DALLAS — With the 2022 NFL schedule officially known, the Dallas Cowboys have the details of the whens and wheres for their upcoming season. The whos have been known since the 2021 campaign ended, so the only suspense left was the dates and times of the matchups and how those combinations will shape the season.
Every offseason, there’s a buildup to the schedule release, even though the league’s formula clearly lays out the opponents well ahead of time. The NFL has done a great job marketing the intrigue of the release and making it an event not to be missed, even turning it into a primetime show.
The analysis and predicting of the Cowboys’ record based on their schedule is a time-honored tradition, but ultimately fruitless. How a team is perceived in spring is rarely how they’ll look when the season begins.
There’s roughly three and half months to go before the season starts and Dallas is still building their team, training camp and preseason games have yet to occur, and injuries will all play a role in eventual wins and losses. There are too many variables in May to predict what a 17-game schedule will ultimately produce.
Yet, it’s hard to avoid a peek at the docket with an eye toward trends and potential speed bumps for Dallas along their journey. With that in mind, here are some observations on the 2022 schedule for the Cowboys and what it could mean for their fate this season:
An inauspicious start
If the Cowboys are going to be the first NFC East team to repeat as division champions since the 2001-2004 Philadelphia Eagles, they’ll need to survive the first six weeks of the season. It’s a rough stretch for the Cowboys, especially in their first two games, where they’ll play Tom Brady and the 2020 champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, only to follow that up with a date with the 2021 Super Bowl runner-up Cincinnati Bengals.
Luckily, those games are both at home. However, if they drop one or both, starting 1-1 or 0-2 at home is never ideal and could set up a more important than usual game in Week 3 at the rival New York Giants on Monday Night Football.
The Cowboys will then come home to face another divisional opponent on a short week – the Washington Commanders – before heading out for back-to-back road games. There’s nothing easy about playing the hated Philadelphia Eagles and the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in consecutive weeks, but it does end the toughest stretch of the season for the Cowboys on paper. Perhaps it’s best to get the worst out of the way early.
If Dallas can escape the initial stretch of their 2022 slate with a record of 3-3, things ease up for them in the back half of the year which is when they can begin to make their climb. If they do better than .500 in the first six weeks, their shot at another division title would appear to shoot up dramatically.
Much like last season, the Cowboys have an inordinate number of back-to-back games both home and away. Dallas starts the year with two home games, then have another homestand of back-to-back weeks in late October before their bye week following Week 8.
The final stretch of their extended stays in Dallas starts on Thanksgiving, where the Cowboys will play three straight at home. That comes at a nice time, just before the team hits the road for three of their last four to close out the season.
Conversely, the Cowboys have consecutive road games on three occasions. The road contests against the Rams and Eagles present an early challenge, but equally as difficult are the back-to-back trips to Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers and then at the Minnesota Vikings in one of the louder places to play in the league. Thankfully, those NFC North games come after the Cowboys should be fresh from their bye week.
Dallas ends the season with back-to-back road games against the Tennessee Titans and rival Commanders in D.C.
It should come as no surprise that the league placed the Cowboys in five primetime games, six if we include the traditional Thanksgiving matchup. America’s Team continues to get the premium time slots, as they’ll open on NBC for a third consecutive season, play the Giants on Monday Night Football and Thanksgiving, take on the Eagles and Indianapolis Colts in Sunday night tilts, and play on Amazon Prime against the Titans on Christmas Eve.
The Cowboys are also scheduled to play in the FOX Game of the Week against the Bengals, Rams, and Packers.
That makes at least nine games where the Cowboys will be taking center stage in the NFL this season.
Second half surge
The second half of the season is where the Cowboys are likely to make their charge. On paper, the team has the second easiest schedule in the league.
However, we know not everything stays the same in the NFL. On average, there’s 50% turnover in playoff teams from year to year, so half of the teams that made the postseason last year are more than likely going to be watching from home this season.
As it stands right now, though, the Cowboys have four games against 2021 playoff teams in their first six weeks, and just three such contests after their bye week. Without knowing the upcoming surprise teams or improved combatants, Dallas should be able to rattle off some wins and position themselves for a playoff berth.
Time will tell the level of difficulty that the Dallas Cowboys will experience with their 2022 schedule. The preparations have already begun to build on a successful 2021 campaign, but the road won’t be easy, and the Cowboys will have to earn the second leg of back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since the 2006-2007 seasons.
Do you believe the NFL has cooked up a favorable schedule for the Cowboys in 2022? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.