Dallas Cowboys Schedule: 5 Games You Don't Wanna Miss

Bryan Kalbrosky@@BryanKalbroskyCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2011

Dallas Cowboys Schedule: 5 Games You Don't Wanna Miss

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    The Dallas Cowboys opened the 2011 NFL season with a loss against the New York Jets, and hope to continue a path to redemption in the NFC East as the season continues.

    While the week one loss was heartbreaking and just void of the late-game heroics needed for victory in the NFL, the Cowboys did show that they are capable of keeping up with the best teams in the league. In fact, they were two fourth-quarter blunders from beating a team that has made it to two straight AFC Championship games. Not to mention that the game was in New York on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in front of a home crowd of proud Jets fans, played against a team coached by the twin brother of our defensive coordinator, and it’s hard to think the Cowboys even had a chance.

    Yet, they still looked to be a contender for four quarters of football. As the season progresses, look for the Cowboys to be a sleeper team to improve on their 6-10 record from last season. In 2010, with quarterback Tony Romo’s injury and severe coaching debacles, everything seemed to go wrong. 2011 shows new leadership and poise, and the Cowboys are excited to redeem their week one loss.

    Last season, the Cowboys had the third hardest schedule in the NFL at 137-117. At a .543 opponent winning percentage, it becomes increasingly difficult to compete. According to the same chart based on 2010 total wins, the Cowboys have an easier road in 2011 as they face the 15th hardest schedule at 129-127. A .504 winning percentage is significantly more manageable, and look for the Cowboys to capitalize on these games.

    In terms of the quality of play to expect from the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas fans should be in store for big things this season. Missing one of these games would have you thinking, as Deion Sanders says in this odd commercial for DirecTV, “It’s Sunday, man, you guys are blowing it!”

Washington Redskins (9/26, 8:30 PM, Cowboys Stadium)

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    After playing the Jets in New York in week one, the Cowboys travel to San Francisco for a game against the 49ers, an early favorite to win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.

    While the Niners were able to beat Seattle in a week one beat down, I’d expect the game that the Cowboys are looking closer at comes the following week.

    In week three, the Dallas Cowboys have their home opener against a fierce divisional rival, the Washington Redskins. To make matters even more exciting, the game will be shown on ESPN Monday Night Football.

    For Cowboys fans, there’s not a single more appealing way to begin their home campaign in 2011. Last season, the team went 6-10 and did not do much to improve the team in the offseason as Rex Grossman enters the season as their starting QB. Tim Hightower has been brought in as their starting running back, who in three full NFL seasons, has never rushed for more than 750 yards.

    That being said, it’s impossible to look past an in-division rival such as this one, as they two teams legitimately hate each other and always hope to give the other a run for their money.

    Last week, in their home debut, the Redskins were able to give the Giants serious question about their own football team as the Skins went on to win 28-14. Not the way the Giants hoped to begin the season, and the exact way Washington hoped to begin theirs as Rex Grossman threw for 300+ yards and two touchdowns.

    On Monday Night Football in Jerry’s Palace for the first time in the 2011 season, expect tensions to be high and competition to be fierce. This is not a game that you’re going to want to miss.

New England Patriots (10/16, 4:15 PM, Meadowlands Stadium)

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    By week six, both of these teams will have hopefully found their identity and we’ll know if either could prove to be a threat this season.

    The Cowboys come off of a week five bye to travel into New England for a football game with the Patriots. Ideally, they’d be riding off of the confidence of victories against three teams that finished 6-10 last season (San Francisco, Washington, Detroit) as they prepare for Tom Brady and the Patriots.

    There’s not a single team in the NFL that has more weapons in their play-calling arsenal than the Patriots do, and Tom Brady knows how to run his team better than anyone else in the league right now. With Peyton Manning injured for God-knows-how-long, Brady moves into his own class of elite.

    The Cowboys will benefit from the rest they were granted in their bye week as defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will conjure a game plan strong enough to top a team that went 14-2 last season.

    Last night, Tom Brady led the Patriots to victory with an astonishing 517 yards and four touchdowns, the most yards for a QB in Patriots history.

    The Cowboys had an atrocious pass defense last season, but under Ryan they look to improve their game. By week six, they will have a healthier secondary and a more seasoned defense.

    Still, I’d expect this to be a high scoring and very exciting game. 

Miami Dolphins (11/24, 4:15 PM, Cowboys Stadium)

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    The Cowboys have a long tradition of playing as a featured team in the annual Thanksgiving Day football games.

    This season, the Miami Dolphins travel to Texas to play the Cowboys for some classic Thursday football. Miami, who actually did a sneaky good job of contending against the Patriots on Monday Night Football, finished 7-9 last season and don’t have much of a deep team going into the 2011 NFL season.

    Miami has brought in Reggie Bush as their featured back, who will attempt to lead this team with quarterback Chad Henne. While they were only 1-7 at home last season, they were 6-2 on the road and found their own ways to compete in late football games.

    Brandon Marshall, who record 139 yards on nine receptions in week one, will be matched up against an opposing offense that contains Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.

    Thanksgiving Day football often contains interesting games, and this will not be an exception.

    Tony Sparano could very well be fighting for his job, as the Dolphins were in active pursuit of Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh when he hit the market in the offseason. He will do everything in his power to ensure his success and tenure in the position, but I would not be surprised if the wheels of this team flew off by the time they had to play Dallas on Thanksgiving.

    Whether it’s a close game or a Cowboys blow out, I can guarantee that Cowboys fans will not want to miss this game.

Philadelphia Eagles (12/24, 4:15 PM, Cowboys Stadium)

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    Are the Cowboys still bitter about being passed up by the Eagles in the last minute, as Nnamdi Asomugha ended up signing with their division rivals instead of the team that the public believed to be the favorite?

    Your answer: absolutely. The Eagles have been coined as this year’s “Dream Team”, as an offense of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson now has a defense comparably strong.

    If the Cowboys stay in contention for long enough this season, this game will feature two teams fighting for the NFC East title. Further, the match would have two of the most compelling media friendly QBs in the league (Tony Romo, Michael Vick), three of the top young WRs in the game (Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Miles Austin) and two of the most elite defenders in football (DeMarcus Ware, Nnamdi Asomugha).

    By week sixteen, when these two teams will play, both teams will have a general understanding of their own postseason fate and could be fighting for more.

    Last season, the teams split the series as the Cowboys lost 30-27 in week fourteen and won 14-13 in the final game of the season.

    The year before that was the first time the Cowboys had swept the series, as they had won 20-16 early in the season, 24-0 in the final week of the season, and 34-14 the following week in a divisional playoffs game.

    Whenever these two teams match up, there’s bad blood and lots of excitement. Expect that same level of hype on Christmas Eve Day.

New York Giants (1/1, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium)

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    In an ideal world, the Cowboys play this game to fight for a playoffs spot (or in a dream world, home field advantage and/or a higher seed) and are able to march on to victory with a home win over the New York Giants in the final week of the season.

    These two teams are relatively evenly matched, and it’s difficult to predict the fate of a particular season so many weeks in advanced. At the end of the day, however, the final week of this season features two division rivals that play tough and fight harder.

    Tony Romo and Eli Manning will hope to prove that they both belong in the top tier discussions as top talents, and in front of a Giants crowd at MetLife Stadium, I expect a gritty game of predominantly airtime football.

    The two coaches, Jason Garrett and Tom Coughlin, will be anchoring in their final game and have much to fight for aganst each other.