A popular way of evaluating a team's season is by breaking their results into quarters. Because teams play 16 games in the NFL, if you are able to finish 3-1 each quarter of the season then you will likely be in competition for a first round bye come January.
Through the first quarter of this season, the Cowboys accomplished that exact goal. Sitting at 3-1 wth the second quarter of the season to go, the Cowboys deserved to feel pride in how they started their year off.
With a home loss last week, though, the Cowboys are already behind the eight ball for their second quarter of the season. When you look at the upcoming schedule, however, you see a huge opportunity for the Cowboys going forward.
If Dallas is to make a playoff run, and Jason Garrett is to earn a contract for next season, these next three games are massive.
Unbeaten in New Jersey
Two of the Cowboys' next three games will be played at MetLife Stadium, and if they are to make the playoffs, they have to go unbeaten in the state of New Jersey.
After two straight losses the Cowboys have the perfect “get-right” game against the winless Jets on Sunday. Then, following their bye week, the Cowboys go back to East Rutherford to finish their season series with the Giants.
These have to be two victories.
The Jets have been an absolute disaster this season, and while Sam Darnold returns from his illness this week, they are still 7.5 point home underdogs to the 3-2 Cowboys.
Not only are the Giants a conference and divisional opponent, but they are one of the Cowboys' only remaining “gimme” games on the schedule. Following their game against the Giants the Cowboys go through a gauntlet of sorts, facing the Vikings, Patriots, Lions, Bills, Bears, Rams, and Eagles before finally seeing the Redskins.
That's 7 straight games against teams with winning records, including 5 against teams they are directly fighting for playoff positioning with.
Yeah, it's not going to get any easier.
Battle for First Place
Sandwiched between these two games in Jersey are the Philadelphia Eagles. As it stands right now, both Dallas and Philly sit at 3-2. So regardless of what happens this week in their respective games, this match-up will be for early control of the NFC East.
I don't have to tell you how important a game with the Eagles is, especially one the Cowboys will have at home.
Going 3-0 over these next three games would put the Cowboys in an excellent position before they must face one of the toughest second half schedules in all of football.