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?
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Offensive Tackle
The Dallas Cowboys would seem fairly settled at offensive tackle for 2019, with last year's starters both still under contract and set to return. But the need for a reliable backup has become increasingly important, and Dallas may also want to use this offseason to start planning for the future.
Tyron Smith and La'el Collins return to their starting roles, but not without some concern. Smith has now missed three games in each of the last three seasons, though a few of those have been for veteran rest at the end of the year.
We all remember the Chaz Green debacle in 2017 Atlanta. That led to the Cowboys paying veteran Cameron Fleming $2.5 million last season to come and play as the swing tackle, and Smith's ongoing issues with health will make his backup an offseason priority once more.
Meanwhile, Collins has started every game since taking over as the right tackle in 2017. He's been solid but not a star, which is a disappointment after his draft year hype and some of the talent he flashed at left guard during his first two seasons.
2019 is a contract year for La'el. He will turn just 27 by the 2020 season, making him an attractive potential free agent. But his play has arguably not lived up to his current salary, which has him as one of the higher-paid right tackles in the NFL already.
Anyone who has the privilege of playing next to Zack Martin has no excuses.
Even with his many trips to the Pro Bowl, Tyron Smith isn't immune to contract talk. The 2020 offseason presents Dallas with about an $8 million cap relief opportunity by releasing Smith. It would only leave them with about $5 million in dead money, which is less than they've had when releasing stars like DeMarcus Ware, Tony Romo, and Dez Bryant in recent years.
While still just 28 years old, Tyron has been getting increasingly bothered by nagging injuries. Bad backs and necks tend to become lifelong issues, and we've already mentioned the games he's missed over the last few seasons.
When healthy, Smith is still about as good as they come at left tackle. But could his health issues spark an early decline in skill? And if it happens as soon as 2019, could Dallas start looking at that cap space more intently?
With Cameron Fleming now a free agent and these 2020 question marks looming on both starters, there's a good argument for the Cowboys to spend their second or third-round pick at offensive tackle.
Ideally, a "Day 2" rookie would be able to take over as the swing tackle this year. Dallas could still sign a veteran insurance policy to compete in camp and the preseason, or even carry both players next season.
But more important aspect would be taking a player now to groom for 2020, when you might need to make a big decision on either Collins or Smith's future. Or, at the very least, have a solid swing tackle in place for the duration of his four-year rookie contract.
That said, free agency starts a month-and-a-half before the NFL Draft. The Cowboys can't really afford to wait for the draft to find a swing tackle, or else they may wind up with nothing.
The simplest move would be to just re-sign Cam Fleming. He is an adequate player with plenty of experience, and could likely be retained for about the same salary as last year.
But given Fleming's age (26) and experience, which includes starting in playoff games and even a Super Bowl for the Patriots, he could attract teams looking for even more than just a backup. Thankfully, there a still a number of veterans out there if Dallas has to find a replacement.
One guy to consider, especially for just a one-year deal, is Ty Nsekhe from the Redskins. He's a native of Arlington, TX and has started 14 games over the last three seasons, backing up the oft-injured Trent Williams. On the negative side, Nsekhe turns 34 next October.
As a whole, this 2019 offseason doesn't present any immediate dangers. The Cowboys will need to figure out their swing tackle situation by either re-signing Fleming, adding a different veteran, or drafting a replacement.
But given the contract situations of Tyron Smith and La'el Collins in 2020, Dallas could make a move in the next few months to help prepare for a potential big change a year from now.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Linebacker
One of the brightest spots on the Dallas Cowboys' projected 2019 roster is linebacker. The young pair of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have already emerged as one of the league's best duos. But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys have no work to do at the position this offseason.
Having Jaylon and Leighton does take a lot of pressure off. Most teams utilize their nickel scheme more than any other these days, which generally utilizes just two linebackers, in the increasingly pass-focused NFL. And thankfully, both Smith and Vander Esch have shown great skills in pass defense.
But there's still a semi-starting role to get figured out in the base 4-3 scheme. Damien Wilson has held the strong-side or "SAM" position for the last few years and has an expiring contract.
What's more, Dallas has a big decision to make regarding the contract of Sean Lee, which is ripe for terminating with $7 million in salary cap savings possible.
It's highly unlikely that the Cowboys would keep both Lee and Wilson. If they decide to re-sign Damien, Lee will be cut to help fund that move and others. If Sean is kept on, Wilson will almost surely be looking for a starting role somewhere else in free agency.
