When the schedule-makers released the 2022 edition, a few things quickly jumped out.
The Cowboys would play the NFC North and the AFC South, but they would also deal with first-place problems in playing the winners of the other NFC divisions (Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Rams) as well as one “random” AFC team (Cincinnati Bengals) to really spice things up. Those three teams would constitute the three games in the schedule that are not part of the 14-game balanced schedule for teams in the Cowboys division. Fourteen games are identical no matter who you are. Six division games, all four NFC North teams and all four AFC South teams equals 14.
But, the other three could decide the difference between winning and losing this division. This is how they attempt to even the playing field and make things difficult for the first-place team.
• Dallas played the Bengals, Rams and Buccaneers — that’s 35 wins last year combined in the regular season between the two Super Bowl teams and the Super Bowl champion from the previous season.
• Philadelphia deals with Arizona, New Orleans and Pittsburgh — winners of 29 games combined last year.
• Washington plays Atlanta Cleveland, and San Francisco (25 wins).
• New York plays Carolina, Baltimore and Seattle (20 wins).
The point to all of this is that Dallas had to be able to navigate that difference in schedule difficulty to remain in the battle and winning two of those three extra difficult tests accomplished just that. Now, the Cowboys have to simply do what everyone in the division should be able to do: Run through these other two divisions. The divisional rotation will not always be this kind, but when you play the NFC North and AFC South, you are generally handed two simple wins apiece. Recent tracking of the NFL tells us that if you get Houston and Jacksonville, you are probably playing a 12-loss team and the same goes for Detroit and Chicago. The fact Dallas has five wins and has only played one of these four contests allows us to see Dallas is on a 12- or 13-win pace again.
But, it definitely starts with taking care of games when you are a big home favorite versus a team coming off a very short week and isn’t very good in the first place. So, with only the Chicago Bears standing between the Cowboys and a 6-2 bye week, let’s ask five questions to get you ready for this one: