DALLAS —

Even though former coach Jason Garrett finished 8-8 four times out of his nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, fans are hopeful new coach Mike McCarthy can get the club off the fence and onto competing at a high level.

Now that Super Bowl LIV is over, early indications are McCarthy will have a decent shot to elevate the Cowboys, who finished 8-8 and second in the NFC East, to a more respectable record in 2020.

According to SFGate.com, the Cowboys are set to have the 30th-toughest schedule in 2020 — or, one could say, Dallas will have the third-easiest schedule in the NFL's 101st season. The combined winning percentage of the Cowboys' 2020 slate is 117-138-1 (.459).

Of course, this will invite criticism from opposing fans and media alike that, should the Cowboys have a good record by mid-October, that they "haven't played anybody," which was used to lessen the quality of anyone of their eight wins throughout the course of 2019. However, that criticism could change given the arrangement of the regular-season schedule, which will not happen until April at the earliest.

The Cowboys have home games against Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Atlanta. On the road, Dallas faces their same NFC East foes, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Seattle, and trip to SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles to battle the Rams.

According to last year's strength of schedule released in February of 2019, the Raiders, Broncos, Jaguars, Texans, and Bears/Chiefs were in the top-5 for toughest schedules. Only Houston and Kansas City emerged as playoff teams with the Chiefs winning it all. Washington had the easiest schedule, and the Patriots, Rams, Jets, Giants, Eagles, and Bengals were all tied for the second-easiest. New England and Philadelphia both made the playoffs, but both were beaten at home in the wild-card round.

What this underscores is that there are a lot of changes to be had in the offseason, not only to the Cowboys but to their entire slate. Even if a club makes all of the correct upgrades in free agency and the draft, freak injuries in offseason workouts, the attrition of training camp and preseason, and the early bumps of a September start could make for a windier path to get to the playoffs or obtain a first-round bye.

Nonetheless, McCarthy has been dealt an early advantage as Cowboys coach. How the former Super Bowl-winning coach works with the front office and personnel department to build a highly competitive roster remains to be seen throughout the offseason.

Do you think Mike McCarthy will make use of an easier schedule in his first year as Cowboys coach? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.  

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