NFL fans were eagerly awaiting the release of the 2009 NFL schedule this evening. Whether logging on to NFL.com or watching coverage on the NFL Network or ESPN, tons of football faithful finally found out what match-ups to target for tickets, or when and where to make reservations for road games.
When I first looked over the Cowboys' 2009 schedule, I noticed all of the prime time games. The Cowboys will play in front of a national audience on six separate occasions in the upcoming season.
The Cowboys will officially open "Jerry World" in the Sunday night game during the second week of the season against the New York Giants. The house will be rocking as the Football Taj Mahal opens against this division rival, which won the last playoff game at Texas Stadium.
The other games to be played under the lights includes a week three match-up against Carolina, at home, which is Dallas' lone Monday Night game in 2009.
The Cowboys also have a week nine Sunday night battle in Philadelphia, and a trip to New Orleans to square off against the Saints in a late season Saturday night contest. The Cowboys also head to Washington for a Sunday night game against the Redskins in week 15.
Of course, the Cowboys will hold their traditional Thanksgiving Day match-up as always. This year's opponent will be the Oakland Raiders, another one of the NFL's storied franchises in what should be a win for Dallas.
The Cowboys will play nine of their 2009 games on NFC affiliate FOX. They also play three times on NBC's Sunday night football, once on the NFL network, and once on ESPN's Monday Night Football.
Dallas also has two games televised on CBS, which will give the 'Boys two shots of having Gus Johnson do the play by play...my fingers are already crossed.
Following their "bye" during the sixth week of the season, the Cowboys have their hands full down the stretch. They will come out of their off-,week with the upstart Falcons, the newly retooled Seahawks, and a game on the road against the Eagles.
The Cowboys, who have notoriously faded down the stretch over the last few years, will not be able to do that this season unless they want to be sitting at home come playoff time. December's games include contests against the Giants, Chargers, Saints, Redskins, and the season finale at home against the Eagles.
There are no easy games in today's NFL, but the Cowboys do have a few "should wins" on the schedule. The Buccaneers (week one), the Broncos (week four), the Chiefs (week five), and the Raiders (week 12) all struggled last season, or find themselves rebuilding in 2009.
Being as objective as I can, I have the Cowboys starting off 5-0. After some projected losses on the road later in the season, I believe Dallas is looking at a possible 12-4, or 11-5 record.
Road games against the Saints, Eagles, Giants, and Green Bay will all be very tough games, and the Cowboys have to take on the talented Chargers at home during week 14 in showdowns I have marked as possible losses.
All in all, the Cowboys are still in the NFC East, which is usually one of the tougher divisions in football and, as always, will have their hands full. On the other hand, it's not a bad year to be playing against the AFC West, which was terrible in 2008.
As we all know, it is impossible to determine where the Cowboys will end up just by looking at this schedule. Injuries can always play a major factor; just ask the Patriots, who lost Tom Brady eight minutes into the 2008 season. These projections are also riding on the fact that the team will be more focused and show more heart in '09.
But nonetheless, an NFL fan has to get excited on a day like today. Hopefully, this will tide over fanatics like myself until the draft in a couple of weeks. With the excitement of the talent that is on this team, the new stadium, and the fact that I am seriously going through football withdrawals, I can't wait for the 2009 season to start.