Ranking the Dallas Cowboys' Toughest Games in 2013
With training camp set to start, the NFL is almost back into the swing of things. For fans of the Dallas Cowboys, you'll be able to see your team for the first time in the Hall of Fame game against the Miami Dolphins.
While some players might dread an extra preseason game, the Cowboys will try to use the extra competition to work out all the kinks and get the new coaches and players on the same page.
Once the preseason games are out of the way as the team, the Cowboys start the 2013 season at home in a Sunday night matchup against the rival New York Giants.
As for Dallas' 2013 strength of schedule, based off opponent wins and losses from last year, the Cowboys have the eighth easiest schedule in the NFL.
But, 2013 is a new year.
Teams like the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears could easily create havoc. So with training camp set to start, let's take a look at what might be the Cowboys toughest games of the upcoming NFL season.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8 vs. the New York Giants
What will Eli Manning and the Giants have in store at Cowboys Stadium?
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What would a Cowboys season be without starting off against the New York Football Giants? Eli Manning and company come to town in this prime-time matchup on NBC Sunday Night Football.
Last year the Cowboys ruined the Giants home opener with a 24-17 victory in East Rutherford.
But, home openers are always tough for the Cowboys.
The last five years, the Cowboys have gone 3-2 in home openers and have won those games by a combined score of 126-123. Every game was played within one possession.
Historically speaking, this year shouldn't be any different.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6 vs. the Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning will be a handful for Dallas' 4-3 defense.
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You'll notice a trend here, as the season progresses, the games get tougher.
The Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning, are going to be a one hungry team looking to win every game in the 2013 season. Based off of 2012 opponents wins and losses, Denver has the easiest strength of schedule.
Of course, what team doesn't want to go undefeated?
The Broncos defense has what it takes to help Manning and the offense go the distance. In 2012, the Broncos recorded the most sacks with 52. The battle in the trenches will be a great challenge early on for the Cowboys offense.
Can the Cowboys outsmart Manning?
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10 at the New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in last year's game.
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The Cowboys last game before their bye week comes in Week 10, at the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints have been on the better half of the last two matchups, winning by a field goal in each game. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton returns after serving a suspension and missing all of the 2012 season.
By Week 10, the Cowboys will likely have the playoffs in sight, and this game will be a true measure of where they stand in the league, especially on defense. Drew Brees anchors a Saints offense that has finished first in yardage in each of the last two seasons.
DeMarcus Ware will be a key player in this game. Can he create enough pressure and chaos to make it a long day for Brees. If the Cowboys offense has the ball then Brees can only watch from the sideline.
Can this new 4-3 defense shut down Payton and Brees? Week 10 will be tough.
Week 15: Sunday December 15 vs. the Green Bay Packers
Will Aaron Rodgers continue to dominate the NFL?
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The Green Bay Packers will be making a return to the stadium in which they won the Super Bowl only a couple years back.
Since that time, the Pack had a one-loss season in 2011 with a first-round exit at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. In 2012, the Packers lost in the divisional round to the San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl runners-up.
Aaron Rodgers, a likely candidate to throw for 45 touchdowns any given season, hasn't gone anywhere,. The Cowboys will have already faced Eli Manning twice, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, all of whom are elite quarterbacks.
This will be the last major test for the Cowboys defense, and by this late in the season, we'll know whether or not defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's 4-3 defense can stop a high-powered offense.
Week 14: Monday, Dec. 9 at the Chicago Bears
What weather will we see at Solider Field in Chicago?
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Looking at the schedule, the Cowboys get the Chicago Bears for Dallas' only Monday night game of the season.
And, this game sticks out like a sore thumb.
Solider Field's conditions in December have never been favorable. The "Windy City" might have some other natural factors that will make this game tougher than if it were at home for the 'Boys. In December, in Chicago, you can't rule out snow.
And with a Monday night game in December, provided the two teams are in the playoff hunt you can expect the late-season pressure to have reached a fever pitch.
But questions abound for Chicago: How good will the Bears defense be? With Urlacher missing, who will step up?
Tony Romo remembers the Bears defense well from last year, as he threw five interceptions against the in a 34-18 loss. Chicago wideout Brandon Marshall also hauled in 138 receiving yards on seven catches and a touchdown.
With the Bears thirsting for Romo interceptions, and the unknowns surrounding the Cowboys running game, Week 14 looks tough from the first day of training camp.