ Bengals
On to Cincinnati. This is going to be one that’s fun to watch for any college football fan. After what Joe Burrow did last year, it is going to be interesting to see how much translates quickly to the NFL. I think Mike Nolan is going to give opponents a lot of different looks on defense and how well Burrow reads and reacts to that will determine how close this game will be. I think this is one the Cowboys should win rather easily, but they can’t sleep on that Bengals offense. Burrow, AJ Green, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon should be able to put up quite a few points this season. I think the Cowboys are just too talented and have an advantage in the coaching matchup. (That second part of the sentence is still fun to say after a decade of Garret. That will move the Cowboys to 9-4 on the season.
Week 15 – 49ers @ Cowboys
Another big match up to see just how real of a contender the Cowboys are in 2020. The reigning NFC champs will come to AT&T stadium as the season starts to near the end. Getting Trent Williams at LT is probably an upgrade for the 49ers. Replacing Deforest Buckner with Javon Kinlaw, one of my pet cats in this last draft, should be a seamless transition. Kyle Shannahan remains the best play caller in the NFL and watching his offense with all the motion and misdirection going against Nolan’s defense will be a great coaching match up to watch. The Cowboys LBs will get another big test in covering George Kittle on top of dealing with that 49ers running game. Unless this 49ers team has a serious Super Bowl loss hangover, I think this one will be an L for the Boys, which drops their record to 9-5 on the season.
Week 16 – Eagles @ Cowboys
The Cowboys will wrap up their season with two straight division games and the first of those two may well decide the division. The Eagles come to town and there isn’t much else to say about this matchup. It will be interesting to see how Jalen Hurts is integrated into their offense and how much he is used on a game to game basis to give teams a different looks. I gave the first matchup to the Eagles in a close one and with this on in Big D, I think the Cowboys take it. And if the season goes the way I have drawn it up in this column, then that win would most likely have clinched the division for the Cowboys and punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 10-5 record.
Week 17 – Cowboys @ Giants
With the division wrapped up the final game, a trip to face the Giants, could have a very different feel. There is a chance an 11-5 record could be good enough for a first-round bye, not likely, but possible. If that is within reach the Cowboys starters will probably play in this game, if they are locked into that 3 or 4 seed then the starters may spend this one on the bench, but unlike in years past, the Cowboys have a good back up QB in Andy Dalton. If the Cowboys bench their starters, I still think there is a chance they come out of the Meadowlands with a win, if the starters play, this one is definitely a W. So, I am going to pick a win here to give the Cowboys an 11-5 record on the season and a division title.
When I first saw this schedule, my thoughts were somewhere between 10-6 and if everything breaks right 13-3, so going game by game and having them come in at 11-5 seems right. There are a ton of moving parts to an NFL season and offseason, so who knows what any of these teams will actually look like toward the end of this season because of trades and injuries. But I do know if the Cowboys finish with a record about 11-5 with a division title and a trip to the playoffs, most Cowboys fans will be happy about how that part of the season shook out, then we will see what the McCarthy coached Cowboys can do in the playoffs. Yeah, I’m talking about the playoffs.