So, the 2018 NFL schedules were officially announced tonight. As you might guess, fans of every team across the league are already arguing why it’s their team’s year. From having players return from injury or suspension to having a supposedly “easier” schedule, there are fans everywhere saying this is the year that they make a run.
The Cowboys are sitting in a unique spot.
In 2016, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott took the league by storm as rookies. The one-two punch caused headaches for opponents and defensive coordinators each Sunday and everything was rolling. This past season, however, went the exact opposite. Zeke’s suspension, Tyron Smith’s and Sean Lee’s injuries, and other factors resulted in a disappointing season that has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Still, the Cowboys finished with a 9-7 record.
The Cowboys now enter the 2018 season with lots of question marks. How hot is Jason Garrett’s seat? Can Dak bounce-back? Can Zeke, Tyron, and Lee stay on the field? Who steps up at wide receiver?
If the Cowboys are going to get back to the playoffs, this is the stretch of games that will prove to be why.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. We have no idea in April who will be good in November.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) April 20, 2018
But man. That stretch of @ Philly, @ Atlanta, Washington, New Orleans, Philly looks bru. tal.
Week 10 Dallas @ Philadelphia (8:20 PM ET NBC)
This is the first of the two battles between America’s Team and the defending Super Bowl champions. It will also be the third time Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz battle in a game that matters, as Dak and Wentz are both 1-1 in games that the other is either not resting or is hurt.
This game will likely have big implications on the NFC East race. The Cowboys would have already had meetings with the Giants (week two) and Washington (week seven), while the Eagles have a week six meeting with the Big Blue. The primetime Sunday Night Football matchup will feature the past two division winners, the two star quarterbacks from the 2016 rookie class, and fierce rivals looking to make a statement.
If the Cowboys can avenge last year’s embarrassing week 11 loss by getting a win on Philly’s home turf, things will be looking up in a big way for the silver and blue.
Week 11 (Nov 18): Dallas @ Atlanta (1 PM ET FOX)
Things don’t get any easier the next week. The Cowboys play yet another playoff team on the road, as Dallas returns to Mercedez-Benz Stadium with a showdown with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and the Falcons.
The picture above accurately tells the story of last year’s meeting. The Cowboys entered the game without two of its biggest stars: Ezekiel Elliott was serving the first game of his six-game suspension and Tyron Smith was out with his back injury. Then, Sean Lee went down early in the first quarter. So...yeah.
Chaz Green replaced Smith at left tackle, and all that did was allow Adrian Clayborn to have the game of his life. In addition to Clayborn’s six sacks (he had three sacks for the 15 other games in 2017), the Falcons’ defense lived in the backfield and Dak was on his back much more often than not.
Can the Cowboys — hopefully now with Zeke, Tyron, and Lee — get payback for how last year’s game went? This will play a big role in how the Cowboys’ season goes. A big road win over a playoff team would do wonders for this team.
Week 12 (Nov 22): Washington @ Dallas (Thanksgiving, 4:30 PM ET FOX)
Following back-to-back road games against two of the six 2017 NFC playoff teams, the Cowboys return home for Turkey Day. Dallas plays host to bitter rival Washington in front of a national audience as families everywhere gather around the television while eating their feast.
The Cowboys swept the team from D.C. last year and that the Cowboys are 3-1 against Washington in the Dak Prescott era. Two years ago, Dak accounted for 234 yards and two touchdowns while Zeke added 97 yards and two scores on the ground in a tight 31-26 victory over Kirk Cousins and company on Thanksgiving. This time around, Alex Smith will play in AT&T Stadium for the first time while wearing burgundy and gold.
Let’s hope it goes like the last time he played in Arlington.
Week 13 (Nov 29): New Orleans @ Dallas (8:20 PM ET FOX/NFLN)
After (hopefully) completing a second consecutive sweep over the team from Washington, the Cowboys play yet another primetime game — this time against the New Orleans Saints.
Drew Brees and company will visit AT&T Stadium for the first time since 2014, when the Cowboys sent them back home with a 21-point loss. The Saints are coming off a season in which they took home the NFC South crown, but ended the season in heartbreaking fashion.
This matchup will be the first time that Dak Prescott, a Haughton, Louisiana native, gets to go head-to-head with his home-state team. How will Dak and Zeke perform against the young and talented Saints’ defense after three consecutive games against quality teams?
Week 14 (Dec 9): Philadelphia @ Dallas (4:25 PM ET FOX)
Finally, the Cowboys host the Eagles for their third straight home game. At this point, we will surely know just how big this game is. Will it determine who wins the division? Give one or the other a leg-up in the playoff race? Or will one of the teams find themselves struggling?
It’s obviously way too early to accurately predict that, but this looks to be a very important game as we sit here in April. These two teams have won the past two NFC East titles and both teams want to make a run in the playoffs. The optimist in me says that the Cowboys will be rolling at the right time and knock off the Eagles at home.
This game will be that much more important if the Cowboys have already dropped a divisional game or two; but nonetheless, both of these squads will be out to knock each other off come November.
What is your way-too-early prediction of this critical five-game stretch, BTB?
What will be the Cowboys’ record in these five games?
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