The Dallas Cowboys 2017 schedule certainly looks a lot tougher on paper than it did just a season ago. That's typically what happens in the NFL when you finish dead last in your division one year and then first the next. The Cowboys won't have the benefit of a fourth-place schedule in 2017, but that shouldn't have any bearing on how they prepare for the upcoming season.
The Dallas Cowboys will be playing against the AFC South and the NFC South in 2017, which means they will be making multiple trips to the West Coast to play the 49ers, Raiders, and Cardinals.
The toughest part of the Cowboys 2017 schedule is definitely the last five games of the season. They play four of the last five games on the road and their only home game during that stretch is against the Seattle Seahawks. But, it's not all bad. The Cowboys play a lot of their tougher opponents at home including the Packers, Chiefs, and the aforementioned Seahawks.
The Dallas Cowboys 2017 schedule is certainly nothing to scoff at, but that doesn't mean we should be disheartened at their chances to be even better than they were in 2016. In fact, if you keep reading below to see my game by game predictions, you might even get a little bit more excited for the start of the 2017 season.
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Week 1: Cowboys Vs. Giants
Once again, the NFL schedule makers have the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants facing off against one another to open up the season. This marks the third year in a row these two teams will be squaring off against one another in Week 1 and the 10th time in franchise history. The Cowboys have the advantage of being 8-1 in those contest, with the only loss coming in 2016.
The New York Giants narrowly escaped with the 20-19 victory in 2016 due to some questionable decision-making by Terrance Williams, but I don't expect history to repeat itself.
The Giants added WR Brandon Marshall to hopefully take some pressure off of Odell Beckham Jr. and improve their offense. That certainly doesn't sound too good for the Cowboys defense, who could field an entirely new secondary 2017. But, the Cowboys have the best offensive line in the NFL to pave the way for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who should be even better in their second years.
If you add everything up, it certainly shapes up to be another slugfest. But, Dallas has the best kicker in the NFL, Dan Bailey, and I think it's his foot that secures the victory for the Cowboys.
Prediction: Cowboys, 24-21
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Week 2: Cowboys @ Broncos
In their first road game of the season, the Dallas Cowboys will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos. The Cowboys have lost five straight games to the Broncos, dating back to 1995. But, the last time these two teams faced off against each other was when Peyton Manning and Tony Romo put up historic numbers throwing for a combined 960 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Broncos won that contest 51-48, but both QBs in that matchup have retired. Dak Prescott and Trevor Simeon don't quite have the drawing power as Manning and Romo have had in their careers, but this still shapes up to be an exciting game nonetheless.
This will be a strength against strength for the Broncos and Cowboys. The Broncos have one of the best defenses in the entire NFL, while the Cowboys have one of the best offenses. The deciding factor in this game will probably be how the Cowboys offensive line handles the Broncos loaded front seven.
This will probably be a relatively low-scoring contest, but I think the Cowboys will make just enough plays to come away with the victory and end their five-game losing streak against the Broncos.
Prediction: Cowboys, 17-14
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Week 3: Cowboys @ Cardinals
This marks the first back-to-back road games of the 2017 season for the Dallas Cowboys, when they travel to Arizona to take on the troublesome Cardinals. The Cowboys have lost the last four meetings against Arizona, which doesn't bode well for their chances in Week 3.
However, the Cowboys have one of the best young rosters in the entire NFL, while the Cardinals are at the opposite end of the spectrum with quite a few aging veterans.
The Cardinals still have a high-powered offense and a solid defense despite their aging roster, but I don't think it will be enough for them to keep up with the Cowboys young/talented roster. This could turn into a shootout kind of game, but I think the Cowboys offensive line will end up wearing down the Cardinals defense.
Prediction: Cowboys, 34-28
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Week 4: Cowboys Vs. Rams
The Dallas Cowboys have won three straight regular-season games against the Rams, and I don't see any reason why that shouldn't continue in the Week 4.
The Los Angeles Rams have completely overhauled their coaching staff and are rebuilding their roster. The Cowboys should be able to impose their will from the get-go, likely making this one of the easier matchups on their schedule.
I do expect the Rams to battle this thing out to the bitter end, and you can bet that former Cowboys head coach/current Rams defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, will have something up his sleeve for the Cowboys offense. But, it won't be enough in the end.
The Cowboys will control the time of possession and easily come away with their fourth straight victory.
