After a disappointing 8-8 season in 2012, the pressure is on for the Dallas Cowboys to make a playoff run in 2013.
The organization went all-in on quarterback Tony Romo in the offseason with a six-year, $108 million contract extension. The Cowboys added defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to the mix and have six picks in the upcoming NFL draft to fill some of the holes on the roster.
With a new defensive scheme in place and players like DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant on offense, the Cowboys have the talent to be a competitor in the NFC East once again.
Now that the Cowboys' 2013 slate is official, fans can really start getting ready for the season. Here are the top three games that should have fans buzzing. Full season schedule can be found at NFL.com.
Opponent: vs. New York Giants
When: Sunday, Sept. 8, at 8:30 p.m. ET
It doesn't get much bigger than this. The Cowboy open the season up at home against the New York Giants on Sunday night.
The Giants and Cowboys kicked off the season against each other on a Wednesday night in 2012, and neither team disappointed. The Cowboys eked out a 24-17 win by staving off a late rally from the G-Men.
Of course, Eli Manning and Co. would get their revenge later in the season. Despite over 400 passing yards from Romo, the Giants came away with a 29-24 win in the team's second encounter.
A new season means new teams, but it's always a fun game when Tony Romo and Eli Manning engage in a duel. The NFL couldn't have picked a better opener for the Cowboys, and it's sure to be a good game for the prime-time audience.
Opponent: vs. Denver Broncos
When: Sunday, Oct. 6, at 4:25 p.m. ET
The schedule lines up nicely for the Cowboys to get off to a good start. None of their first four opponents were a playoff team in 2012.
The first real test on the schedule comes in Week 5 when they welcome Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to Dallas. The Broncos were one of the top teams in the AFC last season and should be a contender once again.
With a 3-1 or 4-0 start completely in the cards for the Cowboys, a win over the Broncos would give them all kinds of momentum heading into the rest of the season.
This will be the first test of how good the Cowboys really are in 2013.
Opponent: at Chicago Bears
When: Monday, Dec. 9, at 8:30 p.m. ET
Finishing the season strong will be key to the Cowboys making a strong playoff push in 2013.
There will be no better opportunity to finish the season strong than the team's lone Monday night appearance when they travel to Chicago to play the Bears.
This is an intriguing matchup because the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving Thursday in Week 13, which will give them 10 days to prepare for the final stretch of the season. That extra rest could be what allows them to exact revenge on the Bears for their 34-18 win in 2012.
It's difficult to predict where either of these teams will be at this point in April, but this could very well be a matchup with massive playoff implications this late into the season.
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