The 2022 NFL season is upon us, and the Cowboys will soon kick off their season on Sunday Night Football against the Buccaneers. This year, they’ll attempt to become just the second team this century to win the NFC East in consecutive seasons.
That’s not all though, as the Cowboys haven’t posted consecutive seasons with double-digit wins since the 90’s. Head coach Mike McCarthy, entering his third year in Dallas, may very well be coaching for his job after an offseason in which many feel the team downgraded their talent on offense. With all of that in mind, let’s do a quick run through of the Cowboys schedule and make picks for each game.
Week 1 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
Last year’s season opener between these two teams was an absolute thriller that, even in a loss, offered legitimate hope that these Cowboys were different. Neither team is as good coming into this game, but this still figures to be a closely fought contest.
Tampa Bay is now led by head coach Todd Bowles, but Tom Brady is still under center. The Cowboys are looking to establish a new run-first identity on offense, but this Buccaneers defensive front is hardly the opponent to do so against. Expect a strong showing from the Dallas defense, a frustrating performance from their offense, and another patented Brady game winning drive.
Prediction: Cowboys lose, drop to 0-1
Week 2 - Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys
In each of Mike McCarthy’s first two years in Dallas, the Cowboys have lost their opening game but followed it up immediately with a win. That has a good chance of happening a third time with the Bengals coming to town in Week 2.
No NFL team is more due for regression than Cincinnati. They won a division in which one team (Pittsburgh) was starting a quarterback whose body retired three years ago and two other teams (Cleveland and Baltimore) who were dealing with serious injuries at quarterback. Then, the Bengals beat the two worst playoff teams last year by overall DVOA before a miraculous comeback over the Chiefs propelled them to the Super Bowl.
No team reaches the Super Bowl without a little luck, but the Bengals were extremely lucky last year and that seems unlikely to continue. Dak Prescott has a big day against a Bengals defense that ranked 20th in pass defense DVOA last year and returns much of the same secondary.
Prediction: Cowboys win, improve to 1-1
Week 3 - Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
The Cowboys seemingly took steps this offseason that made their team worse, but the upside is that they still play in the NFC East. New York brought in a fairly impressive braintrust this offseason with general manager Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll both coming over from the Bills, but the roster they inherit still has a lot of work to be done.
In Week 3, it’s fair to assume that not much will have changed from last year’s Giants team in terms of on-field performance. That is to say that the Cowboys - who haven’t lost to this team with Prescott under center since 2016 - should roll in this one.
Prediction: Cowboys win, improve to 2-1
Week 4 - Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys
As we enter the inaugural season of the Washington Commanders, it really seems like they’re still the same ol’ Football Team. Ron Rivera’s group won a terrible NFC East with a losing record just two years ago, and Washington is trying to convince their fans that Carson Wentz - who has just four career passing attempts in the playoffs - can take this team to the next level.
Wentz is a known commodity in this division, and not in a good way for him. Add to it that Washington’s star edge rusher Chase Young won’t be able to play in this one, and Dallas should be able to pick up another big win.
Prediction: Cowboys win, improve to 3-1
Week 5 - Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
The Cowboys draw the short end of the stick in having to travel to the home of the reigning Super Bowl champions. However, given the strong Cowboys fandom in California, this may actually be more of a neutral site game for them.
That said, this Rams team still figures to be pretty good. Matthew Stafford turned out to be a great fit in Sean McVay’s offense last year, and Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey still anchor a defense that was quietly elite last year. There’s also the fact that McVay has a career record of 32-8 in the first two months of the season. Dallas should be competitive in this one, but winning is a different proposition.
Prediction: Cowboys lose, drop to 3-2
Week 6 - Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles made the playoffs last year thanks in large part to a very easy schedule in which they played just well enough to beat the many bad teams they faced. Heading into this year, Philadelphia has kept much of that core intact, making upgrades by adding receiver A.J. Brown and defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson. They also might face an even easier schedule this year.
Last year’s Eagles team was never good enough to beat the Cowboys, getting swept by a combined score of 92-47. But the Eagles are better than they were last year, while the Cowboys are probably worse. That should make for a very competitive game, and with this being in Philly and the Eagles having a sizable advantage in the trenches, they get the nod for a win here.
Prediction: Cowboys lose, drop to 3-3
Week 7 - Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
The Detroit Lions got all the love on Hard Knocks this year, and former Cowboys tight end Dan Campbell, now the Lions head coach, was a big reason why. His philosophy of grit led a really bad Lions team to go 11-6 against the spread last year, making them arguably the best three-win team ever.
Well, the Lions have significantly improved their roster this year. They also lived for the upset last year; two of their three wins came against playoff teams. With the Cowboys still figuring out their new identity at this point, and with mixed results, this sets up for a classic trap game. And it’s one the gritty Lions likely won’t let slip away.
Prediction: Cowboys lose, drop to 3-4
Week 8 - Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
With just one game to go before their well-timed bye week, Dallas has a losing record. Thankfully, they get to host the Bears next. Chicago is in the first year of yet another rebuild, this time led by head coach Matt Eberflus, a familiar face in Dallas. He’s already emphasizing hustle and good defense, but it’ll likely take some time before that actually translates to wins on the field.