Prediction: Cowboys, 28-14
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Week 5: Cowboys Vs. Packers
Although the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers always seem to put on an exciting performance when the two teams face off, I'm getting a little tired of seeing these two teams play one another. This is especially true this year since the Cowboys are expected to have a lot of youth infused into their secondary against the Packers dangerous passing.
I expect the Cowboys to try and control the time of possession and keep Aaron Rodgers and his offense off the field as much as possible. But, that strategy will only work as long as the Cowboys defense can keep the Packers out of the end zone.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys youth on the defensive side of the ball doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence they can get the better of Rogers for the majority of the game. I think this will be a close game, but I have the Packers handing the Cowboys their first loss of the season.
Prediction: Packers, 35-31
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Week 6: Bye Week
If things turn out the way I predicted so far, the Dallas Cowboys are headed into their bye week with a 4-1 winning record. I don't know about you, but I've would be happy with that considering the teams they have played so far.
The Cowboys haven't had a bye week this late since 2015. It could actually be a good thing considering how difficult their December opponents look thus far.
This extra time off will not only let them recuperate from any bumps and bruises they have acquired so far, but it also gives them a little extra time to prepare for their back-to-back road games.
Everyone needs take full advantage of this break in the schedule, because there are a lot of regular-season games left on the schedule and perhaps the playoffs to get through.
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Week 7: Cowboys @ 49ers
Coming off their bye week, the Dallas Cowboys travel back to the West Coast to take on the San Francisco 49ers. I previously stated how the Los Angeles Rams might be the most winnable game on the Cowboys schedule 2017, but the 49ers are right there with them.
The Cowboys have won the last four out of five games against the 49ers and the last three in San Francisco. That doesn't look to change in Week 7.
The 49ers have gutted their roster since they last reached the playoffs with head coach Jim Harbaugh a few seasons ago. There is a lack of talent on both sides the ball in San Francisco and if the Cowboys play the way they should, this should be an easy win.
Prediction: Cowboys, 28-10
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Week 8: Cowboys @ Redskins
After being on the West Coast, the Cowboys travel all the way to FedEx Field to take on the division rival Washington Redskins. The Cowboys have won their last four games in Washington, the last loss coming in 2012.
The Cowboys offense matches up really well with the Redskins defense, and they should be able to move the ball with ease. However, the same thing could be said for the Redskins because of the matchup problems they can create for the Cowboys defense.
This game will ultimately be decided by which team turns the ball over less or who possesses the ball last. I expect a physical slobber knocker and a lot of trash talk, but I think the Cowboys continued their winning streak in Washington.
Prediction: Cowboys, 28-24
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Week 9: Cowboys Vs. Chiefs
After two back-to-back road games, the Dallas Cowboys finally get to come back home and take on a talented Kansas City Chiefs team. This is certainly a winnable game, but the Cowboys will have to be on their best if they want to continue their win streak.
Kansas City has one of the best defenses in the NFL, but their offense relies on defensive turnovers and big plays from Tyreek Hill. I'm just not sure they can keep up with the Cowboys high-powered offense.
I expect the Cowboys game plan will be to control the clock with the running game, thus wearing down the Chiefs defense. Also, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's bend don't break defensive mentality is perfectly suited to keep Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense at bay.
Prediction: Cowboys, 24-17
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Week 10: Cowboys @ Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons nearly pulled off the upset against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl last year, but just couldn't do enough to seal the victory in the end. That doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence the Cowboys can go on the road and pull off an upset of their own.
The Falcons have one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the entire NFL. They have two talented running backs that can pound the ball and one of the best WRs in Julio Jones, who is a huge matchup for the Cowboys secondary. Their defense is young, talented, and predicated on speed. They are good enough to give the Cowboys offense some problems.
For the Cowboys to win this game they will have to be at their best in all three phases. But, to go on the road and play a team as talented as the Falcons is a tough task to take on for any team.
Prediction: Falcons, 31-24
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Week 11: Cowboys Vs. Eagles
It's somewhat surprising the first meeting of the 2017 season between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles doesn't come until Week 11. Stranger still, is they will square off against once another twice in the final seven games of the season.
Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz will always be linked to one another because of the 2016 NFL Draft, but it's Prescott who has emerged as a better QB so far. It actually took a brilliant performance by Prescott to beat the Eagles in 2016 in his only match up against Philadelphia. He led the Cowboys to a 29-23 come from behind victory.
The Eagles offense has become more talented with the addition of Alshon Jeffrey, but they still have a lot of holes that need to be addressed on the offensive side of the ball. Wentz should be better in year two, but I don't think he can do enough to outscore the Cowboys potent offense, especially on the road.
