Little by little, football is getting closer. It definitely feels different this year, though. Usually, by now we’d be getting excited about reports on how players have been doing in minicamps, OTAs, and other offseason practices. Instead, right now we’re waiting for training camp to learn as much as we can about the players that will form the Dallas Cowboys 2020 roster.
Despite two preseason games being canceled, the NFL is still aiming to play the regular season as scheduled, with a September 10th kickoff between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans.
As soon as NFL schedules are released we begin conversations on who has the toughest schedule, or the easiest one. However, data has taught us we usually approach this the wrong way. The mainstream way of defining strength of schedule is by using the team’s last season records. Where is the logic in that?
How relevant would the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers’ record be in 2020? They played last season with backup quarterbacks and now Ben Roethlisberger is set to return from injury. What about the Bengals? Teams change every single year. Some change a little, but some have drastic changes that should make us completely dismiss the traditional way of evaluating the strength of schedule (SOS).
Enter projected wins. The sports betting world has been a reliable source of projected win totals as the betting market accurately predicts how teams will fare in any given season. A lot of websites have made an effort to provide better NFL teams SOS rankings by utilizing this method.
According to Sports Betting Dime, using projected win totals, the Dallas Cowboys have a relatively easy schedule. The Cowboys rank 22nd in strength of schedule (the lowest, the easiest). This is far from surprising considering the NFC East features the Philadelphia Eagles as the only other legit playoff contender. Meanwhile, New York and Washington will continue to be in rebuilding mode barring any big surprise.
But things aren’t that simple. When taking a look at the first and second halves of the season, things change drastically for the Cowboys. In the first half of the 2020 campaign, the Cowboys rank 27th in strength of schedule. But take a look at the second half of the season and Dallas will have to play the 9th toughest schedule in the league.
This makes a ton of sense, considering the Cowboys will face the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, and Baltimore Ravens in a five-week span. Little after that, they’ll be playing the defending NFC Champions San Francisco 49ers.
As the NFL will play on a brand new 14-team playoff format, earning the top seed in the conference will be key to make a run at the Super Bowl as only one team per conference will own a first-round bye week.
Taking advantage of an easy first-half schedule will be key for the Dallas Cowboys to establish themselves as legit Super Bowl contenders early in the season.
Of course, things might not be as easy as they seem. After all, some opponents in the first eight weeks might turn out to be a surprise, including the Los Angeles Rams who could bounce back after a disappointing 2019 season. The same goes for the Cleveland Browns who have rebuilt the offensive line for Baker Mayfield. The Arizona Cardinals just saw Kyler Murray put on an impressive rookie year and now have DeAndre Hopkins on the team as well.
Football can’t get here fast enough.