Ed. note: There is a strong possibility the NFL will add a 17th game to the schedule starting in 2021. As of this point in time, we don’t know if that will happen, and how they will determine that extra opponent if it does happen. So until we get clarification on that, this article will deal with the the current 16-game scheduling process only.
Given what we know about the current NFL scheduling formula, we can take a quick look at what the 2021 schedule could look like for the Cowboys. In 2021, the Dallas 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 West; finally, they’ll play a team each from the NFC West and NFC North that finishes in the same spot in their division as the Cowboys will in the NFC East.
Each year the NFL makes a big production about ‘releasing the schedule’ in April, but even the home and away matchups have been determined way in advance. In addition to their divisional games, the Cowboys will host the Falcons, Panthers, Raiders, and Broncos. They will play away games against the Saints, Bucs, Chiefs, and Chargers.
So the only currently unknown teams for the Cowboys are the intraconference opponents from the NFC West and NFC North. If the Cowboys were to finish last in the NFC East, those teams right now would be the 49ers for the NFC West and the Lions for the NFC North.
All that info is conveniently summarized in the table below, with the current record for each team included:
|NFC East||Washington (6-7)||Washington (6-7))|
|New York Giants (5-8)||New York Giants (5-8)|
|Philadelphia (4-8-1)||Philadelphia (4-8-1)|
|NFC South||Atlanta (4-9)||New Orleans (10-3)|
|Carolina (4-9)||Tampa Bay (8-5)|
|AFC West||Las Vegas (7-6)||Kansas City (12-1)|
|Denver (5-8)||Los Angeles Chargers (4-9)|
|Intraconference||NFC West (San Francisco, 5-8)||NFC North (Detroit 5-8)|
As it currently stands, the Cowboys will have a fairly soft schedule overall, with just four of their 2021 games coming against teams that currently have a winning record. Unfortunately, three of those four games will be on the road (KC, NO, TB).
Going by the opponent combined W/L record through week 13, the Cowboys will face a fairly soft 40-63-1 record at home and a slightly tougher 54-49-1 on the road.
Also of note, the schedule contains seven teams that currently hold one of the top 12 draft picks:
- No. 4: Cowboys
- No. 5: Chargers
- No. 6: Panthers
- No. 7: Falcons
- No. 9: Eagles
- No 10: Giants
- No. 11: Lions
- No. 12: 49ers
So if the Cowboys 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.
And then of course, there could be that yet-to-be-determined 17th game. But before that happens, somebody from the league office will have to explain how exactly a 17-game schedule is going to work.
What are your thoughts on the 2021 schedule as we know it so far?