Prediction: Cowboys, 27-24
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Week 12: Cowboys Vs. Chargers
On Thanksgiving Day, the Dallas Cowboys play their first back to back Thursday night games against the new look Los Angeles Chargers. The Cowboys are only 3 and 4 in the Jason Garrett head-coaching era on Thanksgiving, but won the last one against the Redskins in 2016.
The Cowboys will be looking to continue their Thanksgiving winning streak against the Chargers, but they have struggled against them lately. The Cowboys have lost three of the last four games, but this Chargers team isn't nearly as talented as they have been in years past.
The Los Angeles Chargers still have a talented roster with some playmakers on both sides of ball, but they simply don't match up well against the Cowboys high-powered offense. I expect the Philip Rivers led offense to put up points on the Cowboys, but the Chargers won't be able to contain Ezekiel Elliott and the rest the Cowboys offensive playmakers.
Prediction: Cowboys, 34-24
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Week 13: Cowboys Vs. Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys have beaten the Redskins the last four out of five games, with the last loss coming in 2015 with Kellen Moore at quarterback. This meeting will be the second consecutive Thursday night game and a matchup that rarely disappoints.
Redskins QB Kirk Cousins lost two of his favorite receiving targets in the off-season (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon) and has the tough task of trying to keep pace with the Cowboys high-scoring offense without them. The Redskins also saw several defensive starters leave via free agency, which means a lot of turnover on both sides of the ball.
With so many moving pieces throughout the roster for the Redskins, it's hard to imagine they can do enough to outscore the Cowboys, who have home-field advantage. This is always a physical fun filled game, with plenty of trash talking from both teams. But, I predict the Cowboys will continue their winning streak.
Prediction: Cowboys, 28-24
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Week 14: Cowboys @ Giants
Playing in New York is always a tough task for the Dallas Cowboys, especially this late in the season. The New York Giants beat the Cowboys twice in 2016 and held them to just 26 total points.
The Giants have invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball through free agency the past several seasons and have built the rest of their roster to beat the Cowboys. They added Brandon Marshall to take pressure off of Odell Beckham Jr. and now create matchup problems on both sides of the ball for Dallas.
Nearly every game between the Giants and Cowboys comes down to who has the last possession, but unfortunately I don't see Dallas coming away with a road victory. Although the score will be close in the end, I have the Giants narrowly escaping with the victory by a field goal.
Prediction: Giants, 20-17
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Week 15: Cowboys @ Raiders
In their final trip to the West Coast, the Dallas Cowboys take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys and Raiders are very similar teams on paper, which makes this matchup all the more interesting.
Both ball clubs have young/talented QBs, that happened where the same number. They also have two of the best offensive lines in the entire NFL, who pride themselves on their physicality and ability to control the line of scrimmage.
This game could go either way, but I think whichever running back between Ezekiel Elliott or Marshawn Lynch helps determine the outcome. I'm just not sure the Cowboys defense can do enough to keep Derek Carr and his offensive weapons out of the end zone, which is why I have the Cowboys losing their second consecutive game. But, only by a narrow margin.
Prediction: Raiders, 30-28
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Week 16: Cowboys Vs. Seahawks
The Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks are two of the top teams in the NFC, and as such you can expect an intense/physical game from both ball clubs. The last time these two teams faced off against one another was in the preseason last season, the game that ultimately ended Tony Romo's career and paved the way for the Dak Prescott era.
This game will feature one of the best run defenses against perhaps the NFL's best rushing attack. Look for Ezekiel Elliott to be especially hyped up for this game after how the Seahawks defense tried to welcome him into the NFL last year.
With Dallas coming off of two consecutive losses, I don't see any way everyone won't be on their "A" game at home against the Seahawks. I don't think this will be a high-scoring affair by any means, but I think the Cowboys escape with the victory in large part due to Dan Bailey's ability to split the uprights.
Prediction: Cowboys, 23-17
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Week 17: Cowboys @ Eagles
Of course the NFL schedule makers have the Dallas Cowboys closing out the 2017 season facing off against one of their division rivals. How else with the season end? Depending on how the rest of the NFC East division fairs, this could be a really important game or it could be meaningless for the Cowboys playoff hopes.
No matter what the significance of this game is, it's definitely no easy task to travel to Philadelphia in December and come away with the victory. However, I just don't think the Eagles have a talented enough roster to outscore the Cowboys.
