The National Football League announced its 2017 schedule Thursday night.
Hot take alert: I enjoy the schedule release more than the draft.
Unless a team has the uncanny foresight and scouting to draft two rookie of the year candidates that take the league by storm (any team come to mind?), the schedule has more of an effect on a team’s success for the upcoming season than the draft.
Some notable 2017 games include the Patriots hosting the Chiefs in the opening night game, while Saints-Vikings and Chargers-Broncos make up the Monday Night doubleheader of week one.
Assuming Atlanta’s roads have not completely disintegrated by then, the Falcons will open up their new stadium by hosting the Packers in week two.
The holidays will be full of football as Vikings at Lions, Chargers at Cowboys, and Giants at Redskins will be the Thanksgiving triple-header this year, while Steelers-Texas and Raiders-Eagles will be played on Christmas Day.
Those are all premiere games, but the most important 16 games of the season are those that occupy the 2017 Dallas Cowboys schedule.
And what’s the point of having a sports blog and not breaking down the schedule just hours after its released, before the draft even takes place, and 4 1/2 months before the season even starts?
The 2017 slate of America’s Team is one of the most challenging in the NFL. The Cowboys will be nationally televised in all but one game this year.
For the fifth time in six years and third straight, the Cowboys will open up against the Giants. Assuming Eli is not behind bars in regards to his current fraud scandal, the Giants represent the biggest threat to Dallas for the NFC East crown.
After hosting the Giants in the opener, Dallas then takes on Denver and Arizona on the road and host the Rams and Packers.
Dallas is fortunate in the fact that for the third time in as many trips to the Mile High City, the Cowboys play at Denver early in the season and can avoid any crappy late-season weather. Despite Denver being one of the toughest places to play in the NFL, the Broncos’ questions at quarterback will be too much for them to overcome.
Despite games at Arizona being a pseudo home game for the Cowboys, Dallas has lost two straight in the desert and the Cardinals potent offense will give the Cowboys’ young secondary all they can handle.
Dallas’ second home game of the year will be against the Rams. With a new coaching staff and an unproven quarterback at the helm, LA will not pose a threat.
After disposing the Rams, a rematch of the heart-wrenching NFC Divisional round loss to the Packers awaits the Cowboys. Aaron Rodgers was super-human in the playoff matchup a year ago and he will be licking his chops at the Dallas secondary that was decimated by free agency departures.
Following a week six bye week, Dallas travels to San Francisco and Washington. The 49ers will remain one of the worst teams in the NFL and the Redskins, while still a rival, have an unhappy quarterback and too much turmoil in the front office – not a recipe for success.
Following the matchup with the Redskins, Dallas enters their toughest two-game stretch of the season. The Cowboys host Kansas City before traveling to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. Dallas should be able to outscore KC at home, but I don’t see anyway the Cowboys can beat the Falcons on the road. Julio Jones will have a field day against Dallas’ diminished secondary (sensing a theme?).
The Cowboys then host three straight as they play the Eagles on Sunday night, the Chargers on Thanksgiving, and Redskins on the following Thursday. Anything less than a 2-1 mark during this stretch would be a disappointment.
After the Redskins matchup, the closing four games represent Dallas’ toughest stretch of the season. The Cowboys have only one home game in the final four and take on three teams that made the playoffs a season ago.
The final gauntlet begins with a road game against the Giants before traveling across the country for a Sunday Night matchup at the Raiders. A split of those two games would be considered a win by any metric.
The Cowboys close out the season with their final home game against the Seahawks on Christmas Eve and travel to Philadelphia for the regular season finale.
One of the trends that will become apparent during the 2017 season is that the Seahawks’ window is closing. They still have a top-10 quarterback, but their defense is getting older and their weapons on the outside are limited.
Hopefully, like the 2016 finale, the Cowboys have everything clinched by the time they play the Eagles in the last week of the season. Even so, I’m still not convinced Carson Wentz is the real deal.
America’s Team has many holes to fill, especially on the defensive side of the ball, before the season kicks off. But, again, what’s the point of having a sports blog and not making long-range projections for the upcoming football season.