Between the 2010-20 seasons, the Dallas Cowboys won just two playoff games and made three playoff appearances. They've missed the postseason two years in a row, despite the NFC East being fairly weak.
Suffice to say, patience is running thin in Dallas.
Much of how the 2021 season plays out will hinge on how Dak Prescott returns from injury after suffering a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle, a serious injury that cost him the final 11 games of the 2020 season.
But armed with a new contract signed this offseason (four years, $160 million) and plenty of weapons on offense in Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, there is hope that a healthy Prescott can lead the Cowboys to a division title in a wide-open NFC East.
And there's hope that the defense will be improved after adding young talents like linebacker Micah Parsons and cornerback Kelvin Joseph at the draft.
Let's take a look at the schedule the Cowboys will face as they look to end their playoff drought.
Cowboys 2020 Schedule
The Cowboys have a pretty manageable schedule, with just five games against playoff teams from a year ago (WFT twice, Chiefs, Saints and Buccaneers) and just three games against teams with winning records from a year ago (Chiefs, Saints and Bucs).
Granted, some of the teams on their schedule appear on the precipice of being contenders. Kyler Murray and the Cardinals aren't to be taken lightly, Justin Herbert has the Chargers moving in the right direction, and teams like the Falcons and Vikings always have dangerous offenses.
Other teams are wild cards. The Broncos have a fair amount of young talent but haven't quite put it all together yet, and Christian McCaffrey alone makes the Panthers a headache. The Raiders were just one of two teams to beat the Chiefs last year, while Bill Belichick's continued presence in New England makes the Patriots a tough matchup.
But all in all, if the Cowboys miss the postseason again this season, they won't be able to blame an overly difficult schedule. A healthy Dallas team should be able to navigate this slate of games and win more than it loses.
Not surprisingly, the most pivotal games on Dallas' schedule will be against its NFC East foes in a year when this division is up for grabs.
We start with the Washington Football Team, last year's division champs at an unimpressive 7-9. It has a fearsome defense and an offense with some nice weapons, headlined by Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel.
The question, of course, is just how far Ryan Fitzpatrick can take this offense. There's little doubt that the defense will be stingy, but the 38-year-old is a journeyman quarterback for a reason.
The Giants, meanwhile, will likely spend the 2021 season deciding if Daniel Jones is the quarterback of the future. He'll get one of the best offensive weapons in football back in Saquon Barkley, who missed all but two games last year with a torn ACL.
Jones also got a boost in the passing game this offseason, with Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph and Kadarius Toney added to a nice collection of pass-catchers that already included Darius Slayton and Evan Engram. If the signal-caller can limit the turnovers and the defense can improve, the Giants are a real sleeper candidate to win this division.
The Eagles...probably aren't.
Fresh off an offseason that saw them trade Carson Wentz and move on from a number of other veterans, Philly is retooling around second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts and rookie wideout DeVonta Smith.
The Eagles have been the most consistent NFC East team dating back to the Andy Reid era—nine division crowns since 2000; Dallas is second with five—but barring a surprise, they look like the weakest NFC East team heading into 2021.
A healthy Dallas team has more overall talent than any other team in this division and certainly the best quarterback in Prescott. Expecting this unit to fully live up to that potential is a risky proposition, given their inconsistency in the past.
But the rest of the NFC East isn't exactly devoid of question marks, either.
Look for Dallas to win the division and return to the postseason with a ho-hum 9-8 record.