The biggest problem for the Bears this year is their quarterback Justin Fields trying to take a step forward with very little talent around him on offense. His offensive line will get eaten alive by Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, while his mostly insignificant receiver corps will be no match for Trevon Diggs and a secondary that ranked second in pass defense DVOA last year. Dallas will score a big blowout win to feel good about something heading into their week of rest.
Prediction: Cowboys win, improve to 4-4
Week 9 - BYE
Week 10 - Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Here it is, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Mike McCarthy returns to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers. The Cowboys may even drive on Mike McCarthy Way en route to the stadium that morning. The Cowboys-Packers rivalry didn’t need any more ammunition, and neither McCarthy nor Rodgers will admit it, but this adds just one more layer.
Coming off their bye week, the Cowboys are looking to get back over .500 on the season, but traveling to Green Bay in November won’t make it easy. For his career, McCarthy is 11-4 after a bye, with three of those losses coming by a touchdown or less; he has yet to lose after the bye in Dallas. That may very well change this year, as Rodgers is difficult to beat in Lambeau in November.
Prediction: Cowboys lose, fall to 4-5
Week 11 - Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
Fun fact: Mike McCarthy has faced the Vikings at least once in every single year he’s been a head coach. That streak continues this year, and the head coach will look to notch his third straight win over the franchise. Last year, the Cowboys marched into the Vikings stadium on Halloween and beat them with backup quarterback Cooper Rush making his first career start.
Now, Minnesota is ushering in a new regime with head coach Kevin O’Connell, and the team appears to be caught between trying to win now and rebuilding in earnest. In reality, they’re probably closer to the latter, and that makes them fodder for a Cowboys team that desperately needs a win.
Prediction: Cowboys win, improve to 5-5
Week 12 - New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
With the Cowboys’ first matchup with the Giants this year, the assumption was that the team would still be adapting to the new coaching staff. By this point, however, it’s more likely that the inherent flaws with much of this roster - holdovers from the previous regime - will be harshly exposing themselves. That makes for a much more manageable game coming home on a short week for this year’s Thanksgiving Classic.
Prediction: Cowboys win, improve to 6-5
Week 13 - Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys
Last year, the Colts very nearly made the playoffs in spite of quarterback Carson Wentz. They’ve now swapped Wentz out for Matt Ryan, a much more seasoned passer but also a distinct upgrade. Indianapolis now boasts a dangerous offense and a stout defense, and they might even be the best team in the AFC.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys entering Week 13 are just trying to prove they’re the best in their own division. Dallas will have an extra three days of rest on the Colts heading into this game, as well not having to travel for it, but even that may not be enough to overcome the talent deficiency between these two teams.
Prediction: Cowboys lose, fall to 6-6
Week 14 - Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys
A week after playing one of the best teams in the AFC, the Cowboys get to play arguably the worst team in the entire league, and they don’t have to leave home to do it either. Houston has been the betting favorite to finish dead last in the NFL for most of the offsesason, and that’s not about to change any time soon.
The Cowboys may not be one of the best teams right now, but they’re certainly capable of beating this Texans team. And with the squad needing a win to stay in the playoff hunt in mid-December, they’ll pull this one out.
Prediction: Cowboys win, improve to 7-6
Week 15 - Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars
After three straight home games, the Cowboys have to go on the road. Thankfully, though, they’re not going far and not going somewhere cold. Unfortunately, though, they’ll be facing a sneaky good team in the Jaguars.
Now led by head coach Doug Pederson, Jacksonville is anticipating a return to glory for Trevor Lawrence. Coupled with an aggressive defense that features this year’s first overall pick, Travon Walker, the Jags have all the makings of a team ready to play spoiler. They’ll do just that in this one and make things very difficult for Dallas.
Prediction: Cowboys lose, fall to 7-7
Week 16 - Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
After falling to 7-7, the Cowboys’ odds of making the playoffs are getting slimmer and slimmer. Luckily, they get to host the Eagles next, offering a golden opportunity to improve their standing within the NFC East.
With this being the Cowboys’ final home game of the regular season, it could also become a pivotal contest in the divisional race. In the first game between these two, Philly got the nod in large part due to their home field advantage. In that same spirit, this pick is going to the home team in what should be another very close one.
Prediction: Cowboys win, improve to 8-7
Week 17 - Dallas Cowboys at Tennessee Titans
After claiming the top seed in the AFC last year, the Titans are destined for a sharp regression this year. By the time we get to this game, Tennessee’s playoff hopes may already be extinguished based on just how much they take a step back.
Regardless of what they may or may not be playing for, the Titans will surely relish the opportunity to play spoiler for a Dallas team desperately trying to keep their season alive. And just as the Cowboys got gashed on the ground in the playoffs last year, Derrick Henry threatens to do the same exact thing in this one, whether or not Dan Quinn’s unit is better against the run this year. Stopping Henry is very difficult, and it’s just not something this team is built to do.
Prediction: Cowboys lose, fall to 8-8
Week 18 - Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders
With one game left on the schedule, the Cowboys are very likely to still be in the playoff hunt, whether via the divisional race or the quest for a Wild Card berth. But they’ll have to complete a sweep of the Washington Commanders in order to keep that hope alive.
That seems like exactly the kind of scenario where Carson Wentz can either make it a layup for these Cowboys or suddenly revert to his 2017 form. Either way, the Cowboys will be tested in this one, having their backs against the wall for one more game this season. Dallas pulls it out, and likely sneak into the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
Prediction: Cowboys win, finish at 9-8