In the NFL, it's not always about who you play, but when and where you play them.
No one wanted to play the Seattle Seahawks last year, but at CenturyLink Field—where they were the only team to go 8-0 at home—no one really wanted to play them.
Road games are always difficult, but try playing three in a row (via Grantland's Bill Barnwell):
Bill Barnwell @billbarnwell
Teams playing their third consecutive road game are 49-76 (.392) since 1990. Sorry, Eagles and Titans.4/19/2013, 12:12:49 AM
So, while making a big huff over the release of the NFL schedule seems quite pedantic, know that the order and time of the games also plays a critical role in the season.
That being said, let's take a look at the Dallas Cowboys' slate, and where they caught some unfortunate breaks with the scheduling.
Cowboys' 2013 Schedule
Courtesy of ESPN.com:
Week 1: Sept. 8, vs. New York Giants, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)
Week 2: Sept. 15 at Kansas City, Noon (FOX)
Week 3: Sept. 22 vs. St. Louis, Noon (FOX)
Week 4: Sept. 29 at San Diego, 3:25 p.m. (FOX)
Week 5: Oct. 6 vs. Denver, 3:25 p.m. (CBS)
Week 6: Oct. 13 vs. Washington, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)
Week 7: Oct. 20 at Philadelphia, Noon p.m. (FOX)
Week 8: Oct. 27 at Detroit, Noon (FOX)
Week 9: Nov. 3 vs. Minnesota, Noon (FOX)
Week 10: Nov. 10 at New Orleans, 7:30 p.m. (NBC)
Week 11: Nov. 17 Bye
Week 12: Nov. 24 at New York Giants, 3:25 p.m. (FOX)
Week 13: Nov. 28 vs. Oakland Raiders, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Week 14: Dec. 9 at Chicago, 7:40 p.m. (ESPN)
Week 15: Dec. 15 vs. Green Bay, 3:25 p.m. (FOX)
Week 16: Dec. 22 at Washington, Noon (FOX)
Week 17: Dec. 29 vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Noon (FOX)
Week 7 and 8
While back-to-back road weeks can be difficult stretches to deal with, the Cowboys actually lucked out by receiving just one such event in 2013—against two fairly mediocre squads.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions combined to go 8-24 last year, and if you're going to play multiple games in a row away from home, you couldn't really find two better opponents to do it against.
Still, though, the Eagles bring in new head coach Chip Kelly, and even if they don't improve—an unlikely occurrence considering their injuries from last year—they promise to be a challenging team to gameplan against. The Lions, meanwhile, despite their record, are always a formidable opponent due to their dangerous passing game.
When you see these games on the initial schedule, you probably immediately circle them as winnable road contests. But as consecutive games away from the home, they will be unpredictable and daunting. Don't overlook these ones.
In the last four years, the Cowboys' bye has been Week 6 or earlier. An early break for this team has proven to be perfect, as they also get a solid rest period after they play on Thanksgiving Thursday every year.
But this season, the Cowboys don't get their bye until Week 11, which is the latest they've ever had it this millennium.
Usually by Week 6 or 7, you start to see injuries pile up. To go multiple months at the beginning of the season without a break can be incredibly taxing on the body, and the Cowboys could easily hit the wall in late October or early November.
At some point, teams simply get exhausted.
We mentioned that Weeks 7 and 8 could be sneaky tough for the Cowboys, but Weeks 9 and 10 against the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints will prove to be telling of the team's fitness, dedication and health.
Cowboys fans knew they were going to have to go into Soldier Field and play the Bears this year, but a night game on December 9?
Getting that game in September or October when the temperatures are somewhat bearable would be nice, but now the 'Boys have to go into Chicago in what figures to be a cold, windy game that only Snow Miser would enjoy.
Also, while plenty is sure to change between now and December, remember that Dallas averaged 7.6 yards per pass attempt (ninth best in the NFL) and 3.6 yards per rush attempt (30th best in the NFL) last season.
Running the ball hasn't been the Cowboys' forte, and this is a game where they won't be able to lean on freshly appointed franchise quarterback Tony Romo and the passing game nearly as much.
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