Now that we are fully engaged in looking forward for the 2020 Dallas Cowboys, it’s always an offseason ritual to check in on the team’s strength of schedule. The NFL is very formulaic in how they create the schedule of opponents for each season. For those who need a reminder for the Cowboys schedule:
Six games home/away in the division (NFC East)
Four games against teams from another (NFC) division that rotates each year
Four games against teams from another (AFC) division that rotates each year
Two games against the other (NFC) conference divisions based on previous year’s finish (first vs. first, second vs. second, etc.)
That schedule of opponents is the third-easiest schedule based on 2019 win percentages in the NFL (117-138-1 (.459)). Only the Baltimore Ravens (112-144 (.438)) and Pittsburgh Steelers (117-139 (.457)) have easier schedules than Dallas.
Of course, part of the reason for that easy schedule is the fact that the NFC East is such a terrible division right now. The Eagles won it at 9-7, and Washington and New York were horrible last year. That’s also similar to the reason the Ravens and Steelers have such easy schedules, the AFC North, outside of the Ravens, was not very good.
So you have the Cowboys playing 10 of their 16 games against the NFC East and the AFC North. That makes for the easy schedule.
As we’ve learned from the past, strength of schedule doesn’t always hold up as some teams that were bad in 2019 will suddenly become good, and teams that were good in 2019 will drop off.
For evidence of how quickly fortunes can change in the NFL, check out what our own OCC noted about strength of schedule for the Cowboys heading into the 2017 season.
The Cowboys’ 2017 opponents finished the 2016 season with a combined 134-118-4 record for a .531 winning percentage (if we count each tie as half a win), one of the toughest schedules they’ve faced over the last decade. Overall, that .531 SOS is the 10th “toughest” schedule.
Part of that tough schedule is driven by the six divisional games the Cowboys will play against the 11-5 Giants, the 8-7-1 Redskins, and the 7-9 Eagles. Part of it is also driven by the Cowboys having to play the AFC West, which combined for 38 wins in 2016, one less than the league-leading NFC East. And having to play a first-place schedule, which entails games against the 11-5 Falcons and 10-6 Packers, does the rest.
Did you catch that? For the 2016 season, the NFC East had combined for the most wins in football at 39. In 2019, the NFC East notched 24 wins, easily the worst division in football. Fortunes can change quickly in the NFL.
As for last season, David Howman covered that.
Besides the teams in the AFC North, the Cowboys are the only other team in the NFL that have to play both the Patriots and Rams in 2019. Thanks largely to that fact, the Cowboys have the most difficult strength of schedule in the NFC East (Ranked 14th hardest overall). Making things worse for the Cowboys is that the Eagles (26th), Giants (T-27th) and Redskins (32nd) have three of the easiest schedules heading into 2019.
Last year, the Cowboys strength of schedule was .504, this year it is .459.
As for their NFC East compatriots, Philadelphia is 25th at .482, New York is 26th at .482, and Washington is 28th at .465.