Cowboys fans suffered a tough end to the 2011 season when Dallas couldn't find a way to win themselves the division; ultimately losing their playoff spot to the future Super Bowl champions. This year, the schedule seems tailor-made to again provide an action packed and emotionally tolling season...with an exciting finish with or without a happy ending. From the difficult first-half scheduled with away games and an early bye week to the scary line-up to finish off December, the Cowboys 2012 season appears destined for a climactic finish with a shower of tears of either joy or sadness come the Holidays. Whether remembered for a cataclysmic collapse, a gut-wrenching season finale, or a thrilling run by a young team hitting its stride, it seems certain the Cowboys 2012 season will be a memorable one.
This early in the year, season predictions are just as much rooted in personal opinions and hopes and fears as they are in rational deductions and analytic comparisons. Where one fan sees a difficult season with the opportunity for a hungry team to be tempered and strengthened by the heated competition, another may instead see an uphill battle for an unproven and often overhyped roster.
However, one thing's for certain. Come Week 10, the 2012 Cowboys will have finished a grueling gauntlet and shown their true colors. The stage will be set for this young team to prove whether it's responding as well as we all hope to the process and team culture under the Jason Garrett regime. Consider the following: The Cowboys won't play their home opener until Week 3, after facing the defending champs at their house on the East coast and then traveling to the West coast. After their first nine games in 2012, the Dallas Cowboys will have played six of their eight away games, half of their division games - twice on the road - and four games against 2011 playoff teams. It's quite conceivable that even playing well in tough games to start the season that the Dallas Cowboys find themselves struggling to stay above .500 by mid-season.
I believe it will be at this point, preparing for a three-game stretch at home - twice against division rivals - that the fate of the 2012 season will be written. If the Cowboys can continue to improve while they compete to stay above water by Week 10 and then put things together and grow confidence as they win games at home leading into December, they can conceivably get hot at the "right time." Proving they are ready to make a run in the playoffs when facing the Steelers and Saints in Dallas in late December and concluding the regular season by putting away the Redskins and donning the NFC East crown. Well...that assumes, of course, that things go well.
Follow the jump for a more detailed look at the Cowboys schedule and some more predictions...
I believe the 2012 Cowboys will learn a great deal about themselves in the first-half of the season. I expect their record will hurt because of it, but the team will become stronger for it. It is conceivable that the Cowboys play competitive and inspired football, but by mid-November find themselves with a 5-4 record. If things progress for the team and players continue to develop and prosper in Garrett and Ryan's schemes, I believe this team can then still manage to finish the season at 11-5 as division champs and go on to compete in the post season.
As a student of the game that also understands the incalculable variables that exist in an NFL season, I reserve the right to change my predictions as the year progresses and new evidence and random occurrences alter the known factors of the study. Until certain events transpire and more information is made available, here are my Pre-Preseason predictions for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys.
I expect there will be grumblings about this team for most of the foreseeable future. I expect the Week 1 matchup versus the Giants to be as painful as it is promising. While the Cowboys will put up a fight, the Giants' pass-rush could disrupt the offense enough to where they don't click on all cylinders in their first game, and while the defense and new secondary will be clearly better than last season, Eli will do enough to earn New York the win. Bruised and travel weary, the game against a young and feisty Seattle team will not be as dominant as we hope, but should still see the Cowboys fighting for their first victory of the season. The Cowboys will build some momentum wining two in a row after their home opener; however, a tough Bears team will force the Cowboys to go into their early bye week at 2-2. While the complaining will die down a bit after the Cowboys surprise a tough Ravens team at Baltimore, the dynamic Cam Newton will manage to scramble his way to a frustrating Panthers upset in Dallas.
But take a breath. As the team begins to look haunted by failures of the past, some of the evil spirits are put to rest heading into Halloween as the Cowboys win the rematch with the Giants at home and then follow it up with a road win versus the playoff worthy Falcons. Unfortunately, the Eagles will again frustrate Dallas fans as they win the first matchup in Philadelphia. At 5-4 heading into Week 11, the Dallas Cowboys will be on the hot seat, but I believe this will lead to some team defining victories as they begin to reap some of the fruits of their labors.
I believe the Cowboys will again become the toast of the town and media dynamite as they win out during their three-game home stretch and carry the momentum to go on and win five in a row and beat the Steelers at home to make it a December to remember (RADS - Romo Antagonizing Decemberists - beware). After a minor hiccup against an angry and war-torn (and suspension tormented) Saints team, the Cowboys cap off the regular season with an 11-5 record and the NFC East title while firing on all cylinders as they take over D.C.
I'm sure this seems overly optimistic to some, and I could very well end up thinking the same once the season commences. The greatest challenge to my current predictions will be the improvements made by our rivals in the Beast of the East, and the early season challenges for this young Cowboys team. But at this point, I have a feeling that the coaches and players in Dallas are the start of a promising future for the Garrett regime and new Ryan defense. It will be a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows, and the team and the fans will face an arduous journey and many tests of faith. But in the end, whether as a division leader or wild-card underdog, I foresee the 2012 Cowboys making the playoffs. From there, they should have the youth, hunger, and belief in themselves to make some noise and a run at the big show.
As football fans, we all take in vast amounts of information and analysis, and then blend it with our own fearful memories, high hopes, and deductive reasoning to come up with some predictions and expectations for our favorite team. It's thus no wonder there are so many varied opinions across the BTB community. Until proven wrong, everyone has every right to their own beliefs for what the future holds for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys. This was one man's ravings based on such a collection of evidence and gut feelings. What do you think?