Dallas Cowboys schedule analysis
Breakdown: Consecutive 8-8 finishes haven't dulled the TV networks' interest in the Dallas Cowboys, who are scheduled for four prime-time appearances in 2013. The Cowboys open the season at home on a Sunday night against the division-rival New York Giants. They host the Washington Redskins on Sunday night in Week 6, by which time it's possible Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will be back up to speed following offseason knee surgery. They travel to New Orleans to play the Saints on Sunday night in Week 10, right before their bye. And then they play the Bears in chilly Chicago on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" in Week 14.
One interesting change is the placement of the Cowboys' bye week, which has been early in recent seasons, but this year won't come until Week 11. Some had speculated (and the league had denied) that the Cowboys had been getting an early bye week because they play on Thanksgiving every year and are guaranteed extra rest later in the year. This year, though, the bye comes two weeks before the Thanksgiving Day game, in which the Cowboys will host the Oakland Raiders.
The rematches against the Redskins, who knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs with a Week 17 victory in Washington last year, come in Dallas in Week 6 and in Washington in Week 16. And if the Cowboys are playing in an elimination game for the NFC East title for the third year in a row, they'll be playing at home against Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17.
Complaint department: Other than the relatively late bye week, there's not much for the Cowboys to complain about. They open at home. They close at home. They have road games on consecutive weeks only once -- Week 7 in Philadelphia and Week 8 in Detroit. Playing the Bears outdoors at Soldier Field in December isn't the best break, but even that comes with the benefit of extra rest as that is the game that follows their Thanksgiving game.
You could make the argument that you'd rather play the Redskins early in the season instead of late in the season because of the uncertainty about Griffin's injury. Even if he struggles to return in time for the start of the season, he should be rocking and rolling by Week 16 when the Cowboys return to Landover, Md. But again, there's little about the way this schedule lays out that doesn't look beneficial to the Cowboys.
Peacock darlings: Man, NBC loves them some Cowboys-Giants games, don't they? They flexed the Week 17 division title game into prime time two seasons ago, opened with Giants-Cowboys on a Wednesday night last year, and have picked the NFC East rivalry as their first Sunday night game of 2013. It's hard to blame them, as every time they do it they put out ratings saying it was among their highest-rated games ever. And Tony Romo and Eli Manning should be able to deliver on the anticipation this time around, as each team will emerge from a disappointing 2012 season hungry.
Cowboys Regular Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 8, NY Giants, 8:30 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 15, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 22, St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 29, at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 6, Denver, 4:25 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 13, Washington, 8:30 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 20, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 27, at Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 3, Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 10, at New Orleans, 8:30 p.m.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 24, at NY Giants, 4:25 p.m.
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 28, Oakland, 4:30 p.m.
Week 14: Monday, Dec. 9, at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 15, Green Bay, 4:25 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 22, at Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 29, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.