The Dallas Cowboys now know exactly what they're going to have to overcome if they want to get back to the playoffs for the first time in four years. We've given you a game-by-game breakdown here, but let's take a moment to analyze the new schedule on a macro level.
The good: It's the easiest schedule in the NFC
This is something we've known since the opponents were determined in Week 17 last year, but it comes with the caveat that teams go from good to bad and from bad to good in this league very quickly. With about half of the league's playoff teams turning over every year, it's impossible to draw large conclusions regarding a team's scheduled based on the results of the preceding season.
The good: Late bye
The Cowboys play 10 straight games out of the gate, which I think they might prefer to last year, when they had to finish the season with 12 straight games after an early bye. It's the first time since 1990 the 'Boys have been off this late, according to ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer, who thinks this could be helpful from a health-and-rest perspective.
The bad: December could be a bitch
Rightly or wrongly, Dallas doesn't have a reputation for playing its best football with the season on the line. This year, the NFC East will probably come down to the wire yet again, and the Cowboys don't have any easy matchups in the season's final month.
Dec. 9 at Chicago: The Cowboys were crushed by the Bears in one of their worst games of 2012, and that was at home.
Dec. 15 vs. Green Bay: The Packers have lost only six regular-season games the last two years.
Dec. 22 at Washington: The Cowboys were swept in their season series with the Redskins last year.
Dec. 29 vs. Philadelphia: The Eagles scored a season-high 33 points in Dallas last year. This will be a tough out.
The 'Boys could be underdogs in all four of those games.