I believe that our first game at the Meadowlands will make or break our season.
We have a very difficult schedule. It includes 6 games against the Giants, Eagles, and Washington, but games against New Orleans, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Chicago, and Cincinnati. That's 12 very tough contests. @Seattle could also be rough. Cam Newton makes Carolina competitive. The "easiest" games are Cleveland and Tampa Bay.
If we start 0-1, the doubts will linger about our ability to beat quality teams and our chief NFC East rivals. We'd be looking at 0-4 against the Giants and Eagles again, with the real possibility that Washington also beats us at least once. We can't make the playoffs losing 4 or more NFC East games again.
On the flip side, if we start 1-0, the whole narrative for the season will change instantly. We will have a leg up on the Giants. We will have beaten a quality NFC East opponent, the Super Bowl victor from last year. We will have the chance to go 2-0 against NY, giving us a huge 3-game advantage against them, and helping us with other playoff tiebreakers. We will have won a tough road game.
I don't think this team is resilient enough to overcome another 0-1 start. It will look like another season of looking POTENTIALLY competitive, but not tough enough to beat quality teams when it counts.
But, give this team a 1-0 start over the hated NY Giants in the kickoff game when everyone is watching -- a game where the Super Bowl victor from the previous year is 8-0 -- and it has a chance to surprise.
I'm not going to call the game one way or the other. But I do think the season rides on its outcome.
Let me add a little history here to back up my claim about the importance to the Dallas Cowboys of winning that first game.
1. In the 8 times we have made the Super Bowl, the Cowboys have won the opener 7 times. The only time we lost was the year (1993) that Emmitt held out. So, if we want to make it to the Super Bowl, we need to win our opener. We don't have the Emmitt holdout excuse this year.
2. Did you know that Tom Landry carried a string of 17 years in a row of winning Cowboys openers? From 1965 through 1981. We didn't make the playoffs in 1965 (7-7) or 1974 (8-6), but we made it the other 15 years. 5 of those years ended with Super Bowl trips. So, during the period when the reputation of the Dallas Cowboys was made -- the sustained period of excellence no other team in sports has matched -- the Cowboys ALWAYS won their opening game.
3. Since 1960, the Cowboys have made the playoffs 30 times. We have won our opening game 25 of those years.
4. Since 1960, the Cowboys have failed to make the playoffs 22 times. We have lost our opening game 12 of those years. Once we began with a tie.
5. The Cowboys have won 10 or more games 26 times. They have won their opening game 23 of those times.
So, while it is theoretically possible for the Cowboys to have a successful season after losing their opener, THE ODDS ARE VERY STRONGLY AGAINST IT.
The Dallas Cowboys website has just put up this post making many of my same points, but adding some information on how important winning the first game is for all NFL teams.