Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.
Dallas Cowboys 2012 Schedule:
Week 1: at New York Giants (Wed.)
Week 2: at Seattle
Week 3: Tampa Bay
Week 4: Chicago (Mon.)
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: at Baltimore
Week 7: at Carolina
Week 8: New York Giants
Week 9: at Atlanta
Week 10: at Philadelphia
Week 11: Cleveland
Week 12: Washington (Thur.)
Week 13: Philadelphia
Week 14: at Cincinnati
Week 15: Pittsburgh
Week 16: New Orleans
Week 17: at Washington
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- The season will get started with a bang as Dallas visits the defending champs on Wednesday night in the New Meadowlands. It’s a return to the scene of the 2011 season finale where the Giants crushed the Cowboys' postseason hopes in a 31-14 dismantling that eventually propelled the G-Men to a Super Bowl championship.
- The home and road splits for the Cowboys might be the most intriguing of any team in the league for 2012. First, Dallas will start with back-to-back road games over 3,000 miles apart. Of course, having the 11 days between games helps. Second, from Week 6 to Week 10, the Cowboys will play four road games in five weeks, including road trips to Baltimore, Atlanta and Phily. In fact, of Dallas’ first nine games, six will be played away from Cowboys Stadium.
- The script will be flipped in the second half, however, as Dallas gets plenty of home cooking after Week 9. The Cowboys will play five of their final seven games in Jerry’s Palace in Arlington. This slate includes brutal playoff-type games against Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Philadelphia as well as two rivalry games with Washington. This lopsided home-road slate seems unique to the Cowboys. Can we start the Roger Goodell is trying to get Dallas into the playoffs conspiracy talk?
- Within the NFC, the East will square-off with the South. Road trips to Carolina and Atlanta will be intriguing tests as both feature stellar quarterback play. Getting the Saints at home in Week 16 could easily decide a Wild Card spot as both should be fighting for a playoff berth. Tampa at home in Week 3 will be a welcome sight as it will be the home opener in 2012.
- In crossover play with the AFC, the Cowboys — and the rest of the East — catch no breaks by facing the AFC North. Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are all playoff teams from a year ago and Cleveland should be improved. The road trip to Baltimore in early October follows the bye and could be a classic bout while heading north to Cincinnati in December is always tricky. After surviving the elements in Cincy, the Cowboys welcome perennial Super Bowl contender Pittsburgh to town.
- The bye week, while possibly earlier than most coaches would prefer in Week 5, offers a perfect two-week prep time for one of the nastiest five-week stretches in all of the NFL. Dallas will play four road games in five weeks immediately following the off week. Oh, and the lone home game in that stretch? A visit from the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.
- The two floating games will be the road trip to Seattle and a primetime Monday night affair with Chicago. The Bears game could have long-reaching Wild Card implications while the road trip to Seattle will be a rematch of that infamous Tony Romo botched field goal.
Fantasy Focus: The home-road schedule is easily the biggest thing that stands out about the Cowboys' 2012 slate. If the 'Boys struggle in the first half, don't be scared to buy low as five of the final six games of the fantasy season (not counting Week 17) will be played on the fast track of Cowboys Stadium.
2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Kansas City Chiefs
San Diego Chargers