Given what we know about the NFL's scheduling formula, we can take a quick look at what the 2016 schedule could look like for the Cowboys.
In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys will play three home games and three away games against the NFC East; they will play four games against the NFC North and four games against the AFC North; finally, they'll play a team each from the NFC West and NFC South that finishes in the same spot in their division as the Cowboys will in the NFC East.
Per the NFL Record & Fact Book, the home and away matchups have also already been determined and are summarized in this table, with the current record for each team included:
|Intraconference||NFC South (
, 6-7)||NFC West (
So the only unknown teams for the Cowboys are the intraconference opponents from the NFC South and NFC West. If the Cowboys were to finish last in the NFC East, those two teams would likely be the Buccaneers and 49ers.
Earlier this year, the NFL announced that the Rams will "host" a game in London against the NFC East team that finishes in the same spot in the standings as the Rams do in their division. That game will take place on October 23 at Twickenham Stadium, a rugby stadium that will be hosting an NFL game for the first time. With two games left to go, the Rams have locked up the third spot in the NFC West, so unless the Cowboys win both of their remaining games, plus either the Giants or Eagles lose both of theirs, the Cowboys won't be traveling to London next year.
Based on this year's opponent W/L records, the Cowboys look like they'll have the tougher opponents on the road. Excluding the NFC East teams, the away opponents have a combined 35-35 record so far this year, while the home opponents have a 30-38 record through 14 games.
Also of note, the schedule contains six teams who currently hold one of the top 11 draft picks (2. CLE, 4. BAL, 6. SF, 7. DET, 10. CHI, 11. TB), so if the Cowboys (No. 5) miss out on your top target in the draft, there's a good chance you'll see your guy playing against the Cowboys next year.
Some more quirks of the schedule:
- It might feel like the Cowboys have to travel to Green Bay all the time, but this year was the first time since 2010 (excluding playoffs) that the Cowboys played at Lambeau Field. The Packers traveled to Dallas in their previous regular season game (Week 15, 2013) and beat the Cowboys 37-36 - with their backup quarterback Matt Flynn.
- The Packers, Steelers, and Browns all play in open roof stadiums. Watch for the NFL to schedule all three Cowboys games late in the year when it's cold, just because.
What are your thoughts on the 2016 schedule?