The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a nearly identical situation as 2021. When last year’s schedule was released, many outlets and statistics had the Cowboys facing one of the easier schedules in the league.
But that didn't end up happening. Based on how you measure it, Dallas finished the 2021 season playing somewhere between the seventh and eleventh hardest schedule in the NFL. Teams like the Patriots, Chargers, and Eagles exceeded expectations and made the Cowboys’ schedule more difficult than projected.
We discussed the same idea from this article on the latest episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
But one year later, we have come full circle.
By nearly every metric, the Cowboys are set to face one of the easiest schedules in the NFL
As a quick refresher, here are the opponents that Dallas is slated to face off with in 2022:
- Home: Commanders, Giants, Eagles, Buccaneers, Bears, Lions, Bengals, Texans, and Colts
- Away: Commanders, Giants, Eagles, Rams, Packers, Vikings, Titans, and Jaguars
Outside of the fact that Dallas will head to Minnesota to play the Vikings for the third season in a row, the most notable headline from this schedule is that the Cowboys will face both Super Bowl teams from last year. They will square off against the Bengals at home, which is rumored to be the Thanksgiving matchup. And then they will travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams.
But the rest of the schedule is relatively tame.
By the simplest method possible, the Cowboys are tied with the Commanders for the easiest schedule in 2022. The Cowboys' opponents had a combined winning percentage of .462 last season.
This is likely a byproduct of playing six teams that had six wins or fewer. The NFC East will play the NFC North and AFC South next season, two divisions that were essentially a one-horse race last year. The other three teams in each division all missed the playoffs.
But as 2021 proved, last year’s winning percentage isn't a perfect representation of 2022 performance. Teams like the 2021 Bengals take a big step forward and others take a step back.
Instead, projected Vegas win totals might be more suggestive of upcoming difficulty. While no one can perfectly predict the future, at least projected win-totals encapsulate offseason improvement or regression. And once again, Dallas ranks among the easiest schedules in the league.
NEW: NFL strength of schedule for 2022!— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) March 31, 2022
5 easiest schedules:
5 hardest schedules:
1-32 with insight & analysis:https://t.co/vsnYUpH4tr
The Commanders remain atop the rankings for the easiest schedule in 2022. According to the Sharp Football Staff, Dallas ranks as the sixth easiest schedule. And none of the teams above them were division winners in 2021. This means that according to Vegas win totals, the Cowboys are set to face the easiest schedule among last year’s division winners. And the Eagles are the only team above them that made the playoffs last season.
In a similar study, Timo Riske of PFF used betting lines and prices to determine how each team is projected to perform on a neutral field in 2022. This produced different results than Sharp Football, but the expectation for Dallas remains consistent.
We will soon get lines for every game to do this in a more granular way, but the win totals and prices alone are already enough to compute how good each team is supposed to be (favored by how many points against an average team on a neutral field) according to the betting market pic.twitter.com/ARaLWh4D3W— Timo Riske (@PFF_Moo) May 11, 2022
By measuring teams in this manner, the four NFC East teams face the four easiest schedules, as the Dallas Cowboys face the “hardest” schedule in the division.
Regardless of how you slice it, Dallas is not projected to be put through the wringer in 2022. This is remarkable considering they were the division winner last season and thus naturally face a more difficult schedule than the rest of the NFC East.
Compare this to the Bills, Rams, Chiefs, and Bengals, who all face an above-average schedule by difficulty according to every metric listed above. This includes the Rams, Chiefs, and Bengals all facing a top-ten most difficult schedule. The Cowboys picked a good year to be a division winner. This is also largely a result of their fellow NFC East opponents.
But regardless of these numbers, two things remain true:
- If Dallas wants to make the playoffs, they are still going to have to beat other good teams. There is a somewhat weak correlation between strength of schedule and wins, meaning that good teams handle their schedule well regardless of their opponent. The Cowboys will not have a cakewalk into the playoffs next year, no matter their schedule.
- No one knows what will happen in 2022. While unlikely, it is possible that Dallas ends the season having faced the most difficult schedule in the league. There is no predicting what will truly happen next year. So, while the schedule might be favorable now, in four months that might not be the case.
The arrow is pointing up for another easy schedule for Dallas. That does not imply the Cowboys will be a dominant team next year, but it does mean they will have to overcome fewer obstacles than some of the other 2021 division winners.
With 2022 matchup rumors already swirling, and the full schedule set to drop on May 12, this is the time to look at who is going to benefit from their upcoming opponents. And already, the Cowboys are among the top of that list.