Game-by-Game Predictions for Cowboys' 2013 Schedule
After yet another mediocre finish. the Dallas Cowboys begin preparing for a long winter. Another several months of sitting in a proverbial corner, thinking about what they did. That's how Jerry Jones sees it (ESPN.com), and that is how a large Dallas Cowboys fanbase sees it.
Realistically (with maybe a dash of optimism), these Cowboys are right around the corner, and look to be a contender for years to come with the foundation that Jason Garrett is creating. The Dallas Cowboys won eight games this year, yet trailed in every single one. That's an NFL record that Jerry Jones won't be proud about, but it is something that can be pointed to for progress.
In 2011, the Cowboys trailed in 12 games, but only managed to win four of them. This shows that Jason Garrett is putting together a mentally tough roster that is able to compete late in games, even when down, to come back for a win.
Here is your 2013 schedule breakdown.
Division Rival: Washington Redskins
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The No. 2 overall draft pick from the 2012 NFL draft is going to haunt the Cowboys and the rest of the NFC East for years to come. The Redskins swept the Cowboys in 2012, although neither team was at full strength for either meeting.
With both teams at full strength, look for the Cowboys to split the series with the Redskins.
The key to stopping the Redskins next year is eliminating the read-option offense. Rob Ryan should send a man to tackle RGIII on every play, whether he hands the ball, pitches the ball, or runs it himself.
RGIII is a great talent, but he is not made of steel. He is made of flesh and bones just like everyone else, and the wear and tear (NFL.com) will either make the Redskins force the ball through the air, or risk injury to RGIII.
This rivalry has been renewed by the drafting of RGIII and these games will surely bring in a large viewing crowd.
Division Rival: New York Giants
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This rivalry disregards home field advantage. The Giants are undefeated against the Cowboys while playing in Cowboys Stadium, and the Cowboys have won two out of three at the New Meadowlands Stadium when they play the Giants.
The Giants inspired the Cowboys to invest heavily in the secondary, bringing in cornerbacks Brandon Carr (free agency) and Morris Claiborne (first-round pick in the NFL Draft).
The Dallas Cowboys were two inches away from sweeping the Giants, had Dez Bryant's fingers been just a little bit shorter.
The Giants, too, had injury issues in the secondary and look to compete for the NFC East division crown along with the Redskins and the Cowboys.
Look for the Cowboys to split this series with the Giants, but don't expect the Cowboys to win in Cowboys Stadium.
Division Rival: Philadelphia Eagles
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After completing a sweep of the Eagles in 2012, expect the Cowboys to do the same in 2013. The long-time head coach, Andy Reid, was released on "Black Monday," and his replacement has yet to be found.
A former backup quarterback of the Eagles, Vince Young, gave an ill-advised nickname to the Eagles when he called them the "dream team" (BleacherReport.com).
This team has been dreaming, sleep-walking and scrounging to find ways to win. The Eagles relied on a mobile quarterback in Mike Vick that lived off the big play, but didn't realize that the devil was in the details. His inability to read opposing defenses caused him to become a turnover machine, resulting in a total QBR of 46.0 for 2012.
There is speculation that Vick's contract might be too expensive for the Eagles to keep (BleacherReport.com), considering the poor performance and durability Vick has shown.
The bad news for the Eagles is that there is no Andrew Luck and RGIII in this year's draft that can solve all of their problems.
The Cowboys were able to beat the Eagles when healthy, and when not healthy. Look for the Cowboys to do the same next year. With Sean Lee and Bruce Carter returning from injury, the Eagles won't be able to gash the Cowboys with underneath throws.
Home: Green Bay Packers
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The last battle between the Cowboys and the Packers left a Dallas Cowboys head coach without a job, and opened the door for Jason Garrett to take the reigns.
With the quarterback play of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are never out of a game. Rodgers is the best in the game right now—posting league-leading QB rating numbers in 2011 and 2012—and even having his top wide receiver (Greg Jennings) out doesn't affect him.
Rodgers finds the open man, does a discount double-check and makes plays. Although primarily a pocket passer, Rodgers has the mobility to extend plays with his feet, or beat you in a foot race.
Since 2008, Rodgers has rushed for almost 1,400 yards including 18 rushing touchdowns. That's one fewer touchdown than the total rushing touchdowns the Cowboys have had the previous two years.
This game will be about Rob Ryan vs. Aaron Rodgers. The Cowboys will be able to put up points, but will the defense be able to stop Aaron Rodgers?
This will most likely go down in the "L" column for the Cowboys, but it won't be by much.
Expect a Sunday or Monday night nationally televised game for this meeting. If the Packers win the Super Bowl (which I believe they have a decent shot at) look to see the Cowboys play on opening night again. The NFL loves ratings, and the Cowboys have a large following nationwide.
Home: Minnesota Vikings
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Stopping the run will be key in this game. Adrian Peterson, fresh off a serious knee injury requiring surgery, fell just nine yards short of Erik Dickerson's single-season rushing record.
Peterson is the reason the Vikings made it to the playoffs. He is a workhorse running back and Rob Ryan will have to commit to stopping the run and forcing Christian Ponder to beat him through the air, which is not likely to happen.
The Vikings averaged 336.6 yards of offense per game—5386 on the season. Adrian Peterson had 2,314 yards from scrimmage. That's 43 percent of Minnesota's offense.
This offense is nothing without Adrian Peterson, and shutting him down is not easy. Peterson hails from the same alma mater as the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray. Both feed off of contact and do not go down easily.
