Based simply on the 2020 schedule, the Dallas Cowboys appear to have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL in 2021. The problem with strength of schedule is it doesn't account for free agency or the NFL Draft and the possible improvements seen by each of the teams on the schedule. Only when they start playing games in the fall will we find out how difficult a schedule is.
As things stand now, the Cowboys have quite a few important matchups ahead of them, many of which will determine if they make the playoffs or win the division or are sitting at home in January. Let's look at the five most important matchups for the Cowboys in 2021.
1. at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Week 1
In their 2021 season opener, the Dallas Cowboys will face the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady. As we saw at the tail end of the 2020 season and playoffs, this may be the most complete team in the NFL. With very good offense and very good defense, this matchup will be a huge test right out of the gate for the Cowboys.
It should mark the return of Dak Prescott from the ankle fracture he suffered in week five of 2020 and give us our first real look at Dan Quinn's defense.
This isn't a divisional matchup for the Dallas Cowboys, but it could have playoff seeding ramifications if both teams were to win their respective divisions.
2. at Kansas City Chiefs – Week 11
Again, not a divisional matchup and not even a conference one, but this matchup with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in week 11 will be another huge test. By this time in the season, we should have a pretty clear picture of what this team is and if the Cowboys are hoping to be contenders, this is a game they have to perform well in.
The defense should be settled in by now and Prescott should have any rust knocked off by this point in the season. This game against the Chiefs could be a hiccup on the schedule or spark a run to the playoffs.
3. Washington Football Team – Weeks 14 and 16
As things stand now, the Washington Football Team appears to be the team the Dallas Cowboys will contend with for the NFC East. Much of how they fare in 2021 will depend on how much magic Ryan Fitzpatrick has in his arm.
The defense should be one of the best in the NFL again and they have weapons in Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. Quarterback play has been the Achilles heel and there's still uncertainty at the game's most important position.
The Dallas Cowboys with Dak Prescott under center have gone 7-1 against Washington since 2016. He missed both matchups last year in which the Washington Football Team won, so this year's matchups provide an opportunity for redemption.
4. New York Giants – Weeks 5 and 15
Another team that could be in contention with the Dallas Cowboys for NFC East superiority is the New York Giants. Still featuring Daniel Jones at quarterback, the Giants brought in Kenny Golladay in free agency, drafted Kadarius Toney in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and will be getting Saquon Barkley back this season.
Winning these matchups will be huge for the Dallas Cowboys in their bid to win the NFC East. With Dak Prescott as the starter, the Dallas Cowboys are 7-2 against the Giants.
5. at New Orleans Saints – Week 13
No Drew Brees, but the New Orleans Saints could still be a problem with Sean Payton at head coach, one of the best defenses in the NFL, Michael Thomas at wide receiver, and a gunslinger in Jameis Winston at quarterback.
Winston isn't Drew Brees, nobody is going to claim that. However, he is a player that is capable of getting hot and having a fantastic game. This matchup always seems to be closely contested and in the last two matchups has turned into a defensive battle.
The Cowboys won the 2018 affair 13-10 and the Saints won the 2019 matchup 12-10. Will this year's matchup return to the high-scoring battles that we saw in the five games from 2012 to 2015?
Also in Consideration
at Minnesota Vikings – Week 7
Huge conference matchup with a team that will be vying for the playoffs in 2021. The Minnesota Vikings and the Cowboys have split the last two matchups but the Cowboys are 2-1 with Dak Prescott under center.
Arizona Cardinals – Week 17
Another huge conference matchup, this one coming on the second to last weekend of the season. The Cowboys will get an opportunity for redemption after last year's drubbing in Arizona.