Even if the Cowboys do make Lee a cap casualty between now and March 13th, they may still allow Wilson to test free agency and then try to re-sign him later at a discount. He's unlikely to attract the same attention that Anthony Hitchens got last year.
Another factor in all of this is Joe Thomas, a free agent addition last year who provided good depth and could potentially start in 2019. He is scheduled to count $2.2 million against the cap, which is fine for a primary reserve but a bargain for an occasional starter.
A core of Smith, Thomas, and Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a good foundation to build from. Smith can play the SAM in the base scheme and Thomas can be the primary backup to Jaylon and Leighton in the nickel.
However, going that route would deplete the depth chart. Chris Covington, a sixth-round pick last year, would be the only noteworthy player under contract. Dallas would need to find at least two more guys to fill out the group for 2019.
They could look at re-signing backup Justin March-Lillard, who would at least bring some familiarity and veteran experience. But that might still leave them looking for more of a primary reserve, which would be especially vital if Thomas is promoted to a starting role.
The projected LB free agent pool for 2019 should make it a buyer's market. Dallas may be able to re-sign Damien Wilson or even add an upgrade, like perhaps the Vikings' Anthony Barr, at a relative bargain. There should be ample options for depth as well.
Barring an extremely favorable value opportunity, don't expect the Cowboys to spend a significant draft pick at linebacker. The fourth-round is the earliest I could see one going based on other needs, and even then it would need to be someone they really like.
Good drafting is why Dallas has flexibility and leverage this offseason. The picks they invested in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch appear to have made LB a strength of the team for the next several years.
There is still business to attend to, but the Cowboys won't have to be too concerned with linebacker in 2019 thanks to their young stars.
Xavier Woods Versatility Key in Dallas Cowboys FA Safety Pursuit
There has been a debate going on among Cowboys Nation for more than a year now about the prospects of bringing in Seattle Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas. Now with free agency approaching, there are several other names that the Dallas Cowboys could consider when looking to upgrade the safety position. Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, and Tre Boston are several of the many quality and really good safeties that are hitting the free agent market in a few weeks. It's a group with varied skill sets and abilities, which makes the debate even more interesting. The Dallas Cowboys, however, will be able to take a look at all of them when free agency opens March 13th because of one player; Xavier Woods.
Xavier Woods, the Cowboys fifth round draft pick from the 2017 NFL Draft just finished his first full season as a starter for the Cowboys and played really well. In two years he's shown the ability to cover from the slot, play deep, play in the box, be a force over the middle, and make plays on the football. He's one of the more versatile players on the defense with his ability to play all over the field. That versatility allows the Dallas Cowboys' front office an advantage when approaching the names mentioned above.
The Dallas Cowboys don't have to be locked in to one particular type of safety. When people talk about Landon Collins, they label him a "box safety." Earl Thomas is a traditional free safety. Tre Boston is a similar player to Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu is like Collins. The Cowboys can go into free agency with the freedom to explore their options and do their due diligence when it comes to these players.
That's a distinct difference from this offseason to last.
Last offseason, the feeling was that the Dallas Cowboys had to go get Earl Thomas. The safety position was so weak that the Cowboys were going to be playing at a disadvantage in the high-flying, pass-heavy NFL. Xavier Woods proved in his first full season that he can be a productive, play making starter in the NFL and should only continue to improve.
According to Pro Football Focus, Xavier Woods was sixth in the NFL in passer rating against among safeties with at least 352 coverage snaps. His 62.8 passer rating allowed in his coverage was tied with Eric Weddle, better than Derwin James, Reshad Jones, Adrian Amos, and Maliek Hooker. Of the safeties drafted in the 2017 draft class, only Eddie Jackson from the Chicago Bears had a better passer rating against than Xavier Woods.
The Dallas Cowboys got a really good player in Xavier Woods and as they get ready to potentially make a run at a big name safety, they can feel confident that whoever they end up signing will be a good fit with Woods. He can play in the box or cover receivers and tight ends. You can run more two deep safety looks, because he has the range to play it.
This year, as opposed to last, they have more certainty at the safety position because of Xavier Woods and the strides he took in 2018. There's no reason to believe that he can't continue to take a step forward for the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to play all over the field allows the Cowboys to be smart and patient in their pursuit of a safety upgrade this offseason.
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