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?
Despite Changes, Cowboys Offense Still Runs Through Ezekiel Elliott
We've talked a lot this offseason about the changes at Offensive Coordinator and slot receiver, or how Jason Witten's return will impact the tight end position. But while all of these will impact the Dallas Cowboys' offense in 2019, the constant feature remains Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack.
From 2016 to 2018, since the Cowboys drafted Elliott, Dallas has ranked 1st, 3rd, and 10th among NFL teams in "run vs. pass" play calls. That's only logical; you don't spend a fourth-overall pick on a RB and then not make him the featured player in your offense.
Zeke has certainly rewarded Dallas' decision; Elliott has led the league in total rushing two out of three years, and he led in yards-per-game in 2017 while dealing with his suspension.
Leaning on Elliott has been smart business based on his effectiveness, plus the investment in the offensive line over the last several years.
Dallas has now sunk three first-round picks (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin), one second (Connor Williams), and now two thirds (Chaz Green and Connor McGovern) on building up their front wall. They've spent a lot of money to keep their All-Pro guys around, plus La'el Collins.
Some would try to paint the run-heavy approach as how the team is trying to hide the weaknesses of Dak Prescott at quarterback. But in 2014, with DeMarco Murray at RB and Tony Romo at QB, the Cowboys were still 3rd in the league in rush vs. pass attempts.
This isn't about Zeke or Dak, or any other specific player. This about a team philosophy that starts at the top with Jason Garrett, and that isn't going to change even with Kellen Moore taking over as the new Offensive Coordinator.
We're all excited to see what new wrinkles comes from getting rid of Scott Linehan. We highly anticipate the development of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in the offense, coupled with the addition of Randall Cobb. We're salivating at what Blake Jarwin might become under the tutelage of the great Jason Witten.
Heck, maybe we'll see fullback Jamize Olawale's receiving skills put to more use. Perhaps gadget guys like Tavon Austin or rookie Tony Pollard will be deployed in more creative ways.
And yes, Dak Prescott's growth is another major factor in Dallas' 2019 success. It's especially interesting, and even concerning, as talks are ongoing about his long-term contract.
But make no mistake, this is still the Ezekiel Elliott show. Even if a few more of his carries become receptions in Moore's scheme, Zeke should still get the lion's share of the touches.
That's why this week's news about his incident in Las Vegas is so troubling. It probably won't lead to a suspension, but we saw what happened in 2017 when Elliott was missing for over a third of the season.
While Dallas should be better able to withstand losing Zeke now than it was two years ago, it may still be more than Prescott, Cooper, and the rest could handle. It definitely wouldn't put the Cowboys in good position to compete for a Super Bowl.
In the end, the 2019 will still come down to how well Dallas runs the ball. It's the engine; nothing else matters if the rushing game doesn't set everyone else up for success.
Don't ever take it for granted. This is still Ezekiel Elliott's offense.
What Would a Successful Season Mean for Kellen Moore’s Future?
Out of every chess piece moved by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, the decision to name 30-year old Kellen Moore might be the most interesting one. Not only that, but it could be the one that makes the biggest impact on the team. After all, the Cowboys are ready to go talent wise.
With Kellen Moore taking up a new role, it's intriguing to imagine what a successful season would mean for his future with the Dallas Cowboys. Truth be told, Moore is in a pretty fortunate position to debut as an offensive coordinator. He'll be driving a unit full of talented players with almost no weak links. Last year, it wasn't the lack of quality players lined up that had the offense struggling throughout the season, but the guy in charge.
At first, the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver clearly blew up on the Cowboys face. The passing game in Dallas needed a spark and they didn't find it until they traded a first rounder for Amari Cooper. Cooper's impact on the team was clear right away as he put on impressive performances on a weekly basis.
But even when Cooper was at his best, the offense still presented relevant struggles. Despite getting more first downs, the Cowboys still had trouble scoring touchdowns when in the red zone and kept leaving points on the field.
Although he's been a controversial conversation among members of Cowboys Nation, there are a few reasons to be excited about what Kellen Moore can bring to the table as a young offensive coordinator. Ever since he declared for the NFL Draft out of Boise State, where he ran a very complex offense on his way to become the QB with most wins in NCAA history, he was seen by many as an extremely smart prospect. Many expected him to have a mediocre career as a player, but saw him as a potential coach down the line.
Now it's his chance to prove the world just how smart he is and his potential as a coach. He will not only be proving it to the Cowboys organization, but all of the NFL and college football teams. Don't forget what NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah mentioned a few months ago.
I've mentioned this before- Kellen Moore is a rising star and he'll be in the mix for HC gigs (CFB or NFL) in the near future. https://t.co/hLjOb4HAUc
With a great group of talent at his disposal, it's fair to imagine Moore having a pretty successful "rookie" season at a major coaching position. If he indeed manages to turn heads with the Dallas Cowboys offense in 2019, what does that mean for his future?
In a league that's turning to the young offensive-minded coaches thanks to guys like Sean McVay, is it possible one team decides to pull the trigger and make him an offer for a head coaching gig? It certainly would seem premature, but it's still a possibility in the NFL, where teams have become increasingly impatient with their coaches.
I definitely wouldn't be surprised if next offseason, we're concerned about another team (college or NFL) trying to snatch Moore off the Cowboys. I insist in pointing out this would be a premature decision if it does happen, since Moore has very little experience, but looking at the trend in the NFL it certainly could happen.
This might be the most important year in Kellen Moore's young career. For now, let's hope he does a good job leading Dak Prescott in his fourth year as a professional player and an offense that has a solid OL and a pretty good set of skill players.
Connor Williams Working as Left Tackle in Cowboys Practice
Second-year guard Connor Williams has been working as the Cowboys' left tackle during practice this week. While this isn't the plan for him in 2019, it does provide a glimpse into potential uses for Williams down the road and how Dallas might handle future offensive line moves.
Using Connor at LT this week has been a matter of necessity. The top players on that depth chart, Tyron Smith and Cameron Fleming, were not participating for other reasons.
With Tyron Smith getting a vet day and Cam Fleming not practicing because of a bruised shin, Connor Williams worked at left tackle Wednesday. He said it was his first left tackle snaps since he was at Texas. He said it felt like riding a bike after a little bit.
Indeed, Williams spent three years at left tackle in college. It was the last position he'd played before being drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Dallas, who immediately moved him to guard.
Connor started 10 of 13 games at guard last season. He played mostly on the left side, starting Weeks 1-9, before getting injured. Xavier Su'a-Filo played well enough in his absence that Williams didn't get the starting job back when he was healthy. However, when Zack Martin had to miss a few games at the end of the year, Connor started a right guard for those two weeks.
When Martin returned for the playoffs, Williams was back as the starting left guard in both postseason games.
Tyron Smith and Cam Fleming will be your starter and backup at left tackle next year. But for 2020 and beyond, Connor Williams' ability to play tackle creates some interesting possibilities.
La'el Collins will be an unrestricted free agent next year. Fleming will still have one year left on his deal and Dallas just spent a third-round pick on the versatile Connor McGovern. Throw in that Williams can play some tackle, and it seems as if they're covering bases for Collins eventual departure.
We could very well see a starting lineup in 2020 with McGovern at LG and Williams at RT. Another possibility is that Fleming starts at RT and Williams stays at guard, but can be moved to tackle if needed.
If nothing else, it's nice to know that Dallas has options. We may never see Connor Williams play a regular season snap at left tackle, but versatility is a great asset. It can greatly increase a player's value, and give his team some leverage and flexibility in roster management.
For the Cowboys, it does make you wonder what the future holds for the offensive line.
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