I'm pretty sure the Cowboys have probably secured their playoff spot by now, but I don't think they rest their starters because that's just not Jason Garrett's philosophy. This will still be a tough game, but I have the Cowboys closing out the 2017 season with a victory.
Prediction: Cowboys, 21-17
If things turned out the way I predicted, the Dallas Cowboys will once again be heading back to the playoffs after finishing the 2017 season with a 12-4 winning record. Of course, several of these games could've gone either way, which would mean a few more losses. But, I still believe they are a playoff team.
What is your 2017 record prediction for the Dallas Cowboys?
5 Points: Analyzing the 2018 Dallas Cowboys Schedule
Every year around this time, sports fans everywhere are reminded of just how dominant the National Football League is. The NFL schedule release is literally just the sharing of a calendar that has little meaning until after next week's NFL Draft, but still dominates headlines both before and after the event.
If the Dallas Cowboys are going to return to the playoffs in 2018, we now know the path they will take -- beginning on September 9th in Carolina against the Panthers.
Here are five of my initial thoughts on this team's schedule.
1. "Early" Bye Week Still Later Than Recent Seasons
The Cowboys' bye week falls in week eight this season, which is certainly nothing new. This team is used to having their bye earlier in the season, but week eight is actually the latest it's been over the last three seasons.
In Dak Prescott's rookie season, the Cowboys rolled to six straight wins following their bye week - all part of a longer 11 game win streak. In 2017, the Cowboys played their final three games with Ezekiel Elliott after the bye, improving to 5-3 and inspiring hope for a salvageable season before further injuries piled up.
This season, the Cowboys will come out of their bye week to host Monday Night Football at AT&T Stadium against the Tennessee Titans.
2. AFC South to Play A Huge Factor
Speaking of the Titans, it is the NFC East's year to face off against the AFC South. This has been an unpredictable division as of late, with the Jacksonville Jaguars emerging as early favorites following their improbable run to the AFC Championship Game.
Unlike the NFC East, the AFC South has been decided by who maintains stability at quarterback. The Colts are hoping to contend with Andrew Luck back on the field in 2018, as are the Texans with second-year QB Deshaun Watson.
The Titans overhauled their coaching staff in hopes of progressing QB Marcus Mariota further to make a run at the playoffs once again.
For the Cowboys, their meetings with the AFC South will carry extra weight - as all but one of them precedes a divisional game in some sense. Following back to back games at the Texans and home against the Jaguars, the Cowboys will visit the Redskins in week seven.
The first shot Dallas will get at the defending Super Bowl champions will be November 11th in Philadelphia, two weeks removed from their bye after facing the Titans.
Coming out of two games in 12 days through weeks 12 (Thanksgiving) and 13, the Cowboys will have little chance to come up for air against the Eagles in week 14. Their chance to regroup may come the following week, with a favorable December road game in Indianapolis against the Colts.
3. Revenge Against the Falcons
The Cowboys' week 10 game a year ago in Atlanta is truly where the 2017 season was lost. Playing without Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys looked lost on offense thanks to the added absence of All-Pro Left Tackle Tyron Smith.
The Cowboys' fight to carry on at 5-4 was buried into the Falcons' new turf, as was Dak Prescott that afternoon, sacked eight times.
Only a week removed on the calendar from meeting the Falcons on the same date, the Cowboys will again play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in week 11 this season. The chance for revenge against the Falcons will also mark the only pair of consecutive road games this 2018 Dallas Cowboys team will play.
4. Running Through December
The national media may not want you to know that the Cowboys are a combined 6-2 in December over the last two seasons, as this team's fabled late season collapses remain a topic of conversation.
This point also stands as a great example of why breaking down team schedules in April is often a pointless exercise, but not obsessing over every twist and turn of the NFL as a yearly hobby is no fun. According to me.
It is no secret that the Cowboys will be relying heavily on Ezekiel Elliott in 2018, expecting their star running back to suit up for 16 games and carry the offense. If you believe that Prescott and Elliott paired together full-time again is enough reason for optimism about the Cowboys, their December schedule becomes even more favorable.
Aside from playing three of the four games indoors and away from the elements, the Cowboys will face three of the worst rushing defenses in yards per game allowed from last season in December. With the Eagles being the glaring exception (leading the league in this category), the Cowboys should have their way on the ground with the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants over their final three games.
5. Thanksgiving Tradition
For the second time in three seasons, the Dallas Cowboys will host the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys were victorious on Thanksgiving in 2016 over the Redskins, 31-26.
