Power Ranking the Dallas Cowboys' Schedule from Easiest to Hardest Games
The NFL released each team's 2013 schedule yesterday, with the Dallas Cowboys' opponents having a combined winning percentage of .475. Dallas will be looking to reach the playoffs for the first time in three seasons and will have to go through some tough teams to do so.
There are several 2012 playoff teams on Dallas' list of foes but also a few "should-wins." Here is the Cowboys' 2013 schedule ranked in order of easiest to hardest games.
Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have some solid building blocks on their team like running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Even with those offensive weapons, however, the team picking first in the 2013 NFL draft is not a huge threat to beat the Cowboys this year.
Kansas City ranked No. 27 against the run last season, and the Cowboys have young star DeMarco Murray in the backfield. Murray is the same rusher who had his NFL coming-out party against the St. Louis Rams in 2011 when he racked up more than 200 rushing yards in one game.
Dallas is a pass-first team under head coach Jason Garrett, but the team should be able to pound the rock and set up the passing game on offense.
Defensively, if the Cowboys can shut down Charles, then the Chiefs cannot win. KC doesn't have the talent to win an aerial battle with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Co.
Week 3: St. Louis Rams
Speaking of those St. Louis Rams, they come in as Dallas' second-easiest opponent in 2013. The Rams no longer have Steven Jackson in the backfield and lost wide receiver Danny Amendola this offseason.
Offensively, the Cowboys' weapons blow St. Louis out of the water. Sam Bradford is the only notable name on that side of the ball for the Rams. With no weapons to throw to or hand off to, Bradford isn't enough to overwhelm the Dallas defense.
Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray can certainly overwhelm the Rams. St. Louis will not be able to slow down the Cowboys offense unless they can get through the offensive line. There is a chance the Rams could get the best of their opposition's offensive line, but even then it would be an uphill battle for them.
Week 13: Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders will have a new quarterback under center and less staples on defense in 2013. Carson Palmer is gone. Michael Huff is gone. Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are gone.
The Raiders did acquire Matt Flynn from the Seattle Seahawks but one name doesn't replace all the others who have left Oakland.
The one impressive name left on Oakland's roster is Darren McFadden, who was a part of the Raiders' No. 28-ranked rushing attack in 2012. McFadden and the Raiders won just four games last year, defeating only the Chiefs twice, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dallas might not have made the 2012 postseason, but it is a team that is more skilled than all the teams Oakland beat last year and the Raiders themselves. Week 13 should bring a pretty easy victory for the Cowboys.
Week 4: San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have a new head coach in Mike McCoy which could lead to growing pains or a revitalization. McCoy saw great success last year in Denver with Peyton Manning as an offensive coordinator. When you have a future Hall of Famer as your quarterback, though, it's hard to tell how much coaching helped Denver on offense last year.
Under the regime of Norv Turner, the Chargers seemed unable to turn talent into production. San Diego hasn't made the playoffs since 2009 despite having a talented quarterback in Philip Rivers and a solid runner in Ryan Mathews.
With McCoy now calling the shots, San Diego could prove to be a sneaky team on Dallas' schedule. Until the Chargers show a sense of putting talent and production together though, they'll remain an easy target for a win for opposing teams in 2013.
Week 8: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are not an easy win by any means, but they're also very inconsistent. Like the Raiders, the Lions only recorded four wins last year after being a big postseason favorite last offseason.
With Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, it's easy to see why the Lions were a sexy playoff pick. The problem for Detroit last year was immaturity and lack of defensive play.
Six times last year, the Lions defense gave up 30 or more points to opposing teams. They were routed 38-10 against Arizona and lost to Tennessee 44-41 in overtime last year. Detroit is not a team to take lightly, but it is not one that has shown dominance lately.
The Cowboys should prepare for a tough battle when they fly to Detroit Oct. 27, but they could just as easily be in for a cakewalk.
Weeks 8 and 16: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles were not a relevant team in 2012, but that might not be the same case this year under Chip Kelly.
With just four wins to their name in 2012 campaign, the Eagles didn't have much to hang their hats on last year, but that was not Kelly's team. The new head coach has some decisions to make.
If Michael Vick is the team's starting quarterback, obviously the Cowboys are aware of the threat both his legs and arm present on offense. Even if it's another quarterback, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy are great weapons to have for anyone under center.
The defense has seen departures like Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, so it will be interesting to see how the Eagles D performs this year.
Kelly is not a defensive mind, but he'll leave that to new defensive coordinator Billy Davis. The former Cleveland Browns linebacker coach is used to working without superstar defenders, so perhaps this will be a fine fit for Philly.
The Eagles are a team that is hard to judge right now, but it's hard for any team to rebound from a 4-12 season under a new regime. Dallas should be able to sweep or at least split the season series with Philadelphia.
Week 14: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears and Cowboys met each other just last season, where the Bears embarrassed Big D.
It was a game Chicago won 34-18 in Week 4 in 2012 where things got so out of hand Kyle Orton saw playing time at quarterback for Dallas.
Like the Eagles, the Bears also have a new head coach in Marc Trestman heading into next season. Trestman comes over from the Canadian Football League where he won two straight Grey Cup titles with the Montreal Alouettes in 2009 and 2010.