The Cowboys will have the edge in this game solely because the Vikings will be one-dimensional and rely too much on Adrian Peterson to pull them through. Even with Rob Ryan sending extra men to stop the run, Peterson will still put up 100-plus yards and a touchdown or two.
It just won't be enough to keep the Cowboys from rolling.
Home: Denver Broncos
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It seems a good thing the Cowboys upgraded the secondary for 2012, because 2013 is not going to get any easier. So far down the schedule the Cowboys have had to play RGIII twice, Eli Manning twice, Aaron Rodgers and are now getting to face the Sheriff—Peyton Manning.
The Cowboys' last meeting against Manning was a win as Sean Lee had a coming-out party (ESPN.com) and intercepted him twice.
The Cowboys' last meeting against the Broncos was the game that caused the emergence of Miles Austin. Roy Williams went up for a pass over the middle and was rocked, bruising some ribs and sidelining him for the game against the Chiefs the following week. We all know how that went... (BleacherReport.com)
This Broncos team is completely different with Josh McDaniels out as head coach, and John Fox in.
I give the Cowboys the edge in this game because of the Sean Lee factor. He was able to get into Manning's head as a rookie and now has a greater understanding of the game. Look for yet another prime-time game.
Home: Oakland Raiders
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The Oakland Raiders will come to town in what should be an easy win for the Dallas Cowboys. Quarterback play is horrid, with Carson Palmer recording a 44.7 QBR for 2012, and backup Terrelle Pryor was not ready to even be a backup quarterback (courtesy San Jose Mercury News).
Darren McFadden is one of the lone shining stars on this Oakland squad. However, his injury reputation is more well known that his playmaking ability. Since 2008, McFadden has missed 20-plus games due to injuries.
Expect the Cowboys to roll past this team with little effort unless there are major changes this offseason.
Home: St. Louis Rams
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In the infamous words of former Dallas Cowboy player Pacman Jones, "It's the Rams, dude.".
But these aren't the Rams you're used to. Jeff Fisher pulled off a trade similar to the Great Train Robbery that was pulled off by Jimmy Johnson.
These Rams are going to be able to stockpile young talent in a hurry due to that trade, and last year is the last year than any team should take them lightly. The St. Louis Rams ranked 19th in total yards allowed, but 14th in total points.
Offensively, the Rams struggle—23rd in total yards, 25th in total points—but the Rams are just a few players away. Watch the Rams during this year's free agency period and draft.
The Cowboys have the edge. This year. But watch out for these Rams. Jeff Fisher is going to do amazing things with this team. Just wait and see.
Away: Chicago Bears
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Soldier Field is not an inviting atmosphere to play a football game in. The Bears defense is opportunistic at worst, and dominating at best.
In the 2012 matchup, the Bears forced Tony Romo into several errant throws that were returned for touchdowns. Even with a new head coach coming to town—possibly the Cowboy's special teams coordinator, Joe DeCamillis—the Bears defense still has the key players to be formidable (ESPN.com).
With Jay Cutler out for several games with injuries, the Bears faded down the stretch and ultimately missed the playoffs.
The Bears have the edge in this game unless the Cowboys make some major adjustments to the offensive line. The pressure that the Bears' front four brings is too much for the Cowboys' offensive line to handle.
Away: Detrioit Lions
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Tony Romo better wear a cup for this matchup. He will be staring the dirtiest player in the NFL (NFL.com) down on every single snap.
Rob Ryan better give Calvin Johnson the credit his deserves or it might come back to haunt him (LAtimes.com).
The Lions had a rough year, being just one year removed from a playoff berth, and have lots of talent on both sides of the ball. It can't be helped when you pick in the top five several years in a row.
Neither team has the edge in what should be a good game all around.
Away: Kansas City Chiefs
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Cowboys fans just can't get away from Andy Reid. Recently released on "Black Monday," Reid was quickly hired (BleacherReport.com) by the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs have tons of talent on both sides of the ball. Where the talent is lacking is in the wide receiver and quarterback department (no offense to Dwayne Bowe).
Reid will have his crew ready to play and the Cowboys should be prepared for lots of rushing attempts for former Texas Longhorn, Jamaal Charles.
Even with a new coach and the top draft pick, the Chiefs will not be prepared to meet a healthy Dallas Cowboys team.
Away: San Diego
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Depending on how the hiring of new coaches goes this season, the Dallas Cowboys might have Norv Turner back as an offensive coordinator as he too was fired on "Black Monday."
Traveling to San Diego will be a nice break from Texas weather, regardless of the time of year.
San Diego has key pieces on offense and on defense, but share a similar story line with the Cowboys—they are unable to get "it" done.
Offensively, they are dwelling near the bottom—ranked No. 31 in yards, No. 20 in total points. Defensively the Chargers don't fair much better—ranking No. 24 in yards allowed, No. 16 in total points allowed.
This team will be in a rebuilding mode as they search for a new general manager and head coach.
The edge goes to the Cowboys this meeting.
Away: New Orleans
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That ship has sailed, as the Saints awarded Sean Payton with a contract extension that will make him (supposedly) the highest-paid head coach in the NFL.
The Cowboys couldn't get past Drew Brees and the Saints this year and will have a heck of a time traveling to New Orleans to get past them.
With Sean Payton, the Saints will be a contender. Expect this game to have playoff implications for both teams and be a nationally televised night game.
I give the Cowboys the edge. They can't beat the Saints in Cowboys Stadium, but they can beat them in New Orleans.