The Cowboys have only lost to the Redskins once on Thanksgiving, facing them a total of eight times and dropping a 2012 bout with Washington 38-31 (Robert Griffin III's rookie season with the Redskins).
Riding a four game winning streak against the Redskins, the Cowboys get to face an Alex Smith led Washington team on Thanksgiving to wrap up their first series against the NFC East. Following week 12, the Cowboys will still have meetings with the Eagles and New York Giants.
Some may look at this year's division as a two-team race, but counting absolutely any team out of an NFC East race is foolish - even more so in April.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
By this time next week, the Dallas Cowboys have a chance to look entirely different - adding as many as ten players at the 2018 NFL Draft. Only then will we have a better feel for how they stack up against this 2018 schedule.
Stay posted right here to Inside The Star for draft coverage live from Dallas, as I will be at AT&T Stadium for all seven rounds of picks alongside Slant Sports Draft Analyst Nick Flaherty.
Cowboys TE James Hanna Retiring
In an unexpected bit of pre-draft news, Dallas Cowboys backup tight end James Hanna will be retiring after six seasons. He was drafted by the Cowboys in sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The news of Hanna's retirement was first reported by ESPN's Todd Archer:
The Cowboys will place James Hanna on the reserve/retired list as the tight end could not get over a serious knee condition that troubled him for most of the last two seasons, according to sources. Hanna was not involved in the early part of the team's... https://t.co/45BAZ2avSC
Hanna, who turns 29 in July, missed all of 2016 with that knee issue and has had two surgeries. He was active for all 16 games last season but wasn't used much on offense, only having four catches. James did catch his first and only NFL touchdown in the team's Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Many thought Hanna would be a salary cap casualty this offseason, but a retirement has the same effect on the cap. The Cowboys now save $2.75 million off his scheduled $3.5 mullion cap hit in 2018.
James Hanna has stuck around this long thanks to being a proficient blocker and one of the standout players on special teams. Geoff Swaim, entering the final year of his rookie deal, will likely be trusted to fill those roles.
That said, tight end was already a targeted position for the Cowboys in next week's draft. Losing Hanna only give the team more incentive to add more talent.
Optimistic Reports Emerge Around Randy Gregory
Good news are coming to Dallas just in time. Less than a week from now, the NFL Draft will be held in the Cowboys' home, the AT&T Stadium. But the team may count with a defensive talent many in Cowboys Nation have tried to forget for a while now. Randy Gregory's comeback may just happen.
There's a lot of positions in the roster that need more help than the defensive end one, but after finding the "War Daddy" Jerry Jones has always wanted in DeMarcus Lawrence, finding a RDE this offseason would be a dream scenario.
Sure, there's a lot of young talent in this football team and they'll be coming off a season that put a chip on their shoulders. Even so, they'll need all the help they can get.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, some help could come in form of a very talented pass rusher. Randy Gregory is reportedly applying for reinstatement very soon and according to Mike Fisher and Bobby Belt, there are positive reports around the situation.
Randy Gregory update: I'm told there is real momentum building. He is expected to apply for reinstatement in the week or two following next week's NFL Draft.
Cowboys Nation last saw the second round pick back in 2016, but his potential shouldn't be forgotten. Of course, the Cowboys shouldn't be considering Gregory for their 2018 plans, simply because there's risk of him not being available.
Even still, Dallas may get lucky at defensive end. After DeMarcus Lawrence has a breakout season in 2017, imagine the defensive line with Randy Gregory reinstated and rehabilitated to exploit his talent in the NFL.
UPDATE: We're told Randy Gregory camp is ready to present to NFL the fact the #Cowboys DE has passed a large number of drug tests, hasn't failed one since July 2016. https://t.co/Hjgu2CqRtC
Despite some TMZ "reports", it looks like Gregory has been clean for a while. It sure should make Cowboys' fans happy and not only form a football perspective. A comeback would definitely be something amazing. He has a chance to write a unique story for himself.
Everyone likes second-chance stories. Gregory is a guy who had his share of problems. By coming back to the NFL, he's showing players and fans that change is possible. This wouldn't just be epic for Dallas Cowboys fans but NFL fans in general.
If Dallas is fortunate enough to see Gregory reinstated by the NFL, their fight in the trenches might see a big upgrade next season. Randy still has a lot to work on and he might not even be a starter right away, but the potential is right there.
The Cowboys could become a team capable of dominating the line of scrimmage both on offense and on defense.
Hopefully, Gregory is able to come back and shine as a professional player. He, and NFL fans deserve a story like that.
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