COMMENTARY | The Dallas Cowboys are going to get a heavy dose of prime-time television for the 2013 season.
Added in with the annual Thanksgiving game, Dallas will be featured on "Sunday Night Football" three times throughout the first 10 weeks of the new year and will begin its December campaign on Monday night on Dec. 9.
Let's break it down.
After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, the Cowboys begin their 2013 campaign on Sept. 8, on Sunday night, at home against the New York Giants. Dallas then plays three of its next five at home, including back-to-back home games against the Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins (SNF).
Before their bye in Week 11, the Cowboys play three out of the next four on the road, capped off with a Sunday night game Nov. 10 against the New Orleans Saints.
Dallas will end its season with a split of three home games and three road games, with two of those three away contests being against division opponents (New York and Washington). The third road game is on "Monday Night Football" in Week 14 against the Chicago Bears.
The Cowboys will once again take the Thanksgiving stage in Week 13 at home against the Oakland Raiders. Week 15 could be a possible playoff preview when Aaron Rodgers leads the Green Bay Packers into Cowboys Stadium.
The season ends Dec. 29 at home when Dallas wraps up the year against the new-look Philadelphia Eagles.
So, what do we think about this schedule?
At first glance, this looks like a quality slate of games that would put the Cowboys at 10-11 wins this year. The two toughest non-division games that stick out are Week 5 against Denver and Week 15 against Green Bay on Dec. 15.
That is, if you base your thoughts of this team with what's on paper, or on the field. If the Cowboys improve like they're expected to, they could hit that 10-11 win mark.
If the defense and Tony Romo have those hiccups that cost Dallas a number of games last year, go ahead and look at another 8-8 or possibly 9-7 season.
Nevertheless, this has all the makings of a schedule that's doable.
What stretch of games should be highly noted?
The first six weeks of the season. Dallas lucks out by playing four of its first six games at home: the Giants in Week 1, an improved St. Louis team in Week 3, Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Week 5, and the first meeting against Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in Week 6.
Add that with very winnable road games against two of the AFC West's bottom feeders in Kansas City and San Diego, and the Cowboys could start the year 4-2 or 5-1.
Going into the stretch of three road games in four weeks with a winning record could be a huge confidence boost for Dallas.
What five games should you circle on your calendar?
5) Nov. 10: Week 10 at New Orleans ('Sunday Night Football'), 8:30 p.m. ET
The Cowboys and Saints went to overtime last year in one of the more exciting games of 2012. Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns while Romo threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns. Over 200 yards and two of those touchdowns went to Dez Bryant.
Sean Payton returns to the New Orleans sidelines, and we should expect nothing less than another offensive explosion from both teams in 2013.
4) Oct. 13: Week 6 vs. Washington ('Sunday Night Football'), 8:30 p.m. ET
What version of RGIII are we going to see come this time? Is he going to be fully healthy? The Cowboys will get their first shot against the reigning division champions on a prime-time stage.
Washington swept Dallas last season, so this early meeting of division rivals will add a little bit of incentive down the road.
3) Oct. 6: Week 5 vs. Denver, 4:25 p.m. ET
This will be only the third time in the last eight years that the Cowboys face a team with No. 18 under center. In the last two meetings against Manning when he was in Indianapolis, Dallas won both meetings by a combined 10 points.
It'll also be a good test for the Cowboys' secondary, facing a Broncos team that added Wes Welker in free agency to go with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
2) Dec. 29: Week 17 vs. Philadelphia, 1 p.m. ET
There's a good chance that this game could be affected by flex scheduling if the Cowboys are in the thick of things in the NFC East once again.
That's about the only reason watch this game. After the last two seasons with Dallas letting the division title slip through its grasp, this version of the Cowboys/Eagles rivalry will be intriguing to keep an eye on.
1) Dec. 15: Week 15 vs. Green Bay, 4:25 p.m. ET
The battle between the $100-million-plus quarterback vs. the soon-to-be $130-140-million-plus quarterback.
Rodgers vs. Romo, Packers vs. Cowboys, late-season matchup with playoff implications on the line.
It could very well be a playoff matchup this year. You never know.
Honorable Mention) Week 14 at Chicago ('Monday Night Football'), 8:40 p.m. ET
Last year's meeting between the Bears and Cowboys on Monday night was one to forget for Romo. This year, Dallas heads to Soldier Field to face a Chicago team that missed out on the playoffs last year.
It may snow there, too. This one could be downright ugly.
What record will the Cowboys finish with?
I'll revisit this question after training camp, and probably once again before opening day. Right now, if we're all making predictions, I'll jump on the bandwagon.
The pressure is on for the Cowboys to win this year, and there's no excuse to finish with fewer than 10-11 wins. That also means a division title is to be expected. No better time than now to take advantage of an NFC East filled with question marks.
Final record: 10-6, T-1st in NFC East
What do you think of the Cowboys' schedule? Easy? Tough? What games are you most looking forward to? Let your voice be heard in the comments section, or contact me on Twitter.
Danny Webster is a featured columnist for the Dallas Cowboys. You can contact him by going on Twitter and following @DannyWebster21.
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