It has been about a week since the National Football League released the schedule for the 2021. This season will mark the first in which NFL teams will play 17 games in the regular season which means that all of the inherent knowledge that we have had for so long is no longer quite as valid. Normally 10 wins has gotten teams into the postseason (not always, but generally speaking) but with an added game it is hard to know if 10-7 is going to be good enough to see teams playing deeper into January.
That is, of course, the goal for the Cowboys, to make the playoffs. Obviously we want to see them do more than just make the playoffs, but things have to start somewhere. The short-term goal is to get there and the long-term goal is to win the Super Bowl.
Where we sometimes tend to differ is in how practical any of these goals are for the Cowboys. Recently here at BTB we discussed how favorable things look for the Cowboys from Thanksgiving on, but really their schedule is fairly friendly from the jump.
What is it that makes the schedule feel not-so-intimidating from a Cowboys perspective? They will face three first-year head coaches in 2021, but that idea hasn’t exactly translated into success for them in recent history.
Ultimately, the reason that things look solid for Dallas right now is because of the quarterbacks they are set to face this season. Namely, that most don’t appear to be very good.
PFF’s starting quarterback rankings show how friendly the 2021 Dallas Cowboys schedule is on paper
Recently the fine folks over at PFF ranked all 32 starting quarterbacks in the National Football League. It is highly possible that these change all throughout the year as that is how football goes, but this is who is penciled in as of now.
As noted, the reason that the Cowboys schedule feels soft is because of the quarterbacks that they are going to face. Below is a look at their schedule by opposing quarterback (in terms of who they are right now) and their ranking according to PFF.
2021 Dallas Cowboys Schedule by opposing quarterback and their PFF rankings
- Week 1: at Tom Brady (2)
- Week 2: at Justin Herbert (15)
- Week 3: Jalen Hurts (31)
- Week 4: Sam Darnold (28)
- Week 5: Daniel Jones (20)
- Week 6: Cam Newton (27)
- Week 7: BYE
- Week 8: at Kirk Cousins (14)
- Week 9: Drew Lock (32)
- Week 10: Matt Ryan (9)
- Week 11: at Patrick Mahomes (1)
- Week 12: Derek Carr (13)
- Week 13: at Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill (24)
- Week 14: at Ryan Fitzpatrick (19)
- Week 15: at Daniel Jones (20)
- Week 16: Ryan Fitzpatrick (19)
- Week 17: Kyler Murray (17)
- Week 18: at Jalen Hurts (31)
The Cowboys play just three quarterbacks that PFF has inside of their top 10 this season. What’s more is that, again, according to PFF’s rankings, from Thanksgiving on (the period that we analyzed last week) six of the seven quarterbacks that they are facing are in the bottom half with the only one above it being Derek Carr.
Now maybe you feel like this ranking isn’t fair as Kyler Murray is at 17 and Justin Herbert is at 15. Ultimately, though, while there is some legitimate potential plus/minus to consider here the general idea still stands which is that the Cowboys defense (which needs all of the help it can get) is facing some not-so-scary foes in 2021.
What is particularly noteworthy is of course the quarterbacks within the NFC East. Dak Prescott came in seventh on this list which means that the Cowboys should be in every game off of that alone. But what is more is that they are going to face teams in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia who have the 19th, 20th, and 31st-ranked quarterbacks, respectively.
On top of that it isn’t like the Football Team, Giants, or Eagles have practical options that they can turn to behind what is currently their projected starter. The things that are outside of the Cowboys’ control look to be strongly in their favor this season, the only thing left is for them to take care of their own business.
Unfortunately for all of us, we know that this isn’t exactly a slam-dunk proposition.