The Bears were too much for the Cowboys to handle last season and not much of their personnel has changed player-wise with the exception of Brian Urlacher leaving. Week 14 will be a tough matchup on the road in Chicago for the Cowboys.
Week 9: Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota did make the playoffs last season on the back of Adrian Peterson and his 2,000 rushing yards. The Vikings defeated NFC champion San Francisco, Houston, Green Bay and other notable teams in the regular season on the way to the playoffs.
The Vikings have a stout run defense, ranking No. 11 in the NFL last season, but ranked just 24th against the pass. Tony Romo and the aerial game might be able to have success against the Vikes, but it wasn't able to last year.
Not having a running game to balance the offense would make it difficult for the Cowboys to get the win against Minnesota. If the Vikings can shut down DeMarco Murray and force Romo to drop back 60 times, they'll get the better of Dallas.
For the Cowboys defense, with Percy Harvin in Seattle it's likely that Peterson will be an even bigger part of the Vikings offense. Christian Ponder has one less option in the passing game, and if the Cowboys can stop Peterson, the Minnesota offense will have a tough time putting up points.
This game will come down to how much Peterson gets the better of the Dallas D and how the Vikings handle Murray.
Weeks 1 and 12: New York Giants
The New York Giants did not have the most impressive of seasons after a 2011 Super Bowl victory last year but are still an impressive team when they're on.
Dallas split its series with the Giants last season, winning the season-opener last year and falling to the G-Men in Week 8. The Cowboys have had trouble with the Giants in recent years, having their playoff dreams dashed in 2011 by New York.
The Giants aren't going through coaching changes or big personnel changes, they're still the same old G-Men. Sometimes they look like a Super Bowl favorite, sometimes they lose and get pummeled by the Cincinnati Bengals like they did in Week 10 of 2011.
If the Giants are on their A-game most of this season, the Cowboys will have a tough time with them. Dallas hasn't matched up well with New York in recent years and that could carry on into 2013.
Weeks 6 and 16: Washington Redskins
Washington swept the Cowboys last season, won the NFC East and had the No. 1 rushing game in the NFL. The Cowboys struggled to run the ball, let the NFC East slip through their fingers and missed the playoffs. Quite the difference of seasons for these archrivals in 2012.
Assuming Robert Griffin III will be suiting up for both games against Dallas this year, the Cowboys will have their handful.
The Dallas D was fooled nearly every time Griffin faked to the running back and took off running. He has one of the best play-action techniques in the league already, but Dallas' defense must key in on this.
The Cowboys need to find a way to handle Griffin in their new 4-3 system under Monte Kiffin to hope to get the better of Washington next season.
In a game like football, it seems odd to single out one player as the key to winning or losing against a team, but that's how good RGIII is.
Before he came to the Redskins with Alfred Morris, Washington won five games in 2011. In both Morris and Griffin's rookie season, the 'Skins make the playoffs. That says it all. Stopping the option running game or at least containing it is Dallas' No. 1 "must do" this year against this team.
Week 10: New Orleans Saints
The Cowboys have played the New Orleans Saints tough in the last three meetings, going 1-2 against New Orleans over that time.
Dallas has lost to Drew Brees and Co. by just a combined six points in the last two meetings last season and in 2010. The one victory came back in 2009 when the Cowboys knocked off an undefeated Saints team in the Superdome on Dec. 19 of that year.
In the recent two meetings, though, it's been a shootout with the Cowboys and Saints combining for 122 points. The Saints defense ranked 31st in passing and last in rushing defense last year, so that's where Dallas could capitalize this year.
It could very well be a shootout again this Nov. 10 in the Superdome, with the Cowboys in need of a top-notch offensive performance that day. If the Dallas defense can contain Brees' offense, it'll be up to the Dallas offense to take advantage.
Week 5: Denver Broncos
With Peyton Manning under center and Von Miller manning the defensive unit, the Broncos are one of the toughest teams on Dallas' schedule.
The Broncos were a top seed in the AFC playoffs bracket last year and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round. Keep in mind that game went to double-overtime, with Denver coming the closest to defeating the Ravens last postseason.
Luckily for Dallas, it will be a home game with the Broncos Week 5. It's been noted the Cowboys are not a team with a great home-crowd advantage, but it's better than traveling to the thin air of Mile High in Denver.
The Oct. 6 game will be an early challenge for Big D, especially after three straight weeks of playing the Chiefs, Rams and Chargers. The Cowboys could be riding in on a big winning streak but can't get overconfident when hosting the Broncos, especially with Manning at the helm.
Week 15: Green Bay Packers
Green Bay is kind of like a more offensively talented Saints teams, but don't think the Packers have as porous a defense.
Without veteran defensive back Charles Woodson for much of the year, the Packers ranked No. 11 in passing and No. 17 in rushing defense last year. With Clay Matthews, BJ Raji and a solid secondary behind them, the Packers have the talent to be a fine defense again this year.
Offensively, the Packers need no introduction with Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and talent. The new-look Dallas defense will have its hands full. The Cowboys offense hasn't shown the high-level production that Green Bay has in recent years.
Green Bay is a complete team, a Super Bowl contender and will put Dallas to the test in the third-to-last game of the regular season.