The 2022 NFL schedule release gets fans excited about the upcoming year and it allows teams to start selling tickets. Following the announcement, there will be game-by-game breakdowns, overall record predictions, and the marquee matchups will be constantly discussed.
However, for the most part, the schedule release doesn't impact a team’s outlook on the season. The Dallas Cowboys' opponents in 2022 are already known. Dates, primetime scheduling, and times are the aspects that will be revealed this week.
Dates are the most important of these three. There are teams you don't want to see at certain times of the year. A few examples that apply to Dallas include:
3.) The Tennessee Titans after November
Picture this. It is a cold day at Nissan Stadium and the fourth quarter just hit. You have been trying to tackle Derrick Henry all day. The temperature keeps dropping and Henry only seems to be getting faster. How motivated would you be to tackle a 250-pound man running full speed at you?
Well, even if you were a professional football player, there is evidence to suggest you would not be highly motivated. Because Derrick Henry became the full-time starter in 2018. Since then, he is rushing for 4.1 yards per carry, 68.3 yards per game, with 3,006 career yards in his 44 games during September and October. But in December and January, he evolves. In just 23 games during these months, Henry is ripping off 5.6 yards per carry, 102 yards per game, with 2,346 career yards.
This is not just a weird occurrence, it changes the Titans' identity. While he missed these months last season, in 2018 through 2020, the Titans are 19-14 (58% win percentage) before December, and 12-6 (67%) in these months.
Is it the strongest pattern in the NFL? No. Are the Titans entirely unstoppable after November? No. But for a weak Dallas rushing defense, playing Derrick Henry in a month where he is not averaging 5.6 yards per carry would be ideal.
2.) A front- or back-loaded NFC East gauntlet
The Cowboys were lucky in 2021. Because with four NFC East matchups in five weeks, that stretch easily could have decided the division. Fortunately for Dallas, the other three teams were relatively weak. So, even when the Cowboys struggled in two of those four matchups, they still escaped with a win and ended up taking the division fairly easily.
2022 could be different. The Philadelphia Eagles efficiently used their capital. The New York Giants seem to be heading in the right direction. Even the Washington Commanders have a serviceable quarterback in Carson Wentz.
If Dallas walks into any of the NFC East matchups playing down to their opponent, in 2022, that might mean a loss. To hedge against this possibility, Cowboys fans should hope the NFC East matchups are spread equally throughout the season.
We discussed this idea in greater detail on the latest episode of 1st and 10 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.
Because the worst-case scenario is that Dallas has the division lead, and then they have a three- to four-week stretch of poor play, and that stretch coincides with their NFC East backloaded schedule. In that case, they could lose the division simply because they got cold at the wrong time. Or the inverse, where they struggle in the early weeks of a front-loaded NFC East schedule, and then that deficit they created is too large to overcome in the remaining weeks.
The NFC East games are the most important on Dallas’ schedule. It decides the division and is used as the first tiebreaker. What you don't need is a “down” stretch of performances to dictate the entire season. Instead, the NFC East games being spread out would protect against this.
The Cowboys got away with it in 2021, but that won’t slide in 2022.
1.) December games in Lambeau
The prospect of beating the Green Bay Packers, at their own stadium, while the snow is coming down, is exciting. It would be poetic for Mike McCarthy’s return to Green Bay.
But beating the Packers late in the year is not easily done. Since 2000, the Packers average a .63 winning percentage. But in December, the Packers have won 73% of their games. In the last six years alone, Green Bay has gone perfect in the month of December four times.
Over the last three years, the Packers have won 14 regular-season games in December and January alone. During all months, the Lions, Jaguars, and Jets each have less than fourteen wins over the last three years.
The Packers are just made to play in December. Their playoff game was the exception, not a blueprint on how to beat them in the freezing cold. And this entire argument doesn’t take into account the fact that Dak Prescott hasn’t thrived in cold-weather games.
This is NFL football. Any team can beat anyone on any week, in any conditions. But the Cowboys would be much more likely to win in Green Bay during September or October than in December or January. Why not play the odds?
Based on Vegas win-totals, Dallas plays the sixth easiest schedule in 2022. That is by far the easiest of any 2021 division winner (the Buccaneers are next at 12th). And when the schedule is released, the Cowboys will still project to have an easy road next season.
But there are a few obstacles that could make 2022 trickier. Playing the Titans or Packers when they are at full speed late in the year or all NFC East games falling around one another would add pressure to the season. Keep factors like that in mind when you try and predict the seventeen games once the schedule is released.