Each year the NFL makes a big production about 'releasing the schedule' in April. But thanks to the NFL's scheduling formula, we already know 14 of the 16 opponents each team will face next year, just not when and in what sequence. And with that info, we can take a quick look at what the 2018 schedule will look like for the Cowboys.
In 2018, the Cowboys will play three home games and three away games against the NFC East; they will play four games against the NFC South and four games against the AFC South; finally, they'll play a team each from the NFC North and NFC West 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:
|NFC East||Eagles (11-2)||Eagles (11-2)|
|Redskins (5-8)||Redskins (5-8)|
|Giants (2-11)||Giants (2-11)|
|NFC South||New Orleans (9-4)||Atlanta (8-5)|
|Tampa Bay (4-9)||Carolina (9-4)|
|AFC South||Jacksonville (9-4)||Houston (4-9)|
|Tennessee (8-5)||Indianapolis (3-10)|
|Intraconference||NFC North||NFC West|
The only unknown teams for the Cowboys right now are the intraconference opponents from the NFC North and NFC West. If we assume that the Cowboys will finish second in the NFC East, those two teams will be the second-placed teams in their divisions.
In the NFC North, the Packers and Lions are currently tied at 7-6 and the next three games will determine which team will finish second in the division. With Aaron Rodgers likely returning this week, I like the Packers' chances a little better, which would put them on the Cowboys' schedule for yet another season.
In the NFC West, the Seahawks are are currently half a game out of first behind the Rams and look like the likely opponent for the Cowboys, though with three games left, that opponent could also end up being the Rams or even the Cardinals.
There could be a few interesting twists lurking in this schedule:
- There will be five games played in London next year. According to NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood (via ESPN), there’s a desire to have London host the six teams in 2018 that haven’t played overseas yet. Those six teams are the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, and Tennessee Titans. The Cowboys have away games scheduled against four of those six teams (PHI, CAR, HOU, and potentially SEA). Could that mean America's Team plays in London next year? The Cowboys would certainly be a big draw.
- They might be an even bigger draw in Mexico City, where the NFL will also play a game next year. Could the Texans host the Cowboys in Mexico?
- DeMarco Murray will make his return to AT&T stadium with the Titans next year. That should make for some interesting discussions about the value of the running game in Dallas and Ezekiel Elliott's chances at a second contract.
- The Jaguars, with Barry Church and Jalen Ramsey patrolling their secondary, will also visit Dallas. Should provide a great opportunity for some hindsight grandstanding about Zeke vs Jalen.
- Going strictly by the records of the 14 confirmed opponents through Week 14 of the 2017 season, the Cowboys face a tougher schedule at home than they do on the road, which is probably how you want it. The away opponents currently "only" combine for a 42-49 record (.462 strength of schedule) while the home opponents combine for a 48-43 record (.527 strength of schedule).
What are your thoughts on the 2018 schedule?